Having returned from covering the St. Louis Cardinals’ annual Winter Warm-Up this past weekend, I thought I would share some miscellaneous thoughts and experiences.
After interviewing about 30 players and executives over the course of the weekend, it got to be kind of funny as the same media members tended to ask the same questions over and over. One of them was if the player had the opportunity to talk with new manager Mike Matheny yet.
Mitchell Boggs replied that he and Mike were on one of the Caravans together so they chatted a bit. One writer followed up by asking if they had a lot of extra time to talk on the bus. Boggs turned very serious and said, “The manager of the St. Louis Cardinals does not ride the bus!” Of course, we all laughed.
How can I find… ?
Each of the interviews from WWU is posted at TheCardinalNation.com in its entirety for subscribers interested in hearing what everyone said in detail. Bits and pieces are elsewhere around the net, but I worked very hard to get everything in one place. I also have some special articles ahead this week. In addition, a group of player photos is coming that is far superior to anything I could have taken.
I was amazed that several hundred people were lined up in the hotel lobby for multiple hours ahead of WWU opening each day. Team officials did not release a count but seemed happy with attendance. The only blemish was Yadier Molina‘s no-show.
The end for TLR
Tony La Russa, likely in his Cardinals swan song, signed autographs for at least an extra hour and perhaps even longer on Monday, but decided to skip talking with the media. He did make a nice speech at the end of Sunday night’s Baseball Writers Dinner.
After a number of jokes at the expense of Albert Pujols were thrown out by presenters, two dinner speakers came out loud and strong in telling fans to respect what the new Angel had accomplished during his 11 years with St. Louis. The two were La Russa and his successor.
La Russa was among those who skipped Tuesday’s White House visit. 21 members of the 2011 Champions were scheduled to attend. I did not count them all in the White House video.
The Writers’ Dinner went extra innings
Held Sunday evening, The Baseball Writers’ Association of America 54th Annual Dinner is one of the last three of its type in the country that remains. The proceeds go to scholarships, a worthy cause, and with a reported 1,400 in attendance, it should have been a financial success. With so much to celebrate, this year’s program ran 3 ½ hours, considerably past what organizers had planned.
When asked the next day for his impression of the evening, Kyle McClellan’s reply was initially blunt, but he quickly tempered his comments.
“Long. It was very lengthy,” the local product said. “It was good though to see everybody again… that is one of the cool things about St. Louis, the history. To have guys like Ozzie and Lou Brock there, you don’t have that with a lot of organizations.”
The audio of the entire dinner program can he heard at KMOX.com.
Pujols: Wash, rinse, repeat
On Monday, team president Bill DeWitt III mentioned his father, club chairman Bill DeWitt, Jr., was caught a little off guard by the large turnout of reporters awaiting him on Sunday. To his credit, the chairman patiently answered questions for almost 20 minutes. Most of the time was spent rehashing the Pujols situation rather than looking forward. It seemed every time a question was asked in a new direction, the next ones returned to number 5. At least that is what I remember thinking at the time.
You can read stories about that all over the web and I have the complete audio of Bill DeWitt Jr’s remarks posted on the main site (audio is subscriber-only).
The next day, DeWitt III perhaps correctly noted the fans seem to have accepted the Pujols situation better than the media, in fact more positively than the club executives expected.
“8 out of 10 of the questions were about the Pujols situation,” DeWitt III recalled. “It is a subject of endless fascination, I think, mostly with the media. Because I think what is amazing about it is that our fans get it. The reaction that I saw following the decision kind of surprised me in a way – that it was really so understanding. Usually you kind of get beat up for whatever decision you make one way or the other. There are two camps. These are decisions that are not easy and I think people understood that we gave it our best shot.
“As Tony (La Russa) said last night at the Writers’ Dinner, it is just a tough system that is created that would allow a player to end up somewhere else after he made such a great contribution to one club. He was saying, ‘Don’t blame the Cardinals. Don’t blame Albert.’ I think there is something to that,” DeWitt III said.
At this point, the team president went into what the Cardinals considered doing, but did not.
“Our fan base is so knowledgeable that there were some things that we were tempted to say about how things went down. Not so much negative against Pujols or anything like that, but just defending the way we approached it, going back over time – having given it a good shot two years ago, one year ago, then in this off-season. I think there were some accusations about if we should have done it earlier and things of that nature.
“You can go back in time and I think the instinct we had was to lay it all out there. But then, we saw the reaction. And the reaction was overwhelmingly, I think, sympathetic to the way we handled it. And given that reaction, we just decided to let it go. Let the last word be theirs. I think that was probably a good move because any time you just get into a ‘he said, she said’ pissing match, it doesn’t leave a good taste,” DeWitt III said.
The team president suspects time will heal some of the wounds.
“I still think in my heart of hearts – even though he signed a personal services agreement with Anaheim which commits him to wearing an Angels cap forever, it seems – something about it makes me wonder or just think if he will have a reception back here at some point some day that will be better than the way it left. So, we will see. We wish him well,” DeWitt III concluded.
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