View from Spring Training: 2011 St. Louis Cardinals

2011 St. Louis Cardinals

NFL Equivalent – Green Bay Packers: No, the St. Louis Cardinals are not VMS pick to win the 2011 World Series. However, the Redbirds do share many characteristics with the Packers, their brethren from the Midwest. Much like GB, the Cardinals boast some of the friendliest, most loyal, and knowledgeable fans in all professional sports.  Cardinals/Packers fans do not carry themselves with the same hardened, acerbic grittiness as say Red Sox or Yankess fans but their passion rivals any other fan base in the country. Both franchises have a history of winning as well.

Google Search: Two stories this offseason: 1) Albert Pujols’ contract talks 2) Adam Wainwright’s arm injury. The Pujols contract situation – he enters 2011 in the final year of his current deal with the Cardinals – threatens to dominate the back pages of most St. Louis newspapers. It’s been said that he is looking for ARod type money, somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 million a season, which clearly the mid market Cardinals cannot afford to pay him. So, if he’s really looking for that sort of cash, he will have to look to the Angels, Red Sox, Yankees, or (gulp) Cubs. Here’s hoping Albert chooses to stay in St. Louis, it’s much better for baseball that way. Wainwright, along with Chris Carpenter – from New Hampshire – have been the workhorses of a very stable Cardinal starting rotation. With Wainwright now shelved for the season after Tommy John surgery, who does St. Louis turn to to provide them with those same innings/quality starts?

Famous Movie Quote: Look, we’re gonna spend half the night driving around the Hills looking for this one party and you’re going to say it sucks and we’re all gonna leave and then we’re gonna go look for this other party. But all the parties and all the bars, they all suck. I spend half the night talking to some girl who’s looking around the room to see if there’s somebody else who’s more important she should be talking to. And it’s like I’m supposed to be all happy ’cause she’s wearing a backpack, you know? And half of them are just nasty skanks who wouldn’t be nothing except they’re surrounded by a bunch of drunken horny assholes. And I’m gonna tell you something T. Are you listening? – Jon Favreau from Swingers

This quote is for Albert Pujols who while searching for that $30 million a year will no doubt be wined and dined by all types of suitors, some attractive – Cubs – some downright nasty – Royals. In the end, will he come to his senses and realize that the chase is never as satisfying as the one you already love, who also happens to love you? The 2011 Cardinals will have another good year but the Pujols contract talks will be the loudest topic in St. Louis since the Blues signed Wayne Gretzky. 2011 prediction: 85-77, 2nd place NL Central

view from Space Coast Stadium courtesy of @athalonathlete

View from Spring Training: 2011 Detroit Tigers

2011 Detroit Tigers

NFL Equivalent – Oakland Raiders: I can remember a time back in the early to mid 90’s, when the LA/Oakland Raiders were the epitome of urban/gangsta rap brashness. After all, a prerequisite for membership in NWA was whether or not you could pull off the Raiders cap. Al Davis may be the face of the franchise today, but back then, Ice Cube represented Raider nation best. For some reason I feel like at one time or another the Tigers hat carried a similar street cred. Call it the Eminem effect. Or maybe it chalk it up to one Magnum P.I.

Google Search: After Detroit won a bidding war for the services of prized free agent catcher/first baseman Victor Martinez, all was well in Tigertown, that was until Miguel Cabrera was arrested for DUI in February.  Will the arrest affect Cabrera’s 2011 performance? Can his Tiger teammates trust him when it counts? Is anyone else worried that Cabrera has to deal with some bigger issues than just baseball?

Famous Movie Quote: I love poetry, and a glass of scotch, and, of course, my friend Baxter here. – Ron Burgundy Anchorman

Scotch is one of those drinks that I say I enjoy but really don’t. It seems like most of my friends enjoy a nice glass after dinner, but me? Unless you load it up with a bundle of ice cubes I simply can’t stomach the raw masculinity. Miguel Cabrera doesn’t seem to have the same problem. What was most alarming to me about his DUI arrest is not that he was inebriated but that he was drinking scotch. Doesn’t Florida seem a little warm for scotch? I feel like scotch is a winter drink reserved for the ski lodges of British Columbia. 2011 prediction: 93-69, 1st place AL Central

view from Space Coast Stadium courtesy of @davextreme

View from Spring Training: 2011 Houston Astros

2011 Houston Astros

NFL Equivalent – Seattle Seahawks: Always a bridesmaid, but never quite a bride. The Seahawks reached the Super Bowl in 2006, only to fall to the Steelers, while the Astros lost to the White Sox in the World Series the year before.  Both teams were constantly in the mix throughout this past decade, while both now seem miles away from championship hopes.  Both the ‘Hawks and the ‘Stros have recently sent the faces of their respective franchises packing, and are relying on much younger, more anonymous casts going forward.  So the question remains, is there a “Beast Mode” moment waiting for these Astros in October?

Google Search: Drayton McLain, as he has been known to do in the past—like a true Texas gambler—is choosing to play the hand that he was dealt.  The Astros have brought in 2B Bill Hall and SS Clint Barmes, but will choose to fill out their roster with a couple of aging prospects in C J.R. Towles and 1B Brett Wallace.  It might be the end of the line for these two in Houston, if their Spring numbers are any indication. All this and presumptive 2011 team MVP outfielder Hunter Pence is considered to be the worst team MVP in MLB by Baseball Prospectus. Talk about a backhanded compliment.

Famous Movie Quote: Listen, here’s the thing. If you can’t spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you ARE the sucker – Mike McDermott from Rounders

Here’s some feedback, Mr. McLain: fold, then run.  The Killer B’s are not walking through that door, and after having FINALLY moved INF/OF Lance Berkman and P Roy Oswalt last season, the last vestiges of the Astros’ heyday have faded into that big Texas sky alongside Davy Crockett, Sam Houston, and J.R. Ewing.  Houston has a productive starting outfield with the powerful Carlos Lee, the speedy Michael Bourne, and the gutty Hunter Pence, but they’ll only go as far as their starting pitching staff will take them. Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez, and J.A. Happ will all have to have career years just to keep the Astros relevant at the All-Star break. 2011 record: 71 – 91; 5th Place NL Central

view from Space Coast Stadium courtesy of @actionsports360