This has got to be my favorite time of the year…the hangover from the Superbowl has subsided, the temperature creeps closer to my IQ rather than my shoe size, NCAA Basketball floods the airways with the most exciting tournament in sports. College studs are prancing around Lucas Oil Stadium in their underwear. Doing everything but double-dutch jump-roping to predict what their skills will be at the next level. The annual 3 man race between LeBron, Kobe and D-Wade is winding down for NBA MVP. And last but certainly not least, quaint and quiet town of Jupiter, Florida is being invaded by Cardinal Nation.
In year’s past, the anticipation of Opening Day at Busch Stadium would rival that of Christmas morning when I was 10. But for some reason, this year has a different feel. I have been a Cardinal fan through and through since I can remember. I grew up in St. Petersburg, Fla, and since The Devil Rays didn’t come along until my freshman year in college. The only baseball team I had, was the Redbirds at Al Lang Stadium in downtown St. Pete for 6 weeks. Luck would have it, that snagging a spring-break bride who lived in St. Louis, would only bring me closer to my beloved Cardinals. Every year I have lived in St. Louis, Opening Day would truly kick off the spring for me and would result in two things; a sick day used at work, and a hangover. The chance of October baseball seemed like a possibility every single year.
The problem is…this year, I just don’t have the same feeling. To be honest, 1 year ago today, I was concerned what was going to happen to my Cardinals. After all, we hadn’t really done a whole lot to improve the rotation from a disasterous 2007 (78 wins)…But you know what…we are going to get Mulder and Carpenter back by June. haaaaa…So like a true fan, I bought it, and took my aspirations down to a rainy opening day.
It only took an inning and 2/3’s to realize that the Mulder project wasn’t going to pan out. Ok, no biggie, the trade deadline is approaching and we are only a few games out of the wild-card. Then the news of “we don’t need to make a deal at the dead-line…after all, getting Carpenter back is better than a mid-season trade.” brightened my spirits. As it turns out, it didn’t matter that Carpenter got hurt before he even got started, because the bullpen blew 30+ saves. So, last year being a waste….the Cards are going to be in great shape to re-emerge as a power in the NL. They are getting some 40 million off the books from 2008.. I understand there are bumps in pay to some of the guys on the current roster. That aside, there was plenty of cash to go out and get aggressive with a free-agent or two, to beef up the pitching staff.
But guess what happened??? Cardinals ownership tried to give me a cup filled with same kool-aid as last year. I am supposed to believe that Carpenter can anchor the staff after 2 surgeries in the past 18 months.. We have done nothing to bolster the rotation from last year. “But David….we got Royce Ring, and he’s a left-handed specialist”. Wow…I might wet my pants. We still don’t have a closer. Our opening day line-up is going to consist of 5 starting outfielders scattered across the outfield and infield. A shortstop who would rather be surfing than struggling to hit his weight. That of course leaves the best defensive catcher in the league and his good buddy at first base rounding out the line-up. All the while, batting the pitcher 8th. Can you begin to see why I am less interested in having a hangover on April 7th? For the first time since I have moved to St. Louis, I think I might save that sick day for something useful. Maybe the Women’s Final Four.
I am not buying it! I will put in the ol’ 9-5 and catch the end of the game while stuck in traffic on 270 on my way home. Now I am not going to go off the deep end and start rooting for the Baby Bears or anything…But, I am not going to spend my hard earned money down at Busch Stadium as I have in year’s past either. Don’t get me wrong, I will be rooting harder than ever all season. It is just going to take a little commitment from DeWitt and the boys for me to spend the muggy summer nights sucking down $9 beers and $5 hotdogs.
It isn’t the money that they aren’t spending that has me angry…it’s the lack of commitment to improve the team. The owner’s are relying on the “Greatest Fans in Baseball” to flock like sheep down to Busch Stadium. It is clear the current ownership is interested only in lining their pockets. This year they will ask nearly 3.5 million fans to shell out more money for tickets than they did last year. All while decreasing payroll from last year, and putting a mediocre product on the field. This is not to mention the winning lottery ticket that Cardinal’s ownership received this year known as “All-Star Weekend”. It is obvious that DeWitt and crew will sell the team off when their agreement with MLB expires sometime around 2013. There is no doubt they will get somewhere around 4x their original investment of $150M. Which is why it is puzzling that they are sitting on their money, rather than give the Cardinal fans what they deserve. I am not saying they need to sign every over-priced flavor of the month, but I do feel they should at least make an attempt to improve the team.
Quit looking for “low hanging fruit”, and myself, as well as the other fed-up fans will start making our way back down to the ballpark….sucking down $9 beers & $5 hot-dogs!