It Ain’t Started Til It’s Started

Larry Levin

I’ve been reflecting on Opening Day Week in St. Louis, and am pondering whether today (Friday, April 17, 2015) will be forever remembered as Kris Bryant Day in Chicago, as the much-awaited phenom makes his debut.

First, back to Monday and the 47,875 attendees, comprising the largest crowd in stadium history

When you watch the Clydesdales come into the stadium on opening day it’s reminiscent of Monty Python’s famous catchphrase, And Now for Something Completely Different.

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I mean, really. If you’re not a St. Louisan, what the heck do horses have to do with baseball? For those uninitiated, it wouldn’t seem any less weird than snakes slithering ahead of a Zamboni at a National Hockey League contest (come to think of it, I would probably pay good money to see that). 

But here it’s something special, tied to the rites of spring St. Louis passage. When the big steeds trot around the Busch Stadium field, equal partners with the convertible-transported prestigious Cardinals of yore, one thing is clear: If you dont put on a little shiver, you ain’t no St Louisan.

By tthe time the mid-afternoon game begins , the emotional drain has already commenced; after all, who among us really likes having to compete with the entire white-collar population of downtown for scarce parking stalls? Not to mention that the amount of beer consumed by gametime downtown is probably equivalent to that of the entire state of Utah for a month.

Now the eagle, swooping down from the heavens to roost atop a human trainer, thats something to which everyone can relate. i mean sure, A-B uses an eagle but everyone knows the eagle. Eagle is American. American is cool. Therefore the eagle is cool for everyone. Unless, of course, the eagle discovers a vole underneath the perfectly manicured playing field, then things might go awry, but that’s never happened.

And the cheers for newcomer Justin Heyward were quintessentially St. Louis. Just as were the later, predictable boos for former drug enhancee Ryan Braun.

After that, Monday’s game was, as it turned out, an absolute dud. Errors galore on both sides (four alone between Kolten Wong and Brewers’ shortstop Jean Segura), and an overall anemic effort.

But there’s nothing to remind us of the long grind that is a major-league baseball season than…well, than the next game. For Wednesday proved a much more solid effort, with Lance Lynn outdueling Wily Peralta, and Thursday John Lackey threw a gem, with the Cards’ bullpen once again shutting the door.

We’ve learned a few interesting things this week about the Cards and the remaining 154 games (which actually, is what the length of the season was long ago and, if MLB wants to expand the playoffs, it may be again in the future):

1. The Cards are very good but will have to work hard to conquer their Central Division foes. There’s no pushovers, as the first-week Reds’ series made perfectly clear.

2. There still could be a shortage of power, or at least yard power. Many doubles will be stroked by this team, but four-baggers remain in question, which may be why….

3. Management, at both the Mozeliak and Matheny levels, have found a way to turn up the speed on the basepaths. Six stolen bags after eight games? The gods must be crazy! But I’m definitely a fan.

4. The pitching so far has been, well, nutty good. Two and a half runs per game and the bullpen has mostly been lights out. Trevor’s up to his old hijinx, but seems to be sucking it up after all those balls and finding the seemingly microscopic strike zone.

The thing about baseball is, it’s a long-term thingy. You gotta find the right blend of patience and insistence, and that’s what makes a manager special. Matheny’s had a lot of that blend in his first three seasons, with great success despite flawed rosters and substantial injuries. And the organization’s track record over more than a decade has been just outrageous. And the last four seasons? NL championship round each year, World Series twice, championship once. Giants be damned, I’ll take the chance to win every year, which we got.

So while we wait for Bryant’s first four-homer, 10-RBI game this afternoon, let’s just be grateful that, once again, we have the Cardinals and no one else does.