The day began with the announcement that the Cards had
signed Yadier Molina to a 4-year-deal, and this was met by big cheers from the
crowd. I saw a lot of big name players
signing autographs: Albert Pujols
(rarely smiling but sporting a lot of bling – huge watch, diamond-studded
wedding ring, and the World Series ring), Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright, Mark
Mulder, Lou Brock, Danny Cox, Ken Reitz, and Rick Ankiel. Some autographs from lesser known players
like Ken Reitz were free, but most required a donation – the biggest charge
being $175 for the privilege of meeting Pujols. That’s a bit too rich for my blood.
On the main stage, Bill DeWitt III spoke about the ballpark
village plans. Centene Corp had made a deal
to open up an office as part of the complex and other plans called for a
variety of shops and restaurants and 250 condos in Phase I. DeWitt hoped there would be significant
progress in time for the 2009 All Star Game and that some of the parties could
be held under tents in the village. The
$650 million project will cost more than the stadium, so it’s gonna take a while.
Mark Mulder spoke about making some progress in his recovery
from surgery, but he would make no promises as to a return date. It sure would be great to have a healthy
Mulder back in the rotation, but I won’t get my hopes up.
New GM John Mozeliak talked with Mike Shannon. He talked about his excitement over the
Molina deal and defended the Matt Clement deal, which he felt had a low
financial risk and a huge upside if Clement is truly back to form. Clement was supposed to attend that day, but
his flight was canceled. Vince Coleman didn’t show up either but no
explanation was given – I suspect a killer tarp is involved.
Tony La Russa took the stage to lukewarm applause. There’s always been some mistrust of Tony,
and I get the feeling Cardinal fans are feeling wounded by the departure of so
many fan favorites – Edmonds, Eckstein, Rolen – and unsure of what the team will achieve this year. Tony said he looked for strong competition in
the division from the Reds and the Brewers, but that he was confident this
young Cardinal team would surprise some people. Inexplicably, Tony lambasted Adam Kennedy, stating that he was “really
upset” that Adam had not bothered to attend the Warm Up and say thank you to
the fans. Tony said Adam had a lot to prove in Spring Training and just might
lose his starting spot at 2nd Base if he doesn’t prove it. This outburst annoyed me and made me feel
like Tony just needs drama in his life, and now that Rolen is gone, he’s got to
be startin’ somethin’ with another player. Tony said he expected big things from Colby Rasmus this Spring and he
would not be surprised if Rasmus stepped up and made the team, just the way
Pujols did in 2001. He said he expects
PJ Walters will start the season in the minors, but that he too could make the
team with a strong showing in Jupiter.
I grabbed some lunch (ballpark type food) and bought a
“Smooch Your Pooch” cap for a friend. The cap had been signed by La Russa and
was being sold to benefit his ARF foundation. ARF also sponsored a benefit concert this weekend.
This was the 12th annual Winter Warm Up, and it
was the first one I attended. I had a great time and plan to be back next
year. If you’re a big Cardinal fan, you
should definitely check it out next year. Three days of fun for $40 is a great
bargain, and you’ll be supporting a good cause too – the Cardinals Care
I arrived at my first Winter Warm Up around midday and
caught a presentation by Ted Savage (left). I
had not heard of Ted, but he told us he was from East St Louis and had played in the big
leagues from 1960 – 1973 on 8 different teams, including the Cardinals. Ted’s talk was very appropriate for MLK
weekend, as he revealed he is writing a book that will tell the truth about
racial prejudice and segregation in baseball in his era.
Ted’s stories were sad and eye-opening, but he had a sense
of humor, too. He described being forced to stay in a
funeral home on his first trip to Spring Training, where the hazing involved
someone putting a dead body on top of him while he slept. He then talked about playing in the minor
leagues, where he and his family had to stay with two other players and their
families in a shared attic divided only by bed sheets. The landlord chastised
them for using too much water and asked them to synchronize their bathroom
times to cut down on flushes. He said
that managers frequently addressed him by the N-word, and that he once was
leading the league in several categories but only offered a league minimum
contract of $6,500 because the manager told him “white boys need more money than
Ted’s funniest and most hard-to-believe story involved
August A. Busch II. Once on a road trip,
Gussie had approached him while he was hanging out with Lou Brock and Curt
Flood and offered to give them a ride to a hotel. They informed Gussie they were staying in the
‘hood – not at the same hotel as the white players because that hotel didn’t
allow blacks. Gussie was outraged and told them he would be back shortly and
would fix the situation. He returned and
told them they would now be staying in the same hotel with the white players because
he had bought the hotel! I enjoyed Ted’s
talk and hope he does write the book.
I walked around a bit, checking out the memorabilia booths,
the silent auction items, the children’s game area, and the main
auditorium. This room was kind of a zoo,
as the overflowing autograph lines blocked off access to the seating area in
front of the stage. The volunteers did
their best to herd people, but it was just a huge crowd of Cardinal fans, which
made things a bit claustrophobic.
I’m not really into autographs, nor am I into waiting on
line all day, so I passed on the opportunities to meet the players. I was still
able to get some good photos from outside the Six-Flags-type lines. On Sunday, I saw Colby Rasmus, Tony La Russa,
Randy Flores, Scott Spiezio, Braden Looper, Todd Worrell, and Chris Duncan
amongst others. Many of the players
would take a turn on stage and get interviewed by the KTRS broadcasters who
were broadcasting live. Colby talked briefly about how he was looking forward to his second trip
to Spring Training with the knowledge that he had a good shot to make the
team. He mentioned that Jim Edmonds had
been a good mentor to him when they played together last Spring.
Mark Lamping talked about the baseball village project,
saying it was moving forward but probably wouldn’t be completed in time for the
2009 All Star game. He also defended the Edmonds deal, stating that Edmonds
had requested a trade, the team got a legitimate prospect for him, and bristled
at the allegation from a fan that the move was a salary dump.
I attended fellow MLblogger Matthew Leach’s talk, which was
also quite interesting. Leach talked about his daily routine as the Cardinals’
beat writer for mlb.com. He talked about
being patient and allowing players to get comfortable with him, and how this
had been necessary in his relationships with Carpenter and Edmonds. Regarding the Rolen and La Russa feud, he felt there were wrongs on both
sides, a basic personality clash, and that the outcome of Rolen being traded
was really the only solution. Leach also said that last year was his best year
so far in working with Pujols, who had come to accept his role as the public
face of the team.
I had a fun day at the Warm Up, meeting other die-hard Cards
fans, seeing the players, and getting fired up for the season.
After letting him test the free agent market, the Cards have signed Aaron Miles to a one-year deal worth reportedly $1.4 million. I can’t get overly excited about this, but I guess it’s a good investment. TLR is clearly a big Miles fan, valuing the fact that he can plug him into various positions, and he seems a good back-up option for uncertain infielders like Kennedy and Izturis.