September 21, 2014

A New Beginning, The Same Ending

April 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

In all the hoopla surrounding the start of the season, perhaps I misunderstood.  I thought we were turning the page to 2011, not reliving 2010.  Yet, for one game at least, a lot of last year’s issues reared their head in St. Louis.

It was extremely frustrating to see how many two on, nobody out innings wound up quickly becoming two on, two out or one on, two out frames.  That big hit that the Cardinals searched for so often last year proved elusive again, even with an upgraded offense.

All that said, and we’ll get to Albert Pujols in a moment, but for all of the problems this team was one pitch away from having a nice 3-2 opening win and having all of these frustrations be side notes.  Instead, Cameron Maybin launches one to dead center, halfway up the grass, and the game is tied.  For that, our first Goat of the year is Ryan Franklin.  There are going to be days like that, sure.  You just can’t do it in the home opener.

If Franklin had gotten that out, Pujols would have started off the season as the Goat, and he’d have just been 0-4 with two double plays at that time instead of 0-5 with three as he wound up with at the end of the game.  The first double play, it looked like Pujols had made up his mind to swing before he got in the box, lunging at a first pitch and hitting a perfect DP ball.  The second one, he hit the ball hard and, at first, I thought it was going through, but Jason Barlett made a good play to get to it and start the twin killing.

Couple that one with the ball that Pujols hit deep to center, a ball that would have likely left the yard if he’d been able to pull it a little bit, and you can’t have too much concern about the big guy.  These days do happen, though it’s probably part of his secret plan to get the players’ union off his back so he can sign a more reasonable deal with St. Louis.

It also wasn’t the way Bryan Augenstein wanted to start his Cardinal career, either.  He got two quick outs and it looked like we were on our way to the bottom of the inning, but then three hits became two runs and he was on the hook for the loss.  Another problem from last year–not finishing off innings.

So what did go right?  Chris Carpenter was very good.  I’m pretty sure we’ll all take two runs over seven innings all year long.  It could have easily just been one run as well, if a play had been made behind him.  Skip Schumaker had the ball and was going to tag Ryan Ludwick out, but Ludwick got his elbow in there and knocked the ball loose.  Don’t know how much of that you can blame on Skip and how much credit goes to Ludwick, but the next batter doubled him in and tied the game.

Defense had been a concern of fans going into the season and it reared its head yesterday.  You had the Schumaker play, then the play at the end of the game, where Chase Headley scored the winning run, defense apparently fell apart all the way around.  It was hard to see on TV, but apparently Jon Jay’s throw wasn’t very good, then Ryan Theriot couldn’t get a handle on it and then sailed his throw to Yadier Molina.  Ironic, isn’t it, that Jay was in as a defensive replacement, after Lance Berkman didn’t have a ball hit to him all day?

Sorry, wandered down the negative road.  OK, the first Hero of the year goes to Matt Holliday.  Not only did he hit what should have been the game-winning home run, but he drove in the first run of the season with a single in the first, showing that his early season struggles with runners in scoring position isn’t likely to be repeated this year.  Three hits for Holliday was a great start to another year in Cardinal red.  Of course, the day wasn’t perfect for him, as he did get picked off of third in one of the numerous rallies that died on the vine.

Colby Rasmus had a great day at the plate as well.  Two hits, including a triple, and two walks.  Normally, days like that will hurt the other team if he’s hitting in front of Pujols.  Not so much yesterday, of course.  Rasmus looked good at the plate and did nothing to dampen the predictions of a strong season that were made during the winter by the national media.

The new Cardinals did well also.  Berkman had two hits, though he did strike out twice as well.  Brian Tallet had a scoreless inning in his debut.  Theriot got a hit.  Miguel Batista’s first outing wasn’t so sharp, though, as he loaded the bases before Trever Miller came in and snuffed out the rally.

All in all, though, it was a great day for baseball.  The ceremony in St. Louis for Opening Day is unmatched really, with the history and the traditions.  So many of the Hall of Famers there.  You had Stan Musial there with his Medal of Honor.  Someone, I believe it was Bernie Miklasz, pointed out (and I agree)that Bob Gibson looks way, way younger than 75.  I wish I looked that good now.

Then you had Jim Edmonds and his son throwing out first pitch.  How great was it to see Jimmy Ballgame again?  Then again, if you were watching on FSMW, you may not have seen much of him.  FSMW came under some fire for cutting out of player intros for commericals and almost missing Edmonds’ heave.  You can find those on the FSMW website in their entirety, but that didn’t ease aggravations at the time.  (Personally, I was more disturbed by the fact they are bringing Jay Randolph back.  I guess as a featured story guy, it won’t be that bad.  Just keep him away from the play by play!)

One thing I noticed in the coverage of yesterday was there were a lot of questions directed to Albert about the fan reaction.  I guess it’s a legitimate question, but it wasn’t that there were a lot of boos out there.  Sure, Holliday and others got similar cheers to Albert, but there were still a lot of excitement and happiness to see him on the field.  I’d hate to see this become a self-sustaining circle, where Albert starts to wonder about the fan reaction because the media keeps mentioning it and maybe seeing problems where there aren’t any.

Sure, if Albert had signed his contract in the offseason, the place would have gone historically bonkers for him when he was introduced.  However, if he’s getting cheered at a similar level to Musial, Brock, Gibson, etc., then I think he’s doing all right with the fan base.

So, for the first time ever, the Cardinals have a Friday off day.  Strange, isn’t it?  They pick up Saturday with the Padres.  I’ll be on the road at that time, heading up for the big UCB weekend, starting with dinner at Pujols5 tomorrow night (7 PM if you are in the area and want to join us.  Ask for the United Cardinal Bloggers party) and then a blogger event and game on Sunday.  I’ll set up the Cover It Live portal on my site here sometime this afternoon, and you can check back during the Sunday game and feel like you are there with some of your favorite Cardinal bloggers.  It’s going to be a blast and all of us are very excited about it.  Regular posting back on Monday, most likely.  Enjoy the weekend!

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