Thursday, March 31, 2011

2011 Preseason Baseball Predictions

It's hard this season for the predictions in the National League. Adam Wainwright is out for the year for my beloved St. Louis Cardinals.

The Phillies are having the worst spring ever. Chase Utley will miss significant amount of time with a knee injury. Dominic Brown, who was the early preseason pick for Rookie of the Year in the National League, is injured and likely won't play in the major leagues until May. Brad Lidge just got injured, too. As for their starting pitching, they are stacked.

All of that said, here are my predictions. Keep in mind that when the Kentucky Wildcats win the NCAA Championship, the New York Yankees have won the World Series in all but one year. I hate the Yankees as much as the next person but one cannot just ignore historical trends like that.

I've updated this since Kentucky lost.

EAST: Philadelphia Phillies
CENTRAL: Cincinnati Reds
WEST: San Francisco Giants
WILD CARD: St. Louis Cardinals

NLCS: Philadelphia Phillies over Cincinnati Reds

EAST: Boston Red Sox
CENTRAL: Minnesota Twins
WEST: Oakland Athletics
WILD CARD: New York Yankees

ALCS: Boston Red Sox over New York Yankees

World Series: Boston Red Sox over Philadelphia Phillies

Cy Young: Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies
MVP: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals
Rookie of the Year: Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants

Cy Young: Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
MVP: Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers
Rookie of the Year: Jeremy Hellickson, Tampa Bay Rays

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Red keeps busy

The Palm Beach Post notes that Red Schoendienst still keeps busy at age 88.
Red Schoendienst can be found around the batting cage before each St. Louis Cardinals spring training game, hitting fungos or analyzing every swing in the cage.

But when the Cardinals are on the road, that's when the 88-year-old is doing what he loves most - roaming the back fields at Roger Dean Stadium watching minor leaguers, some born 30 years after Schoendienst retired as a player.

Schoendienst followed his 19-year playing career with more than 12 as Cardinals manger.

Mike Shannon, the Cardinals broadcaster who once played under Schoendienst, calls his former manager an "expert" at judging young talent.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said judging talent is just a fraction of what Schoendienst brings to the organization.

"The bases are still 90 feet apart and everything about the game is the same," Shannon said. "The players are bigger, stronger and in better shape, but still you have to use the same qualities. I rely on him a lot. I know Tony relies on him a lot."

Schoendienst sits in the Cardinals dugout in his familiar No. 2 for every home spring training game. During the season he watches games from GM John Mozeliak's booth.

"I ask what he sees, what he's thinking," La Russa said. "He's smart and he's current. That's a true compliment."

Schoendienst is completing his 67th spring training, all but seven in a Cardinals uniform. His title is special assistant to the general manager but he is much more: He represents nearly seven decades of Cardinals history, starting with his first spring training in 1945.

"I'll keep going as long as they don't tell me you can't come out here," he said.

Schoendienst is one of three living members of the Cardinals' 1946 World Championship team, along with Stan Musial and Joe Garagiola. The trio lost a teammate when 94-year-old Marty Marion died March 15.

As for octogenarians who still put on the uniform, nobody is as active as Schoendienst.

Don Zimmer, 80, stills wears a Tampa Bay Rays uniform and, like Schoendienst, is on the field before every regular-season home game. But Zimmer can no longer hit fungos after back surgery about a year and a half ago.

Yogi Berra, 85, still dons New York Yankees pinstripes but isn't as involved as Schoendienst.

"My arm is shot," Schoendienst said of his health. "I don't hit as much as I used to. It used to be hours and hours. But I love to hit fungos just to see their reaction, the quickness of their feet and their hands."

Each morning in Jupiter, he hops in a golf cart and drives to the far fields looking to unearth another Albert Pujols or Adam Wainwright. Schoendienst notices the hard workers, looking for players who seek out coaches or put in extra time.

He said he doesn't resent the current system in which the minimum salary of $414,000 is almost as much as he made in his entire playing career with the Cards, New York Giants and Milwaukee Braves.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Jim Edmonds' Clubhouse Contribution

Since he's retiring, Jim Edmonds' leadership role for the Cardinals in the 2006 postseason should be noted. I can't do it very well, so I'll let Jayson Stark make the case:
"I'll tell you exactly when it happened," said Eckstein, the 5-foot-7 mighty-mite shortstop who became the shortest World Series MVP in history. "You have to go back to Game 1 against the Padres. Bases loaded. Seventh inning. Tyler Johnson on the mound. Todd Walker at bat. And he hit a ball through the right side that looked like a sure hit.

"But Ronnie Belliard was playing about 20 feet out on the outfield grass. He made a diving stop and got us out of that inning with an unbelievable play. And when people ask, 'What was the moment it all came together?' -- that was it."

It wasn't so much that that play won that game, because the Cardinals were already ahead, 5-1. But there's a feeling that sometimes comes over teams after plays like that which are bigger than those plays themselves. And the man in center field, Jim Edmonds, thought he recognized that feeling when he saw it.

So Edmonds gathered his teammates around him in the clubhouse after that game -- and awarded a game ball to Ron Belliard. And that, said Eckstein, "was the moment."

Every time the Cardinals won an October baseball game, from that day on, they assembled afterward and awarded those game balls. To one, to two, to three men who had risen to meet that day's biggest moments.

It sounds like a scene out of "Friday Night Lights," not a scene you'd envision in a real, live major-league locker room full of real, live major-league players during a real, live baseball postseason. But this really happened, in the Cardinals' actual life. And somehow, for this team, it worked.

"It worked because we were probably trying to do the impossible," Eckstein said. "And we knew we only had each other to rely on. Every team needs somebody to speak up and take on the responsibilities of leadership. And Jim Edmonds was that player on this club. When he speaks, everyone listens. And the dynamic of this club changed the moment he stepped forward in San Diego."

Next thing you knew, this team wasn't collapsing anymore. Next thing you knew, these Cardinals had forgotten that any of that September ugliness had ever happened.
That's a pretty special ballplayer. Jim Edmonds has a great future as the leader of a baseball team.