There Are More Important Things In Life Than Baseball

HOLY CRAP. It has been over two months since my last entry. WOW. I had no idea it had been that long. That’s a pretty shocking title for a baseball blog. I know what you’re thinking, WTF Jonny? What could be more important than baseball and the St. Louis Cardinals? Well, I promise you, once you are done reading this entry, you’ll understand what it means.

Here’s the thing everyone. HUGE is going through the joys of being a new parent. With all the sleepless nights & dirty diapers that parenthood comes with. Plus Mrs. HUGE & him are becoming home owners for the first time. So needless to say, he’s not going to be adding anything to this blog anytime soon.

But what’s wrong with me? Why haven’t I had anything to say all spring long? Well Old Jonny Bone is going through his own early 30’s crisis. Now that dad’s gone, my focus has turned from keeping him alive & as comfortable as possible, to helping my mother deal with his death, and hopefully moving on with her life. But it’s been a lot harder than even I imagined. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I never thought it would be this hard. Mom is in a deep depression because she honestly believed dad would get better. She never envisioned that she would have to live her life without him. And now that she has to, she just doesn’t know what to do with herself. So I’m stuck up here in the frozen hell of Ohio till she can decide what to do. Whether it be stay here, or move south to be closer to her parents.

So here we are, almost four months since dad died and nothing has changed & nothing has been decided. Most days I’m busy trying to get everyone up here to make up their minds because I just can’t take living up here any more. I’m sure a lot of people love the state of Ohio, but I never have & I never will. I’ve lived here since 1986, and I’ve never felt like I was home or that I belonged. The weather sucks, (if it’s not snowing, it’s raining. Seriously, it rains more here than it does in Seattle!) the people suck, everything about Ohio to me sucks. It is not my home. I want to go home. I need to go home. Problem is, I don’t have a home. I went to Missouri back in January & February hoping to find the home I’ve always dreamed it would be. But instead, I found a land that yes, is far superior to Ohio in every way, but yet it just didn’t feel like home. It wasn’t the home I had always dreamed it would be. I guess it is true what they say, you can never go home again. So now I don’t know where I’m going to go or what I’m going to do. All I do know is I have to get the hell out of Ohio. I must. It’s killing me to live here. I can’t take it anymore. I gotta get the hell out of Ohio.

So now you know why everyone here at And That’s A Winner have been silent for the past few months. For us right now, there are more important things in life than baseball & our beloved Cardinals. We just don’t have the time & energy to focus on the Cardinals. I can’t speak for HUGE specifically about this, but personally I’m just not into any sport right now. Normally I’d be all wrapped up in the Final Four & Opening Day festivities. But not this year. No, this year it all just seams so trivial. It just doesn’t really matter. It just doesn’t mean that much to me anymore. Honestly, I just don’t care that much about sports right now. I’ve got far more important things to focus on.

In the past when dad was alive and I was taking care of him, I used sports as an escape from my daily life. I fully engulfed myself in sports hoping that it would take me away from the reality I lived day after day. And that focus was mostly pointed at the Cardinals. It didn’t hurt that they were a good team, that they were a safe bet to make a deep run in the playoffs every season. I can’t even begin to describe the joy I felt when they won it all in 2006. Yet there was something missing because dad was laying there unable to fully enjoy their victory with me. My whole life dad was always a Cardinal fan, yet he never really let himself follow the team closely because he was always too busy working & providing for his family. I can’t even begin to tell you the sacrifices he made for us. It was only after he was injured on the job that he finally allowed himself to follow the team closely. And when his health quickly became worse & worse, the Cardinals winning ways became a much needed distraction to his march towards the white light.

Now that he’s gone, watching the Cardinals & following them so closely just doesn’t feel the same. Somethings missing. Something isn’t quite right. There’s a hole now in my enjoyment of not just watching the Cardinals & other teams & sports, but in life in general. I guess that’s normal when your dad dies. All I know is, right now I just don’t have the time & energy I once did to obsess about the Cardinals & blog about them. Sure, I still bought MLB Extra Innings, and I’ll try & catch as many games as I can. But I have more important things to do right now than watch every Cardinal game. So I can’t promise you that I’ll be on here talking about them with any regularity during the season. It’s not because I have low expectations for the team, it’s simply because now, I really do have more important things to focus on.

So What are my expectations for the Cardinals this year? Well that’s a good question.

So here were are, Opening Day for the 2008 baseball season. One season removed from the joys of celebrating a World Series victory over the heavily favored Detroit Tigers. By now the shine on the championship trophy has lost some of it’s luster. The reality of the situation is, no one outside of the Cardinals clubhouse thinks they have a snowballs chance in hell of making the playoffs. And why should they? We have one good, healthy starter in Wagonmaker. And that’s it. The Cardinals do not have one other starter currently in the rotation that they can count on to have a low ERA & more wins than losses when the season is over. No wonder the experts pick them to finish now higher than 4th in the Central.

Carp & Mildew are still on the shelf, and Lord knows if they will ever be what they once were. The new guys, Pineiro & Clement are currently not part of the starting five. Clement can’t build up the proper arm strength, and Pineiro is on the DL with shoulder stiffness. Their inability to make the opening day roster forced MO to go out and sign Kyle Lohse. A run of the mill, nothing special or out of the ordinary starter. At best he’s a #4. But for a good portion of this season, the Cardinals need him to be a #2. Can he do it? Probably not. But what he can do is pitch a lot of innings, something the Cardinals are banking on him doing. All he has to do is pitch 200+ innings & keep the Cards in the games he starts. They aren’t expecting or paying him to be Cy Young.

And that brings us to last years bullpen guy turned starter LOOP. And while last year, LOOP outperformed everyone’s expectations, he still at times pitched rather poorly. And so far he’s had a terrible spring. He certainly isn’t a lock to pitch as well as he did last season. In fact, I look for him to pitch worse than he did last year & get bumped back to his original role in short relief if (and that’s a big IF) the pitchers on the DL come back healthy. Following Lohse & LOOP are Todd Wellemeyer & ATAW favorite Brad Puppy Kicker Extraordinaire Thompson. Now as much as we here love Brad, he’s not ready to be a major league starter. And he may never be. No his best role is probably one of long relief, or short late inning relief. The same can be said of Welley. And the Cardinals know that. But years of misuse of the minor league system have left them with few options while they wait, hope & pray Carp, Mildew, Pineiro & Clement can heal quickly & be the pitchers the Cardinals are paying them to be.

The starting rotation isn’t the only question mark coming into the season. The Cardinals have a ton of young outfielders, each of which have yet to prove themselves in the big leagues. DUNK was hurt for the entire second half of 07. And during the spring he was in the mother of all funks because he hurt himself early in the spring trying to get his homer filled swing back. DUNK certainly isn’t ready to start the season off on the right foot. I would not be surprised at all if he spent a good amount of time on the bench this April. Then there’s wonder boy Rick Ankiel. Ankiel has to prove to everyone that he’s the legit Natural, and produce at high levels for a full season in the bigs. He has to prove to everyone he’s not just a flash in the pan, a one hit wonder if you will, before anyone outside of Busch III believes he really is The Natural. Rule 5 Draftee Brian Barton hasn’t played a game above AA, but he played so well in the spring that the Cards couldn’t afford to send him back to the Indians. Does anyone know what kind of player they have in Barton? We are going to find out soon enough if it was a mistake to keep him on the big league roster. LUD & Skippy have never been more than part time, bench players. But now Skippy will be leaned on heavily to lead off when a lefty isn’t on the mound. LUD’s bat & his ability to play all three outfield positions at a high level, has forced his name into the mix. But he must, MUST cut down on all the strikeouts.

Speaking of strikeouts, the Cardinals new man at the hot corner, Troy Glaus, strikes out a TON. But if he is going to provide the protection Albert The Great needs, he’s going to have to get rid of that bad habit. There’s also the little question of wondering if his foot problem that he had surgery on late last season will keep him out of the lineup, or cause his production to be less than ideal. It’s the same condition that has bothered Albert for a number of years. All indications from the Cardinals medical staff & Troy is that he’s 100% healthy & will have no problems with it this season. But at this point, can we really believe a thing the Cardinals medical staff tells us?

The man that plays to Troy’s left, our new SS Cesar Izturis, is out to prove that 2004 was no joke. And in fact he is a legit Gold Glove winner & can still handle the bat well. Adam Kennedy has had a good spring, both in the field & more importantly at the plate. He could not have played worse last season, and he knows it. The Cardinals desperately need for him to remember how to hit. His D should not be an issue, but he must, he MUST hit.

In fact, as of right now, the only non question marks are the bullpen, (which should once again be one of the best in both leagues) Albert the Great (his bum right elbow aside) & Yadda. Can Cesar & Troy prove the doubters wrong? Can the young kids in the outfield become a legit force to be reckoned with? Will AK remember how to hit? Will the make shift rotation produce wins? Only time will tell.

My personal feeling about the Cards season & for that matter the division is this. The Cardinals will score a ton of runs, but the pitching staff will give most of them right back. I don’t think the flubs or the Brew Crew are as good as advertised. I also don’t think the Reds are as bad as the experts think. Sadly the Pirates are still the Pirates. And the Stros are no longer the killer B’s. I think 85-90 wins will take the division. The Cardinals got the bats & the pen to pull that off. The question is, do they have the rotation & the defense? Once again my answer is, only time will tell. One thing that’s for sure, this season should be, I say should be a lot more entertaining than 2007. Lord knows it can’t get much worse. So don’t get upset if the rotation doesn’t hold up. Don’t go batshit crazy when the kids in the outfield have their growing pains. Keep your expectations under control. A lot of things have to go the Cardinals way if they are going to play in the month of October. The one thing I do agree with from the spin that never seams to stop coming out of Busch III, is the Cardinals will surprise everyone. They will be competitive & they will be in the hunt for the division title come September. And after the season from hell we all had last year, I think that’s all that we can ask for out of our beloved Cardinals.

Well, like I said, I can’t promise you I’ll be around much this season. But I just could not let Opening Day pass without letting everyone know what’s been going on. Now you know. And knowing is half the battle. And youneverknow, maybe I’ll be around to talk to you all more than I think. But for now, I’ll end with this. Opening Day is here. Baseball is back baby! It doesn’t get much better than that.

Till next time this is Jonny Bone reminding everyone, yes even you. That the light at the end of the tunnel, may be you.

Always keep making it bounce.

PEACE

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