Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Cards/cubs & Wrigley wrenovations

The Cards are stopping for a cup of coffee (and perhaps other beverages near Rush & Division), and two games in less than 24 hours at Wrigley field.  The Cardinals dropped the first game on Tuesday night, as Lance Lynn suffered his first loss of the season, bringing his all-important win/loss record to 5-1.

A lack of offense (despite Yadi's best efforts) was a factor in the loss, and I wish I could tell you that's uncommon.  Tuesday's 2-1 loss (game #32 of the 2013 campaign) was the 14th time this season that the Cards offense scored 3 or fewer runs.

But what I really caught myself thinking about tonight was Wrigley Field.

There has been a lot of buzz in the news lately about the plans that the Ricketts family has for their business.  Discussions surrounding a $500MM renovation to Wrigley, a possible move to the Rosemont area, should the organization, city, rooftop folks, and 36 other entities (including a dozen or so dirty government officials) be able to come to an agreement that would allow the cubs to do the things they need to do, and plenty of other variables that would put this already long run-on sentence over the top.  The bottom line is that the cubs want to overhaul the Wrigleyville area, including major upgrades & renovations to the ballpark itself, or they're talking about moving.  Leadership in the suburb of Rosemont, near O'Hare airport has offered the club roughly 25 acres of land, if they want to head outbound on the Kennedy from the intersection of Clark & Addison.

If you've not seen the artist's renderings of the proposed renovations, check this out.  You can find these drawings in many places online, but I linked to picture #2 in this collection for two reasons.

Reason 1)  One of the major sticking points is a videoboard, or as some might refer to it, the jumbotron.  It blocks the view of some of those rooftop seats, which apparently violates a contract that the cubs entered into a few years back with the owners of those rooftops.  Erect a 6,000 square-foot videoboard at the back of the LF bleachers, and you're going to block a lot of rooftop views, thusly pissing some people off.

So, maybe I'm over-simplifying here, but stay with me for a second.  If the proposed major overhaul of Wrigleyville (or, as some might call it, "Ballpark village North") will encompass the area spanning Clark, Addison, Waveland & Sheffield, and a ton of construction to enhance the area...  Why not just back that videoboard up another couple hundred feet, and put it on the other side of Waveland?  Sure, it's a little outside-the-box thinking, having a scoreboard that technically exists outside the ballpark itself, but why not?  I know it wouldn't be a walk in the park to get that done, but keep it in perspective--we're already talking about messing with landmarks that are on the list of 'things that are historically important, so you can't just go doing whatever you want with them'.  If you can get that done, you wouldn't think it'd be as hard to put a scoreboard across the street.

Reason 2)  One of the things that Tom Ricketts harped on in his comments earlier this month was the ability to run the cubs organization like a business.  Which, incidentally, it is, and for being a pretty lousy product on the field, it's certainly a very lucrative business.  But, in the name of "running it like a business", I'll tell you right now:  Don't be surprised if the cubs home games of the future are played at "McDonald's park at Wrigley Field" or "Motorola Stadium".  Just sayin'.  If the man wants to run this organization like a true business, he'll likely cash in on the opportunity for naming rights.  We're talking about (easily) tens of millions of dollars to change the name for a few decades.  If the business attitude that we've seen so far remains in tact for the future of this ownership and this organization, I wouldn't be surprised to see it.  Wouldn't be surprised at all.

I've been to Wrigley several times, and as far as it's charm?  I saw a twenty-something year old girl drunk puking in the street outside the park before a 1:20 start last September.  At that same game, there was this kid (I'd guess 3 years old or so) who was "washing his hands" in the various streams of urine and the trough of pee itself between innings, much...MUCH to the displeasure of his father, I might add.

If that's not charm, I don't know what is.

I digress.  Game two of this two-game set is this afternoon, and I expect a Cardinals win.  Westbrook has been solid, and as long as he keeps the ball down (which hasn't been much of a problem thus far in 2013), and the bats show up (Matt Adams' return from the DL should help that), the redbirds should be able to handle Villanueva, even if it's a B-squad that takes the field.  Given that, it's hard not to notice that the Cards are currently in a four-day stretch where they have two days on (again, two games in less than 24 hours), and two days off.  The good news is that the Cards could run an "A" squad out there on Wednesday, since they're off Thursday.  The bad news is that they don't have another day off until two weeks from Thursday.  13 straight games is nothing to overlook when making lineups and planning ahead, but until the last series (out west) of that run, they're home games, which is a decent silver lining.

That homestand welcomes the Rockies, Mets, and Brewers to Busch before the Cards head out west to play at SD & LAD (also making for sleepy mornings at my house on Tue, Wed, Thr, and Sat).  Beating the teams the Cardinals are supposed to beat during those sets will be important.  But I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, the Cards are "supposed to beat" the cubs...let's start there.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

UCB PGB: 5.4.13 @ MIL - 9th

As the 8th inning brought to you by ManFridge came to an end...

The game entered the ninth, the score was tied 6 - 6.  Ron Roenicke had made a couple of defensive changes, moving Yuniesky Betancourt to first base from third, and after pinch-running, Jeff Bianchi stayed in the game, and filled the vacancy left at third base.  Brewers closer, Jim Henderson came into the (tied home) game to pitch the redbirds in the their half of the 9th inning.  Due up were: Shane Robinson, Jon Jay, and Pete Kozma.

Shane Robinson led off the inning by hammering the first pitch he saw into left-center field for a single.  Centerfielder Carlos Gomez kicked the ball, allowing Robinson to advance to second base to start the Cardinals 9th.  In a tied game on the road, with nobody out and a fast runner at second, I'm ok with a sac bunt here to move Robinson to third.  Especially given the defensive changes at the corners the Brewers had just made.  Bianchi and Betancourt had been seen exactly one pitch at their "new" positions so far this game, and neither were involved in the play that sent Robinson to second.  Good enough reason for me, given the situation, to test them.

Everybody in Miller Park was thinking the same thing, and expected the bunt.  The Milwaukee infield came in as Jay squared around, and then quickly pulled back to take ball one.  After bunting the second pitch foul, Jay took a strike high & outside, which would've been a decent pitchout.  Coincidentally, Shane Robinson got a good jump on Henderson, and stole third on the pitch without so much as a throw from Maldonado.  With a 1-2 count, Jay would now be swinging away.  The infield was drawn in to try and cut down a run at the plate, and keep the game tied.  Jay fouled off a couple pitches, and took another ball, before lining a 2-2 pitch back up the middle, scoring Robinson.  RBI, Jon Jay -- his fourth of the afternoon (career high).  Jay has needed to get something going offensively lately, and this was great to see happen today.  But 90% of that run was Shane Robinson.  Teamwork at its finest.  7 - 6 good guys, nobody out.

Shane Robinson swipes third without a throw, even though this was wouldn't have been a bad pitchout.

In stepped Kozma.

Jay drew a couple of pickoff throws from Henderson right away before Kozma looked at ball one, up & away.  The hit-and-run was on, and Jay took off as Kozma pulled the 1-0 delivery to the shortstop, Segura, whose only play was to first.  Descalso then came to the plate with Jay at second, and one out.   On the 1-0 pitch (ball 2), Jay's lead had gotten a bit too big for Maldonado's comfort, so he threw down to second, but it wasn't really much of a "pickoff" attempt.  Descalso swung & missed at the next pitch for strike one, then watched ball 3 float outside.  Ball four was a little further outside, and Descalso took his walk to first.

Jay was now on second, and Descalso on first, with one out for Matt Carpenter.

Carpenter found his way into an 0-2 count after just two pitches.  (The theme from the original Super Mario Brothers played over the sound system at Miller Park between pitches 2 and 3 to Matt Carpenter here.  I know, hardcore baseball reporting, right?).  The third pitch was a ball, but Carpenter chased the next one, missing a fastball, and struck out.  So, with Jay still on second & Descalso still on first, Beltran, who stepped in to bat left-handed against Henderson, came to plate with two down.  He struck out swinging, stranding Jay and Descalso, as the game headed into the bottom of the 9th.

Cardinals up by a run, and Mujica would have his work cut out for him.  Due up for the Brew crew were their 3-4-5 bats:  Braun, Betancourt, and Weeks.

Braun fouled off the first pitch he saw, and then swung and missed on the next.  After taking the next one for a ball, he grounded the next pitch weakly back to Mujica, for the first out.

Yuni also fouled off the first pitch, and swung and missed at the second one.  He then fouled one off the ground that bounced back up and hit him in the face.  Fouling off another, he got out in front of the last pitch he saw, grounding to Matt Carpenter at third, for a 5-3 putout.

Two down, and in stepped the Brewers' last hope: Rickie Weeks.

Mujica's first two pitches were fastballs out of the zone, and Weeks watched the next pitch settled right in for strike one.  After fouling off the 2-1 pitch, Weeks fouled off a 2-2 pitch before he looked at ball 3.  With a full count, Mujica ran one on in on Weeks' hands, and it was fouled off.  The next full-count pitch Weeks saw, he lined to Beltran in right field to end the game in rather anticlimactic fashion.

7 - 6 Cardinals over the Brewers.  Redbirds become winners of five straight, and remain owners of the NL's best record, now at 19-11.  For more on the postgame recap, head over to C70 at the bat.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Bloggers at the ballpark

Bloggers at the Ballpark - part I

Once again this year, the St. Louis Cardinals have been gracious enough to invite some of us blogger types to join them for an afternoon.  Honestly, "gracious" isn't even the word.  It's unbelievable how well the Cardinals organization has treated us--we are truly blessed & fortunate.

This past Sunday morning, a modest group of us gathered in the conference room in the administrative offices of Busch to spend some time with GM John Mozeliak, team President, Bill DeWitt III, and others.  Public Relations specialist, Lindsey Weber & Director of Public Relations and Civic Affairs, Ron Watermon were among those who hosted us for an hour or so in the conference room area.

We were treated to an update on some of the on-the-field-related things from Mozeliak, and DeWitt brought us up to speed on some of the more operational aspects of the organization, including Ballpark Village.  After we were treated to these brief updates, both gentlemen took questions from the group.  Most of those questions were decent, and at no point were we abruptly asked to leave, so we've got that going for us.

There were also presentations given by Stephanie Spargur, director of retail and Alex Eusebio, master executive ninja chef of all things delicious.  Stephanie showed off some of the new looks available at the team store at Busch Stadium, some of which are exclusively available at the ballpark (as it should be!).  Eusebio talked about some of the delectable foods we'd be able to find later that afternoon in our suite, while taking in the Cards/Bucs contest.  He used words that almost made me squeal like a schoolgirl right then and there:  "Four-hand nachos".   The name, he explained, is derived for the exact reason you think it was.  Unless you're really into horses, and think that this is a description of how tall this order of nachos is.

On top of it all, I got to spend it with my wife and many of my fellow bloggers.  Imagine a game night on twitter or bonfyre, and being able to take in a game with all those folks that you interact with regularly.  Pretty great stuff.

World-class hospitality, amazing food, great friends, and free beer.  But that wasn't even my favorite part of the day.  Those two things were the candles on the icing on the cake, and I can't wait to share those with you. part two.