It’s spring training, so that means it’s time for the United Cardinal Blogger Roundtable – Spring Training Edition. For the past two weeks some of the biggest names in Cardinal blog-dom (and yours truly) have been trading questions and opinions on a wide variety of topics. For a complete list of the participating blogs, check out the UCB homepage.
My turn came up on Friday, which was awesome because it (a) gave everyone the weekend to work on answers, and (b) gave me a chance to run through the questions with less urgency, since I can’t access my email from work. Also because it was the weekend, and I thought I had two good questions, I was able to ask both. The questions were:
- Which Cardinal do you expect to have a big season in 2010 and why? You can’t pick AP, he has a big season every year.
- There are millions of Cardinal fans across the country and around the world, but only a handful decided to write, either professionally or for fun, about the team. What compelled you to start writing about the Cardinals? Or for our professional brethren, what led you to a career in sports journalism?
See the responses after the jump.
Dan Shoptaw (C70 at the Bat):
I’m really thinking Colby Rasmus breaks out this year. With strength and conditioning, plus a better idea of how to manage the season, he shouldn’t wear down as much as he did last year. I think he’ll get to see lefties more, which he’s hit some in his career, since there won’t be the carousel in the outfield that there was last year. I expect Rasmus to take a step and remind us why he was a first round pick.
The answer to the second is Kip Wells. I started a personal blog around the middle of 2005. Seems like I’d heard a lot about blogging and thought I’d give it a shot. I still write over there, occasionally. At the All-Star Break in 2007, I felt pretty optimistic. The Cards were getting Carpenter back from injury, the team had played OK getting into the break, the Cubs were still leading the division, it just seems like it might be tough, but things were lining up well for the Cards. So coming out of the break, I was really excited about the second half of the season.
The Cards were facing the Phillies in Busch that evening, and Kip Wells went out and allowed seven runs in the first inning. I wanted to talk about the letdown in some detail, but I knew that people just came to my personal blog to look at pictures of my kids. (This was before Facebook. Now everyone goes to my FB page just to look at pictures of my kids.) My personal blog was on Blogger, but I’d heard about WordPress and thought this gave me a chance to rant. I spent some time trying to figure out the title, pounded out an entry, and I was off.
Michael Riehn (Whiteyball):
- Chris Carpenter will have a big season for the Cardinals. If early season reports are true, and Carpenter has added a filthy split fingered outpitch, only health will keep him from vying for a second Cy Young.
- I’ve always loved writing about the Cardinals, even if it was just e-mail to friends. The opportunity presented itself when a former boss of mine, who had become a baseball scout (Dustin Mattison), offered me a platform on his blog. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to post as much as I would like, but I always enjoy writing when I do.
Nick (Pitchers Hit Eighth):
- Brad Penny. Let’s see, a pitcher with something to prove after a couple of rough seasons. Dave Duncan finally getting hold of one of his desired pet projects. Penny’s already working on throwing his sinker more, and likely more effectively. I reckon we’re going to see another one-year contract pitcher leave for greener pastures and never replicate the magic he had with Dunc. When will these fellas learn?
- As a displaced Cardinals fan – displaced in the worst of alternative locales, Chicago – I started Pitchers Hit Eighth in the spring of 2008 primarily as a means of forcing myself to keep up with the Redbirds. I purchased the domain, installed a blogging platform, purchased my MLB.tv subscription, and I was off and running. Certainly didn’t expect it to balloon into the daily obsession for me that it is now.
Chris Reed (Bird-Brained):
- I think we’ll see the return of Ryan Ludwick version 2008 this year. I have to admit that his 2009 made me wonder if the old injury bug was creeping back into his career, but that seems to be rectified for now. Ludwick will likely be batting 5th behind two guys that are going to hit at least 30 home runs, and up to four guys (depending on who hits in the two hole) that will hit north of .300 with high OBP. He’ll still get his share of K’s, but with the amount of appearances he should see with runners on base this could be a huge RBI year for Ludwick.
- I decided to write about the Cardinals almost by default. Several years back, in a job I couldn’t stand and with no degree to fall back on, I decided to go back to school to finish my Bachelor’s. But I didn’t know what my major should be…in fact, I didn’t even know which school to attend. A coworker mentioned Washington University in St. Louis because they have a great evening program. They also had a major in Communications and Journalism. I always killed it in all my English classes, going as far back as elementary school. I even came within about 3 rounds of making it to Washington DC for the National Spelling Bee. Plus, I had recently developed an affinity for Hunter S. Thompson and the “Gonzo Journalism” he invented. So I went for the degree in C&J. One of my classes, a sports journalism course, was taught by Michael MacCambridge. He brought in guest speakers like Bob Costas and Vahe Gregorian, gave out assignments like covering a sporting event from the press box (it was wintertime, and I did a St. Louis Blues game. It was an amazing experience.), and really helped me realize how I could cultivate my already deep love of baseball into a fun hobby and maybe even a paying gig. So far it’s been all the former and none of the latter, but I’ll get there someday.
I think we can all envision Colby Rasmus surging in his sophomore year. The highly touted prospect produced as a rookie. He was solid, if not extraordinary. But I’ve set the bar a bit higher for him. I’m not going to award him the “break out” tag until he can place it next to an All-Star jersey. Unfair? Absolutely. You don’t become an official “Intangiballer” coasting on talent alone. I don’t know if it’s the buttery-smooth left-handed swing or the stoic interviews, but my deepest fear is that Rasmus might get lost upon the J.D. Drew path of complacency. Am I off base here? Does anyone else feel me on this? I’ll be looking for answers in 2010. As well as 280/26/90 and more passion in centerfield.
I think the big season could come from Jason Motte. He settled in late last year and his issues are matters of experience as opposed to stuff. The more comfortable this converted catcher becomes on the hill (he’s only been a professional pitcher for 3 years), the more movement and command he’s likely to employ with every pitch. He seems to have accepted that the fastball alone will not sustain him. If he manages to harness the slider he’s working on, or to sneak in a few baffling change-ups, this young gun will be filthy. I think he makes that leap and becomes an 8th inning force similar to what Brad Lidge was in Houston back when he and Billy Wagner ruled the world of relief corps. Regardless, with the help of another former catcher in Dave Duncan, Motte is the closer by 2011.
Hopefully the majority of us feel our path to journalism reads more like a novel than a few sentences on a group blog post, but let me see if I can sum it up in just that. Any command of the English language that I’ve achieved, I owe to my mother. We were poor, but never lost on me was the power and beauty of the written word. With her giving me a huge head start, my little grade school in the ‘hood saw it fit to place me its gifted program and proceeded to thrust me into as many writing and spelling contests as were available. I went pretty deep into a few Optimist Oratorical speech contests, even being handed a gold medal by a mayor at one point. This is normally the kind of stuff that gets you picked on in such neighborhoods…hell, in any neighborhood. The real arena for us was the blacktop. Where I grew up, you made your social bones with your athletic ability. It wasn’t always easy, but I’m grateful for the swagger this put in my proverbial step, and the competitive spirit that it built into my heart. All we had was sports and I learned to compete with hand-me-down equipment and on unmaintained fields and courts. I will forever reserve a place in my heart for the underdog because I’ve been one my entire life.
But with writing I always felt that I had the edge. Perhaps even something to prove. I’m a self-taught kid who never even looked at college as a serious option because I had to make money to survive. But give me a pen and a notepad and I’ll slap the GPA off your transcript.
Baseball, well, that’s the little boy in me that refused to grow up as the rest of me did too fast. For that reason, I love it like a child and with all of my heart. Writing about it, well, that’s just my way of giving thanks.
Jeff Stearns (Five O’Clock Blogger):
- Colby Rasmus. With an idea of how to better manage the season’s daily grind, I think Rasmus is going to take a big step forward. During his minor-league career, he’s been able to hit his own kind fairly well (possibly owing to an above-average BABIP) and has shown an ability to take a walk, which I think is something that the new batting coach is emphasizing. I think 20/20 is possible this year.
- I started my first blog, The 26th Man, during the 2005 winter meetings out of a greater thirst for baseball knowledge and a weird, use-it-or-lose-it compulsion to write. I had no idea then of the vast amount of information and great writing on the Web already. I was able to keep up posting there at regular intervals for a good 15 months or so, until various real-life issues took time from blogging. Finding a balance between real life and blogging time is still difficult. With a full-time job and a family with two active school-age kids, I just don’t seem to have the time I would like to devote to blogging. Hopefully I can carve out some sort of niche. I love reading everything you guys produce, and I hope to be able to contribute to that great output somehow.
Lots of great stuff there. The folks picking hitters to a man said Colby Rasmus. Pitchers were more all over the place (Carpenter, Motte, Penny). The fun thing about this question is there’s no wrong answer. Of course, if one of the bloggers did indeed pick a player that has a big season, there may be some crowing about it.
As for me, I think Kyle McClellan is going to have a big season. He’s trying to win the fifth rotation spot, and although spring training stats don’t mean anything he was dominant in his start on Sunday. If he doesn’t join the rotation I think we’ll see him as the 8th inning guy, because he’s much more consistent than Jason Motte, despite Motte’s overpowering fastball.
I started writing this blog in 2006 because I couldn’t believe the Cardinals were reprising the 1964 Philadelphia Phillies. I had thought about doing a blog for years, but I was so frustrated with events that September I leapt into action. That, and a healthy kick in the pants from the Missus. I picked this blog name because Stan Musial was my father’s favorite Cardinal, and his stance was so unique. I didn’t notice the double meaning right away. I had so much fun chronicling September 06, and that post-season, that I’ve never really stopped. I’m in my fourth year, and it never ceases to amaze me people beyond my immediate family actually read what I have to say.
Thanks to all those that responded.
Update 3/8/10 10:27 EST: I received two more entries when I was finally able to check my email today, so let me add Travis and Pip to the discussion:
Travis (Fredbird Follys):
- I expect Colby to have a big year as well, but since pretty much everyone in baseball is thinking the same thing, I’m gonna go with Joe Mather. He’s coming back from a rough 2009 and has a lot to prove. He would fill a lot of question marks in the lineup about backup outfielders and an answer to David Freese if our experiment at the hot corner falls through.
- I began writing because of mainly coastal bias. I love reading The Onion and I love the Cardinals. However, it seemed like the two rarely ever met. All the stories seemed to be Yankee, Angel, or Red Sox related and I thought that the best fans in baseball needed more inside jokes and comedic humor for their team. I started my blog because I like funny writing and loved reading about the Cardinals. For about a month I sat and thought “I wish someone would start and Onion-like blog about the Cardinals” then I realized that I’m a writer for a living and most importantly, I’m freaking hilarious. Therefore, about 2 days later, Fredbird Follys was born.
- I agree that Jason Motte will have a relatively big season. He had an abnormally high HR/FB rate in 2009 (especially given his home park) and healthy K/9 and K/BB (second-best among relievers) numbers. His BABIP against was slightly high at .308 despite having a low line-drive rate (16.7%). If La Russa gives him some opportunities, he’ll be the setup man and possibly the closer by the end of the season.
- It’s ironic that I now write about the Cardinals, since when I began Fungoes back in 2004, I was still a Mets fan. The blog actually started as way to share my thoughts with some friends on the playoffs that year (the original name was “Fall Classic”). I loved writing about baseball so much that I simply kept going, retitling the blog and focusing more on the Cardinals. Having been cursed to follow the Mets, I found that blogging about the Cardinals was a way to escape my fate and enjoy a more salutary relationship with the game (and it probably allowed me to cover the team with a little more objectivity). I converted (or, as I like to say, reverted) to the Cardinals after they broke the Curse of Keith Hernandez, which I wrote about back in 2006.