I was recently given the chance to be included by Mets Paradise in its 30 Blogs in 30 Days Segment. The site plans to interview a blogger for each Major League team heading into the season, and I was lucky enough to be chosen as the Cardinals blogger. The site has built up a staff of 10 writers to stay on top of all Mets and baseball news. Besides news, the site includes a forum for readers to participate in and its own shop. Be sure to check it out when you get the chance. Now, to my interview with Zack Arenstein, a writer for the site.
ZA: What’s it like to watch Albert Pujols over the course of a season?
RG: Just living in this era, watching Pujols for all baseball fans is special. We are all witnessing history unfold when Albert takes the field every day. As far as a combination of power and hitting for average, no one in history has been better. For Cards fans, seeing him every day is even more special. It’s just important to step back and realize what we are seeing here.
ZA: What is it about Dave Duncan that changes pitchers so dramatically? The Mets looked into signing Joel Pineiro, but many believed he would have a drop off season without Duncan.
RG: There are so many things that make Duncan great. He watches film and has detailed scouting reports for every hitter at his fingertips. He notices flaws in a struggling pitcher’s mechanics and helps them to fix the problem. But none of these things would be important if Duncan couldn’t communicate. His players swear by him because they trust him. He easily deals with personalities and keeps a positive attitude throughout the season.
ZA: The Cardinals defeated the Mets on their way to winning the Wold Series in 2006.. It was a classic series that ended with the most devastating curveball I’ve ever seen from Adam Wainwright. That image will never be far from any Mets fans’ thoughts. How has Wainwright improved since then?
RG: Then, Wainwright was just a rookie, thrust into the closer’s role in the playoffs. He showed flashes of brilliance with his stuff, but he never blew people away in the minor leagues. Despite that playoff success, he had a long way to go to be great as a starter. Since then, he has had the time to learn how to pitch and it showed last season with 19 wins.
ZA: St. Louis is regarded as one of the best baseball cities in America. What makes it so special?
RG: I think St. Louis fans are baseball fans before they are Cardinals fans. They can respect a great team or great player from an opposing team even when the Cards are playing them. The respect is hard to find in other more intense fan bases. It is a great balance that Cards fan have to root their team on, while still understanding the game. It is just part of the Midwest culture.
ZA: The Cardinals just gave Matt Holliday a very big contract. Do you think it was a good signing and do you think it will affect the Cardinals ability to sign Pujols to an extension?
RG: I like the Holliday signing. The Cardinals finally have an offense that scares opposing pitching staffs rather than one guy that can be avoided. Holliday will add protection for Albert and has proven over his career to be a great player. The National League is his league and he was comfortable in St. Louis last year. The money was necessary for the Cards to say, let’s try to go win something. Now is the time to do it as Pujols and Holliday will be together for a long time. I don’t see any problems signing Pujols because he has become a St. Louis icon. It’s hard to imagine either side without the other, so I think a deal will come together.
ZA: Who is the Cardinals top prospect? What makes him so good, and when is he expected to hit the big show?
RG: As far as rankings, the top prospect is Shelby Miller. Miller was the team’s first round pick in 2009. He’s only 19 years old and is still developing. It will be a few years until he reaches the show, but the upside has the organization excited. He has the potential to be a dominant power pitcher with a fastball in the high 90s. To go with it, he has a curveball, slider, and change. With Duncan helping him out in the future, Miller could be great. It will take some time and patience to see results, though. Jaime Garcia, Blake Hawksworth, and David Freese have the chance to make the big league club this year and make an impact. Freese is projected as the starting third baseman right now.
ZA: What do you think of Tony La Russa? He’s been the Cardinals manager for a long time now.
RG: La Russa is one of the best managers in the game. He has been a winner at every stop in his career and should be a Hall of Famer. With that said, his recent defense of Mark McGwire bothered me. He acted like he didn’t know Mac did steroids, and I don’t buy it. I wish he would be more honest about the situation because steroids have seemed to follow him during his career. From Oakland to St. Louis, quite a few players have been linked to performance enhancers. It disappoints me.
ZA: Aside from Pujols (we all know how great he is), who would you say is the best Cardinal in team history?
RG: That’s tough. I would say it comes down to Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, and Ozzie Smith. Each captured the hearts of St. Louis during their time. I give the nod to Stan the Man. He fits in perfectly with the St. Louis people and Midwest hospitality. Add to that three MVPs, three World Series rings, and 24 All-Star games. He also has 3,630 hits, fourth all-time. I remember being at the 2005 HOF induction, and Musial was awesome with his 7th inning stretch singing of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.” He seemed like the nicest guy around. Bob was the best competitor. Ozzie was the best showman.
ZA: Wainwright and Carpenter were 2nd and 3rd in Cy Young voting. It’s amazing to have 2 pitchers ranked so high, but do you think Tim Lincecum deserved to win over both of them, even though his team didn’t make the playoffs?
RG: I don’t have a problem with Lincecum winning. The awards are always tough to pick and all three were deserving. I was pulling for Carpenter because of all the injury troubles he had in 2007 and 2008.
ZA: Over/Under 700 homeruna for Albert Pujols for his career when all is said and done?
RG: I see Pujols finishing just under 700, in the Willie Mays range of 660 home runs. Another 10 years of 30 homers would put Pujols right there. He’ll likely pass Mays. It will all come down to how long he wants to play. Another 15 years and he’ll break 700 easily.
Thanks again to the guys over at Mets Paradise for the opportunity. Hope you enjoyed my insights into Cards baseball as the 2010 season closes in!