Waiting for More Fireworks by Bob Ryan

We’ve already enjoyed all the July 4th fireworks…either watching the commercially done presentations or just our own in the backyard.  Now….we’re ready for the fireworks from Busch to begin….we’re all hoping for more than just a few sparklers….we’d like to see and hear the robust booming sounds of flashing fireworks across the sky.

…Prior to focusing on the 2019 fireworks…..let’s look back at one of the Cards fireworks of past years. In 1982 The Cards were still 3 games behind on August 3rd. They were 35-22 in 1 run games as Bruce Sutter piled up 36 saves & 9 wins. Those wins either came about when Sutter entered a tied-up game or blew the lead and the Cards rallied to win. Darrell Porter signed as a free agent just prior to 1991 season had largely been a mediocre hitter for the Cards. He batted .24 in 1991 and .231 in 1992 regular seasons. But his fireworks in 1992 post season brought him the NLCAS MVP Award and the World Series MVP Award.

Throughout the year, the Cards generated some….but not a great deal …of offensive fireworks as the team relied on tremendous speed, excellent defense and late season winning streaks. The defense was led by Ozzie & Tommy Herr up the middle. Ozzzie was #1 in Defensive WAR in the NL while Herr was #7 in the same defensive category. Lonnie Smith led the team with a .307 average(4th in NL). He generated his fireworks on the bases! He stole 68 bases(2nd in the NL behind Tim Raines.. while being thrown out 26 times. Lonnie Smith’s OPS of .815 was tops on the Cards while Keith Hernandez was 2nd best @ .810. Hernandez padded his OPS by drawing 100 walks…not dynamic fireworks…but enough to keep further explosions alive. The Cards really began shooting their fireworks in August with an 8-2 streak and con’t the display of fireworks with an 8 game winning streak in September. The anticipated leaders of the pitching staff—Joaquin Andujar and Bob Forsch each won 15 games. Steve Mura contributed with his ONLY strong MLB year. He won 12 games…..in his MLB career, Mura won a total of 30 games!!! Couple side notes before moving on…..notice with Sutter’s numbers – he obviously had some clinker games, but Whitey Herzog stayed with him as his closer..period. Darryl Porter was not a fan favorite throughout much of 1992 as the fans expected more…again Whitey had confidence in him and stayed with him. A powerful ACE wasn’t needed for the Cards to win the NL divisional crown.  Note also, Lonnie Smith was thrown out 26 times…..Whitey didn’t tell him to run less due to all those outs…he wanted that pressure and fireworks… from the speed on the bases. Finally, despite having developed SOME of these key players, the Cards had dealt for over half of the starters…going all the way around C-inf-OF…Porter (from KC), Keith Hernandez & Tommy Herr (system), Ozzie Smith (from San Diego—(TU Gary Templeton for your obnoxious reaction to fans that forced the trade), Ken Oberkfell (system), Lonnie Smith (Phil), Willie McGee(NYY) and Silent George–George Hendrick (Oak-Clev-SD). Btw…George got this nickname because he didn’t talk to reporters after the game…any game…so Jack Buck dubbed him, “Silent George”

…currently in the MLB, the best fireworks from individual players in the month of June came from this list according to baseball experts–

Mike Trout gets a mulligan…..his numbers are really fantastic…but somehow …because its expected of him…..it’s not the same explosive looks to his fireworks since some have come to expect it!!

…..maybe not sizzling fireworks….but clearly….something was sparkling nightly…. John Sterling has called all but two New York Yankees games since taking over as the team’s radio play-by-play announcer in 1989. That streak, which began after he missed two games that first season, is about to end. Sterling has worked 5,059 consecutive Yankees games, including the postseason, according to the team. “My program director felt it’d be a good time to take some time off,” he said. Sterling will be celebrating his 81st birthday during his brief hiatus from the microphone.

…the fireworks from pitchers….it seems…is based on watching pitchers throw 100+mph pitches. Jordan Hicks has thrown 24 of the fastest 25 pitches in the MLB this season. Amazingly, he’s thrown slightly less than all of the next FOUR closest pitchers with pitches over 100 COMBINED!  But….while we fans seem to be fascinated by the sizzle of the 100mph pitch, some MLB experts aren’t so sure of its value. A’s Catcher Stephen Vogt says, “We’re seeing so many young kids come up, they throw 95, 98, as hard as they can for a full season and then they come back and their arm’s gone. Our bodies are not designed to withstand that much velocity. If you do, you’re a freak,” Vogt said. “But I think it’s become a mentality of a lot of organizations is, ‘Well, let’s just use this guy ’til he can’t pitch anymore and then next in line.’ And I’m not a big fan of that. We see what’s happened to Hicks in a half a season. It’s what my friend Stan called, “the Kleenex Principle”…..”use em, throw em away quick”mentality.

…I realize that the Lou is a baseball town….well….let’s add hockey to the list now but…the MLB draft and post season is  B-O-R-I-N-G when compared to the NBA post season. In the MLB, after the 1st 10 picks of round 1, obscure names are chosen for 15-20-25 more rounds….I don’t know..who cares?  A few will sign…many will wait a year and be drafted again…some will sign and most will NEVER,  EVER see the fireworks of the MLB. Then….the free agency season begins as agents of the best players tour MLB cities promoting themselves for months and months. Their quotes and innuendos during those “tours” would make WWE promoters proud. J Eventually, they sign with 1 of about 10 teams. Meanwhile in the NBA, in those first couple weeks, it’s lit up with tons of roster action…it’s really interesting. The NBA draft has fireworks….. the draft occurs and players are signed almost instantly and have an immediate impact(not 3,4,5 years of training in the minors); trades are finalized quickly to match the talents of the super stars of each team, free agents signings come at you hot and heavy, teams rosters are unraveled then rebuilt in a matter of a couple days. To start the season, NBA teams don’t seem to have a “lets tank it approach”.  As one writer put it, “So the drama built into the NBA vs. the HOPE for drama that MLB tries to sell every day are inherently different”

… Atlanta Braves had their own type of fireworks on July 4th! For the 2nd time in franchise history, the entire infield hit HR in the same game….SS Dansby Swanson hit #16 & 17 for the year; 2nd Base-Ozzie Albies smashed #14 in 2019; 1b Freddie Freeman hit #23 to opposite field;  3b Josh Donaldson took his 17th trip around the bases.

…Fireworks should be going off in Columbia, MO this fall.  In addition to assembling a strong roster and adding a superior QB to the fold, the Tigers…according to one football magazine… have the 3rd easiest schedule in the country.  His reasoning—1) Unless W.Virginia gets ranked under a new coach…highly unlikely…generally, coaches don’t leave if they THINK that they’ll have a good team coming back…..2) Mizzou won’t face a nationally ranked team until November. Hence, new QB Kelly Bryant (Clemson graduate transfer) will have ample time to adjust.  3) Mizzou has 5 consecutive games at Faurot Field in Columbia—who loses at home?

…causing fireworks in the soccer world….the USA womens’ 4th World Cup Championship in a 2-0 win over the Netherlands saw a relatively even 1st half but once the PK was scored by Meagan Rapinoe in the 61 minute  mark and a 2nd goal 8 minutes later by Rose Lavelle it became a game of “keep away” and defense with a few break outs permitting forwards to have wonderful scoring opportunities.  I’m not a knowledgeable soccer person but it does seem to me like the USA Women have a “chip” on their shoulder. Maybe it’s the difference in salary from the Men’s Team, maybe it’s recognition, maybe it’s the “blowouts” over inferior teams that rankles other countries, probably there are many other reasons.

….the 1st place Minnesota Twins don’t want any fireworks with their starting rotation…just stability. Incredibly, the Twinkies starting rotation has started 83 of their first 88 games!!

….what is needed for Cardinal fireworks to pop in the sky…..using some of the tactics of other successful Cardinal teams….Consider trading some of their “prospects” to get players that can contribute right now. It was done that way in the 60’s, 80’s and early 2000’s. Then, determine what area should be the “best” for the Cards in 2019—starting pitching, bullpen, defense, base running, power hitting, OB% hitting and really emphasize those areas. It can’t…won’t .. work every day but stay grounded to your strengths. Have a definitive expectation for each player. Don’t expect each player to be an all-star.  A few examples…Kolton Wong….play great defense, getting on base is more important than HR for you. Relax…you look tight as a drum….you’re going play every day.  Harrison Bader….just get on base …abandon that HR, loopy swing. The team needs you on base. Swing the ol’ school way…LEVEL….ur going to make ur big money with your speed on the bases and defense than with HR. Marcel….get 3 good cuts every time at the plate….keep smiling…you play at a higher level when ur happy..tidy up the defense but keep hustling out there. Jack Flaherty…YOU have big league stuff… throw 1st pitch strikes…don’t try fooling these guys or respect them too much, throw YOUR good stuff. Throw it low & in for strikes, low & away for strikes… later in count, then get the “swing & miss”. Ground outs are quicker than strikeouts… keep the ball low. Your strikeout pitches are generally sliders off the plate. Paul Goldschmidt…..strive to find your bat speed, if it isn’t too late… we need YOU to hit the ball hard…. Dex…show more intensity…like that you REALLY want to win(this isn’t a slow pitch game with your buddies); Carp—start putting the ball in play….use LF as an asset not a toxic wasteland..heaven forbid….bunt down 3b line when you leadoff an inning…. Your bases empty HR’s don’t’ really spark rallies. Andrew Miller…ur back!….several good performances recently…show that swagger again! You ARE our left-handed ACE. Think like an ACE. Each player should know where they stand…some already do….make sure that they all know…and that YOU (Cards) know. Strive to peek in August & September.. don’t be satisfied winning a series 2-1….a 3-0 sweep is a 2 game difference.

….I’m outta fireworks….thanks for the read….all replys are invited

Comments

  1. Hi Bob: Enjoyed your blog, as always. I think this article does a good job explaining why the U.S. Women’s National Team players have a large chip on their shoulders:
    https://www.goal.com/en-us/news/world-champions-vs-whipping-boys-brilliant-us-women-should/1hw61bc5iottg15tcmpiyoqydo?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=siteshare

    Have a great week. DL

  2. Cards fans are definitely waiting for fireworks following the All Star Break. Some hard decisions… how long does a team stick with “potential “?? Bader? O’Neal? Are these guys the foundation to the Cards future? Appreciate Jose Martinez’s ability to HIT, and although defense has improved, he’s a pure DH, and a valuable trade piece.
    Yairo Munez… needs to play! Speed, versatile and can hit!
    Tommy Edman… also versatile and has had some big moments. Too early to see if he’s for real.
    Carpenter, for all his past moments, is simply a drag to the line up… at the plate & at 3rd. Having just signed an extension, Birds have a real dilemma on their hands. “ Goldy” has to get hot, as does DeJung. Hopefully Ozuna comes back from hand injury & Molina can play/ hit enough
    Gant , Miller, Brebbia & C Martinez , Gallego, have settled the Pen. Need more innings from starters.
    NEEDS: Starting pitcher, Outfield Bat. Trade Pieces: Carpenter’s value is down, and they won’t move him. Wacha, Jose Martinez, O’Neal, Memphis up & comers/ fringe bullpen guys.. e.g. Webb, Leone. A shake up is needed! JP1

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