Baseball Tonight host Karl Ravech joined Redbird Rants this past Tuesday to talk about the St. Louis Cardinals and the second half of the season. The Dodgers visit the Cardinals this weekend on Sunday Night Baseball at 8 p ET. Dan Shulman, John Kruk and Buster Olney will call the game. Karl Ravech and Hall of Famer Barry Larkin preview the game at 7 p.m. ET on Baseball Tonight: Sunday Night Countdown. Ravech celebrated his 20th season at ESPN last year. ESPN is currently celebrating its 25th season of MLB.
Daniel Solzman: Thanks for joining Redbird Rants today. How are things treating you?
Karl Ravech: Things are going very well, thank you. Any time you are at an All-Star Game with the best players and I’ve been doing it for about 18 years, it’s always a special time. Things are really good here in Minnesota. The weather’s cooperating. I’m looking forward to a great show.
Daniel Solzman: As we move into the second half of the season, what do you make of the Cardinals season so far?
Karl Ravech: Well, it’s funny because the expectations of St. Louis are always so high. And yet, given where they are in the standings, it’s hard to argue that they have under-achieved but given the feeling, I think, amongst those of us that cover the game daily that they haven’t lived up to the expectations coming off last season. Whether that’s their inability to duplicate what they did last year with men in scoring position and men on base, whether it’s Allen Craig’s start relative to how he was last season, the injury to Molina. There’s just been a variety of factors, really. With the exception to the starting pitching which, barring injury, has been really solid, I think Milwaukee’s start kind of put the Cardinals on a backseat, which is something we’re not used to.
Daniel Solzman: With what we’ve seen from Allen Craig this year, is it fair to say that he’s still being bothered by last season’s injury or do you think there’s something else?
Karl Ravech: The injury questions always are difficult only because the player is very reluctant to ever acknowledge that that’s a situation that’s been ongoing. I would imagine, without having him say, that he’s still a little bothered by it. I don’t think he runs the same way, not that he was ever a great runner but I do think there’s a bit of a gimp there. But again, that’s really an Allen Craig question and whether you get the honest answer from him, that’s something that kind of remains to be seen. Clearly, he hasn’t been the guy that he was when it came to hitting. I would imagine it’s been attributed to that. But injuries are very difficult to speak to and you never ever want to question a player unless they want to shed some light on it but that’s a hard thing for them to do.
Daniel Solzman: When you look at Yadier Molina, whose going to be out for an extended amount of time—defensively, he’s irreplaceable. It’s not like the Cardinals can call up one of these players from the minor leagues like they can with their pitchers so how do the Cardinals replace him in the batting order?
Karl Ravech: I think that’s the issue. I think though—to your point about defensively and stopping the running game and calling the game, he’s very unique in that. The blessing of having a former catcher as a manager and having a number of pitchers, who are not rookies, I think, will allow them to sort of spell that. Clearly what they are going to need are guys in the line up to step up. That’s sort of what you refrain from when somebody goes down.
You don’t necessarily replace a Yadier Molina but you do hope that others in the lineup—Matt Holliday, Craig, Matt Carpenter—recognize that as good as we may have been, we need to be a little bit better than that because we do lose a bat, we lose a guy whose clutch, a hitter, we lose a guy that causes at-bats to be extended—in a sense that forces pitchers to have their pitch counts go up. So it’s a simple kind of formula. You need others to step up but that doesn’t always happen.
I think the Cardinals are in a position with their depth to either do that or have John Mozeliak go out and make a deal. When you make a deal with the Cardinals, you don’t necessarily need a big name to come back. What you need is somebody that’s capable of filling a variety of roles. I guess one name that kind of is out there that teams like a Cardinal player, if you will, and that name is Ben Zobrist, who is a good hitter and can move around in the infield. That to me is where the Cardinals, I think, where they land. Whether its Zobrist or somebody else, they need their own guys to do a little bit more than they’ve been doing and they likely will need Mozeliak to make a deal. To me, the whole division will be decided by which general manager and owner sign off on a deal. I think that’s how this division is decided.
Karl Ravech: Wow. If you’re asking me to pick one, I’m going to say Kershaw only because what I think what he does, I think, is sort of a greater flare for the dramatic. I think, ultimately, if you’re looking at voters whether they’re judging Cy Young, an automobile, or a movie performance, they tend to go for the dramatic. Kershaw’s ability to strikeout guys, I think, is borders a little bit greater on the dramatic. That’s the only thing that’s going to make the difference between the two. Barring injury, Wainwright’s numbers are going to be very similar to Kershaw but you do get the impression that Kershaw is capable of striking out 15 in a game and throwing no-hitters and one-hitters a little more often.
I think we’ll see a lot of attention on the Dodgers as they continue to play well and try to get into the postseason even more so than the Cardinals because of the personalities on that team, because of the Los Angeles connection, and really the entire parameter that goes along with the ownership. I think those factors work against Wainwright.
Daniel Solzman: Do you see the Cardinals making a move for a pitcher such as David Price or with Molina’s injury, have their needs focused on other things?
Karl Ravech: I think every team in that division from the Pirates to the Reds to the Cardinals to the Brewers need to make a move. I don’t think that standing pat for any one of those will allow them to win that division. I think the pressure is on Doug Melvin, I think it’s on Mozeliak, it’s on Jocketty, and it’s on Huntington
Whether it’s a pitcher, I think the Cardinals are in a better position with regards to their pitching depth to not need to go out and get a David Price as the other teams. I think the Cardinals benefit from getting, believe it or not, because Molina is hurt, a bat. I think that’s where they go. I fall back on Zobrist. There will be others in that position. I think you’ll find the Red Sox to be in a position to move players. I think the Rays will move players. I think as we continue to head towards the 31st deadline, other teams with good players, who are cost-conscious, will move players. I think the Cardinals prefer to get a bat but if they have a deal for a front-line pitcher, they make that deal but, for me, St. Louis should focus on creating runs.
Daniel Solzman: You’ve been the host of Baseball Tonight for a long time now. (Laughs) How do you prepare for a weeknight broadcast, when games are still being played, compared to a Sunday night game when most of the action is already completed?
Karl Ravech: The preparation is the same and this is where a lot of people say “Wow, you have the best job on the planet!” and I’m not going to argue with it. Whether it’s a Sunday as you’re watching all the games and they are all concluded basically when you go on or it’s a Tuesday night, where there are games in progress—ultimately, you are watching the games as you sit in the room with the Barry Larkin’s and Aaron Boone’s of the world. The Curt Schilling’s and John Kruk’s. You’re kind of watching it with an analyst’s eye.
The world has changed which you know as well as anybody that the old format of just doing highlights doesn’t necessarily work anymore. That’s why I think the preparation of the program is as good as it has ever been because you get guys who analyze, who give you insight, who look at how Molina calls the game and focus on that as opposed to the Matt Holliday three-run home run.
We have to give the viewer something that they can’t get something from the internet. You can get highlights from the internet all night long. You wake up in the morning and on the internet, call up highlights from the Blue Jays and see how Encarnacion did and call up the Cardinal game—but what you don’t generally get is any insight and any analysis. The idea is not necessarily just to focus on what happened tonight but how it affects the team in the future, what kind of moves are going to be made.
The preparation comes from watching but it also comes from the dialogue that goes on back and forth within the green room where we sit to watch the games but also on the set. Your point is well-taken. I’ve been doing it a long time. I don’t think we’ve ever had a better team as far as analysts go as we do now. You have Hall of Famers. You have potential future Hall of Famers. You have guys who have just finished playing the game, who have played in the big cities, who have played on the big stages. It’s an honor to be sitting there alongside them all.
Daniel Solzman: What is the typical day like for you when it comes to getting ready for the broadcast?
Karl Ravech: We go in at 4:30. We talk about things that have either happened that day or what we anticipate that night. We look at key match-ups. We look at trends. We look at teams and some of the things they’ve been trying to do—lineup changes. We have a research department that provides us with next-level sabermetrics interpretations games of Felix Hernandez and his now sort of seemingly new dependence on the change-up and the chase rate he has. Things that, I’ll be honest, 15 years ago, we weren’t discussing. So all those things go into a conversation which we have over the night. Conversation and dialogue change as the as the games present plays, decisions that a manager makes or the umpire calls effect. All things are going on over the course of the night and then we start at 10 PM Eastern Time.
Daniel Solzman: Alright. Thank you again for your time and keep up the great work.
Karl Ravech: Thank you, you’re very kind, and maybe we’ll see you in October.