It only seems fair to start off with a big “Thank You” to the St. Louis Cardinals organization for taking the time and making the effort to draw the United Cardinal Bloggers out of basements long enough to attend one of those fancy events where everyone wears pants. In all seriousness, Ron Watermon, Lindsey Weber, and the rest of the Public Relations team went above and beyond to bring us all together at Busch for yesterday’s game against the Brewers and provide us with a 1st class experience.
It takes a certain amount of risk tolerance to put the team’s president and general manager in front of a group of question filled bloggers for a Q&A session. The fact that both Bill DeWitt III and John Mozeliak provided quite candid answers to even our most ridiculous questions says a lot about the organization’s commitment to putting up with our social ineptitude despite all the negative things we’ve written about the ownership and management team over the years.
To wit, I took the opportunity to ask team president, Bill DeWitt, a rather unusual question straight out of left field. I posed a hypothetical scenario based on the recent sale of the Houston Astros to Jim Crane. As part of the sale agreement, the price Crane paid was basically discounted approximately $65M by MLB. In order to pay the clearance price, all Crane had to do was agree to move the Astros to the American League. Done and done. But what if a similar offer had been made to the Cardinals? Let’s say that MLB had approached the team about moving to the AL and offered $50-65M.
DeWitt paused. He sought a reprieve, and he mentioned an unwritten rule of team management/ownership that answering hypothetical questions was not necessarily a good idea. He bobbed. He weaved. He then answered the question as honestly as he could. He cited tradition. He also admitted that $65M was a substantial amount of money, but both he and his father hate the DH. Enough said. He had me at “I hate the DH. My father hates the DH.” Mission accomplished. In spite of his lofty position, family fortune, and educational pedigree, Bill DeWitt III gave the kind of answer many of us would give over beer at Paddy O’s.
Of course, much more insightful people came prepared with much more intelligent baseball questions, but I had already obtained what I sought. Still, it’s worth pointing out a few other tidbits gleaned along the way.
- Mo views roster construction the way he does a stock portfolio. Take a balanced approach, diversify with careful consideration, and then take an occasional flyer on at least 1 asset that has recently underperformed.
- The first phase of Ballpark Village could be completed as early as 2040 (or maybe DeWitt actually said 2014). When completed the project will include a Hall of Fame museum, a baseball themed restaurant, and ticketed seating with a view of the field just across the street. While the organization does not yet project Ballpark Village to provide a useful revenue stream in the near future that could help pay for the product on the field, it is something that the Cardinals feel strongly about pursuing as a way of improving the overall fan experience.
- Mo proclaimed for all the people in the land to hear that he views prospects as organizational assets and not as potential trade chips.
- One of the practical challenges the organization faces with the minor league system is striking the right balance between developing players versus trying to play competitive baseball.
- The team was well aware coming into this season that depth at SS was a serious issue.
- The Colby Rasmus trade was definitely a gamble, and it represented an exchange of long term potential for addressing short term needs. The CBA in effect last season was a significant factor in making the deal, because the potential return in terms of compensatory picks helped offset the long term concern of losing Rasmus.
- Food Service guru, Jessica Helms, spent some time talking about how her group works constantly on improving food service options and quality. She spoke briefly about the relationship that the Cardinals now have with Food Network, and then she mentioned “bacon wrapped hot dog”. I don’t recall anything she said after that, but I could tell her lips were moving and sound was being emitted. Unfortunately, she had most of us at “bacon wrapped”. Also, she earned a degree from the Culinary Institute of America, so she has a strong philosophical base devoted in large part to elevating ballpark cuisine. I wanted to hug her, but that might not have been appropriate.
This little bit of high cholesterol heaven was made to order. One does not simply create a bacon wrapped hot dog with all the trimmings and leave it under a warming lamp. That is sheer folly. No. You have a culinary artist create it right in front of you.
To accommodate the UCB entourage, the Cardinals provided 2 full all-inclusive luxury suites. They also arranged for the security team to allow us full access to both suites, so we were able to meander back and forth. One suite contained the bacon wrapped hot dogs station, and the other boasted a “build your own mac-n-cheese” station. You really can’t go wrong either way, but if you combine the 2 somehow you may be able to reach gastronomical nirvana.
Oh, I forgot to mention that we were attending a baseball game as well. Um, yeah. There was that, too. If ever there was an example of “bloggers being bloggers”, it was around the 3rd inning of the game when I spied about 75% of the UCB representatives live-tweeting, blogging, and snapping photos for later use. The pinnacle of baseball geekdom might just be watching a live game while Tweeting and listening to Mike Shannon’s radio call all while keeping one eye on the Rams game. I doubt that “sports ADHD” is recognized at this point as a serious problem, but watching hardcore baseball fanatics eating, drinking, tweeting, and interacting with each other all while watching both a baseball game and a football game might be symptomatic.
Of course, no recap of UCB Weekend would be complete without an appearance from our fearless leader, Daniel Shoptaw (@C70). Sadly, we were unable to pry Daniel away from the game long enough to get a good picture, so here is Daniel next to Bill (@poisonwilliam) as they discuss whether bunting should be banned by the Cardinals or whether players should simply ignore the signal to bunt. Tough call.
Also, my wife found time to work the event as the unofficial photographer of PH8, and she managed to capture 3 of the PH8 contributors discussing Chinese philosophy, Newtonian physics, the writings of Thomas Payne, and the best kind of cheese to use on nachos.
Strictly business. We most definitely were not discussing the odds of Pete Kozma hitting a home run. Nope. Not at all.
Finally, no UCB gathering would be complete without the traditional team photo, so here it is.
Again, I cannot adequately express my appreciation to the Cardinals for putting up with us….errr, I mean putting us up for the day. First rate event courtesy of a first rate organization. The fact that they somehow arranged for bonus baseball and a walkoff hit by “Amazing Whacker Guy” Allen Craig just provided the icing on the cake.
TIDBIT: If you were wondering what I would like for Christmas this year, just get me everything in the picture below….
MORE BIT OF TID: For those of you interested in the unmodified team photo, here it is…
FINAL TID: Each suite was named after an St. Louis icon. As chance (or intelligent design) would have it, 1 suite was the “Lou Brock” suite, and the other was named after the late great Jack Buck.
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