As the football season comes to a close and only four NFL teams have survived the long weekend, chances are that your favorite team has already been kicked. But don’t fret; Bud Selig has good news. After being advised by his Special Committee for On-Field Matters, the commissioner has made a change for 2011. The upcoming year will be a transitional year for the league in that the season will start earlier and end earlier. The committee, made up by prestigious owners, general managers, and coaches that have great tenure in the league (including yours truly), explained their recommendation with the rationale that weather will be less of an issue if baseball is finished before November. While this information of a schedule change is old news, we must begin to consider the implications of this decision as it begins to affect us more and more every day that the season grows nearer. So if your bummed out about last week’s BCS game symbolizing the end of the college football season and cannot wait for the redbirds to hit the field, here is my news for you (in case you haven’t realized it yet): your St. Louis Cardinals will take on the San Diego Padres on opening day, in Busch Stadium, in March. That’s kind of soon. On a Thursday. That hasn’t happened since 1976.
So what else will be different this season?
Let’s start with some interesting facts about this scheduling change and the season in general. When baseball fans tune in to their televisions on March 31, if they turn ESPN on at about 3:15 in the afternoon, they will cast their eyes upon beautiful Busch Stadium and the St. Louis Cardinals playing against the Padres. The fact that the season will start this early in turn means that the season will be ending earlier. On the last day of the season, September 28, the Cardinals will be playing a potentially very important game in Houston, Texas.
In between the start and the finish, the Cardinals divisional race will surely be as heated as ever, and the Cardinal’s division, the NL Central, will primarily face off against the powerful AL East during Interleague play. The Card’s pitching will be put to the test as the staff will have to face the explosive offense of the Rays, but luckily, not the Yankees or Red Sox. But first, there are the Jays and Orioles. In late June, the Cardinals will host the Jays for a three game series, take an off day on June 27th, and then head east to Camden Yards for the first time in the history of the franchise to play a three game series against a usually mediocre Orioles team. Since this is the first time that the Cardinals will play in Camden Yards, I truly hope that many St. Louis fans will mark down the dates June 28th -30th and will be able to make it out to this series. I have been to Baltimore but have only seen Camden Yards from the outside, but based on everyone I have talked to, it truly is a beautiful ballpark.
But the most glaring difference in 2011 will not be any kind of scheduling extremity. The most obvious difference in
2011 will be noticed as soon as the redbirds run out of the dugout on March 31st. This difference will be the two new starting Cardinals, Berkman and Theriot. Though they will be running out into the field, these new players weren’t primarily acquired this off-season for their defensive expertise. If that is what the Cardinals were looking for, they would have kept the dependable shortstop Ryan rather than pursuing the better bat that Theriot will most likely offer. If they wanted defense, they certainly would not have gone after Berkman to play the outfield, as the veteran hasn’t played the position on somewhat of a consistent basis since 2007. The Cardinals are counting on their new lineup, up and down, to consistently produce runs, more runs than their elite pitching staff will allow. Were these moves the right ones for the Cardinals this off-season? Will these two players be the difference that this offense needs in order to claim the division once again? I believe so. I think these reloaded Cardinals are hungrier for a division pennant than ever, and that Berkman’s occasional errors in the outfield will be outweighed by his slugging ability. This is but my opinion Cards fans, what are yours? While there will undoubtedly be differences in 2011, will 2011 be different for the Cardinals? Will the Cards come up short again, or will they come out on top, as I have predicted? At this point, it seems only time will tell.