I’m a baseball fan.
Probably something I shouldn’t have to tell you, since we’re both here.
On a baseball blog.
But when I tell you that I’m not a huge fan of spring training, you might question it.
This past week, you’ve been bombarded with some variation on the words baseball and back.
Technically, yes, professional baseball players for the St. Louis Cardinals are playing games.
And, technically, yes, professional baseball players for the St. Louis Cardinals playing games is better than them not playing games.
But – for me – the start of spring training is just another time marker that means real games are (sort of) close. I’ll save my ‘baseball is back’ hype-Tweets for March 29th, if you don’t mind.
As good fans, though, we need to pay attention to what’s going on down in Jupiter.
Let’s count them down…
5) MARCELL OZUNA
The Cardinals marquee move of the off-season is going to be under BIG pressure in 2018.
After a career year, Ozuna is expected to not only join the Cardinals line-up, but anchor it with a .300+/25+/100+ line, which, you know, isn’t super easy to produce.
Oh, and do that in front of a fan base that is (rough estimate) 1,400,750% more insane than the one he came from.
I’m pretty sure that’s as loud as Marlins Stadium got all of 2017.
Welcome to St. Louis!
4) CARLOS MARTINEZ
Bernie made the case pretty well for Carlos over at 101 ESPN 10 days ago.
He’s an elite pitcher now.
Trouble is, the Cubs are still in the NL Central and Martinez is going to have to go from an elite pitcher to superstar pitcher if the Cardinals are going to have a shot at the division.
An every 5th day hammer that the team wins behind at a 70%+ clip.
It’s a heavy lift.
Or at least get to the point where the Mets broadcasters aren’t calling you Carmelo.
3) MIKE MATHENY
0% chance you’re reading this and don’t have a strong opinion on Matheny.
0% chance that he’ll be relieved of his duties managing the Cardinals during the 2018 season.
It’s worth watching to see if skip makes any indications that (in his 7th year) he’ll make any changes to his style.
Off to a good start.
2) TOMMY PHAM
Let’s just say this… we all love Tommy Pham.
No one disagrees.
He had one of the most underrated seasons I can remember in 2017. He ranked 14th in WAR and I’m not sure how many people outside of the 314 could even tell you what Tommy Pham does for a living!
And after all the bad luck the dude has had in his career?
100% of fans are pulling for an encore of 2017 for Tommy.
If he regresses, though, the Cardinals are in BIG trouble.
To a certain extent, Pham and Paul DeJong are in the same boat. They put up great numbers in ’17, but the Cardinals still finished in 3rd place in the division. So not only will they have to replicate ’17 numbers… they’ll have to do even better.
1) THE BACK OF THE ROTATION
A tragedy in two acts.
5 minutes later:
The Cardinals threw up the deuce on Lance Lynn and haven’t appeared to budge even though the market has most certainly come back into ‘should we try and figure this out’ range.
They’re committed to the guys they have.
Question is… are these guys any good?
I mean, there’s probably not another rotation in the NL with more upside… or downside.
Time will tell.
PS – by ‘back of the rotation, we’re talking everyone except Martinez.
Photo: STL Today