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2012 Cardinals finding unexpected motivation

As that great baseball philosopher and native St. Louisan Yogi Berra once famously uttered,

“Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.”

Despite the benefits derived from physical preparation, scouting and even stats, there can be no dispute that motivation and state of mind also play an important part in athletic performance. Yet their inherent inability to be identified, let alone quantified, can be challenging to the writer, or viewer or fan, let alone coaches and managers.

It is only natural that here in the early days of the St. Louis Cardinals spring training camp that the focus of many outsiders looking in, especially nationally, is on trying to assess the reaction to what has been lost.

The questions are not without merit. After all, 2012 marks the first time since 1995 that Cardinals camp does not include Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan and the first since 2000 in which Albert Pujols is not present. All three are potential future Hall of Famers.

The new manager has no experience in his job, the pitching coach is relatively unproven and the players signed to replace Pujols carry age and injury-related questions. They all have to step in and meld with the returnees to try to equal the World Championship journey of 2011.

Mike Matheny is still enjoying his managerial honeymoon period with his career 0-0 record. He has received high marks from many corners for his personality and approach.

One such example is his motivational “Quote of the Day,” shared each morning of spring camp. Whether it is resonating with his team remains to be seen, but a segment of the press and fans appear to have bought in wholeheartedly.

Matheny is also showing restraint with the media. Closing a national television interview aired Tuesday, the skipper was asked, “Are you going to try to win without Albert?” I immediately cringed, instinctively bracing for a patented La Russa reaction.

Instead, Matheny simply replied with long and well-articulated praise for what Pujols meant to him personally, to the team and the city. He closed with a reminder that the 2012 Cardinals will be ready.

Earlier that morning, I read an even more encouraging Matheny quote, this one about what he is seeing in his players. Whereas one might have expected at least a bit of complacency in the troops coming off the successful 2011 campaign, the new manager is viewing just the opposite.

The strong impression is that those remaining behind after the well-publicized departures feel they have something to show the baseball world themselves. The following was reported by CBS’ Danny Knobler.

“I see a lot of chips on shoulders that I didn’t think I’d see,” new manager Mike Matheny said. “And that’s a beautiful thing.”

The owner of one of the shoulders to which the skipper may be referring is Adam Wainwright, already emerging as one of the next generation of team leaders. With the same TV crew as Matheny, the right-hander passed up an on-camera opportunity to express regret about not being able to contribute to the 2011 title on the field. The next question was similar to the one fielded by his manager regarding his club’s 2012 chances without the big three.

The pitcher’s reply was most telling. After explicitly saying he was speaking only for himself, Wainwright made it very clear he wasn’t.

“We’d kind of like to prove that we can win without those guys – and I think we can,” Wainwright concluded to his national television audience.

It can never be known how much and how long that kind of resolve will fuel the 2012 Cardinals, but at this early date, how can one not find plenty about which to be encouraged?

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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14 Responses to “2012 Cardinals finding unexpected motivation”

  1. WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

    We have quite a number of veteran independents on this team………… the rest are adults……. you think Beltran gives a **** about Tony or AP…… Berkman is more in his element at this point……….Holiday will be the most excited…….I look for him to have a monstrous year…… while Tony hacked on Westbrook and Lohse when he thought it might benefit him…..they won’t miss him…….. only skip and the mysterious jay will be in a funny spot……maybe our back up catcher missing the Dave favoritism ……
    BP guys are all hungry ……….. Molina and Agent????? they are just stupid……only informed by Albert’s side of the Lozano explanations ………… both have a memory of the Carpenter extension and when it was “manufactured”…………. BD didn’t play to win last year…..and won anyway…….this year, with the impossible mission accomplished ……. what is he up to ?????????? does he want the story to end???? or not????

    • blingboy says:

      In a week and a half we start finding out who came to play this year. It will be about baseball then.

      Yadi’s CS rate was way down last year, most likely due to the knee issue slowing his time to get the ball out of there. That’s how to tell how its going this year. If he’s doing .260 and gimping around and throwing out league average, nobody will care if he wants to suspend talks. His agent’s phone won’t be ringing anyway.

      Lots of stuff is different once they take the field.

      There are probably a lot of guys who got tired of Albert, Albert, Albert, Tony, Tony, Tony, Dave, Albert, Dave Tony, more Albert, more Tony. They may well come north red hot. How it goes for 162 is what we’ll find out.

      Beltran’s OBP was higher than Albert’s last year and his GIDP rate was less. I don’t see much of a problem with the offense this year.

      • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

        Disagree about a few things BB…………..if you just pay him 5/50 start it this year……you are going to be able to trade the contract …….. there is another variable ……… Pujols saying the El Hombre thing doesn’t sit well with him is mighty strange ………. he is feeling the pressure ……… if he chokes ….Angel fans will be ruthless …………….. these guys have a way out ………… maybe BD is driving Yadi away….. he sounds like an AP broken record because there is no dialog from BD … nothing more Molina can say ……….. AP 12:$12M, 13:$16M, 14:$23M, 15:$24M, 16:$25M, 17:$26M, 18:$27M, 19:$28M, 20:$29M, 21:$30M ………… any move by Fox/Anaheim comes while Selig is still Commish …………… maybe BD wants to be sure he doesn’t have a fallen Hero on his doorstep………..????? who know……

        “Yadi’s CS rate was way down last year, most likely due to the knee issue slowing his time to get the ball out of there.”

        Many variables in this one………the opposition might have been that much more selective…..look at Lohse’s numbers……… you got Lefty Garcia…….Carp doesn’t give it away… KMac was a reliever…lives with guys on base… Westbrooke a seasoned guy with a good move and a short delivery….. were there fewer tries??????

        • CariocaCardinal says:

          I don’t think Yadi accepts 4/43 – which is what 5/50 starting this year amounts to. Though I dont think he’ll get a lot more, I think he thinks he will!

          AP aint coming back anytime soon. Certainly not in Bud’s tenure.

          Nice theory about teams more selective running against Yadi but it fits closer to your fantasies than reality. In fact, about 30% more attempts Yadi last year than the year before. About 25% more than ever attempted against him. You give opposing scouts a lot of credit for seeing the Cards’ weaknesses – why wouldn’t they see this one? It was obvious to everyone. Not just the SB’s but his pitch blocking abilities as well. The same reason he probably won’t get the contract he’s looking for.

        • blingboy says:

          These are the numbers I have, unless I’m looking at it wrong, which I might be:

          2010: 1,138 innings, 68 attempts, 35 successful, 33 caught (49%)
          2011: 1,150 innings, 65 attempts, 46 successful, 19 caught (29%)

          For comparison:

          Ianetta (Angels)
          2011: 943 innings. 100 attempts, 70 successful, 30 caught (30%)

          McCann (Braves)
          2010: 1,109 innings, 120 attempts, 84 successful, 36 caught (30%)
          2011: 1,083 innings, 133 attempts, 104 successful, 29 caught (22%)

          The conclusion seems to be that while Yadi’s CS rate went way down from 2010 to 2011, teams still were just as reluctant to attempt against him. Should his CS rate stay down around league average again this year, will attempts go up?

          • CariocaCardinal says:

            BB, you are correct. I misread the successful attempts as the total attempts – my bad.

          • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

            So reluctant BB………… that Lohse and Yadi even had predatory practices ……… showing slower times to the plate until the money was down………….. scouts don’t miss that one either……pretty soon no one is running………….

  2. Kansasbirdman says:

    Got my WS Championship hat last week. Was mailed from my grandparents in St. Louis. I must say it fits well and as it is black and white it goes with everything!

  3. WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

    BB…….the lower numbers also suggest some qualitative considerations……….. only the speedsters tried……….. He was …….. and remains a deterrent………

    • CariocaCardinal says:

      when the numbers don’t support the theory – change the theory!

    • blingboy says:

      IIRC, Albert’s IBB rate didn’t fall off right away either, even though he struggled for a good half season. But it did ultimatly fall off. Yadi’s past performance, his reputation in other words, is a powerfull deterrent. Just as with Albert. But that only lasts so long. As I said, lets see what happens if his CS is around 30%. Nobody is going to not attempt only because somebody used to throw out 50%.

  4. crdswmn says:

    Screw Yadi, I’m moving on.

    I love Waino. Carp Jr. He is the one I will be mad about if we don’t sign him.

  5. Brian Walton says:

    Because it was receiving so much media attention, Matheny has removed his Quote of the Day from the printed practice schedule. He didn’t want it to become “phony” so will verbalize from here on out.

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