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Are recent up-and-comers showing, despite the best quote of the century from Jason Heyward, that the young guns of the St. All of that aside, or rather taking all of that into account, do the stats of the first seven games of the season present a smarter starting lineup than Mike Matheny puts on the field nightly?
Having asked that question, and sometimes being less than an advocate for Matheny, I should denote here that- of late- I am more a fan of Matheny than I have been in the past. In short, do the stats show that there are better players on this team if they were placed into different lineup positions? While Matt Carpenter holds the everyday number one spot, his OBP (a critical piece for the lead-off guy) is currently sitting at .394 after 27 at bats. It should be noted that number three in many lineups (including STL lineups of old, read: Albert Pujols) have included players with pop off the bat. Moving to the power slot of number four, players such as Randal Grichuk and Johnny Peralta have patrolled this position. Every city has its admirable, diehard fans, but baseball fandom really is a whole different animal in St.
How Cardinals fans are regarded, though, has become one of the key battles of this postseason. Rany Jazayerli spoke for many on my Twitter feed, anyway, when he wrote this in Grantland: "Believe me, I get it.
Not that this is a playoff thing; when I arrived back in August, the game was on in the shuttle, the driver living and dying with each pitch.
When I went for a run in Citygarden, the number of people (not just kids) wearing Cardinals attire was overwhelming.
I've been to Citi Field as a Mets fan, cringing enough times when David Wright or Jose Reyes or Carlos Beltran received this treatment from the home crowd, to know what it feels like from the inside. So as a result, you feel the importance of playoff baseball at Busch Stadium, without the contrast between cheer and boo. Really, the problem here is that we've come to assume arrogance of fans goes hand-in-hand with team success.
But if we're trying to actually determine whether there's any merit to the idea that Cardinals fans really do stand out, what is better than the huge sample size of an actual crowd at Busch Stadium? The Budweiser Clydesdales marched in lockstep around the warning track, prior to Game 1 of the NLCS. There was a time in baseball history where Matt Moore was ranked above Bryce Harper and Mike Trout on prospect lists. A longtime fixture in center field for the Cardinals, Jim Edmonds walked into camp Wednesday saying he's willing to do whatever he can to help coach Mike Matheny and General Manager John Mozeliak -- he just doesn't know what that is yet. A word of advice for Angels fans hysterical about the state of the roster: Check your calendars.
Angels owner Arte Moreno recently told reporters he's "probably going to be out" on the big-name free agents, because his club is only about $4 million below the $189 million luxury-tax threshold and because Moreno has long been hesitant to exceed it.
Moreno has stated in the past, and told me as recently as Spring Training, that he would never rebuild. But next year's free-agent class is nowhere close to as talented as this year's, which is especially deep at the position the Angels most urgently need to upgrade. Do you think (outside of Minor League signings, waivers, etc.) that this is the roster we are going into Spring Training with? The switch-hitting Daniel Nava has fared much better against righties throughout his career and the right-handed-hitting Craig Gentry has been more productive against lefties. In your opinion, what other options do the Angels have in order to obtain an everyday left fielder? In free agency, I see only two: They either exceed the luxury tax, or they save some money on Wilson's contract. What pitchers do you see most likely to be traded, and who would you hypothesize fills out the Angels' starting rotation on Opening Day? Wilson's name has come up the most frequently, but at the Winter Meetings, teams weren't willing to take on more than a quarter of the $20 million owed to him next season.
If the Angels do keep their eight-man rotation intact, I'd be curious to see if they consider moving Santiago to the bullpen, to serve as something of a seventh-inning reliever. The Angels would probably be fine with Giavotella ending up as the starting second baseman again next season.
I can speak to this because I've been at all but two, PNC Park in Pittsburgh and Marlins Park in Miami (strangely enough, the city where I've spent the vast majority of my life).

Louis Cardinals, is there a better lineup hiding in the stats than the one that manager Mike Matheny puts on the field nightly? Louis, Game 3 of the World Series will begin with the essential definition of the Cardinals largely determined by public opinion. On our site, Will Leitch has battled for them valiantly -- but Will is one of them, thus his arguments are rapidly dismissed by many, in the same way no anthropologist would be taken at face value about his own people.
I've seen too many people, normally lucid, just declaring that they hate the Cardinals and their fans, and they can't even say why.
To accept it, we really have to work hard to separate perception from reality, and I'm just not sure we can. Louis is a better overall fan experience personally, as some kind of referendum on their own fanaticism about their own team. In 2009, the rental car saleswoman expressed disappointment I wouldn't get to see the Cardinals play, since they were out of town. It happens through cheering only, a monochromatic sound that stands out more than it otherwise would, once you've gone to other venues.
They don't generally walk around -- again, in my experience -- putting down other fan bases.
And why on earth should the fact that the Cardinals are winning a lot change anything about how we regard this behavior by their fans? And Thursday night, he reminded us that he still has it in him to be that pitcher when he pitched a near no-no. Louis Cardinals win Game 7 of the 2004 NLCS against the Houston Astros and advance to the World Series.
This is the time to strike, though Moreno is seemingly reluctant to do so because he isn't certain he can prevent exceeding the threshold again in 2017 (the percentage jumps from 17.5 to 30 for repeat offenders).
The Angels have chased a few second basemen this offseason -- Neil Walker, Chase Utley and, to a lesser extent, Ben Zobrist -- and could seek others. And until Alex Gordon, Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton come off the board, I'm not ruling the Angels out. There are some appealing, affordable options remaining in the market, including Gerardo Parra, Will Venable and Denard Span. They are, in alphabetical order: Andrew Heaney, Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago, Weaver and Wilson. 2014 was the strongest the bullpen had been in a long time, and that's when the Angels led the league in wins. His high walk rate (4.0 for his career) doesn't necessarily translate well in that role, but he's a left-hander with good stuff and prior experience in the bullpen. He's cheap, he's a spark, and he gives them adequate offensive production at the bottom of the lineup.
I judge them based on aesthetics, food, surrounding area, fan experience and, well, the press box.
They are a model organization which has produced, as measured by most metrics, oodles of talent.
I'm as tired as anyone of their golly-gee-whiz-we-just-can't-help-being-great-fans shtick, and I'm as exasperated as anyone that their shtick actually works. If a fan maintains what we might call "the Cardinals fan ideal" for a team that makes fans really suffer, is that fan more impressive, individually, than the mass of fans who stick with the Cardinals through thick and slightly less thick? Covering the NLCS, Dodger Stadium was picturesque and lovely, filled with thousands of Dodger partisans.
We've met enough put-upon fans who finally win and unleash their anger on us -- or front-running fans who root to be part of the winning side -- to assign that behavior to Cardinals fans prematurely. A sea of red-clad fans were standing at their seats, clapping in time to the music, giving extended standing ovations to, let's face it, some horsies. Nearly two full months remain in the offseason, with many of the top free agents still on the board and, yes, some additional trade chips at the Angels' disposal. Moreno has been a lightning rod for criticism over the years, most notably for his handling of the Josh Hamilton ordeal, but one thing you can't knock him for is not spending money. They have a hole in left field, and they're paying so much money for a big-name left fielder to play elsewhere that they can't properly address the issue for themselves. Even if he doesn't, though, I wouldn't consider the Angels a team "in limbo." With the second Wild Card, 86 to 88 wins can get you in the playoffs. They have starting-pitching depth to trade from, can save some money if a team is willing to take on a sizeable amount of Wilson's 2016 salary, and they could still try to upgrade left field.

But they signed non-guaranteed contracts, which means the Angels are on the hook for at most a quarter of their salaries if they part ways with them before Opening Day. That would mean Matt Shoemaker, Tyler Skaggs and Nick Tropeano all start the season in Triple-A. Street and Smith make up the final six outs, while Salas, Rasmus, LaFromboise and Guerra (a Rule 5 Draft pick) can't be optioned. In Cliff Pennington, the Angels at least have someone who can sub in for defense when the Angels lead late in a game. Wrigley Field and Fenway Park are unmatched in history and charm, but they come up short in most of the other departments. Louis several times this year for Sports on Earth, and several times over the past few years as well.
We're trying to get at two key ideas here, "different" and "more," and both in the aggregate.
I mean, my shuttle driver from the airport, first thing, asked me if I had "Cardinals fever" last week. I loved seeing baseball matter to them, just as I did seeing it matter to the Cardinal faithful. A woman I met last weekend didn't tell her daughter to move her wedding to November because obviously, the Cardinals were going to win.
Then again, I root for a team who had a fan arrested this week for threatening players and management of the team he roots for.
The "Best Fans" argument, it seems to me, boils down to this: Those who show up do so often, and they support their team unfailingly, while acting in a civil way toward opponents -- not universally, mind you, but to a greater extent than at other stadiums. I'd like the Mets to beat them every time they play, but Cardinals fans will receive no hate from me -- not even if the Cardinals are in the playoffs for the next 1,000 years. The Angels' Opening Day payroll is currently projected to be at about $165 million, which would be their highest ever and nearly $20 million greater than the start of 2015. I expect the budget to open up heading into the 2017 season, even though another year of Hamilton's contract will remain.
The same can be said for right-handed power hitter Steve Pearce, who is appealing to the Angels and could factor into a platoon. The Angels could be selling low on a potential All-Star next season and shouldn't deal him unless the savings is significant. When I checked in at the hotel earlier this season and mentioned I'd be returning in October, the woman at the desk said to me, "Better book now, the playoffs are coming here. Louis back in 2011, a few weeks after the season, and asked the shuttle driver how she was doing, her response to me was this: "Oh, fine.
What she said was, "I asked her to move her wedding, just in case the Cardinals go to the World Series. I don't believe Mets fans would view him, or the many other disturbing things Twitter has to offer from Mets fans, as representative.
And if they don't get anyone else, I wouldn't rule out the possibility of Yunel Escobar eventually becoming the second baseman if Kaleb Cowart or Kyle Kubitza really impress. The Cardinals, to this anecdotal observer, seem to mean more to more people than other teams do in other cities. This is an active choice made by a crowd 50,000 strong, again and again, to cheer their own and treat opponents with civility, noticeably. Wilson, Joe Smith and Fernando Salas -- making upwards of $48 million combined next season -- will all be free agents, and the luxury-tax threshold should go up with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. I still think at least one starting pitcher will get traded, either to fill a hole in left field or second base.
I could no sooner root for the Cardinals, or anyone other than the team I've supported since childhood, than I could accept an argument that Carlos Beltran is soft.
And if the players who actually play in front of these fans feel that it's different, for easily discernible reasons, exactly how is that perception different than the reality?
Loved the "Take Me Out to the Ballgame", though.) My point is, this isn't somehow localized within the ballpark. Asking a fan base -- fan short for fanatical -- to be humble to the point of self-deprecation is awfully silly.

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