Maple Street Press Cardinal Annual

by Michael Riehn
Whiteyball Staff
cardinals1The amount of information on the web today is astounding.  When I was growing up, I lived in a small town in Southeast Missouri.  All of my information about the Cardinals came from the local news, a few columns in the paper, Jack Buck and Mike Shannon.  This is not exactly heavy hitting analysis.  Every once in awhile, I’d see a game on TV or read an article about my favorite team in Sports Illustrated or Baseball Digest.  To put it midly, things have changed dramatically over the last 20 years. 

 
Fast forward several years later, through the Internet revolution and the explosion of ESPN and espn.com. I remember the first time I found the ‘Redbird Nation’ blog that was run by Brian Gunn.  I was so excited and confused.  This was a great resource from an intelligent writer, without the mainstream point of view, and it didn’t cost anything to read him.  His blog had a profound effect on me, and expanded my Cardinal knowledge and viewpoint.  When Larry Borowsky started Viva El Birdos, he added a new level of critical analysis with daily updates and fascinating viewpoints.  He made me think about new types of statistics and player evaluation that opened my eyes to a whole new world.  These are the “Godfathers” of the Cardinal Blogosphere and combined with long time bloggers Dan Moore, Eric Manning and Dustin Mattison, make it what it is today. 

Today, we have a large number of free websites and blogs that give us up to the minute information and analysis about our local 9.  Derek Goold of the Post Dispatch and Matthew Leach of MLB.com have even started “Twittering“, giving us up to the second information from SPRING TRAINING games!  Countless other sites are available at your fingertips for layers of information, statistics and the history of the game.  You can barely keep up with it all.  It’s a whole new world and we are richer for it.

So when I opened my mailbox yesterday and found the new Maple Street Press Cardinal Annual, you would think that I wouldn’t be as excited as I am.  I have all of this information at my fingertips, so why would I care about something wrote weeks ago?  On the contrary, I tore open the package and opened up the book as soon as I found it.  The smell of the printing press hit me with it’s unmistakable aroma as I flipped through the book.  As much as I am addicted to the web and the information that it gives me, it can’t replace holding a book in my hands, as I open it to page 1.  It took me back to the days when I would be excited to open the mailbox and find a new sports magazine waiting for me or when I discovered the excellent “Ball Four” book at my local library.

Dustin Mattison is the founder of the Whiteyball website and writes for Scout.com at the Birdhouse (Minor League Correspondent).  He is one of the talented group of writers that Larry Borowsky has gathered to provide the new Maple Street Press Cardinal Annual.  Borowsky is the editor of the book, and authors several stories; which features Will Leitch (founding editor of Deadspin, current New York Magazine writer), Jeff Sackman (Minor League Splits.com), Dan Moore (Get Up Baby, Viva El Birdos), Josh Kalk (From Small Ball to the Long Ball), Chuck Brownson (Viva El Birdos), Vince Gennaro (Hardball Times, Yahoo Sports), Aaron Schafer (Viva El Birdos, Riverfront Times), Erik Manning (Future Redbirds, Play a Hard 9), Alex Eisenberg (Baseball Intellect), and Dayne Perry (Foxports.com).

If you are like me, and enjoy a great read about the Cardinals, order the book today.  You will be glad you did.

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Joe Mather

Joe Mather during batting practice, August 2007 (Photo by Dustin Mattison)

Joe Mather during batting practice, August 2007 (Photo by Dustin Mattison)

As Joe Mather battles for the starting third base job in St. Louis Cardinals camp, I thought it might be interesting to look back at an interview I did with “Joey Bombs” in August of 2007.

Remember, that was the season that Mather went from being just another player in the organization to one of the Cardinals’ top prospects. Between Springfield and Memphis, Mather would hit 31 home runs.

Dustin Mattison:  Congratulations on a great season.

Joe Mather: Thanks.

DM: What has been the difference?

JM: Maturity, probably. Just getting older. The more experience I’ve gotten, the better I’ve gotten.

DM: What’s the origin of the nickname Joey “Bombs”?

JM: (Chuckles) It came about my first year. One of the players on the team, Matt Lemanczyk, and our manager Pop Warner. Lemanczyk said it and Warner kept it going. I hit a couple of homeruns in batting practice and since then it has stuck.

DM: Tell me about going to the Arizona Fall League.

JM: I’m excited. It’s where I live. I live right there in Pheonix. It’s what I’ve worked for. I’ve wanted to be invited to go for a couple of years now. Since I signed, that has been the goal every year, to possibly get there. A lot of prospects come out of there. A lot of big leaguers come out of there. I am definitely very excited.

DM: What’s it like going from clubhouse in Springfield that sits atop the division, to one in Memphis that has had trouble winning games?

JM: Springfield was a great atmosphere all around. It’s a great city. I had never been there before. Like you said, they are winning. It was a young group, I was one of the older guys on the team being 24. I come up here and I am one of the younger ones. We’re losing. It is definitely a different feel in the clubhouse. It’s tougher for everyone to get motivated to play. But all in all, you got to put that aside and get ready to play.

DM: What’s the biggest difference in hitting in Double A and hitting in Triple A?

JM: Pitchers here know how to pitch. They have a much better idea. Pitchers at Double A will try to throw a fastball by you. Here you get sinkers in on your hands and cutters away. They rarely challenge you with a fastball down the middle. They are better picking their spots. That’s the biggest difference.

DM: I know you got a game to play. I thank you for your time and good luck the rest of the season.

JM: Thanks, I appreciate it.

(Ed. Note:  Originally published at MVN on Monday, Sept. 10, 2007)

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Cards kickoff Grapefruit League action today

Blake Hawksworth, St. Louis Cardinals

Blake Hawksworth, St. Louis Cardinals

You know it is spring training when 6 outfielders make up 9 of your batters in your opening game lineup. At least you would think this would be just a strange spring training game, but the truth is, 5 “outfielders” could make up the starting 8 on opening day at Busch Stadium on April 6.

The Cardinals open exhibition play today against the Florida Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter at 12:05 p.m. CT. Blake Hawksworth will get the start and try to continue the success he had at the end of the 2008 season, posting a 2.89 ERA with 23 K’s and 11 walks in his last 5 starts. Hawksworth was the clubs number 1 rated prospect after the 2004 season. Let’s hope he can get off to a good start and maybe live up to the potential the Cardinals saw in him earlier this decade.

The Cards lineup will have Ludwick, Ankiel, and Rasmus covering the outfield, and outfielders Skip Schumaker manning second base, Joe Mather manning third base, and Chris Duncan as the DH. Excluding the DH, there is a real possibility this could be a likely lineup during the first month of the season. The think I like most about this is the defensive alignment in the outfield. You have three guys who can all cover ground and all have above average arms.

I’m excited about keeping an eye on the spring training activities and how all the question marks in the Cardinals camp playout.

I’ve become pretty addicted to the new MLB Network since coming onto Directv on January 1st. Some must see TV I have my Tivo set for is the 30 Clubs in 30 Days show on the Cardinals which will air for the first time on 2/26 at 7:00 pm CT. They usually replay the show 2 or 3 times as well. The network is also carrying spring training games and your first chance to watch the Cardinals will be on Friday 2/27 when they visit Port St. Lucie to take on the Mets.

30 Clubs in 30 Days - MLB Network

30 Clubs in 30 Days - MLB Network

I received my season tickets on my door step yesterday and the return of baseball season is really starting to get to me. Let’s hope the Redbirds can stay healthy this spring and bring a solid squad to St. Louis in April.

If any readers are interested in tickets, I usually end having extra tickets that I sell for season ticket holder cost. I have full season tickets in section 595 of the bleachers and a 27 game weekend plan in section 509 of the bleachers. Just leave me a comment and I’ll add you to an email list that I send to when I have extra tickets available for sale.

Blake Hawksworth photo – stlcardinals.com
30 Clubs in 30 Days – mlb.com

Matt Wilson

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SEMO Off To Fast Start

Purdue's Black during last season's Big 10 Tourney.

Purdue's Black during last season's Big 10 Tourney.

It was a cold and wet day at Capaha Field but Zac and I braved the elements and headed out to watch Southeast’s home opener.  Okay, we lasted an inning or two.  We had watched baseball in the snow and now we can add freezing rain to our list.

Anyway, the Redhawks continue to tote some serious lumber.   The team rolled over Lyon 11-6 with the help of five home runs on the day.  Matt Wagner led the offensive barage with three hits including two home runs while driving in four runs.

Catcher Jim Klocke muscled a pitch in on his hands over the wall for a solo home run.

Klocke along with teammate James Leigh were named OVC Player and Pitcher of the Week, respectively.  I am anxious to watch Klocke progress over the coming months.  With a powerful left-handed stick, he could be an interesting prospect if he is able to handle the duties of a backstop.

Southeast will welcome Purdue of the Big 10 this weekend.  The Boilermakers are 1-3 after winning its first game against Cincinnati in the Big East/Big 10 Challenge .  They then fell to an impressive looking Michigan, South Florida, and finally the Golden Domers of Notre Dame.  Purdue has been led in the early going by Freshman outfielder Tyler Spillner who is batting .429.  Third baseman Dan Black has provided the early power and brings a superb eye to the plate.  In its game against the Fighting Irish, Black drew five walks.

Baseball America picked Purdue to finish fifth in the 11-team Big 10.  Black was a preseason All-Conference as was Designated Hitter Brandon Haveman.  Shortstop Barrett Serrato was rated as the fourth best newcomer to the conference. Black was a monster in 2008 when he hit 18 home runs and drove in 70 runs.   Drafted by the San Francisco Giants in 35th round last June, he is the league’s leading returning longball hitter. An intriguing power prospect, he set a Big 10 Championship record with three home runs in a single game.

The switch-hitter is listed as a player to watch for the 2009 Brooks Wallace Award.

Friday starter Matt Bischoff was considered to be one of the top three starters before the season started.  Bischoff is coming off a season in which he posted a record of 6-3 with a 3.96 ERA in 77 IP.  The junior right-hander was drafted by the New York Mets in the 47th round of the 2008 MLB First Year Player Draft. In 2007, he was named the Big 10 Freshman of the Year after posting a 2.85 ERA in 60 innings.

Purdue has not won a Big 10 title since 1909.  That can only be described as Cub-like.

Here is my latest post over at the Birdhouse:  St. Louis Cardinals and the Economic Crisis

Dustin Mattison

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God only knows

by Michael Riehn
Whiteyball staff

If you should ever leave me,
Though life would still go on believe me,
The world could show nothing to me,
So what good would living do me?
God only knows what I’d be without you…

Brian Wilson’s haunting song runs through my head every time there is discussion of Albert Pujols and free agency. Those two things should never be uttered in the same sentence and makes me cringe every time I hear it. When I was a boy, my fandom was more innocent. I loved Tommy Herr and Vince Coleman because they were Cardinals and they could do no wrong (in my eyes). Tommy Herr played the same position as me when I was in pee wee league, and every time Coleman stole a base, they’d put “InVinceable” on the scoreboard and I would go nuts. When they were traded away, I was devastated, and lost a little bit of my devotion.

As an adult, I’m not prone to unconditional fandom and I don’t invest in sports stars as heroes. I love the Cardinals, but I don’t get attached to players anymore. Albert Pujols is different, his combination of hitting, fielding, leadership, attitude and community relations is once in a lifetime. Like Stan the Man and the Wizard of Oz, he NEEDS to retire a Cardinal, and I believe he is worthy of my adult adoration.

Luckily I didn’t grow up in the early 1940′s. It was a different time for Cardinal Nation, and they didn’t have the revenue that they currenty enjoy. Everyone has been breathlessly debating Albert Pujols comments on possibly becoming a free agent. What if he was traded at the height of his Hall of Fame career? Pujols just completed his age 28 season. As preposterous as it may sound, the Cardinals traded a similar first baseman after his age 28 season, whose name is enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

 

Johnny Mize started his career with the Cardinals and played for them from 1936-1941. During those 6 seasons, he was one of the best players in the game, and one of its brightest stars. Like Pujols, Mize was gifted around the first base bag and nicknamed “The Big Cat” for his smooth fielding. They were also similar hitters. While with the Cardinals, Mize led the league in OPS 3 out of his 6 seasons, Pujols has led the league in OPS twice.

From age 23-28 Mize put up this line for the Cardinals:

Johnny Mize      
Year Age BA OBP SLG OPS+
1936 23 0.329 0.402 0.577 161
1937 24 0.364 0.427 0.595 172
1938 25 0.337 0.422 0.614 175
1939 26 0.349 0.444 0.626 178
1940 27 0.314 0.404 0.636 176
1941 28 0.317 0.406 0.535 156

 

Pujols put up this line from 23-28:

Albert Pujols      
Year Age BA OBP SLG OPS+
2003 23 0.359 0.439 0.667 187
2004 24 0.331 0.415 0.657 172
2005 25 0.330 0.430 0.609 168
2006 26 0.331 0.431 0.671 178
2007 27 0.327 0.429 0.568 157
2008 28 0.357 0.462 0.653 190

  

Johnny Mize

Johnny Mize

OPS is defined as on base percentage plus slugging percentage. OPS+ is an advanced statistic that measures OPS against the league average, and adjusted for ballpark factors. To give you a basic idea of its purpose, it compares players from different eras and different ballparks and puts them on a level playing field. OPS+ over 100 is better than average, less than 100 is below average.

Pujols’ peaks are a bit greater, but he and Mize were among the best hitters in the league from their age 23-28 seasons. Mize was traded to the Giants by legendary General Manager Branch Rickey after the 1941 season for 3 journeymen and $50,000.00.  He had a very productive year with his new club before he was drafted into World War II. He spent 1943 through 1945 in the military service and returned to baseball with 3 more great seasons. Mize had the following line in his Hall of Fame career, which spanned 15 years: .312 BA, .397 OBP, .562 SLG, 158 OPS+.  (Just think what numbers he would have put up with 3 of his prime years added in from the war!)

Be thankfull for Pujols while he is here. What we are witnessing is greatness, and no matter how the Cardinals do, he’s worth the price of admission. When the time is right, let’s hope that the Cardinals recognize what he means to the team, and sign him to a long term extension.  Hopefully, he can wear the birds on the bat for the remainder of his career. God only knows what we’d do without him.

Photo courtesy of the Baseball Hall of Fame

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First Weekend of College Baseball

Just adding to what Matt talked about earlier today.

Mizzou had a terrible weekend at the Grand Canyon tournament.  The Tigers lost three of the four games with ace Kyle Gibson earning the team’s only win.  Mizzou fell to number 15 in Baseball America’s Top 25. The team’s hard-throwing sophomores have to step up to solidify the rotation.  If not, this team is in trouble.

Stunningly, the Southeast Missouri Redhawks won two of three at nationally ranked Alabama.  The Redhawks will play its home opener on Tuesday afternoon at Capaha Field.  I hope I see you there.

Performances of those that could fall to the Cardinals at number 19:

Mike Minor (Vandy) The southpaw started out strong, spinning three scoreless innings before giving up and unearned run in the fourth. He ended up giving up three runs, two earned on five hits in 5.2 innings with six strikeouts and no walks in the no-decision.

D.J. LeMahieu (LSU)The talented shortstop collected five hits including three triples in nine at bats.  He also drew a walk and was hit by a pitch.

Mike Leake (Arizona St.) The right-hander struck out seven while allowing only one run in six innings against Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Ryan Jackson (Miami) Two of his three hits were for extra bases over the weekend.  The shortstop also drew four walks in the four game set.

Ben Tootle (Jacksonville St.) Hurled four no-hit innings before leaving after 84 pitches.  Tootle struck out four but struggled with his command which led to three walks.

Kyle Heckathorn (Kennesaw St.) Recently featured at Baseball America, the 6’6″ right-hander did not factor in the decision on Friday after allowing two runs on four hits in five innings while striking out four.

Tyler Lyons (Oklahoma St.) The left-handed junior hurled six shutout innings while allowing only two hits to an underrated Manhattan program.  It was his 11th consecutive win.

Dustin Mattison

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St. Louis area spring baseball options in ’09

With the economy in the shape it is, finding baseball alternatives in 2009 might help out your budget this year. I know baseball is a very important part of my entertainment budget. I’m a Cardinal season ticket holder and try to get to as many games as possible. However, for me to go to a game, it’s usually going to set me back $35, minimum. This is just my ticket, transportation/parking, 1 beer, and something to eat. I’m not giving up my season tickets any time soon and will still get to about 15 games this year. That’s going to be a drop from the 20 – 30 I’ve attended at Busch Stadium the past 2 or 3 years. I’m going to get my baseball fix in 2009, and here are some of the other games I will be trying to attend in the St. Louis area.

With the Cardinals not getting to St. Louis until April 6th, there is a lot of other baseball taking place in the region. In less than 2 hours, you can get to Taylor Stadium in Columbia, MO to watch a top 25 college baseball team in the Mizzou Tigers. Mizzou is led by top college prospect Kyle Gibson. Gibson is a top 10 college prospect according to most sources. There are other options for baseball in the St. Louis area that don’t include a trip to Columbia, MO. You can catch Mizzou in the St. Louis area a couple of times this spring.

Kyle Gibson - Mizzou Pitcher

Kyle Gibson - Mizzou Pitcher

You can catch Mizzou at TR Hughes Ballpark in O’Fallon, MO. The Missouri Tigers face Eastern Illinois in a game on April 28th. The Tigers also visit the St. Louis area earlier on April 1st to take on St. Louis University at Busch Stadium. Not exactly sure how the tickets work for this game, but it is another opportunity to catch one of the top collegiate teams in the country.

One of the best places to catch baseball this spring is at GCS Ballpark, the home of the Gateway Grizzlies, in Sauget, IL. The Grizzlies have posted their extra events schedule on their website. Games start on February 28th with a college baseball tournament hosted by Webster University. Webster University plays many of their home games at GCS Ballpark, but the stadium also will host collegiate games between Saint Louis University and SIU-Edwardsville, University of Indianapolis and SIU-Edwardsville, and the Great Lakes Valley Conference tournament. Not only does GCS host all these college games, they have 22 high school games, including many border war contests with Illinois high school teams matching up against Missouri high school teams. The great thing about these games is that the max cost of attending is only $5 and many are free.

The schedules for local colleges are loaded this spring, so catching a good game in your area won’t be to difficult.

Missouri Tigers
Saint Louis University
Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville
Southeast Missouri State University

SEMO actually just defeated the 16th ranked Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday. You can catch some good baseball all over the area this spring.

One more game you may may want to catch would be a Westminster Christian Academy game started by high school pitching phenon Jacob Turner. Turner is projecting to be a top ten pick in this years amateur baseball draft. I’ll try and keep this site updated with dates he will be pitching this spring.

Jacob Turner - Westminster Academy

Jacob Turner - Westminster Academy

I was going to include the Gateway Grizzlies and River City Rascals as other St. Louis area baseball options, but I’ll save these for another post. The Grizzlies and Rascals don’t kick off their Frontier League season’s until late May. I’ll have a full Frontier League preview in a few weeks.

Until then, go out an enjoy some good baseball this spring, while we wait for the Cardinals to leave Jupiter and head back to St. Louis.

Matt Wilson

Kyle Gibson Photo – Baseball America Top Prospecs
Jacob Turner Photo – AFLAC All America Team

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