Sports NewsMayfield's Mutterings: Springing into Mutterings

Springing into Mutterings

By Jeff Mayfield

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[April 23, 2009]  Last time we talked we were wrapping up things at the Final Four and running to catch our plane. We made it, and sometime around that same time Major League Baseball was in the throes of starting its 2009 campaign. Let's jump in and try to get up to speed...

Baseball 2009

A glance at today's standings shows the St. Louis Cardinals at the top of the National League Central Division, sharing the top spot with the Chicago Cubs. Both teams have to be happy with that. Although, as I have shared with several friends, call me if the Cards are still in the thick of it at the All-Star break. Or better yet, call me in June if they're still hanging around.

I am not one to sugarcoat things, and I just have not bought what this ownership-management group has been selling the last few years. You get plenty of fans that buy tickets, parking and concessions, but you don't want to spend any money on pitchers, solid bats or reliable closers? Are you kidding me? What am I missing?

Now, I do like to see the kids down on the farm making good and gradually making it to "the Show." But, I'd also like to see some big names headed to the Gateway City as well. Tony La Russa is one of the best managers in the game, but he'd be a lot smarter with Matt Holiday, Jake Peavy and Manny Rameriz on the roster ... just take my word for it.

The window of opportunity is so small in today's world. Albert Pujols won't be here forever. You've already seen what the Cards' starting staff can do when every year it seems like one of the top three pitchers misses the entire year on the disabled list. I just don't get it. When you spend the big money and WIN ... doesn't that get you INto the playoffs? And if you get there, doesn't that mean that you make more money? Please help me with my math, those of you who know how to calculate this stuff.

Yes ... I know that nothing is guaranteed. But, I also believe in giving an organization the best possible chance to succeed. I just wanted to state my case... I'm probably preaching to the choir, but I had to let it out. I'm not saying to sign everyone and send all the kids down. I'm just saying that a good balance, that a good mixture can maximize the open window that seemed to be there. They have had great success hiring hit men in the past; I just wanted to see them go to the "well" a couple more times.

With all that being said, I do somewhat like the makeup of this team. The problem is that they will have to be greater than the sum of their parts, and that is asking a lot, especially in today's professional landscape.

How 'bout the way Yadier Molina is hitting the baseball and getting people out at the plate? Don't underestimate his value in getting the very most out of that pitching staff either! How 'bout the play of Brian Barden, Brendan Ryan and even Joe Thurston? As you can see, these are not the type of "hit men" that fans and media like me have been clamoring for. Now don't get me wrong ... if they continue to do well, I'm not gonna complain. But is it even right to expect such big contributions from guys like that? I know they're professional ballplayers and they're supposed to do their jobs. I know all that. But I also know that you get what you pay for!

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And speaking of that, how 'bout the play so far of Ryan Ludwick? The experts all painted him as a one-year wonder, and maybe that's the way it will turn out. But not so fast, my friends... So far, Mr. Ludwick is hitting a robust .378 with five big flies and 16 ribbies! Not only that, but he protects Pujols' bat in the lineup. He actually makes our whole lineup better. What more can you say about that? Try nothing!

It was nice to see Rick Ankiel get off the snied and lead his team to a rallying win over the "pond scum." Yes, I know that is so "'80s," but I haven't forgotten and likely won't in this lifetime. Ankiel had three hits and willed the team to victory. If the Redbirds can get that kind of production out of him on a more regular basis, then we are talking!

I did tell my colleague Joel Otto, a former LCC and Olympia High School sports star, that it will all boil down to pitching. Can the starters overcome the loss of Chris Carpenter? Can you continually put this much pressure on Adam Wainwright and Kyle Lohse? Will either Joel Piniero or Todd Wellemeyer do more good than bad out there? And will the relief corps get it done by "committee," will someone emerge as the outright closer, or will relievers come in and just throw gas on the fire? Ryan Franklin has looked pretty good so far, capturing another save in the opener versus the Mets, but can he do it over the long haul? And is there any more help down on the farm? Can P.J. Walters, Mitchell Boggs and company give us some spot help when the chips are down? I sure hope so!


OR ... if Albert Pujols starts averaging a homer every game... I saw a stat that the Cards are something like .750 when Albert goes yard. Something tells me that's not going to happen...

BUT, I would've felt a lot better if we would've spent some money in the offseason!

(I'll check with Greg Taylor and see if he can give us a Cubs update; and I run with one of the biggest White Sox "homers" you've ever seen, and I'll get his take on the South Siders in an upcoming edition.)

Have a great one, everybody!


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