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St. Louis Cardinals Wearing Turtlenecks for Team Unity

We’ve seen lots of team unity-building exercises before, but I don’t ever recall seeing a team wear turtlenecks before. That hasn’t stopped the St. Louis Cardinals from doing just that.

Jimmy Traina at SI Hot Clicks alerted us the latest fashion move attempted by the St. Louis squad. Apparently the fashion attempt was prompted when Skip Schumacher was wearing a mock turtleneck in San Francisco. Lance Berkman decided it would be fun for the whole team to wear them, so they began shopping around to stock up. When they left Dodger Stadium last weekend to return home to St. Louis all the players were sporting the prophylactic look.

This is the same team that grew mustaches for unity in ’08, so I’d have to say the turtlenecks are a better look. In this video from FOX Sports Midwest you can actually see what it looked like with all the players wearing their neck warmers. Mitchell Boggs had a classic line saying “I’ve never been confused as a man of impeccable style, but today I brought it.” No doubt Charles Barkley would be proud folks, he certainly would.

Matt Holliday to Have Appendectomy, Things Get Worse for Cardinals

Only one game into the 2011 MLB season, and it is already extremely difficult to be a St. Louis Cardinals fan.  The most significant blow for the Birds came over a month ago, when Adam Wainwright was lost for the season to Tommy John’s surgery — an injury that could sink St. Louis in itself.  Optimists shook off the loss by reasoning that the Cardinals still boast a lineup that features Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday, two of the best hitters in the National League.  Then Holliday went down.

According to StlToday.com, Holliday will miss at least four to six weeks after undergoing an appendectomy on Friday.  Obviously it’s better this happens now than four months from now, but Tony La Russa will need to do a great job of keeping spirits up in the clubhouse given all the adversity his team has already faced.

We already know the Cardinals’ pitching rotation will be significantly weaker all season without its ace.  Over the next month or so, they’ll need players like Lance Berkman and Colby Rasmus to step up and produce runs.  The good news is it can’t possibly get much worse, can it?

MLB 2011 Preview: Competitive NL Central with St. Louis Cardinals as Favorites

Earlier this off-season, I previewed the three MLB teams favored to win the 2011 World Series (the Red Sox, Yankees and Phillies).  With pitchers and catchers getting set to report to Spring Training, it’s time to kick-off a four-part preview of what I believe is the most competitive division in baseball, the National League Central.

The NL Central has four teams that have a shot at winning the division or contending for the wild card.  The St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs all have either high-end pitching or pitching depth and enough offense or defense to win the 90 games or so it will take to win the division.

The difference between the top and bottom of the ladder will come down to razor-thin advantages that develop during the season, such as team health, superstar health, breakout performances, collapse performances, and plain old good and bad luck.  Today, we start with the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Favorite: St. Louis Cardinals

Off-Season Moves: The Cardinals did well in bringing back Jake Westbrook on a two-year deal and took a potential, high-upside risk on Lance Berkman on a one-year deal.  They also hoped to improve their offensive production from shortstop by trading away defensive wizard Brendan Ryan and trading for Ryan Theriot.

Strengths: The Cardinals have a strong rotation 1-4, and the division’s best 1-2 punch in Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter (although Milwaukee may disagree–more on them later this week).  Their pitchers keep the ball on the ground and in the ballpark with a heavy diet of sinkers, cutters and two-seamers (thanks to pitching coach Dave Duncan).

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No Way Albert Pujols Leaves St. Louis Despite Contract Extension Deadline

St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols reportedly has set a Spring Training deadline for contract extension negotiations, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Without an extension, Pujols will become a free agent after this season. In either case, Pujols has the chance to become one of the highest paid players in baseball history — right up there with Alex Rodriguez.

Even if a deal isn’t done by the time Spring Training starts and Pujols ends up becoming a free agent, it seems likely that he will stay in St. Louis after this year. The most obvious teams — those willing to spend that kind of money — already have talented, high-paid first baseman. The Yankees and Red Sox have Mark Teixeira and Adrian Gonzalez respectively; the Phillies have Ryan Howard, and the Tigers have Miguel Cabrera. Just a few years ago the Mets would have been a possibility, but their owners lost money in the Bernie Madoff scandal and have tried to cut spending as a result.

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Cardinals and Reds Fight, Clear Benches

Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips said on Monday that he hated the Cardinals and called them bitches. Word must not have gotten to the Cards until Tuesday because when Phillips came up to bat in the bottom of the first, catcher Yadier Molina had some words. The two started to exchange words and benches rapidly cleared.

Managers Tony La Russa and Dusty Baker seemed to have words for each other and both wound up ejected. Chris Carpenter, who verbally fought with teammate Brendan Ryan on Monday, was in the middle of the fight between the squads. Reds third baseman Scott Rolen, who played for the Cardinals from 2002-2007, was the peacemaker, calming Carpenter and Molina at times.

There’s no way anyone can be surprised that the teams threw down. How could the Cardinals not respond after being called bitches by Phillips? Of course they had to, and obviously each manager defended his team. Here is the Cardinals and Reds fight video and here are some pictures:

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Tony La Russa Struggles With the Alphabet During DUI Arrest

We all know how volatile Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa can be at times. Usually he’s a pretty sharp fellow, on edge, defending his players and team. But when he was arrested for a DUI during spring training, he appeared completely helpless. Tony was hammered worse than a pledge at big sis night. Check out the following video of his DUI arrest that was recently released (around the one minute mark he struggles walking the line, then around the two minute mark is his attempt at the alphabet). Must see:

Now, as justice would have it, is a DUI bust in my future? Heck no. I’ll steer clear of that. At least if there is a bust, I’ll get the alphabet straight. Video via Ballhype.

When Will Pujols Get it Going?

I was discussing this yesterday with my Dad as he was playing consultant to a friend who wisely drafted Albert Pujols with the first pick in a fantasy baseball draft. No, I’m not bringing this up for the purpose of a fantasy discussion. Instead, I would like to have a real-life discussion. When will Albert Pujols — the man who’s enjoyed a finer start to a career than any other hitter in history — get it going?

My Dad seemed to think he was hurt, possibly headed for the DL. I’m not so sure about that. I think Albert’s just in a month long slump — which is long for him — but considering he’s still OPSing a respectable .755, it’s not too bad. Albert showed some signs of himself going 2 for 5 against the Dodgers on Tuesday night, with a double and two RBIs. But damn, it’s May 16th already, and John Buck has more home runs than Prince Albert. I think a hot streak is coming soon for Pujols, and a winning streak is nearing for the Cardinals.

Moreover, anyone else notice the preponderance of slumping first baseman in baseball? Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez, Justin Morneau, Todd Helton, and Derek Lee are like the only ones swinging it. Studs like Berkman, Teixeira, Howard, Delgado, Konerko, and Sexson are all hitting like chumps. In fact, none of those guys are batting higher than .279, and none of them have more than six home runs. Pathetic.