June 4, 1995
News and Notes by RANDY KARRAKER (6.4.95)
While injuries to the likes of Matt Williams, Deion Sanders, Jose Rijo, Jose Canseco and David Justice ravage good major league teams, the Cardinals are suffering their own little problems, as they have been all season. 2B Geronimo Pena came back from the disabled list Monday, only to bruise a thigh and return to St. Louis to be checked out by team doctors. Ozzie Smith went on the disabled list, and had minor surgery on his rotator cuff. Minor perhaps, for you and I, but for a 40 year old major league shortstop? Rich Rodriguez had similar surgery on the same day as Ozzie. With several starting pitchers on the disabled list as well, you might be able to make a case for the mediocrity that a few Cardinal fans have witnessed in 1995. Unfortunately, the players mentioned above, at this point, are all mediocre as well. The fact is, this Redbird edition just has a lot of holes, and needs some revamping. That could start soon, as a Todd Zeile to New York for Bobby Bonilla rumor has cropped up. Walt Jocketty also might have another move up his sleeve, one that would include moving one of his young pitchers. At this point, it would be a good idea for Mark Lamping and Jocketty to scrap 1995, and rebuild for a real season in 1996.
The list of NHL free agents was released, and its easy to see that the Blues will be quite active in acquiring Mike Keenan type players. Unrestricted players that might fit that mold include Doug Brown of Detroit, Randy Gilhen of Winnipeg, Brian Noonan of the Rangers...who has expressed interest in rejoining Keenan, Gaetan Duchesne of Florida, and Joel Otto of Calgary. Low priced restricted free agents include Patrick Poulin of Chicago, Doug Weight of Edmonton, Martin Straka of Ottawa and Jocelyn Lemieux of Hartford. Look for Keenan and the Blues to be VERY active. Rumors in New York indicate the Blues might make a five year, $25 million dollar pitch to New Jersey (soon to be Nashville) goalie Martin Brodeur. It's possible, but doesn't make much sense with as up and down as goalies are.
Witnesses at the Rams' final mini-camp in Anaheim insist that Cleveland Gary looks outstanding. Cut by the previous Ram regime, Gary has great hands, great speed, and a 1,000 yard rushing season under his belt in the NFL. He could be an invaluable addition in St. Louis. The St. Louis NFL entry made another bold move this week with the signing of running back Leonard Russell. The Arizona State product rushed for 1,000 yards just two years ago in New England, and was released in a salary dispute. Look for Rich Brooks to use Russell as the tailback in some sets, with Jerome Bettis moving to fullback part-time. Johnny Bailey, who led league backs in receptions last year, also will see more action in 1995. Defensively, the Rams made a qualifying offer to linebacker Joe Kelly, considered by some players to be a key to the corps. If he comes to St. Louis, expect Kelly to be starting in the middle by mid-season. Finally, the Rams trucks will be loaded up in Anaheim June 19, and training camp will commence at Parkway Central high school on July 16. After five days at PC, the club will move operations to Maryville University until mid-August, then to the Mathews-Dickey boys club for regular season practice.
Cardinals News (6.4.95)
*Unlike the NFL and NBA drafts, which are nationally televised, the major league baseball June draft is held in virtual secrecy. In order to find out whether or not a given youngster has been drafted, you practically have to know the young man, his parents, or his agent.
This year's amateur draft was not finished until 87 rounds had been completed. The Cardinals drafted through round #65 before passing.
What about some Cardinals draft news? Eric Niederhoffer, a medical biochemistry professor at Southern Illinois University (and occasional StLSO contributor) reports that (a) a young scientist working in his laboratory this summer attends the University of Evansville and is reasonably well-acquainted with fellow UE student and baseball player Adam Benes (the younger brother of Andy and Alan Benes); and (b) the young scientist was informed by Adam Benes that he (Benes) was drafted in the twentieth round of the recent amateur draft by (guess who)...the Cardinals!
It appears that the Cardinals now lead the league in Benes'. The Cards hope that Adam Benes develops as well as brother Alan
*In other draft news, the Cards first three picks were Matt Morris, a 6-5 210 pound pitcher from Seton Hall University, Chris Haas, a 6-1 215 pound third basemen from St. Mary's HS in Paducah KY, and Jason Wolf, a shortstop from American High in Hialeah FL. Morris was the twelfth pick of the draft, while Haas was selected 29th, using the pick obtained when Gregg Jefferies signed with the Phillies
*After the Cards 8-5 victory over the Colorado Rockies (Tuesday night) 5.30.95, Ken Hill said that "It was not my best outing, but I felt pretty good and showed a lot of character. Early in the game I was getting behind the hitters...I struggled a bit early on. Earlier in my career I might have been frustrated but I was glad to be able to hold on and wait for my teammates to get things going."
With the victory, Hill improved his record to 4-0...but in Tuesday's game Hill was the beneficiary of eight runs. In seven innings, Hill gave up ten hits and walked two...while striking out four. So the Cards' stopper remained unbeaten but has struck out only 14 (while giving up a staff-high seven homers) in 46.1 innings pitched.
Ray Lankford, who had three hits, said that "It feels good to be on the winning side for a change. For this team, the key (while batting) is to be patient, especially with runners in scoring position."
*In news from the injury front, Ozzie Smith and Rich Rodriguez both had successful arthroscopic shoulder surgeries this past week. According to team physician Dr. Stan London, Smith is expected to be fully recovered in 6-8 weeks, while Rodriguez is expected to resume pitching in 4-6 weeks
*On May 31 (game three of the Rockies series), 10,583 fans were in attendance while 19,297 tickets were sold. In other words, there were nearly as many no-shows that day as fans in attendance. For the nine game home stand that ended May 31, the total attendance was a bit over 150,000, while the no-shows numbered just over 50,000
*Tripp Cromer is beginning to look comfortable as the Cardinals starting shortstop, presenting the club with a pleasant but tricky problem at shortstop when Ozzie Smith returns from shoulder surgery. The issue is pleasant in part because Cromer's defense has been surprisingly steady. Furthermore, the nice pop in his bat has been completely unexpected. It is always a comfortable problem to have too much talent on a given team.
But what should be done when Ozzie returns? Cards President Mark Lamping will earn his money on this one...
*Cards second baseman Geronimo Pena suffered a deep thigh bruise in Friday's game vs. the Reds, and the Post-Dispatch's Rick Hummel reports that Pena may again be headed to the disabled list.
Quote of the Week (6.4.95)
"So Joe [Buck], when was the Roman Coliseum built...two, three, four hundred years ago?", asked Mike Shannon during the KMOX Cards-Expos broadcast of June 1, 1995.
Headline of the Week (6.4.95)
From the 6.1.95 Post-Dispatch--"Cards Fans In A No-No Mood".
Sub-head: "Strike, Weather, Poor Record Driving No-Shows Up"
Blues Views by JIM HUNSTEIN (6.4.95)
And after reviewing the Blues somewhat disappointing season, we offer:
The Top 10 Blues Excuses
10. The goatees just weren't cutting it.
9. Overwrought with guilt that their highway robbery on playoff ticket prices was contributing to St. Louis' high crime rating.
8. Bummed out that Dan Rather and not Connie Chung would be handling the locker room interviews in the Stanley Cup finals.
7. Didn't want fans to get their expectations too high for next year.
6. Couldn't take one more night of the Kiel color scheme.
5. The towel guy ran out of towels and was waving sweat-soaked undershirt.
4. Cujo was getting freezer burn from lying on the ice.
3. Wanted to make sure they had their infield seats for the Indy 500.
2. Afraid that if they went too far in the playoffs, Keenan would bolt.
1. Team physician: Dr. Jack Kevorkian.
Facts, Opinions, and Questions by MARK BAUSCH (6.4.95)
The facts are, well, the facts. The opinions are mine. The questions? They're in search of answers. StLSO readers are welcome to join in the fun and contribute some answers of their own.
*Fact: After being sent down to Louisville for what is probably best described as "mental rehabbing" (where, in two starts, he gave up one run in 13 innings pitched), Allen Watson returned to the big club last week as the Cards made a one-day stop in Montreal. Watson's stint was unsuccessful as he allowed seven hits (including three doubles and two triples) in 4.1 innings pitched
Related Fact: On his KFNS radio show (after Watson's outing vs. the Expos), P-D columnist Bernie Miklasz said "I don't know what they [the Cards brass] were thinking when they sent him down for two starts". Then, in his P-D column, Miklasz continued: "Now what in the world made the Cardinals believe that Allen Watson's pitching problems could be corrected during two minor-league starts at Louisville?"
Opinion: Allen Watson has good "stuff", and, as a twenty-four year old lefthander who has no history of arm trouble, is worthy of a good deal of patience in the 1995 season, a season of experimentation for the Cardinals
Question: What would Miklasz have said if Watson had thrown a shutout in Montreal...and why don't sports columnists and commentators state their opinions prior to a given event?
*Fact: While Alan Benes is the Cards prize pitching prospect, and the organization has long coveted Alan's older brother Andy Benes, there was little or no publicity when the Cards selected University of Evansville pitcher Adam Benes (the youngest of the three pitching Benes boys) in the 20th round of the recent amateur draft
Opinion: The secretive atmosphere that surrounds the amateur draft is symptomatic of baseball's image problems
Question: When is baseball going to promote its amateur draft the way that the NBA, NHL, and NFL do?
*Fact: Adolescent male St. Louisans often call KFNS radio personality Kevin Slaten and tell him that he is "the smartest man in the world" and a "real American hero"
Opinion: St. Louis junior high schoolers would be better off finishing their algebra assignments
Question: Is Slaten's radio show responsible for Missouri's plummeting SAT and ACT scores?
*Fact: In his first eight starts of the 1995 season, Ken Hill has 14 strikeouts in 46.1 innings (an average of a little less than two K's per start)
Opinion: Hill has either (a) suffered from the shortened spring training resulting from baseball's labor problems; or (b) lost command of his out pitch, a killer forkball
Question: Will the Cards try to resign Hill for 1996 and beyond?
*Fact: Curtis Joseph played the 1995 season not knowing whether he would be a Blue in the 1995-96 season
Opinion: Joseph had a sub-standard second half of the regular season and played even worse in the playoffs vs. the Canucks
Question: If Joseph's contract status had been cleared up prior to the playoffs, would his performance have improved?
*Fact: In the fifth inning of the Cards game vs. the Braves on May 24th, there were approximately 185 people seated in the left field bleachers
Opinion: The "traditional" baseball fans in St. Louis have not yet returned to the ballpark
Question: Does the fact that the Cards have a mediocre team play a role in fans' reticence to plunk down a few bucks to see a game?
*Fact: On the field prior to the third game of the Rockies series, Cards President Mark Lamping signed a few autographs for fans lingering near the Redbird dugout
Opinion: Cardinal players would do well to emulate Lamping's example
Question: Will they?
*Fact: The Cardinals are looking for ways to attract new (and younger) fans to Busch Stadium
Opinion: Mike Shannon's weekend post-game show (hosted by KMOX's Randy Karraker) appeals mainly to fans who remember the Cardinal baseball glory days in the 1960's
Question: When will the St. Louis media (and the Cardinals) figure out that younger Cards fans (i.e. fans that grew up with the 1970's and early-to-mid 1980's Cardinals squads) are deserving of a bit of attention?
Cardinals Minor League Report: The Infielders by MARK BAUSCH (6.4.95)
Infielders who have seen Cardinal action in the 1995 season include Darnell Coles, Scott Cooper, Tripp Cromer, Scott Hemond, Manny Lee, Jose Oquendo, Geronimo Pena, Gerald Perry, Ozzie Smith, and Todd Zeile.
Other infielders on the Cards 40-man roster include Darrel Deak, Mike Gulan, Aaron Holbert, and Keith Johns.
It is likely that the 1996 Cardinal infield could have a dramatically different cast of characters. Ozzie Smith is 40 years old and recently underwent arthroscopic shoulder surgery. If memory serves correct, none of the other Cardinal infielders are under contract to the organization beyond the current season.
Cooper will probably return to St. Louis come 1996. Your guess is as good as mine as far as the rest of the current crop of Cards infielders are concerned...with a good year, Todd Zeile could cement his position as a Cardinal but the jury is still out on Zeile as he attempts to master yet another position (first base).
Among the most popular StLSO features are those that focus on Cardinal prospects. In light of the uncertainty in the Cards infield, it seems logical to spotlight the starting infielders at five Cardinal minor league affiliates (statistics through the games of May 31):
*the Louisville Redbirds (32-18 [first place] in the Triple A American Association)
--1B: Domingo Martinez--in 45 games, has 41 hits, 7 HR, and 20 RBIs, and a .253 batting average
--2B: Ramon Carabello--in 45 games, has 52 hits, 7 HR, 23 RBIs, 7 SB, and a .315 batting average
--SS: Aaron Holbert--in 27 games, has 25 hits, 3 HR, 8 RBIs, 0 SB, 10 errors, and a .309 batting average
--3B: Tracy Woodson--in 46 games, has 7 HR, 36 RBIs, 6 SB, 8 errors, and a .263 batting average
Notes: Darrel Deak has also played 30 games at first, second, and third base...and has a .270 batting average in 30 games, with 4 HR and 14 RBIs. Of thefive listed players, 1990 first-round draft choice Holbert is most likely to make his mark with the Cardinals and, according to John Vuch (Cardinals Assistant to Player Development--Major League Operations), occasionally makes "eye-popping plays". Carabello, 26, was obtained from Atlanta on November 25, 1994...and may have a future role as a utility player with the big club. Vuch said that Carabello "has decent speed and was acquired as shortstop insurance for the Louisville club. He kind of fell out of favor with the Atlanta organization after having been a prospect 2-3 years ago. We felt that his arm and range are best served at the second base position. So far this season, we have been pleasantly surprised with his bat." Woodson serves as Louisville's assistant manager, and is not likely to return to the big leagues in a playing capacity
*the Arkansas Travelers (26-22 [second place in the Eastern Division] in the Double A Texas League)
--1B: Dan Cholowsky--in 34 games, has 36 hits, 9 doubles, 5 HR, 20 RBIs, and a .286 batting average
--2B: Jeff Berblinger--in 46 games, has 55 hits, 12 steals, 6 caught stealing, 7 doubles, 2 triples, 3 HR, 16 RBIs, and a .313 batting average
--SS: Keith Johns--in 33 games, has 26 hits, 24 walks, 6 steals, 2 HR, 7 RBIs, and a .245 batting average
--3B: Mike Gulan--in 33 games, has 29 hits, 9 doubles, 1 triple, 7 HR, 27 RBIs, and a .298 batting average
Notes: Gulan, who Vuch said "has average speed and good defensive tools," has a .542 slugging percentage. The 1992 second-round draft choice is a good bet to someday field ground balls on the natural grass at Busch Stadium. When asked about Keith Johns, Vuch said that "he is very good defensively...he has good hands and good range." Berblinger (a 1993 7th round draft choice from the University of Kansas) has put up numbers suggesting that he possesses some speed as well as a bit of pop in his bat.
*the St. Petersburg Cardinals (27-26 [sixth place] in the eight team West Division of the Single A Florida State League)
--1B: Brian Rupp--in 47 games, has 48 hits, 0 HR, 11 RBIs, and a .264 batting average
--2B: Joe McEwing--in 50 games, has 41 hits, 0 HR, 15 RBIs, 2 SB, and a .232 batting average
--SS: Chris Wyrick--in 28 games, has 18 hits, 1 HR, 9 RBIs, 1 SB, and a .240 batting average
--3B: Dee Dalton--in 51 games, has 35 hits, 1 HR, 15 RBIs, and a .197 batting average
Notes: The four players listed above has 32 errors between them. Dave Madsen, who is usually the St. Pete DH, has also appeared in 7 games at 1B. In 46 games, Madsen has 48 hits, 2 HR, 19 RBIs, and a .314 batting average
*the Peoria Chiefs (25-24 [fourth place] in the six team Western Division of the Single A Midwest League)
--1B: Isaias Nunez--in 45 games, has 50 hits, 9 doubles, 3 triples, 1 HR, 21 RBIs, and a .221 batting average
--2B: Derek Robinson--in 41 games, has 31 hits, 8 doubles, 0 triples and HRs, 8 RBIs, and a .246 batting average
--SS: Placido Polanco--in 42 games, has 34 hits, 4 doubles, 0 triples and HRs, 13 RBIs, and a .252 batting average
--3B: Joe Jumonville--in 46 games, has 39 hits, 11 doubles, 3 triples, 1 HR, 24 RBIs, and a .242 batting average
Notes: Jumonville was a spring training replacement player; Polanco has 38 total bases (to go along with 34 hits), and Robinson has failed to steal a base. The four players have forty errors between them.
*the Savannah Cardinals (25-28 [fifth place] in the seven team Single A South Atlantic League)
--1B: Nate Dishington--in 48 games, has 35 hits, 4 doubles, 4 triples, 5 HR, and 21 RBIS, and a .206 batting average
--2B: Pete Ambrosina--in 46 games, has 42 hits, 4 doubles, 1 HR, 18 RBIs, 10 SB, and a .255 batting average
--SS: Bert Green--in 52 games, has 43 hits, 3 doubles, 0 HR, 6 RBIs, 12 SB, and a .234 batting average
--3B: Miguel Rivera--in 47 games, has 53 hits, 4 doubles, 1 triple, 2 HR, 15 RBIs, and a .264 batting average
Notes: The four Savannah infielders have 41 errors between them; Green (a St. Louisan) and Rivera have 13 and 17 errors, respectively.
OVERALL SUMMARY: The fact that Deak, Gulan, Holbert, and Johns are listed on the 40-man roster indicates that they are prospects worthy of protection from competing organizations. Of those four, 3B Gulan and SS Holbert seem to be putting up the best numbers at this point in the 1995 season. 2B Berblinger (Arkansas) and Carabello (Louisville) appear to be the strongest prospects at that position, while Martinez (at Louisville) and Dan Cholowsky (at Arkansas) are the only first basemen in the organization possessing power numbers normally associated with that position
StLSO Media Watch by MARK BAUSCH
Cardinals broadcast Mike Shannon is a long-time favorite of Cardinal fans all over the United States, in part because of his unique broadcasting style. For example, the June 3 broadcast of the Cards-Reds game from Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium was chock-full of Shannonisms. Some examples--
*Shannon, when describing a spectacular catch made by Ron Gant on a Todd Zeile fly ball, said that "Gant made a circus catch. Of course, Zeile is used to that with his wife being in the Olympics."
*Later, when describing the same catch, Shannon said "That was an unbelievable catch, Joe [Buck]. He [Gant] did a complete summerall...I mean somersault."
*Then, Shannon told partner Bob Carpenter "You know, if you can keep Geronimo Pena healthy, you can win the Pulitzer Prize in Health."
June 11, 1995
News and Notes by RANDY KARRAKER (7.11.95)
The Cardinals are prepared to pull the trigger on the start of their rebuilding process, but circumstances may be getting in their way. Last week, the Cards signed former Red, Oriole and White Sox Chris Sabo to a minor league deal, and apparently told him that he would be in the big leagues by early this week. At the same time, the Redbirds had a deal brewing with Baltimore, that would send Todd Zeile to third base at Camden Yards, presumably for 2B Manny Alexander (who also is a hotshot shortstop prospect) and a minor league pitcher. Sabo has been starting at first base at Louisville, and apparently looks good. However, at about the same time Sabo started in Triple A, Oriole third baseman Jeff Manto went nuts, hitting five homers in three games. Whether that outburst will change the Orioles' mind is as yet unknown, but it would seem to kill the deal. The Cards got more bad news in the injury front, as Donovan Osborne experienced more elbow pain during the week, and Allen Watson went down with an arm injury. It might be a good move for the Cardinal administration to take a look at what the Braves do with their pitching. Braves starting pitchers have missed one start in the last five years. While they have missed one start, Osborne, Joe Magrane, Bryn Smith and Danny Cox have each missed at least ONE YEAR in that span, and no Cards starter has failed to miss a start due to injury in a season during that time.
Those of us that presumed the Blues and Red Wings would meet in the Western Conference finals of the NHL were obviously wrong, and, if we had been right, it looks like the Blues would have been run right out of the buildings in the series. Detroit is, with Scotty Bowman, where Mike Keenan wants to be...next year at this time. Keenan will make some off-ice changes during the summer, such has tinkering with the idea of adding a goaltending coach and perhaps revamping his staff. When Keenan was hired by the Rangers, he wanted to hire good friend and former New York coach Roger Neilson as an assistant. Now that Neilson has been let go by Florida, its quite possible that he'll wind up with Keenan in St. Louis next season.
The Rams revealed their ticket prices for the 1995 season, and in the big scheme of things, they aren't overpriced. The best seats in the house, outside of Club Seats and Luxury Boxes, are $38.50 per game for season ticket holders. Most are $35, with the least expensive costing $25. When you consider that the Phoenix Cardinals charged an average of $38 in their first year in the Valley of the Sun, the Rams prices aren't too bad. Ram executives say the roster is pretty well set heading into training camp, and their frontline personnel looks good. Depth and special teams quality will be keys for the '95 Rams, but with coach Rich Brooks' and VP, Football Operations Steve Ortmayer's background in special teams coaching, that area should be upgraded. Training camp starts for five days at Parkway Central on July 16, before moving to Maryville University for the remainder of the summer.
Cardinals News (7.11.95)
*The Cards finished their recent 11-day, 10-game roadtrip with a record of 4-6. The Cards 1995 record, in a series-by-series format (home series in caps with city names, road series lower case and use nicknames), is shown below--
APRIL (2 wins and 3 losses)
26,27 PHILADELPHIA (won one of two)
28,29,30 mets (won one of three)
MAY (12 wins and 17 losses)
1,2,3 PITTSBURGH (won two of three)
4,5,6,7 HOUSTON (won two of four)
8,9,10 CHICAGO (won one of three)
12,13,14 dodgers (won two of three)
15,16,17 padres (lost all three)
18,19,20,21 giants (won two of four)
23,24,25 ATLANTA (won one of three)
26,27,28 CINCINNATI (lost all three)
29,30,31 COLORADO (won two of three)
1 expos (lost)
2,3,4 reds (won one of three)
5,6,7 rockies (won one of three)
9,10,11 braves (won two of three)
*During this past week:
--the Cardinals signed Chris Sabo to a minor league contract and assigned him to Louisville. Sabo was placed on outright release waivers by the White Sox last week. In 20 games with Chicago, he batted .254 with 1 HR and 8 RBIs
--Donovan Osborne traveled to Los Angeles to have his ailing left elbow examined by Dr. Frank Jobe. Jobe found the elbow area to be inflamed, but saw no evidence of a tear to the medial collateral ligament
--the Cardinals and Ken Hill agreed to terms on a one-year contract, avoiding a salary arbitration hearing that was scheduled for later this month. Hill asked for $5 million, and the Cardinals offered $3.75 million. The two sides split the difference, with Hill's '95 deal coming to $4.375 million, making him the highest paid player on the team. Hill can earn $150,000 in performance bonuses: $62,500 for 20 starts or 120 innings pitched, another $62,500 for 23 starts or 160 innings pitched, and an additional $25,000 for 25 starts or 180 innings
--the Cardinals placed Danny Jackson on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to June 8. Jackson will continue to receive treatment and therapy aimed at improving his stamina, which has suffered as a result of his surgery in January to correct a cancerous thyroid condition
--Tom Urbani, who has been on the disabled list since May 22 due to a sore left shoulder, has been activated so that he can start the opening of the upcoming homestand (vs. the Padres)
--Allen Watson experienced soreness in his left (pitching) shoulder, and will undergo a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test this week in St. Louis
*In the Cards first 43 games, the bullpen has totaled 162 innings pitched, an average of nearly four innings pitcher per game. During that time Cards relievers have compiled a league-leading 2.89 ERA
*Through 6.11.95, Ray Lankford continues to lead the NL in doubles (with 17), while Bernard Gilkey's 64 hits also leads the league. Kenny Hill's 61.2 innings pitched ranks fifth among all NL pitchers
*Finally, as this is written the Cardinals' starting rotation stacks up as follows: Ken Hill, Mark Petkovsek, Vicente Palacios, and Tom Urbani. Among the possibilities for a fifth starter: Allen Watson and Rich DeLucia
Cardinals News II: Tripp Cromer (7.11.95)
Cardinal shortstop Tripp Cromer, currently in the midst of an eight-game hitting streak, hit his fifth home run of the season in Sunday's 8-4 victory over Atlanta. After the game, the personable (and modest) Cromer cheerfully agreed to answer a few questions, but only after asking "the questions won't be too hard, will they?"
StLSO: Cardinal fans like what they see in your play this season...and your record at Louisville (1993 batting average .275; '94 batting average ...274) indicates that you can hit the baseball. Do you think you can hit .275 in the major leagues?
Cromer: I don't know. I'm gonna try, and I can be successful as long as I don't try to do too many things at the plate. I think I can hit .250...I'm just looking for some hits to fall in.
StLSO: With all due respect, you don't have to worry about the hits falling in if you hit the baseball over the fence.
Cromer: Yeah, you're right about that. I'd take the majority of my hits as bleeders if I could...I'm just looking for certain pitches to drive...and have been lucky enough to have gotten a few of those.
StLSO: On this road trip you have faced three clubs for the second time. In other words, the Reds, Rockies, and Braves are seeing Tripp Cromer for the second time. Are you being pitched to any differently now?
Cromer: Not that I can tell. As I said, I'm just looking for certain pitches to drive.
StLSO: What do pitchers do to try to get you out?
Cromer: [Big smile and laughs out loud.] I'm not gonna tell you that! What are you, a scout? Look, good pitches get most anybody out...as a hitter I look to take advantage of "bad" pitches. Now, you saw Maddux the other night. A pitcher like Maddux, you may get only one "bad pitch" per at-bat...and during some at-bats you might not get any.
StLSO: Maddux has been tough on the Cards this year...pitching well on two different occasions. How have you fared against him?
Cromer: You saw that bloop hit the other night? That's it...and he's struck me out three or four times. He is really tough.
StLSO: It was obvious that Maddux and Ken Hill really worked rapidly Friday night. Do you enjoy that pace?
Cromer: Yes, and it especially helps on defense. It's easier to stay alert.
StLSO: A play occurred yesterday in which, with a runner at first base, an Atlanta player singled to right. Brian Jordan short-hopped the ball and had a possible force play at second base, since the runner at first didn't know whether Jordan would catch the ball on the fly. Jordan's short throw to second base was cut off by Geronimo Pena. You were standing on second, waiting for the ball. What happened on the play, and was Jordan's throw on-line?
Cromer: Yes, it was on-line. It would have been a short hop, but it was definitely on-line. And I think the ball would have beaten the runner. I don't know what happened.
StLSO: You're doing a bang-up job at short this year...in essence filling in for, or taking over for, a legend. For example, my oldest daughter, at two years of age, could recognize only one Cardinal: "Ozzie". Has it hit you...what you're doing?
Cromer: [Smiles.] Yes. I know. It's tough. I'm doing the very best that I can.
Mark Curtis Leaves St. Louis by TRIPP FROHLICHSTEIN (7.11.95)
St. Louis is losing a good sportscaster in Mark Curtis. The Channel 2 lead sportscaster performed well in his years here. He is returning to Phoenix to a station where he worked in the 1980's. The Post Dispatch's superb sports media critic Dan Caesar reported it was for family reasons (Curtis' wife is from there).
In a classy move, Channel 2 announced Curtis' departure (instead of letting the rumor mill grind away). News Director Bill Berra was quoted as crediting Curtis with some of Channel 2's success over the past few years.
Curtis was a solid performer who was hampered by reporting in the shadow of Mike Bush. If not for Bush, Curtis would most likely have been the areas most popular sportscaster. Curtis knew his local sports, worked hard and was a good television sports reporter (besides just being a sports anchor). Curtis' skills will serve him well in Phoenix.
ALSO For Mark Curtis -
The good news...you get to go to where your wife's family is.
The bad news...Bill Bidwill lives there.
June 17, 1995
News and Notes by RANDY KARRAKER (6.17.95)
Friday was one of the most explosive days in the history of St. Louis sports, with the firing of Cardinal Manager Joe Torre, the trade of 1B Todd Zeile to the Cubs, and the revelation that Blues Chairman Mike Shanahan had been forced to resign.
The firing of Torre was inevitable. The Cards played the first third of the season in a fog, and had just recently pulled out of it...winning four of five. But Torre's clubs weren't aggressive, didn't play very good defense, and didn't pitch well. The bottom line is, although he is one of the finest men in sports, Torre was not a good fit for this team. With a veteran club loaded with talent, Torre is a good fit. But the rap on him when he took the job in St. Louis was that he struggled in developing young players, and that became clearly evident in the five years he managed here. Replacement Mike Jorgensen knows the young Cardinal talent, has an affinity for the running game, and feels he can motivate today's players. GM Walt Jocketty has given Jorgensen the job through 1995, but no guarantees after that. Word in Pittsburgh is that Jim Leyland would like to wind up in St. Louis, rather than stay in a bad situation with the Pirates. New owner John Rigas has lots of money, but he can't force Pittsburghers to show up for games.
Zeile's contract status was one of many reasons that he was dealt. After the Cardinals pulled a three year, $12 million AGREEMENT off the table, Zeile was never the same. After his outstanding start, the Cards reneged during a road trip in San Francisco...and Zeile's average tumbled. Walt Jocketty also was concerned with the passive attitude Zeile displayed on the field, although that didn't prevent him from driving in 100 runs two years ago, and getting on that pace last season. 35 year old righthander Mike Morgan is no more than a fill in for the starters this year, keeping a spot warm for Alan Benes. The two prospects acquired for Zeile, both undrafted by Chicago, have a chance to play in the majors. 3B Paul Torres will move to right field in Arkansas, and may wind up at 1B, and C Francisco Morales will head for A ball. The Cardinals think he has a chance to catch at the big league level, and have some success, quite soon. Right now, with Geronimo Pena's never-ending injuries, the Cards are in the market for a 2B that can lead off (Bip Roberts, free agent Delino Deshields?), and a first baseman that hits cleanup. Some in the organization are infatuated with Atlanta's Fred McGriff, who will be a free agent after the season.
The Blues situation is surprising in its timing, but not its content. Mike Shanahan had another year left on his contract, and many thought he would be fired last year, before he signed a two year extension with the Kiel Center partners. Although he was a superb presence for the Blues and one of the most popular sports personalities in town, Shanahan wasn't involved in the day to day operations of the club, and was basically a $200,000 community liaison between the Kiel Center partners, the owners of the team, and the fans. Was he worth it? Could be. It wouldn't be surprising to see season ticket sales fall off with Shanahan gone, and it wouldn't be a surprise to have a major disaster occur, either. Shanahan had a way of smoothing over some of the feathers regularly ruffled by team President, and now CEO, Jack Quinn. With Mike Keenan having a clause that allows him to leave if Shanahan or Quinn do, expect the Blues to have to pay a bundle to close that loophole.
With less than a month to go before training camp, the Rams and Maryville University still haven't signed an agreement to hold drills there. Both sides say a deal will be struck...but the impatient Rams are now looking at Western Illinois University as an alternate site should the Maryville situation fall through. The Rams want to hold camp in St. Louis, but because of logistics, now may not be able to. They open camp July 16.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Randy Karraker's postgame show on KMOX can be heard immediately following each Buck/Buck/Shannon Cardinal home broadcast on 1120 AM. The first part of the show provides a nice bookend to Jack Buck's scoreboard show in that Karraker plays snippets of audio highlights from most of the games played that night. It's interesting to hear bits and pieces from other play-by-play men (Harry Kalas and Marty Brennaman, among others) from around the country. It might be most accurate to say that Karraker's show is the radio equivalent of ESPN's Baseball Tonight. When time allows, Karraker then takes phone calls from all over the midwest, in the Open Line format that KMOX is famous for.
Attention all St. Louis Sports Online subscribers: feel free to give Karraker a call. While you're on the air with him, ask Randy a question about soccer.
Karraker is also on the KMOX airwaves most Sunday nights beginning in the six o'clock hour, often playing verbal tag with StLSO godfather (and occasional contributor) Jeff Gordon, the P-D's resident hockey nut.
Cardinals News (6.17.95)
*During this past week:
--the Cardinals fired Manager Joe Torre and replaced him with Mike Jorgensen, the team's Farm Director for the past two and a half years. Despite the fact that the Cardinals won four out of the last five games under Torre's direction, there was a broad consensus that a change needed to be made. But the timing of the move seemed a bit unusual, and speculation abounds that Cards President Mark Lamping nudged GM Walt Jocketty in the general direction of a change in the Cardinals dugout.
But Jocketty noted that he had planned to evaluate the Cardinals at the one-third point of the season...and Torre's removal came after 47 games (one game shy of exactly one-third of the way through the strike-shortened 144 game schedule). Let's fact it--Torre's ouster was inevitable...and not the result of some awful conspiracy.
Jocketty refused to characterized Jorgensen as an interim manager, saying that his performance as manager would be evaluated at the end of the season. Jocketty also said, however, that Jorgensen's position as Director of Player Development will not be filled at this time
--the Cardinals traded Todd Zeile to the Cubs for pitcher Mike Morgan and two prospects. The club's owners (Anheuser-Busch) and its first-year team of executives (President Mark Lamping and GM Walt Jocketty) have taken a lot of media hits over the deal. The trade, at least on the surface, was precipitated by Zeile's contention, aired publicly in Thursday's Rick Hummel Post-Dispatch article, that the Cardinals reneged on a handshake contract agreement that would have netted him $12 million dollars over a three-year period. Lamping and Jocketty disputed this...and there was talk that both sides had agreed not to publicly discuss the spat. In addition, Jocketty said that the fact that Zeile had requested a trade played a major role in the deal.
Sports columnists and radio personalities have proposed that the heavy hand of the brewery was involved in the Zeile contract debacle. Zeile's agent (Seth Levinson) weighed in with a comment or two lending support to that contention.
The whole Zeile situation seems to have been handled rather poorly on all sides. However, if Zeile hits in Wrigley Field (he contributed a two-run homer in his first game as a Cub and started in left field) and one of the prospects obtained by the Cards contributes to the big club...then all's well that ends well. Both Zeile and Morgan are unsigned after the current season...and, in the opinion of some, Zeile would have been dealt by the Cards even if the club had signed him to a three year deal.
Morgan, on the other hand, will probably provide some much-needed innings for a Cardinal pitching staff that has been decimated by injuries.
--Allen Watson has been placed on the 15-day disabled list, due to biceps tendonitis in his left arm. He is eligible to come off the list on June 22. Watson claims to be healthy and ready to pitch
--the Cardinals designated infielder Manny Lee for reassignment. Lee recently completed an injury rehabilitation assignment with the Louisville Redbirds
--the Cardinals had their largest paid crowd (38,664) for Saturday night's game vs. the Giants. 30,687 were in attendance. Of significance was the fact that the left- and right- field bleachers seemed filled to about 75% capacity...an unofficial season high
*the starting pitchers for the Dodger series are Ken Hill (vs Hideo Nomo), Mark Petkovsek (vs Pedro Astacio), and Vicente Palacios (vs Tom Candiotti)
*Cards relievers Rene Arocha, Jeff Parrett, and Tony Fossas all rank in the National League's top ten pitchers as far as appearances are concerned, with 25, 23, and 24 games pitched, respectively
*Through games of 6.16.95:
--the Cards had attempted 44 steals, and been successful on 31 of those attempts
--the Cards team batting average of .265 ranks third in the NL, and their 438 hits is second overall. HOWEVER, the club ranks second-to-last in the league in runs scored (193), behind only the Pittsburgh Pirates
*the Cards rank fifth in the NL in home attendance, and first in road attendance
*Cards shortstop Tripp Cromer ranks fourth on the team in runs scored (20), behind Bernard Gilkey, Ran Lankford, and Brian Jordan (31, 28, and 24, respectively)
*Vicente Palacios leads the Cards in strikeouts with 34
*While Cards starting pitching has borne the brunt of the blame for the team's failure, it should be noted that, as of 6.18.95, that the Redbirds lead the league in errors committed (with 45)
Cardinals News: Danny Jackson Health Update by ERIC NIEDERHOFFER (6.17.95)
Danny Jackson's record this season is 0-7. 0 and 7 is, well, 0 and 7...and Cards fans (as well as Jackson himself) were looking for answers. It is public knowledge that during the off-season Jackson underwent surgery for thyroid cancer. The media have recently reported that Jackson's medication schedule has been modified, in aneffort to stem recent feelings of fatigue felt by the Cardinal lefthander.
What follows is a self-directed analysis based on a bit of educated guesswork. I have had no discussions with Jackson and/or his physician, and have no direct knowledge of the identity of Jackson's medication or other aspects of his treatment.
The most common thyroid malignancy is papillary carcinoma and is successfully treated by surgical removal of the unwanted lesions, followed by hormone replacement therapy. L-Thyroxine is the preferred drug for which the average dose varies from 100 to 150 grams per day. Of course, the optimal level should be determined for each person to maintain proper body function while avoiding unwanted side effects. Such side effects may be characterized by symptoms observed for persons suffering from excess thyroxine production (hyperthyroidism). They are nervousness and increased activity, increased sweating, hypersensitivity to heat, palpitations, FATIGUE, increased appetite, weight loss, tachycardia, insomnia, weakness, and frequent bowel movements (occasionally diarrhea).
Let's hope his doctors have made the appropriate modifications so that we can cheer for Danny Jackson's return to baseball form and continued enjoyment of a normal life.
Blues News: Mike Shanahan Out as Blues Chairman (6.17.95)
According to broadcast and published reports, Blues Chairman Mike Shanahan went to lunch last week with the club's ownership group (the men from Civic Progress), only to discover that his post as Chairman had been eliminated. It has reported that Shanahan found out about his demise by examining an organizational chart and observing that his name was nowhere to be found. Ouch.
All kinds of crazy rumors...and I mean ALL KINDS OF CRAZY RUMORS...have been floated concerning Shanahan's ouster. StLSO does not wish to contribute to the rumor-mongering. Rather, we prefer to make the following observation...in the form of the usual StLSO "Fact, Opinion, and Question" series.
FACT: The much-reviled Bill Bidwill cited differences with Civic Progress as a contributing factor to his decision to move the Big Red to Phoenix, and maverick Jerry Clinton...whose media-installed white hat was transformed into a black hat during his efforts to bring an NFL expansion team to St. Louis, cited issues and difficulties with Civic Progress as a main reason that he was unable to put together the necessary team of investors
OPINION: The beloved Mike Shanahan's ouster was, in the main, a result of his own run-ins with Civic Progress.
QUESTION: Is it time for a bit of historical revisionism concerning Bidwill and Clinton?
Joe Buck Speaks by MARK BAUSCH (6.17.95)
Joe Buck, along with his father (Jack Buck), Mike Shannon, Al Hrabosky, and Bob Carpenter, is one of the five broadcasters that bring Cardinal baseball into the family rooms, cars, and offices of Redbird fans all over the midwestern United States. Joe Buck's work in the St. Louis market is not simply an accident of birth--the FOX network hired Buck to do play-by-play work for their inaugural season broadcasting NFL games. National reviews on young Buck were mostly positive. Indeed, by the end of the NFL season, he was regularly given assignments indicating that FOX considered him among their top two or three play-by-play guys.
In a nutshell, the guy has as much talent as any young broadcaster, since, say, a youthful Bob Costas. Most St. Louis Sports Online readers surely recall that Costas, fresh out of Syracuse University, took St. Louis, and then the country, by storm.
In thinking about Joe Buck and the kinds of questions I would ask, two things came to mind. First, I hoped to bring StLSO readers some new and timely information about the Cards young broadcaster. On this point I feel reasonably confident.
I had also hoped that Buck would play along and poke a bit of good-natured fun at his legendary broadcasting partner, the one and only Mike Shannon. For example, during a recent broadcast, Shannon was discussing ballpark architecture and Coors Field, and, while querying Joe Buck as to the age of the Roman Colosseum, Shannon suggested that it [the Colosseum] was "three- or four- hundred years old, right Joe?".
In that regard I failed, as Joe Buck played all Shannon-related questions straight down the middle, earnestly saying that "Mike has been extremely helpful to me just starting out in this business."
Prior to a recent Cards/Braves game, Buck and I sat down in the dining room behind the Fulton County Stadium press box. He is 26 years old...and looks young enough (and fit enough) to be part of a double play combo with Cards shortstop Tripp Cromer. Indeed, Buck said that the Cards had thoughts of drafting him right out of high school. I should have reminded him that the Cardinals drafted Paul Coleman right out of high school, too.
It should surprise no one that Joe Buck, who makes his living as a play-by-play sportscaster, is a verbal individual. But I was surprised to find Buck to be extremely intelligent, as well. Throughout the interview he listened very intently to the questions, and at times, gave quite specific and carefully worded answers that sort of demanded that the original question be rephrased. When a tough question was posed, he wouldn't give an inch. In other words, the guy is good...and, at least in this interview, didn't really let down his guard too much. In retrospect, perhaps I could have done a better job interviewing him.
I didn't feel so bad, though. After all, he's the professional interviewer! And before we started, Buck was kind enough to remind me to turn on the recorder...
StLSO: Joe Buck, you're a St. Louis native. Do you have brothers and sisters, and are they still living in St. Louis?
Buck: I have seven brothers and sisters. All except one (who resides in the Chicago area) still live in St. Louis. I'm the second-to-the-youngest...my younger sister works for a radio station back in St. Louis and I have an older sister who works for a TV station in St. Louis. So we're everywhere.
StLSO: Where did you go to high school, and when did you graduate?
Buck: I went to St. Louis Country Day High School, and I was graduated in 1987.
StLSO: What were your favorite subjects?
Buck: Chemistry...uhhh...you know what? That sort of stuff always baffled me. I'm not a smart guy. I know that. That's why I'm a broadcaster. I was more an English and Spanish...those kind of subjects as opposed to math and chemistry.
StLSO: Did you attend a college or university?
Buck: Yes. I went to Indiana University in Bloomington IN. I played some college baseball there...Mickey Morandini was also on the IU baseball team.
StLSO: What was your major...and did you graduate?
Buck: I was an English major. I did not graduate. I was at IU for three and a half years, and in the middle of my fourth year I got the Cardinal job...while I was going to school I was broadcasting Louisville Redbird games.
StLSO: If you weren't a sportscaster, what career might you have pursued?
StLSO: Give us an oral resume, starting with your first broadcasting job....
Buck: In 1987, I did afternoon sports reports on KMOX, and mornings on KMOX's sister station on the FM side, which at that time was called KHTR. I worked Louisville Redbirds games for two years, beginning in 1989. During that time, I also did some fill-in work for the Cardinals when my Dad was doing football or baseball...and that blossomed into a full-time position which is when I left college.
StLSO: Are you married? If so, does your wife enjoy sports?
Buck: Yes I am married, and I have been married for two and a half years. And yes, my wife does enjoy sports.
StLSO: Do you have children?
StLSO: You are no doubt aware that ESPN spawned ESPN2. Does ESPN3 have a futures contract on your first-born?
Buck: [Laughs out loud in a resigned sort of way.] Sure...that's the way things are going in baseball these days. The kids are taking over.
StLSO: Approximately how many nights per year do you sleep in an out-of-town hotel room?
Buck: Ummm. I would say...I would say about half the nights in a given year I'm on the road.
StLSO: Does your wife often accompany you on road trips?
Buck: Yes, she does.
StLSO: What are your favorite cities to visit?
Buck: Cities where I have friends like here in Atlanta...or in Los Angeles with a friend of mine who's in a rock group out there. Both are towns that I enjoy visiting because I have good friends from high school who reside there, including Kevin Omell here in Atlanta.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Omell was also graduated from Country Day in 1987, and sat next to Buck for much of the interview.]
StLSO: On a given three day trip to Pittsburgh, what do you do between games?
Buck: Golf is a big time-killer. You know, we get back so late...I can't get to sleep before three o'clock in the morning...I get up about eleven and have lunch and maybe do a little exercising and then go to the ballpark.
StLSO: In your job as a Cards broadcaster, who is your boss....any one person? And on Fox?
Buck: A lot of people. For the Cards, I guess Steve Uline of Bud Sports is my boss. It just progresses after that. You've got Anheuser-Busch and their broadcasting division...and you've got the Cardinals and their division.
For FOX, David Hill is the Vice-President of Sports, and Ed Goren, I think, is the Executive Executive Producer, and George Krieger is Executive Producer. All three of those guys are more-or-less in charge.
StLSO: Politicians and their staffs often work from "talking points" when they try to get out a certain point of view to the public. Have any A-B or Cards brass ever suggested that you say, X, Y, or Z? Putting it differently, are you ever given "talking points" to work from?
Buck: No. That's a good question and I would assume that other broadcasters are told what to say and what not to say. But I work out of common sense. I know where my bread is buttered...so...I'm always trying to promote the Cardinals...but I've never been told to say something or not to say something.
StLSO: How does your work with the Cards differ from your work with Fox?
Buck: Well, when I'm doing baseball with the Cardinals I feel like I'm more part of the team, and as the team goes so goes my mood.
StLSO: You're not feeling too good then, eh?
Buck: Yeah, exactly. If the team's not playing well, I'm usually not in a good mood. With FOX, with something more national, I couldn't care less who wins...I have no attachment to the teams and I'm really worried about my performance and being accurate and here [with the Cards] it's more being a part of the group and hope that they're winning.
StLSO: Do you review your own on-air performance? If so, what do you listen for?
Buck: All the time. I listen for...verbal crutches and things that I fall into from time to time...repeating the way I'm describing something over and over...varying your call when you're describing something. I'm not one for cliches.
StLSO: Do play-by-play broadcasters suffer slumps?
Buck: Oh yeah. There are days when I wonder whether can speak English! I mean...sometimes you're not enunciating and just not getting the words out...and other days you're almost telling yourself to shut up...the stuff is just coming out so quick and easy.
StLSO: Do play-by-play men read reviews of their work (i.e. USA Today)? Do you?
Buck: Yeah...and anyone who says they don't...is lying. This is a very...uhhh...this is a business where you like positive reinforcement, and negative criticism really gets at you.
It [negative criticism] hurts...I'm doing everything I can...I'm traveling and sweating in the booth and doing my homework and when you read something bad about yourself...it's not fun.
StLSO: I recall hearing you broadcast some Missouri Valley Conference basketball games a couple of years ago.
Buck: Let's see...that was two years ago so it was the winter of '93.
StLSO: I remember watching one of those games...quite honestly, it didn't seem that you were prepared for one of those games.
Buck: Really [said in the form of a statement].
StLSO: Yeah, that night, the normal Joe Buck delivery seemed less smooth than normal as you didn't seem to know the names of the players and their uniform numbers...I bring this up not to embarrass but rather to make the point that a good deal of preparation is involved in your job. This is true, isn't it?
Buck: Yeah, you absolutely have to prepare. But you have to remember that what people might hear or see on television and what comes across is not always.... See, you can look at something and say he doesn't know the name or number and say that he's not prepared, but sometimes that's not necessarily the case. Sometimes it might be what's going on in my ear. Sometimes it might be what the producer's telling me...sometimes it might be what the director's saying, while I'm talking, that could throw you off that is incorrect. A lot of the times the people behind the scenes make mistakes when you're the front man out there.
StLSO: I don't think I'm wrong about this...my point was that you just didn't seem as familiar with some of these guys as other times and I think that points out how much preparation is important...
Buck: It's all familiarity. I could run down the names and numbers of all the guys in major league baseball....that's one thing because I'm around it every day of my life. But when you're swooping down to do a game on a given weekend...having to learn two different teams...or...in fact, I was doing two MVC games a week...that's four different teams...including women's games....you know, keeping that straight all the time is not the easiest thing in the world. And I might add that the MVC production side of those games could have been improved, in my opinion. The MVC deserves better.
StLSO: You received a lot of positive notoriety for your ESPN duh-duh-duh...duh-duh-duh after Mark Whiten's fourth homer vs. the Reds. Was that spontaneous or did your practice that?
Buck: [Buck delayed answering for an instant while a look of disapproval came over his face.] You can't practice anything. If I were to practice something....I mean, that's the beauty of what I do...you can't practice anything. It just comes out...you don't know what's going to happen.
StLSO: Describe your preparation for a typical Cardinal game that commences at 7:35...
Buck: I prepare for every game...very easily...just by being there. I know exactly what's been going on, on a daily basis...I mean, I know more, about this team, than anybody listening knows about this team.
StLSO: So, for a 7:35 start, you arrive at Busch Stadium at what time?
Buck:4:00...4:30, sometimes 5:00...depending on whether I have other obligations..doing other work during the day...commercials or reporting of some sort.
StLSO: Describe your preparation for a typical FOX broadcast...
Buck: It's totally different [from the Cards preparation]. When I'm preparing for a Sunday game for FOX, I start out on Monday evening doing spotting boards that I make out for myself...then we [the FOX team] get to the city on Friday and meeting the teams on Saturday...meet as a group on Saturday night...and as a group on Sunday morning....do the game on Sunday and then come back on Sunday night.
So there's really a lot more preparation to be done...because I'm having to learn two new teams each week and I've got to pick up a team in week #14 and act like I've been watching them for the first 13 weeks.
StLSO: I've noticed that some things about baseball seem easier to evaluate while watching TV, as opposed to coming to the stadium and seeing the game in person. In particular, certain aspects of pitching seem to be much easier to follow on TV, as opposed from the stands. Do you rely on a video monitor while broadcasting?
Buck: You can't rely on it...you have to split your...
StLSO: Rely is the wrong word... utilize is better...
Buck: Oh yeah, yeah, you have to...you have to be aware of what they're showing. You have to work together. You have a director and a producer and you have to all be on the same page. I can't start talking about the crowd while they're shooting Ken Hill and I can't start talking about Joe Torre when they're shooting Todd Zeile.
StLSO: And on radio?
Buck: Well on radio I can do whatever I want. There's no one that is working with me...it's all what I want to cover.
StLSO: Earlier, you said you graduated from high school in 1987 or so. Do you keep in contact with many of your high school classmates?
Buck: Yes, I do. Some more so than others.
StLSO: What fraction of them are baseball fans?
Buck: I would say, probably, half.
StLSO: The ones that aren't...why aren't they, in your mind? What would you tell them if you were to try and persuade them to come to the ballpark?
Buck: Well, that's a tough question. I just think it's a personal preference. I would never try to persuade someone to enjoy baseball. Baseball is just something that either you grow up around and really enjoy, or you have a tough time picking it up and staying alert while you're at a game. I think [that for] some people, the game of baseball bores them. To me, I enjoy the two and a half to three hours that it takes to play a baseball game. But I think, to some people, that's too slow. It's a reflection of our society...they want things fast and they want scoring.
StLSO: Assume for a moment that you've been named Commissioner of baseball.
Buck: I'd quit...
StLSO: What would you prescribe for what ails baseball 1995-style?
Buck: Well, everybody's trying to speed up the game. If I were to do one thing I'd make the umpires call a legitimate strike zone. I think that's the absolute only way you can speed up the game...not when the PA announcer says the guy's name one minute and fifteen seconds into the break. That doesn't have anything to do with it...it has to do with a small strike zone and pitchers falling behind. These guys [the batters] don't go up there swinging the bat...then they're waiting to get ahead in the count and then they're hammering away. I would say call the strike zone as it is written in the rule book.
StLSO: Among your suggestions for major league baseball, I'm surprised you didn't include grammar and diction lessons for your broadcasting partner Mike Shannon.
Buck: No...I would not say that.
StLSO: Your on-air work is the most visible part of your job. Tell us a bit about your off-air responsibilities as a member of the Cards broadcasting team.
Buck: I'm involved with a lot of charity work in St. Louis, which, I believe, is part of being a broadcaster. In the off season I do a number of the Cardinal Caravans. But mainly charity work.
StLSO: After an evening's worth of broadcasting, you said you were up 'til three am, what do you do to unwind?
Buck: It's not that I'm wound up...it's just that my schedule starts later than everybody else and I end up later than everyone else.
StLSO: Do you work out regularly?
Buck: Yeah, I do. I try to. On the road, definitely, and at home, every day.
StLSO: What is the most difficult part of your job?
Buck: Uhhhhh....the travel. It's tough, with a wife, and you want to see each other as much as possible...but it's not always economically feasible to have her with me all of the time.
StLSO: Is there one part of a baseball game that you would like to do a better job communicating to your listeners?
Buck: I wish I could interview people better.
StLSO: Do you enjoy doing rain delay fills?
Buck: Yes and no. I don't really feel that qualified to do them yet. I think people more enjoy listening to people that have been around the game a little longer than I have...I don't have the background that Mike Shannon or my Dad would.
StLSO: What is the best part of your job?
Buck: Every day...the thrill of doing it every day...there's not one day that has gone by where I had not wanted to do a game. I would rather do a game than not do a game.
StLSO: Bob Costas tells a story of traveling with the team on a day off...when he first started broadcasting. He didn't know he wasn't supposed to do that.
Buck: Yeah....well, that's fun though. I did say travel is the toughest part but it can be the most enjoyable part...to get to know these guys...it's like a traveling fraternity.
StLSO: Joe, you're only 26 but have already accomplished a great deal in an extremely competitive field. What do you do to keep from getting the big head?
Buck: From day one, from being around my father, I've realized that being a broadcaster is not the most important thing in the world. It's a fun job and I'm lucky to be doing it and I'm lucky to have been doing it for the last five years. But it doesn't matter what level of success that I achieve...in the grand scheme of things it's not that important. Therefore I will not get the big head.
StLSO: As far as your career is concerned, what would you like to accomplish professionally in the next five years?
Buck: That's tough to answer. Because if anybody had asked me back in 1989 that five years from then if I'd be doing NFL football on FOX, I'd have never imagined that. Five years from now I would be very happy doing what I'm doing right now, and if something else comes along, like a chance to do nationally broadcast baseball, I would jump at that chance and would hope to be doing it.
StLSO: Joe...the best broadcasting I ever heard you do was during one of your football games. It was something minor and not something that I'm sure I'm going to be able to put into words. Your timing on what we used to call a down-and-out...it's sort of like counting to five. The quarterback takes the snap, drops back three or four steps, throws the ball on a line to the receiver, the receiver makes the catch and runs a little bit, and the defender makes the hit, knocking him out of bounds. You talked around all of those things, rather than interrupting what I was watching.
Buck: Sure. That is the essence of how I broadcast, or how I try to broadcast. It drives me nuts when I hear broadcasters talking incessantly. And just talking over the entire action.
StLSO: Do you understand what I'm talking about? That's a perfect kind of a play that sort of has a rhythm to it...your basic seven yard down and out.
Buck: Well, broadcasting is all rhythm.
StLSO: I want to try this again. Do you practice that [the rhythm]?
Buck: No. That's the way I grew up. I don't think my Dad talks incessantly on a broadcast. I told myself because I listen to myself so much...watching tapes of my games on TV whether it's basketball, baseball, or football...my voice sometimes drives me nuts...I don't want to hear it all the time. I would rather accent the action instead of knocking you over the head with it. Especially on TV, being a TV play-by-play guy is almost redundant with people watching it. So if you can accent it, and you can add to it, then that is, I think, my job, and not tell people what they're already seeing.
StLSO: At this point in the season, you've seen the Cards play forty some-odd ballgames and play .400 baseball. What should Cardinal fans look for in the future?
Buck: Well, there are no untouchables on this squad. You can't have untouchables if you haven't won since 1987. In my opinion, two-thirds of the significant players could, emphasize could, be different in 1996. If you asked Walt Jocketty or Mark Lamping, I think they would admit that this is not a first-place ballclub.
StLSO: So finally, Joe, when was the Roman Colosseum built?
Buck: Seventy-five years ago. You never know what you're going to get on a nightly basis. You can be talking about rain or a home run and something like that comes along.
Buck: OK. Thank you
StLSO Media Watch: Reaction to Zeile Trade in Chicago Media by BRIAN CRAWFORD (6.17.95)
CHICAGO--Cub fans are going nuts over Todd Zeile. And with rare exception, the Chicago sports media has leapt en masse onto the Zeile bandwagon. Here's a rundown of what some of Chicago's sportswriters and broadcasters have to say about the trade:
Joseph A. Reaves, Chicago Tribune Cubs beat writer: "For Zeile and the Cubs, it was a dream deal. So much so that Zeile admitted he may have walked awayfrom hundreds of thousands of dollars to get it done."
Jay Mariotti, Chicago Sun-Times columnist: "He might make as many errors at third as he hits homers, but if the number is around 30 a year, the denizens will deal with it..."
Dave Van Dyck, Chicago Sun-Times columnist: "Insiders think it's the start of a housecleaning by...Lamping and...Jocketty, and anyone connected with Cardinals teams of the past is endangered. No one says it publicly, but Zeile was not perceived as an intense, fiery player and was partially blamed for the Cardinals' lethargic start..."
Jimmy Piersall, WSCR Radio baseball commentator and Cubs' minor league instructor, on the two minor league players involved in the deal: "(Paul) Torres is one of the best young outfielders I ever had. His problem is he has million dollar talent and 5-cent head. Neither one of these guys will ever make it. The Cardinals just took them to fill out their minor league system."
Piersall was asked to comment on Al Hrabosky's remarks in a live interview with WSCR hosts Dan McNeill and Terry Boers. Hrabosky had ripped Zeile for his lack of intensity on the field, saying he wouldn't mind him dating his daughter, but he wouldn't want to be in a foxhole with him. Piersall's comment? "Who is Al Hrabosky? I've never heard of that guy."
EDITOR'S NOTE: The StLSO Media Watch section isn't large enough to contain the hundreds of recollections of Jimmy Piersall's days as a White Sox commentator. Piersall's partner in crime on the South Side was none other than Harry Caray. Two items from actual during-the-game on-air banter--
Caray: You know, Jimmy...I feel sorry for you.
Piersall: Oh yeah, Harry? Why is that?
Caray: Because...Jimmy, you don't drink.
Caray: Well, Jimmy, when you wake up in the morning...that's as good as you're going to feel.
...it's late in a game that the Sox are destined to lose. Caray has mispronounced so many players' names that even Piersall notices...
Piersall: You know, Harry, you're drunk.
Caray: Yeah, you're right. But I tell you one thing, Jimmy. But tomorrow, I won't be drunk. But you'll still be crazy.
They Just Don't Get It by MARK BAUSCH (6.17.95)
The Chicago Tribune's John Crewdson is one of the nation's pre-eminent science journalists. For the past several years Crewdson has been on the trail of Robert Gallo, the controversial National Institutes of Health AIDS researcher who has admitted to and/or been charged with various transgressions related to the discovery of the world's first AIDS blood test. The Gallo story is more than the usual tale of science misconduct since royalties from patents related to the AIDS blood test have run into the millions of dollars...and the US government, which sponsored Gallo's research, was a recipient of those dollars.
The depth of Crewdson's devotion to the Gallo story is that he (Crewdson) moved to the Bethesda MD area in order to be closer to the NIH and the developing story. The guy is a good reporter...and it was through some of his early investigative work that the date of the first known AIDS case in this country was moved back (it has since been moved back further). While the Gallo/AIDS research misconduct case is VERY complicated...most observers believe that Crewdson's dogged investigation of Gallo played at least some role in changing the way that the AIDS-test patent royalties are shared between the US and French governments. (It was decided that a government laboratory in France was the supplier of the AIDS virus that Gallo's laboratory used to develop the US AIDS test. Trust me...it's complicated.)
Interestingly, though, Crewdson ran into resistance from some members of the biomedical scientific community...and not just because one of this country's star scientists was being investigated. Rather, some biomedical practitioners refused to believe that Crewdson, who was not trained as a scientist, could ever master the nuances and details of the AIDS virus, and research related to the AIDS virus. In other words, it might be said that these individuals felt that only a panel of scientists could evaluate the work of another scientist...and that no mere journalist was fit to take on such a task.
As a faculty member at a PhD-granting university, I do not necessarily share those views. And in fact, I believe that kind of thinking further isolates modern science, and modern scientists, from the very people that we should be serving (i.e. the general public). In these times of shrinking federal support of scientific research, we should be doing our very best to inform as many people as we can about our work and its importance.
I was reminded of Crewdson and the Gallo case the other day when talking with Kevin Horrigan. St. Louis Sports Online readers may recall that Horrigan was a columnist with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the St. Louis Sun prior to his current duties as a morning radio personality on KMOX radio.
First things first. I'm a big fan of Horrigan's work. The guy is fairly bright, and reasonably funny most of the time. His sportswriting was of high quality, too. Anyway, in the Busch Stadium press box, Horrigan was ruminating about frontrunners. As I write this I don't even remember who exactly was being labelled as a frontrunner. Nevertheless...
Hearing sportswriters talk about frontrunners really frosts me...it's kind of like hearing them denigrate rabid sports fans as "get-a-lifers". Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! I simply couldn't resist informing Horrigan that I thought most sports columnists were the biggest front-runners of them all.
Horrigan seemed taken aback by that...and responded by saying "How would you know? You're just a fan. You're not a journalist."
I got the feeling from Horrigan's response that he felt as though only journalists had the right to be cynical...and that the attainment of a journalism degree, followed by years of employment as a working journalist, entitles a man or woman to feel as though he or she knows more than anyone else about just about any topic you can think of. So I responded by saying "You know, Kevin, journalists aren't very well-liked in this country."
Horrigan shot back that "Christ wasn't very well liked, either."
Hmmm. I know from experience that the act of writing (whether I'm describing a set of chemistry experiments or trying to analyze a hockey game) can be a powerful yet humbling experience. The best writers surely have the feeling (at least for a moment, anyway) that they are the only human beings in the world capable of explaining whatever they're writing about at that point in time. It's a feeling of self-confidence that borders on a kind of intellectual arrogance. But when used properly, the results make for dynamite reading. But did I hear right? Was Horrigan equating journalism and criticism of the journalism profession with Christ and criticism of Christ? Who knows...but as a consumer of the written word I have felt as though journalists often believe that they are looking down at the rest of us from their oh-so-high pedestals. Anecdotal evidence tells me that I'm not alone in this regard...and in fact, Horrigan himself rails about East Coast-type journalists who trot out to the midwest every so often to rediscover the meaning of all things true and pure.
In the meantime...newspaper circulation is down across the nation...and journalism is at or near the bottom of most of the "professions-rated" polls in this country. Tens of thousands of Americans are literally turning away from the newspaper habit each and every year. And newspaper editors are wringing their necks trying to resuscitate what Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz refers to as "a dying industry."
I'm reminded of what women across the country said ("They just don't get it") about several of the United States senators who questioned Anita Hill in the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination debacle.
After listening to Mr. Horrigan, is it possible that perhaps the same thing can be said about some working journalists and their editors?
June 24, 1995
News and Notes by RANDY KARRAKER (6.24.95)
The Cardinals just-completed 5-and-7 homestand should give Walt Jocketty a pretty good idea of what his team needs. With Geronimo Pena perpetually injured, a second baseman that hits leadoff is imperative. Since the lineup is without a true cleanup hitter, the Cards perennial search for a power man is on again. And with a young pitching staff struggling to find itself, a healthy Danny Jackson...or some other veteran starting pitcher...and a more solid defense, are a must. All are attainable during the off-season, or in trades...if the Cards desire. The club was privately steamed that injured shortstop Ozzie Smith didn't show up for a season-ticket holders' and clients' appreciation night at Busch Stadium Thursday. Smith wasn't on hand for the entire twelve game homestand, a peculiar happening since he took shots at Jack Clark in 1986, when Clark didn't show up at the park after being shelved for the season. Ozzie's status will be interesting to watch in the next few months.
Mike Keenan is free to leave the Blues, now that Mike Shanahan has been ousted as the team's chairman. Although Keenan told me that he's focusing on the draft and the '95-'96 Blues, rumors persist that his agent is testing the waters elsewhere, to find out what's available for the again...if he wants to be...free agent coach. Meanwhile, top prospect Jamie Rivers has to be signed by mid-July, or he'll re-enter the draft...probably as a first rounder. We've written about Rivers here before, the OHL All-Star game MVP, a defenseman compared to Paul Coffey. It would be a shame if all the work the Blues did in cultivating Rivers fails to bear fruit.
Trucks with all of the Rams' gear should be arriving in St. Louis early this week. With a training camp site signed, sealed and delivered (Maryville University), the Rams now will begin the search for a permanent facility. In charge of the search, apparently, will be former Big Red contract negotiator Bob Wallace. One of the most likeable and astute people in the game, Wallace will be an outstanding addition to the Rams' staff (as Vice-President, Administration) as soon as his duties with the Philadelphia Eagles are complete. Although talk of a deal with first round pick Kevin Carter is generally optimistic on both sides, keep this in mind. Carter's agent is thinking his client should get what last year's sixth overall pick got. That's fine...unless last year's number six was a quarterback. It was...Trent Dilfer of Tampa Bay. The Rams have to convince Larry Jacobs, Carter's agent, that other players don't make as much as quarterbacks do. Let's hope Jacobs gets the message before July 16.
Cardinals News (6.24.95)
*After going 0-4 vs. the knuckleballing Tom Candiotti, Tripp Cromer said "I never had got a hit off of a knuckleball. But Candiotti is different, he throws a curveball, a slider, and even a decent fastball for strikes. I probably only saw three knuckleballs in three or four ABs today."
When asked how he tries to solve a knuckleball pitcher, Cromer said "I was looking off-speed." Cromer also noted that he had faced two other knuckleball pitchers in the minor leagues--Tim Wakefield (now with the Bosox) and Steve Sparks, a pitcher with the Brewers organization.
*Tom Henke threw a scoreless ninth inning vs. the Dodgers on Wednesday, despite the fact that the Cardinals lost the game 10-1. When asked whether he asked to be put in the game, Henke said "Yes, I did. We have a day off tomorrow...and if I didn't pitch today, that meant I would've gone six days without an appearance. That's too long for me...I need to stay sharp."
*Mark Petkovsek posted the Cards first complete game, and first shutout, in the 1995 season on Tuesday as he pitched the Redbirds to a 7-0 victory over the Dodgers. When asked when he knew he had a good outing going, Petkovsek smiled and said "the ninth inning".
Petkovsek induced the Dodgers to hit into an even dozen ground ball outs. When asked to what degree he utilized his change-up, Petkovsek beamed and said "We stuck mainly with a fastball-curve routine...there weren't too many lefthanders in their lineup. But man, were they hitting the ball hard. The guys played great behind me."
Going into his start Monday night in Houston, Petkovsek has quietly put together a string of 18 consecutive scoreless innings.
*Danny Jackson, throwing 110 pitches, pitched a seven inning complete game as the Louisville Redbirds defeated New Orleans 6-1. Walt Jocketty was pleased with Jackson's performance, noting that the radar gun indicated that Jackson's velocity at the end of the game was within 3-5 MPH of what it was at the game's start.
Blues News (6.24.95)
Speculation abounds that the Blues lost big money in the just-completed season, and that the Kiel Center Partners plan to tighten the purse strings for the 95-96 season. How next year's austerity affects Curtis Joseph remains to be seen...the P-D's Dave Luecking reported that an unofficial offer of $2.5 million/year to Joseph was nixed by the Kiel bosses.
Meanwhile, a cloud of uncertainty hangs over the team now that Mike Keenan's short-term future in St. Louis isn't a sure thing. But if there's one constant with the Blues...it's chaos. The club always seems to bounce back. It will be interesting to see if Mike Shanahan's forced ouster has any effect on the club's ability to respond to off-ice turmoil.
This observer doesn't know what to believe...except that the chances that Blues Executive Vice-President Ron Caron may stay around for awhile longer seem enhanced. The well-liked Caron can provide some of the PR skills that left when Shanahan was shown the door.
Quote of the Week (6.24.95)
In response to a caller who asked the KMOX Morning Meeting duo of Kevin Horrigan and Charles Brennan a question that Horrigan considered a bit too "trivial", Horrigan, one day after missing his morning and "Old Sport" duties on KMOX due to what was reported to be back problems, said "C'mon, who do I look like...Mr. Trivia?" After a half-second or so pause, Horrigan checked in with the following rejoinder--"Don't answer that."
Headline of the Week (6.24.95)
From the 6.24.95 P-D: "Pena Goes on DL; Caraballo Gets Chance At Second"
Waiting for Walt by MARK BAUSCH
St. Louisans interested in major league baseball are beginning to ask the following questions: How will the Cardinal roster look in 1996? And what can Cardinal fans expect to see during the rest of 1995? If this Cardinal season were a network TV show, (a) it might be cancelled due to low ratings; (b) the media reviews would be...uhhhh...less than favorable; and (c) the show might be called "Waiting for Walt". As in GM Walt Jocketty.
But the long-awaited housecleaning has begun. Manager Joe Torre was fired and replaced by Mike Jorgensen. Todd Zeile was traded and replaced (more or less) by John Mabry. Geronimo Pena's reappearance on the disabled list has given Ramon Caraballo, a recent call-up from Louisville, a chance at the big club's second base starting position.
And the housecleaning was jump-started when Ozzie Smith underwent arthroscopic shoulder surgery back in May, giving rookie Tripp Cromer his long-awaited chance to play shortstop every day in St. Louis.
It seems likely that Mabry, Caraballo, and Cromer will be given every chance to make a positive impression during the rest of the 1995 season...and barring a total collapse, all three of these new faces are likely to play at least some role in the 1996 edition of the Cardinals, especially in light of their meager salaries.
What follows is one man's view of the 1995 Cards and a glimpse into the future of the Cards.
As far as the Redbird starting pitching is concerned, 35 year-old Mike Morgan (acquired from the Cubs in the Zeile deal) will be given the ball every fifth day. Morgan joins a rotation headed by Ken Hill, who has performed at a level less than expected of a $4+ million dollar pitcher, and buttressed by 29 year old rookie Mark Petkovsek, who, as this is written, is working on an 18 inning scoreless streak. 33 year old Danny Jackson, who is still recovering from the effects of thyroid cancer, will form another leg of the rotation. Tom Urbani has bounced back from a stint on the disabled list to pitch well in a couple of starts...he will likely start a dozen or so games in the remainder of the season. And the enigmatic Allen Watson, after a rehab start or two at Arkansas, is another candidate to be the fifth starter come July and August. In the meantime, swing-man Vicente Palacios (the club's leader in strikeouts) serves as the #5 man in the rotation. Alan Benes (currently sidelined with elbow trouble), John Frascatore (now toiling in Louisville) and Brian Barber are also in the mix somewhere...if healthy, Benes is likely to get a "cup of coffee" in September. Unfortunately for Benes and the Cards, he recently suffered a reoccurrence of the elbow problems that have sidelined him for much of the '95 season.
How the starting pitching stacks up in 1996 is anybody's guess. A lot depends on how Petkovsek, Jackson, Urbani, Hill, Watson, and Jackson pitch during the balance of the '95 season...and on the health of Benes. Frankly, all seven of those fellas have question marks of one kind or another surrounding their future careers in St. Louis.
The Cards 1995 relief corps has been strong...Jeff Parrett, Rich DeLucia, John Habyan, Tony Fossas, Rene Arocha, and Tom Henke have formed one of the NL's best squad of relievers. Arocha has shown signs of weakness in 1995...but his rubber arm seems likely to have a few good innings left. It is the opinion of this observer that the Cards relievers aren't quite as good as their stats this year...they've been called to pitch many innings after the cause has already been lost (i.e. the starters have been pasted).
In any event, Henke, who has yet to fail when presented with a save situation, has pledged to retire after the current campaign. Only Mr. Henke knows whether he plans to stick with his stated plans. So the relief corps, while strong, also has to be labelled as a question mark for the '96 season.
Which leaves the position players. Jeepers...this bunch of Cardinals is hard to fathom. Just how good is Ray Lankford? And Scott Cooper? Tom Pagnozzi? Brian Jordan? Bernard Gilkey? All fairly good ballplayers, eh? Who will be around in '96? Who deserves to be around in '96?
One way to evaluate the talent of the Cardinal position players is to look at the 1995 All-Star ballot and ask the following question: How many of the National League names listed on the ballot (or write-in names) are legitimately "better" than the Cardinal at that position? Answers to questions such as these are, of course, subjective. And the answers depend on the criteria used...such as the relative importance of the current season's statistics...the player's past history...as well as his projected future.
What follows is an analysis based on the three aforementioned factors (current numbers, past numbers, and "potential"), with equal weight given to all three. Keep in mind that, in the real world of baseball 1995-style, salaries play an important role in evaluating the relative merits of a given player (not unlike rotisserie baseball!). No salary data are considered in this analysis.
Let's start at first base. The Cards first basemen are Mabry and Gerald Perry. The names Bagwell, Grace, Brogna, Karros, McGriff, and Galarraga stand out as six National Leaguers that are superior to the Cards duo, although Mabry's upside is substantial.
As for second base, Biggio, Boone, DeShields, Garcia, Kent, Lansing, Lemke, Morandini, Sanchez, and Thompson are ten names that most observers feel are superior to the oft-injured Geronimo Pena and his reliable back-up, Jose Oquendo. Caraballo hasn't really played enough games with the Cardinals to be considered...but there is some potential there.
Shortstop? Although the injured Ozzie Smith currently leads the majors in All-Star votes, Cordero, Bell, Dunston, Blauser, Larkin, Weiss, and Vizcaino (for a total of six players) are probably more deserving of 1995 All-Star consideration than the Cards duo of Smith and Cromer. Cromer, though, like Mabry, has upside potential.
And at third base, King, Bonilla, Caminiti, Williams, Jones, Castilla, and Zeile are ahead of the Cardinals Scott Cooper, despite Cooper's two appearances in the mid-summer classic as an American League third baseman. That's a total of seven third sackers in front of the Cardinal candidate.
For the catching position: a total of six NL backstoppers (Daulton, Lopez, Manwaring, Girardi, Hundley, and Piazza) seem to be All-Star material ahead of Tom Pagnozzi. Finally, the outfielders. The Cards trio of Lankford, Gilkey, and Jordan is clearly difficult to evaluate, and in a way, serve as a kind of microcosm for the 1995 Cardinals. Sure, Gilkey's having a pretty good year, and, when the 144 game schedule is finished, Gilkey and/or Jordan may have 90+ RBIs. And Lankford...he STILL shows occasional signs of brilliance.
But the NL All-Star ballot contains many outfielders that, in this opinion, are superior (in one way or another) to any of the three Redbird flychasers, including Alou, Gant, Mondesi, Sanders (Reggie), Jefferies, Walker, Bell, Dykstra, Sheffield, White, Bichette, Grissom, Justice, Bonds, Gwynn, Kelly, McRae, and Sanders (Deion). That's a total of 18.
Here again, Brian Jordan has substantial potential that may someday be realized...assuming he continues to forego the NFL and continue his career as a baseball player.
When the totals are in, it seems that there are at least six players superior to the Cardinal "nominee" at each and every position. At no position do the Cardinals have a player in the league's top three. Combined with one of the league's worst starting rotations (a rotation wracked by injuries)...the Cardinals current record (23-33) doesn't seem too out of line. It therefore seems reasonable that substantial change will come to the Cards roster come 1996.
Furthermore, regarding 1995-96 changes, it is worth noting that Jackson and Tom Pagnozzi are the only Cardinals with guaranteed contracts that run beyond the current 1995 season (Pagnozzi has one season to run while Jackson has two). So it seems likely that many of the names on the current 25-man roster...and especially the prominent names found within the 25-man roster...are likely to be different come 1996. In fact, it is downright inconceivable that the Cardinals team next season will look similar to this year's edition...Walt Jocketty does not appear to be a man to sit still and watch his team fail year after year with the same set of faces.
You can count on that one, sports fans. Continue to tune in to "Waiting for Walt".
Leo Mazzone Talks Pitching by MARK BAUSCH (6.24.95)
Most fellas (and hey, this is the nineties...most gals, too!) who played baseball as a youngster pitched a bit. Pitching is the greatest feeling in the world...even when you get hit hard, the fun of initiating the play...the cat-and-mouse with the batter...the teamwork with the catcher...the anticipation of the umpire's call...in the opinion of many it can't be topped.
Well, maybe getting pounded isn't any fun, but those who pitched know what I mean.
And those who pitched usually enjoy watching quality big league pitching. For the past several seasons, the best pitching staff in all of baseball has been found in Atlanta, Georgia (the home of the NL Braves). And the pitching coach for the Atlanta Braves (since June of 1990) is Leo Mazzone. Devotees of WTBS know Mazzone as the master of the lean forward-rock back.
That is, in the late innings, when the opposition has men on base and the game is tight, Mazzone can be seen sitting on the bench, arms folded...slowing leaning forward and then rocking backward...forward and backward.
I've looked forward to meeting with Mazzone for a long time, and a recent trip to Fulton County Stadium to see the Braves play the Cardinals presented an ideal opportunity. In particular, I wanted to try to get Mazzone to talk about Tom Glavine, a lefthanded pitcher with at least a superficial resemblance to Cardinal lefthander Allen Watson. Watson, of course, is the enigmatic Cardinal pitcher who won his first six decisions as a Cardinal but has not lived up to that initial promise and is now serving a stint on the Cards disabled list with tendonitis in his left elbow.
Inspection of Glavine's record shows that, in his first full season in the major leagues (1988), he was 7-17, with a 4.56 ERA. In his second full season, Glavine began to fulfill the promise that some felt was there all along, as his record was 14-8 with a 3.68 ERA.
Glavine, 29, was graduated from Billireca (MA) High School in 1984, where he was the Boston Globe player of the year in both baseball and hockey. He was the Braves second-round draft choice in the June 1984 free agent draft.
Like Glavine, Allen Watson was also a two-sport star in high school, where he was a guard on the Christ the King (Middle Village NY) nationally-ranked basketball team. Watson, 24, didn't play high school baseball until his senior year, but during that season he garnered the New York City Player of the Year honor. Watson then played baseball for three seasons at the New York Institute of Technology, and was the 21st player selected in the June 1991 free-agent draft.
Watson's first half-year in the majors was in the latter portion of 1993 season. He produced a 6-7 won-loss record that year, and compiled a 4.60 ERA. His first full year (the strike-shortened 1994 season) was in some ways identical to his rookie year (6-5, 5.52 ERA)...so here the Glavine/Watson comparison begins to unravel.
Nevertheless, both are lefthanded, and both, in short minor league careers, posted good (but not outstanding) numbers. I proceeded to try and find out some things about pitching and Tom Glavine from Mr. Leo Mazzone.
Mazzone agreed to speak with me prior to Glavine's recent Fulton County Stadium start vs. Mark Petkovsek. He was a friendly interview subject. Yet, Mazzone was still protective of his pitching staff, and in some ways, careful not to betray of any confidences that he may have with his pitchers. His protectiveness came through, when, about two-thirds of the way through the interview, a few of my questions were a little too probing. Mazzone grinned and said "Who do you work for...this isn't going straight to the Cardinals, is it?"
I then explained the concept of St. Louis Sports Online, and, while looking him straight in the eye, smiled back and assured him that the Cards brass probably wouldn't ever read his interview...
We began with a question about hitting.
StLSO: Leo, what makes for a good major league hitter?
Mazzone: There are several things. Patience, a quick bat, and discipline. Those are three of the most important things. And one more thing. Good hitters have the ability to fight off good pitches.
StLSO: And what does a major league pitcher need to do to get good major league hitters out?
Mazzone: Successful pitchers have to be on the attack. They have to pitch off of the fastball and change speeds. Hitting is timing...and good pitching tries to throw off that timing.
StLSO: Describe Tom Glavine as a pitcher and as an athlete. What are his strengths? What is Glavine's out pitch?
Mazzone: Tom Glavine is what I call a no-count pitcher. What I mean by that is that he can change speeds and location at any time in the count. I've seen Tom win with different styles...I've seen him win games with nine or ten strikeouts and I've seen him win games without striking anyone out. As for his strengths, Tompitches with courage...he's a strong-willed pitcher who has a strong mental approach.
StLSO: Tom Glavine has had some first inning pitching problems. Why?
Mazzone: Look, his last two starts haven't gone that way. I've downplayed those problems, anyway. Enough people remind him of that so I feel like he doesn't need to hear about it from his pitching coach, too.
StLSO: Did you have Tom Glavine in the minor leagues?
Mazzone: Yes, I had him in the Instructional League and in the minor leagues.
StLSO: What did you see in him that gave you confidence that he would turn it around and become a perennial 20-game winner?
Mazzone: Tom Glavine has always had a beautiful, compact delivery. His pitches are quick and they have movement. And his demeanor has always been extremely professional.
StLSO: Baseball people talk about "make-up" a lot when they refer to a prospect's potential. Tell us about Glavine's make-up...
Mazzone: Glavine's make-up is good as it gets. He takes responsibility for what happens on the field behind him, he is very authoritative on the mound, and he hides his emotions well.
StLSO: How hard does Glavine throw?
Mazzone: He's quick...his fastball is 85-87 [MPH].
StLSO: St. Louis baseball fans recall John Tudor as a crafty lefthander who could move the ball in and out, up and down...and get his breaking pitch over for strikes. Where were you in 1985 when Tudor finished the season something like 19-2?
Mazzone: I was in the minor leagues, and I did not see Tudor in '85.
StLSO: St. Louis fans are looking for Allen Watson to turn it around and become a bona-fide major league pitcher. What do you see when you watch Allen Watson pitch?
Mazzone: Yeah, he's a good pitcher...but of course the Cardinal people would have a better idea about him.
Look, the important part of being a pitching coach is the time you spend with the individual pitcher...trying to get him to improve his pitches.
As far as pitching in the major leagues is concerned, a pitcher's mental approach is very important...his composure, his command...you cannot predict how many games a pitcher will win in the major leagues on the basis of his minor league record.
One thing that's important. All major league pitchers have to learn to face adversity...for many of these pitchers the adversity they face in the majors is the first that they've faced in their careers. What is important is how they handle that adversity...here again composure is extremely important.
StLSO: Thank you, Leo Mazzone.
Mazzone: Thank you.
KSD Announces Rams Radio Lineup by MARK BAUSCH (6.24.95)
As outlined in the 6.24 edition of the Post-Dispatch:
The KSD radio broadcast team for the inaugural season of the St. Louis Rams will consist of Gary Bender, who will serve as the play-by-play man, and Jack Snow, who will provide color commentary. St. Louisans recognize Bender as a former resident of the Gateway City who most recently was the play-by-play broadcaster for TNT's Sunday night NFL telecasts. Bender worked at KMOX in the 1970s.
Snow was on the LA Rams broadcast team during the 1994 season.
Of more significance, perhaps, is the team that KSD has established to blanket the airwaves with Rams coverage, including:
*Mike Bush, the KSDK sports anchor, will put together pre-and post-game commentary.
*Frank Cusumano, a sports reporter at KSDK and KFNS, and Pete Peterson, KTVI's new sports director, will handle sideline analysis.
*Snow and Bush will conduct a "Locker Room Show"
*Hall of Fame tight end Jackie Smith and former football Cardinal Keith Wortman will work the phones for a post-game call-in show
The management at KSD appears to be pulling out all the stops in an effort to do it up right as far as Rams radio coverage is concerned. It will seem a bit strange not tuning the dial to 1120 AM...StLSO subscribers with memories of the Blues mid-80's two-year wander from KMOX (to KXOK, I believe) are welcome to contribute their recollections of those days.
Finally, Sunday's P-D sports section contained two Rams-related articles. This listener found it a bit odd that the only reference to the Rams during that same day's two-and-one-half hour KMOX "Sports on a Sunday Morning" radio show, the granddaddy (and most comprehensive) of all St. Louis-area sports shows on radio, came when Stampede GM Jim Otis was asked his opinion as to the effect of the presence of the Rams on Stampede ticket sales.
Here's hoping that this was an aberration, and that KMOX plans to blanket the Rams with their own brand of high-quality coverage.
Kevin Slaten Fired at KFNS by MARK BAUSCH (6.24.95)
KFNS general manager Bob Burch told the Post-Dispatch that he fired afternoon drive personality Kevin Slaten on Thursday night, June 22. As reported by P-D special correspondent Keith Schildroth, Burch said he fired Slaten at a KFNS reception for Rams running back Jerome Bettis.
The reception was held at the Frontenac Hilton hotel in honor of Bettis, who has apparently inked a two-year contract with KFNS to host a show on St. Louis' all-sports radio station.
Slaten claims that he and Burch argued over a contract extension, and that he (Slaten) is in the last year of a two-year deal. Burch denied that, and told the P-D that the firing was not over a new contract.
In an ironic twist, Slaten had visited the Busch Stadium press box the day prior to his firing. KFNS staffers said that this was his first visit there in several years.
Slaten, who left the game early, was stopped on his way out by former Cardinal GM (and frequent Slaten target) Dal Maxvill. The two shook hands, talked for a few moments, and seemed to smoke the peace pipe. "The King" should have known that this was an omen...and perhaps the beginning of the end!
There is no question that Slaten is a unique presence in the St. Louis radio market. Insiders expect him to pop up somewhere soon...bringing his bombastic style (and decent ratings) to another St. Louis-area station.
Let's see...you've got Kevin Horrigan and Charles Brennan. And you've got Steve and D.C. Could Kevin and Dal be next?!
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