The All-Star Pause ends Friday for the Cardinals, as they open a weekend series at Cincinnati. It’s important for the Redbirds to take flight without delay; nine of their first 11 games of the second half will be played against teams with losing records.
I’m doing something different in this column: sending a little good-luck message to the players. .
To Albert Pujols: Congratulations on your starring role in the Home Run Derby. And congrats on receiving the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award at The ESPYs. Keep up your strong hitting from your final 10 games of the first half. And most of all, enjoy and savor every moment of your last summer as a big-league player, and your last hurrah as a Cardinal. This has been a great experience for you and the fans. I hope we see you back in 2023 as a member of the coaching staff.
To Adam Wainwright: Ten more wins to reach No. 200. If you don’t get there, then you have to return in 2023 to complete the goal. Which would be fun. And you’re still one of the best pitchers around, so a 2023 season wouldn’t be a hanging-on season for you.
To Yadier Molina: We don’t know what’s going on, but your team needs you. Your teammates want you there. And the fans want to celebrate your final season. So give the people what they want, go out a winner, then walk off into a glorious sunset and away from advanced metrics.
To Paul Goldschmidt: MVP. MVP. MVP. And to paraphrase one of Tony La Russa’s favorite expressions: I don’t know if you’re the classiest player the Cardinals have had during the Bill DeWitt Era (1996-present) … but you’re tied for first.
To Nolan Arenado: Take care of that stiff back because the Cardinals need your offense, defense, leadership and intensity. And now that you and Busch Stadium have become friends – you’re hitting .290 at home this season with a .354 OBP and .512 slug – please make sure to come back in 2023.
To Tommy Edman: I hope you got some quality rest during the All-Star break. You play so damn hard. It takes an abundance of energy to be the highest-rated defensive player in the majors, the top-rated baserunner in the National League – all of this while batting leadoff and shuffling between second base and shortstop. You went 8 for 24 (.333) in your last five games before the break. That was a good sign.
To Brendan Donovan: You seem like the type of competitor who would use the All-Star break to get some extra time in the cage. Or maybe you had someone hit balls to you to work on your defense at first base, second base, third base, shortstop, left field and right field. Playing all of those positions and also posting a OPS+ that’s 28 percent above league average offensively? What a terrific start to your big-league career. One of my favorite stats of the season: Donovan, who bats left, has 25 hits to left field, 20 to center, and 17 to right. That’s old-school, man.
To Miles Mikolas: Congrats on your positive first half and another All-Star nod. At the break you were third among NL starters for most innings pitched, and 5th with a 2.54 ERA. The team had an 11-8 record in your first-half starts – which was really impressive considering the shortage of run support. It’s fun to watch you work. Stay crazy.
To Steven Matz: Your first half ended with a left shoulder injury on May 22, so what you did before that doesn’t matter now. It’s your turn to show why the Cardinals coveted you as a free agent. You can make a huge difference in the NL Central race.
To Jordan Hicks: Seeing you back in the bullpen is one of those rush of blood to the head type of things. It’s exciting. And you can pump up your team’s adrenaline.
To Edmundo Sosa: The offense comes and goes, but your defense at shortstop and third base is fantastic. I believe that your energy is a positive source for the Cardinals; that’s why they’re 30-21 when you’ve played this season.
To Austin Romine: You’re a pro, with a calming influence and really good skills behind the plate. Thanks for helping the Cardinals get through their catching crisis.
To Ryan Helsley: The secret is out; baseball fans around the nation discovered your identity and your excellence when you pumped those 103 mph fastballs in the All-Star Game. What a first half: 39 innings, 0.69 ERA, an opponent batting average of .109 and a 40.4 percent strikeout rate. Among Cardinal relievers that have worked at least 39 innings in a season, your 40.4% punchout rate would be the highest in franchise history. Coming into this season Trevor Rosenthal had the highest single-season strikeout percentage by a STL reliever at 37.6% in 2017, and 34.7% in 2013.
To Nolan Gorman: You did well in your first two months of big-league baseball with nine homers, a .444 slugging percentage and a OPS+ that was 18 percent above league average offensively. Prediction: you’ll do even better in the second half; I say that because you worked hard and made quick adjustments at every level of the St. Louis farm system. And you’ll do it again at the major-league level.
To Corey Dickerson: The overall numbers for the season aren’t good … now let me get to the positive part: in your last nine games – three before the calf injury and six after it – you’ve clubbed three homers, two doubles, slugged .633 and posted a .946 OPS. That qualifies as a building block. More offense on the way.
To Giovanny Gallegos: May your four-seam fastball regenerate and dominate hitters again. The Cardinals need “The Liquidator” to return. Very important.
To Packy Naughton: You’re the latest example of the “Devil Magic,” a complimentary that applies to surprise players or pitchers who came out of obscurity to dazzle.
To Dakota Hudson: I’ve been hard on you but it’s because I know you’re capable of doing better. Go make it happen in the second half.
To Juan Yepez: We hope that you return soon from that strained-forearm injury. It’s been a delight to watch you take robust swings and hit the ball hard and far with natural flair and a rookie’s joy.
To Andre Pallante: I hope your endurance holds up. But the Cardinals are fortunate to have a mature rookie pitcher who can help as a starter, and in the bullpen. One of the pleasant surprises of the team’s season.
To T.J. McFarland and Drew VerHagen: Here’s to a reset and a fresh start. See, I’m a nice guy.
To Tyler O’Neill: With the arbitration hearing, the cold start, and the two injuries it’s been a rough 2022 season so far. But if you can stay healthy, all of that will change for you and your team. Last season you batted .296, homered 19 times, and slugged .573 after the All-Star break. Do it again – and here’s my vote of confidence – and the Cardinals will have a more formidable offense.
To Matthew Liberatore: We’ve seen some good stuff from you as a rookie starter. And people have to understand that you’re still developing. And part of that for a left-handed pitcher is coming up with a way to neutralize RH batters. You’ll get there.
To Andrew Knizner: It hasn’t been easy for you in 2022, but you’ve maintained an upbeat attitude and the pitchers respect you. Plenty of time to get a head start on winning the starting catcher’s job for 2023.
To Jack Flaherty: If you can make it back in time and pitch well, think of the impact you’ll have on the STL rotation and a tight NL Central race late in the season. Purge the negativity and the disappointment. As Baseball Hall of Famer Wade Boggs said: “A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events and outcomes. It is a catalyst and it sparks extraordinary results.”
To Genesis Cabrera: Patience. The Cardinals haven’t had many lefty relievers that can match your talent. Over the last three seasons your adjusted ERA is 26 percent better than the league average. Just continue to harness that talent.
To Lars Nootbaar: Since the Cardinals promoted you to the big leagues (for the second time) last August, you’ve put up a .733 OPS and slugged .428. That includes your numbers so far this season. Defense, speed, a strong arm. That all adds up to a potentially larger role.
To Harrison Bader: It’s been a hot-and-cold season, and having plantar fasciitis makes it more difficult to do everything. But if healthy, your presence will benefit this team again. You’ve been an above-average hitter over the last three seasons (108 OPS+) and saved a bunch of runs as a Gold Glove center fielder. When you make it back, clear your head and go for it.
To Dylan Carlson: You are one of the most talented players on the team, but inconsistency has held you back offensively this season. But despite the ups and downs and injury time, you went into the break with an OPS+ that’s 11 percent above league average offensively. So if you still can post an above-average offensive profile despite having cold streaks, imagine how important you’ll be to this team’s fortunes if you can put it all together in the second half … just as you did last year with a .505 slug and .847 OPS after the 2021 All-Star break.
To Junior Fernandez and Johan Oviedo: You talented dudes have reinvented yourselves, which isn’t easy to do, and the Cardinals have an improved bullpen because of it. In the first half you combined for a 1.70 ERA in 31.2 innings of relief work, and helped transform the ‘pen.
To Zack Thompson: It’s been a significant plus to have you in the bullpen, doing such a fantastic job there. But I vote for you being a starter at some point. Either way, you’re a valuable young talent.
To Paul DeJong: Your walk-up song fits … Tom Petty’s “Runnin’ Down a Dream.” You’re starting to blast away again down in Triple A Memphis, with three homers and 11 RBIs in your last four games – and a .596 slug, five homers, 17 RBI and a .978 OPS over your last 13 games. You can still make it back to St. Louis for a second chance. Hang in there, dude.
Thanks for reading …
Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at 590thefan.com or the 590 app which is available in your preferred app store.
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All stats used here were sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Stathead, Bill James Online, Fielding Bible, Baseball Savant and Brooks Baseball Net unless otherwise noted.
For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.
While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.