I was recently given the chance to talk with Scott Humphries of Tomahawk Talk about the Cardinals and Braves to preview this series. Scott covers the Atlanta Braves for USA Sports Media Group and now runs the Tomahawk Talk site for Rant Sports. The site is new, but he is an experienced writer and it should be a top Braves blog by mid-summer. Be sure to check it out to stay updated on Jayson Heyward’s rookie season and Chipper Jones’ and Bobby Cox’s retirement plans. Now, to my interview with him.
Tomahawk Talk: The Cardinals had a good year in 2009 and most experts are expecting another good season from the Redbirds in 2010. How do you think the Cardinals will do this year?
Ryne Gery: I think the preseason buzz is warranted. I expect the Cardinals to win the division and to be a major threat come October. With the additions to the lineup and the development of their young players, the Cards should challenge the Phillies for National League supremacy. This is the most complete lineup St. Louis has had in some time.
Tomahawk Talk: What do you like best about the 2010 edition of the Cardinals?
Ryne Gery: I just like how complete the team is. The lineup is solid. The pitching staff is solid. With Rasmus ready to take off, David Freese joining the big league club, and the emergence of the bench players, the lineup is versatile. The starting rotation is set with Carpenter and Wainwright at the top. Brad Penny has also done a nice job and I really like the veteran presence he brings to the club. Outside of that, this club just has a fun feel to it. After the 20-inning loss, they were still in good spirits and they seem to have that chemistry that is needed to take that next step in the fall.
Tomahawk Talk: What is your primary concern about this year’s Cardinals team?
Ryne Gery: The bullpen. Coming into the year, the ‘pen was the lone cause for concern. And so far, it has shown why everyone was concerned. They have been inconsistent in the opening month. Ryan Franklin is getting older and only has one good year to his name. His situation and the rest of the bullpen are worth keeping an eye on as the season progresses.
Tomahawk Talk: Do you think the Cardinals will make any major player moves at (or before) the trade deadline?
Ryne Gery: I highly doubt it. The Cardinals made their major moves last year and during the offseason. They got Holliday and re-signed him to a huge deal. With the remaining money, they went out and got Felipe Lopez. He brings great versatility to the club and fills many holes for St. Louis. It was a great pickup. Now they have to run with the horses they have. As I said earlier, the lineup and rotation are set. The bullpen will have to come together on its own.
Tomahawk Talk: What has to go right for the Cardinals for them to win the NL Central and perhaps the National League pennant and World Series?
Ryne Gery: Right now, it looks like the Cardinals will run away with the NL Central. The Cubs, Reds, Brewers, Pirates, and Astros are all mediocre teams and I have a hard time seeing them emerging as threats in the division. St. Louis is clearly the best team and has done a nice job early of handling the pressure of being the favorite. Winning the National League pennant and World Series will obviously be tougher, but I think they could do it. If the bullpen firms up and they stay healthy, the Cardinals have as good a chance as any team of taking home the ultimate prize. Good pitching can carry a team in October and the Yankees won the world championship last year using three starting pitchers in the playoffs and World Series. With Carpenter and Wainwright, the Cardinals could be well-suited to follow that model, so the World Series is definitely within reach.
Tomahawk Talk: What are your initial thoughts/impressions of this year’s Braves team?
Ryne Gery: I really like the team. After a few down years by Braves’ standards, it’s nice to see them back in the news again. Heyward is a big part of the excitement and I have been very impressed with him. Atlanta has a foundation to build a new era on. Tommy Hanson was awesome last year and I expect an even better year this year. With those young guys breathing life into the franchise, the Braves should contend in the NL East this year.
Tomahawk Talk: What do you like best about the Braves as a team?
Ryne Gery: I like the balance of youth and veteran leadership that the Braves have. Heyward and Hanson are stars in the making, but they’ll have their growing pains along the way. With Chipper Jones and Brian McCann leading the way though, the young players should be able to weather the storms. Not to mention the fact that they have Bobby Cox on the bench. And as Chipper’s career winds down, I would like to say that it has been a privilege to watch him play. He has been my favorite player of the current era since watching him as a young fan in the 1996 World Series. Something about Chipper really drew me in and as I got older and understood the game more, I appreciated him that much more. I really think he deserves more love as one of the faces of baseball during the current era along with Derek Jeter. He steered clear of steroids and all of that stuff and still became one of the top switch-hitters of all-time. A surefire Hall of Famer, he has really been fun to watch. While I think he has plenty left to give, if this is his last hurrah, it’s been special.
Tomahawk Talk: It’s not the Cardinals’ division, of course, but how do you see the NL East playing out? What’s your projected order-of-finish for the NL East?
Ryne Gery: I can’t pick against the Phillies in the NL East. I’m from Reading, PA, so I’ve watched the team a lot over the past few years and I love’em. It’s just a fun team to watch. Rollins is the best shortstop in the game when it comes to glove work. Utley may be the most complete player in the game. Howard and Werth are great in the middle of the lineup. And the team just has that quiet confidence and will to win that is apparent in many of their players. The chemistry they have is off the charts and it starts with their desire to win. It’s hard to explain, but you pick up on it when you watch them play on a daily basis. Oh yeah, and they have Halladay now. I see the Braves and Marlins fighting for second place with the Braves edging the Fish. The Mets and Nationals still have a long way to go and should be out of it by mid-July.
Tomahawk Talk: Returning to the Cardinals and their division, how do you see the NL Central shaping up? What’s your projected order-of-finish for the NL Central?
Ryne Gery: The Cards should cruise to the division title by August. After that, it’s a jumble of mediocre teams. I’ll go with the Cubs to finish second because they have the talent to do so. But Chicago is also somewhat of a mess. Cincinnati should hang around with their young talent and Milwaukee and Pittsburgh should be competitive. The Astros are already planning for 2011.
Tomahawk Talk: And what about the NL and AL pennants and the World Series? What teams do you see winning those this year?
Ryne Gery: Well, let’s just say I like the odds of a repeat matchup in the World Series. The Yankees and Phillies are the best teams again this year and over time that will begin to show. It could be a fun new rivalry between those two east coast hubs. This time, I’ll give it to the Phillies riding Doc Halladay to their second World Series win in three years.
Tomahawk Talk: Great stuff, Ryne. Thanks for doing the Q and A!
Special thanks to Scott and Tomahawk Talk for the interview!