On the Mets
The road-weary Cardinals did not arrive at their New York hotel until 4:00 A.M. this morning, according to Braden Looper. When the season concludes, their 35 games in 34 days trip will go down in MLB history as the longest stretch a team has ever endured without a day off. So far, they are 11-20 with four to go.
The slumping Mets must be happy to see the Cardinals arrive as the Birds are just 1-5 against the Mets this season, 1-2 at Shea. The three home losses to open the season were decisive (totaling 20 runs to two) and looking back, appropriately set the tone for the unpleasant 2007 Cardinals campaign. Last time the Cardinals were in New York, at the end of June, marked their previous low-water spot in the season at 10.5 games out of first place.
There is some consolation in that the Cards lead the Mets in their all-time series, 353-316 and since 2001 at 26-17. Then there is the 2006 NLCS…
Tony La Russa does not relish playing the spoiler's role and in fact, didn't even acknowledge it. "We want to make them regret they didn't play it (in June)," he said with a wry grin. "We just want to end the season feeling good."
The just-ended Milwaukee series was on the minds of the Cardinals coaches. When it was suggested to La Russa that it would be a series remembered in Milwaukee for some time, he replied, "It should be. It was a different response. Especially since I and my first base coach both went out of our way to tell Prince Fielder it (getting hit) was not intentional."
Dave McKay, the first base coach in question, was clearly shown on television cameras trying to play the role of peacemaker. McKay was just as calm and philosophical about it the next day. "I said, ‘That's enough. It's over.'" directed at the Brewers bench. "I told Prince Fielder we don't throw at opponents for getting base hits – only to protect. I told them that whether they believe me or not," said McKay.
My view is that the Brewers self-destructed during the Cardinals series. Being distracted by the umpiring when up by ten runs was amazing to me. I wonder if Ned Yost didn't pick up some of mentor Bobby Cox' less-admirable personality traits, specifically harping at the umps.
Not surprisingly, La Russa didn't seem to mind the long night Wednesday. "It was a good game to win, so it was a good plane ride." He had the team skip batting practice on getaway day in Milwaukee but they had a regular routine in New York on Thursday. La Russa noted that "everything is compressed" with three cities in three days.
At 4:20 P.M., I was standing next to Skip Schumaker's clubhouse stall when La Russa stopped and gave Skip a quick peek at the lineup card. The outfielder broke out in an ear-to-ear grin. When La Russa walked on, I asked Skip if he was in center. He said, "That depends on whether Jim (Edmonds) can go." Rick Ankiel was the eventual starter there with Schumaker in left.
Speaking of Edmonds, La Russa said he "doesn't want to push" him as Jim has some continuing groin discomfort. Officially, he is available to pinch hit. La Russa is concerned that he will aggravate the injury if he starts, but did leave the door open for Edmonds to start in the season finale on Sunday.
La Russa had "no news" on Juan Encarnacion's condition.
I asked La Russa if he still planned to give Ryan Ludwick time at first base next spring. While the manager acknowledged that he had Ludwick take balls at first during this season, he said "It is better for him to zero in on the outfield." But, La Russa left the door open a bit, saying "you look at camp and see what you've got".
La Russa noted that while Albert Pujols looked better in his earlier at-bats on Wednesday, "he didn't look so good on the last one". He would say nothing more about the situation other than Pujols had been cleared medically to start on Thursday.
La Russa had mixed reviews on young pitchers Kelvin Jimenez and Andy Cavazos, pointing out that they have been good at times, "showing they belong here", but at others they "struggled", "still showing they have stuff they need to improve" on. The manager says the two have "Major League stuff" and that they both "got valuable experience" this season.
Troy Percival, sidelined by elbow soreness in recent days, has been cleared to pitch. When I asked him about it, Percival seemed surprised. "I signed with a tender elbow, so it goes with the job. I could have pitched the last few days," the reliever said.
Regarding Russ Springer, the manager said "it would be nice not to push" him. He has been slowed by "soreness in his neck and arm". La Russa thinks Springer can be available in Pittsburgh over the coming weekend.
Coming off a good start Wednesday, though not slated to start any weekend games, Brad Thompson may still be asked to pitch on Sunday. La Russa said it will depend on how the game goes. Thompson seemed surprised when I told him that.
La Russa was non-committal when asked if Thompson and Todd Wellemeyer will have to compete for starting roles next spring. "I can't answer until I know who the guys are," he said. "I consider him (Thompson) as a guy who can do either job (starting and relieving)," La Russa stated.
I spoke with shortstop David Eckstein, who continues to sidestep contract questions, not wanting it to be a "distraction". "There is nothing I can do about that now," he said. He is pleased over his recent play and told me his recent back problems that sidelined him were rooted in plays in the Arizona series and not related in any way to the problems that put him on the disabled list this summer.
Everytime I see Aaron Miles in the clubhouse wearing his black-framed glasses, I ask him if he is going to go through with corrective surgery. He is still not sure, but noted that Schumaker did it and is very pleased with the results.
I had a long chat with Memphis skipper Chris Maloney, who is traveling with the big club in September. Look for that exclusive audio interview this coming weekend.
Memphis hitting coach Rick Eckstein is also with the Cardinals. He is again scheduled to be manager Davey Johnson's bench coach for Team USA. He plans to report to camp on October 22 in Arizona. I will be interviewing him there near the end of next month, as Team USA plays a series of games against Arizona Fall League squads.
Press box full
Though the stands were not full despite the tight pennant race, the press box was unusually busy, especially in the area designated for visiting press. Turns out the Philly papers are covering the Mets first-hand as the two clubs are separated by just one game in the NL East.
More on Moon Man
This was the first chance I had to congratulate Mike Shannon since his 50-year celebration last weekend. He was humble about the whole thing. "I had no idea the extent of it. They really pulled out all the stops," Shannon said. Mike shared the wealth, too. "It was especially good for the family," he explained. Shannon proudly told me he has been blessed with 14 grandchildren.
I will close with a nod to the Cardinals icon, Shannon. That's all from New York for now. I hope you enjoyed this report as much as I enjoyed bringing it to you.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com.
© 2007 stlcardinals.scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed.