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Cardinals manager Mike Matheny possesses excellent leadership skills, but needs to continue to show progress on his ability to make strategic decisions during games, his boss, general manager John Mozeliak, told Cardinals bloggers.

Mozeliak and Cardinals president Bill DeWitt III were among those who addressed bloggers and answered their questions during the club’s 2014 Blogger Event on June 22 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

Asked to assess Matheny, the Cardinals’ third-year manager, Mozeliak cited Matheny’s leadership, saying the manager “understands people, relates very well.”

As for game management, Mozeliak said of Matheny, “That’s the evolution we are watching.”

In summary, Mozeliak said of  Matheny, “There’s no one else we’d rather see” as Cardinals manager.

Other newsworthy highlights of the session:

BALLPARK VILLAGE

DeWitt said revenue generated from the entertainment complex next to Busch Stadium “mostly goes to pay for that investment.”

Asked whether revenue from Ballpark Village would be reinvested in baseball operations, DeWitt said, “It’s too early to tell.”

DeWitt said expansion of Ballpark Village could include options such as a residential tower, office tower, hotel or retail complex.

OSCAR TAVERAS

Mozeliak said he told Matheny that if Taveras is with the Cardinals “you have to play him.”

Taveras, the outfield phenom, was sent to Class AAA Memphis after a short stint with the Cardinals.

Said Mozeliak: “He is an amazing player. He is going to hit. I imagine next time he’s here, he’s here for good.”

JULY 31 TRADE  DEADLINE

Mozeliak: “What we don’t want to do is make irrational decisions … July 31 is when irrational decisions are at their height.”

2014 CARDINALS SEASON

Mozeliak: “It hasn’t gone as planned … We thought it was going to be an offensive club.”

MEDIA GUIDE

Ron Watermon, Cardinals vice president of communications, said the franchise soon will debut a digital version of its media guide that will include a video of the Cardinal Way. He said the Cardinals will seek feedback from bloggers about the usefulness of the digital guide.

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In participation with a United Cardinal Bloggers project, here are my selections for the top 5 Cardinals stories of 2013:

mike_matheny61. NATIONAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONS

The Cardinals won their 19th National League pennant in 2013 and their first under manager Mike Matheny.

Matheny, in his second season, joins Hall of Famers Whitey Herzog and Tony La Russa as the only Cardinals managers in the last 44 years to win a pennant. He also is the first St. Louis manager to lead the Cardinals to the postseason in each of his first two full seasons in the job.

The Cardinals finished with the best regular-season record in the National League (97-65) for the first time since 2005 (100-62) and they won their ninth Central Division title (and first since 2009).

Too often, the journey for excellence throughout a 162-game season gets obscured by whether a team wins a World Series championship.

By every measure, 2013 was a special season of team accomplishment for the Cardinals and that’s why the pennant (the Cardinals tied the Giants for most all-time in the National League) ranks as the top story.

2. MATT CARPENTER JOINS ELITE

In his first season as a second baseman, Matt Carpenter was a spectacular surprise, producing at a level comparable with the best Cardinals of all-time.

Carpenter hit 55 doubles. Only one Cardinal, Joe Medwick, with 64 in 1936 and 56 in 1937, hit more in a season. Carpenter holds the Cardinals record for most doubles in a season by a left-handed batter.

Named to the all-star team, Carpenter led the major leagues in runs (126), hits (199), doubles (55) and multi-hit games (63). He ranked among the top 10 in the National League in total bases (third with 301), batting average (fifth at .318) and on-base percentage (seventh at .392).

He became the fourth Cardinals player to achieve 50 doubles, 115 runs and 180 hits in a season, joining Medwick (1936), Stan Musial (1946 and 1953) and Albert Pujols (2003 and 2004).

3. MOLINA RAISES THE BAR

Yadier Molina continued to raise the standard of excellence for himself and all catchers.

In 2013, Molina established single-season career highs in batting average (.319), hits (161), doubles (44), runs (68), RBI (80) and extra-base hits (56).

His 44 doubles are the most by a Cardinals catcher in a season. He topped the mark of 40 set by Ted Simmons in 1978. Molina hit the most doubles in a season by a big-league catcher since Ivan Rodriguez of the Rangers had 47 in 1996.

Molina also led the Cardinals in batting average for the third consecutive season and he hit .373 with runners in scoring position (47-for-126).

His defense and handling of a pitching staff remained superb. Molina won the Gold Glove Award in 2013 for the sixth consecutive year. He led all National League catchers in games (131), innings caught (1,115.1), total chances (1,043) and putouts (976).

4. ROOKIE PITCHERS REIGN

The Cardinals got 36 wins from rookie pitchers, the most in the major leagues in 2013. That total represented the most single-season wins by Cardinals rookies since the 1941 team posted 42.

Rookies with wins for the 2013 Cardinals: Shelby Miller (15), Seth Maness (5), Michael Wacha (4), Kevin Siegrist (3), John Gast (2), Tyler Lyons (2), Carlos Martinez (2), Trevor Rosenthal (2) and Sam Freeman (1).

Miller became the first Cardinals rookie pitcher since Rick Ankiel in 2000 to start 30 games. His 15 wins, most by any major-league rookie in 2013, are tops for a Cardinals rookie since Dick Hughes posted 16 in 1967.

Miller struck out 169. The only Cardinals rookies to do better were Ankiel (194) and Dizzy Dean (191).

5. WONDERFUL WACHA

Rookie pitcher Michael Wacha dazzled with a string of magical starts from late September into the World Series.

In his last regular-season start, Sept. 24, the right-hander held the Nationals hitless for 8.2 innings before Ryan Zimmerman reached on an infield single.

With the Cardinals facing elimination, Wacha earned the win in Game 4 of the National League Division Series, keeping the Pirates hitless for 7.1 innings.

Then, Wacha did the unthinkable. He performed even better.

He earned wins in Games 2 and 6 of the National League Championship Series, yielding no runs in either start and beating the Dodgers’ ace, Clayton Kershaw. Wacha was rewarded with the NLCS Most Valuable Player Award. He and pitcher Livan Hernandez of the 1997 Marlins are the only rookies to receive the honor.

Wacha capped his incredible run with a win in Game 2 of the World Series against the Red Sox. He had a streak of 18.2 scoreless postseason innings pitched before yielding two runs to Boston.

Previously: Mike Matheny, Eddie Dyer share rare rookie achievement

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In participation with a United Cardinal Bloggers project, my ballot for the 2013 Cardinal Blogger Awards:

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

yadier_molina15_ Yadier Molina. For the third consecutive year, Molina gets my vote for this honor. The catcher continues to raise the standard for overall excellence.

Among Molina’s many achievements in 2013:

_ Won his sixth consecutive National League Gold Glove Award.

_ Received the most votes (6.8 million) of any National League player selected to the All-Star Game team.

_ Established the Cardinals record for doubles by a primary catcher in a season, with 44. Molina topped the mark of 40 set by Ted Simmons in 1978.

_ Led the Cardinals in batting for the third consecutive season at .319.

_ Batted .373 (47-for-126) with runners in scoring position, ranking sixth in the National League.

_ Established his season-high career marks in runs (68), hits (161), doubles (44), RBI (80), batting average (.319) and extra-base hits (56).

_ Led all National League catchers in games (131), innings caught (1,115.1), total chances (1,043) and put outs (976).

PITCHER OF THE YEAR

_ Edward Mujica. The Cardinals were desperate for a closer after Jason Motte was injured and Mitchell Boggs flopped.

Mujica, who had just four saves in seven years in the big leagues, rescued the Cardinals season by earning 37 saves in 41 opportunities and posting a 2-1 record and 2.78 ERA. He converted his first 21 save chances in a row, stabilizing the bullpen and bolstering the Cardinals’ confidence.

Though he wore down in the season’s final month and was replaced by Trevor Rosenthal, Mujica was the pitcher who most enabled the Cardinals to win the division title for the first time since 2009.

GAME OF THE YEAR

_ Cardinals 8, Reds 6, Aug. 26, 2013, at St. Louis: The atmosphere was tense as the Cardinals opened a critical series with the Reds. The Cardinals and Pirates entered the day tied for first in the National League Central Division. The Reds were 2.5 games behind and sensed this series was their chance to overtake the Cardinals.

The tension mounted when the Reds led, 4-0, after two innings. They still were ahead, 5-3, entering the bottom of the seventh. The Cardinals scored, getting within a run at 5-4, and had the bases loaded with two outs. It seemed the momentum for the remainder of the season would swing to who won the matchup between Cardinals batter Allen Craig and reliever J.J. Hoover.

When Craig smashed a grand slam, giving the Cardinals an 8-5 lead, it seemed he lifted all of the pressure off his team’s shoulders and plopped it directly onto the backs of the Reds. Dusty Baker, the Reds’ manager, called Craig’s grand slam “devastating.”

From there, the Cardinals went on to win the division title and the Reds finished third. Boxscore and video.

SURPRISE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

_ Matt Carpenter. He went from being a question mark as a second baseman in spring training to an all-star selection who entered the record books amid Cardinals legends such as Stan Musial.

In 2013, Carpenter, providing an unexpected spark as a leadoff batter, led the major leagues in runs (126), hits (199) and doubles (55).

He also ranked among National League leaders in batting average (.318, 5th), total bases (301, 3rd) and extra-base hits (73, 3rd).

His 55 doubles broke the Cardinals franchise record for a left‐handed batter previously held by Musial with 53 in 1953.

DISAPPOINTING PLAYER OF THE YEAR

_ Mitchell Boggs. After posting a 4-1 record and 2.21 ERA in 78 games as a setup reliever in 2012, Boggs had a meltdown when asked to step in as the St. Louis closer in 2013. No one predicted this kind of collapse: 0-3 record, 11.05 ERA and five blown save chances in 18 games in 2013. His value diminished, the Cardinals gave away Boggs to the Rockies.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

_ Shelby Miller. In a season of several outstanding rookie performances, Miller delivered the best from start to end of the regular season, posting a 15-9 record and 3.06 ERA in 31 starts. He struck out 169 in 173.1 innings. No other big-league rookie in 2013 had more wins than Miller.

Miller also is the first St. Louis rookie pitcher since Rick Ankiel in 2000 to start 30 games. His 15 wins are the most by a Cardinals rookie since Dick Hughes had 16 in 1967.

Ankiel (194) and Dizzy Dean (191) are the only Cardinals rookies with more strikeouts than Miller.

ACQUISITION OF THE YEAR

_ Randy Choate. At 38, the left-handed reliever, acquired as a free agent, did his job well. He appeared in 64 games and didn’t allow a home run. He was 2-1 with a 2.29 ERA. Left-handed batters hit .176 (15-for-85) against him.

MOST ANTICIPATED CARDINAL

_ Oscar Taveras. Though his 2013 season was shortened because of an ankle injury, Taveras, 21, still rates as an exciting prospect who should play for the Cardinals in 2014. He batted .306 with 53 hits in 46 games for Class AAA Memphis in 2013.

BEST INDIVIDUAL CARDINAL BLOG

_ Fungoes. Consistently rates high marks for originality and thought-provoking information.

BEST TEAM CARDINAL BLOG

_ Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Always lively, fun, fresh.

BEST MEDIA CARDINAL BLOG

_ Bird Land. Good information with strong respect for franchise history.

BEST ROOKIE CARDINAL BLOG

_ Stl cup of joe. Blog is informative and easy to navigate.

POST OF THE YEAR

_ Memories Help Come to Terms at Aaron Miles’ Fastball: Nice writing. Smart stuff.

BEST UCB PROJECT

_ Top 7 prospects: Fun to research.

BEST UCB PODCAST

_ Conversations with C70. Consistently interesting.

BEST UCB TWITTERER

_ Bob Netherton and Dennis Lawson (tie). Big hearts. Funny. Compelling. Highly original.

Previously: Yadier Molina, Kyle Lohse: best of the 2012 Cardinals

Previously: Yadier Molina rates as 2011 Cardinals Player of the Year

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In participation with a United Cardinal Bloggers project to rate the top seven St. Louis prospects, we considered players who haven’t appeared in a game for the Cardinals.

Our top seven Cardinals prospects:

oscar_taveras1. OSCAR TAVERAS, outfielder

Until having surgery to repair an injured ankle in August 2013, Taveras, 21, continued to show he is close to becoming an everyday player for the Cardinals.

Taveras, who injured the ankle in May 2013, had 53 hits in 46 games for Class AAA Memphis. His batting average was .306 and his on-base percentage was .369.

In five seasons in the Cardinals organization, Taveras has a .518 slugging percentage.

A left-handed batter, Taveras was given a long look by the Cardinals in spring training. Taveras had 22 hits with 10 RBI in 24 spring training games for the 2013 Cardinals.

2. MIKE O’NEILL

Because he has an uncanny knack for getting on base, O’Neill, 25, should be contending soon for a spot as a Cardinals reserve outfielder.

O’Neill, a left-handed batter, had a .431 on-base percentage (115 hits, 71 walks) in 98 games for Class AA Springfield in 2013. Promoted to Memphis, he had a .402 on-base percentage (33 hits, 20 walks) in 32 games.

Chosen by the Cardinals in the 31st round of the 2010 draft, this 5-foot-9 underdog has a .435 on-base percentage (378 hits, 222 walks) in four seasons In the St. Louis system.

3. STEPHEN PISCOTTY

The outfielder likely is the best right-handed batter among the Cardinals’ prospects.

Piscotty, 22, had 71 hits in 63 games for Class A Palm Beach and 55 hits in 49 games for Springfield in 2013.

The former Stanford University standout is a past Cape Cod League batting champion.

4. DIXON LLORENS

Keep an eye on this unheralded reliever, a 25th-round Cardinals draft choice.

Llorens, 20, had 11 saves, a 2.85 ERA and struck out 71 in 47.1 innings for Class A Peoria in 2013. Right-handed batters hit .131 against him.

In two minor-league seasons, Llorens has 133 strikeouts in 83.1 innings.

5. JAMES RAMSEY

The outfielder, a left-handed batter, got off to a torrid start for Palm Beach in 2013, with 22 hits in 18 games and a .481 on-base percentage.

Promoted to Springfield, Ramsey, 23, showed some pop, hitting 15 home runs and producing 87 hits in 93 games.

The former Florida State University standout generally is considered an above-average fielder.

6. MARCO GONZALES

The left-handed pitcher, a 2013 first-round draft pick out of Gonzaga University, had a 1.62 ERA in four starts for Palm Beach, striking out 13 in 16.2 innings.

7. ROB KAMINSKY

Another left-handed pitcher and first-round draft choice, Kaminsky, 19, began the season in high school and finished it with the Gulf Coast League Cardinals. He struck out 28 in 22 innings in his first summer as a professional.

Previously: This should be last year for Shelby Miller on prospect list

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ST. LOUIS — The Cardinals are spending millions of dollars on memorabilia in an effort to ensure their planned hall of fame and museum is first-rate. They also are getting a big assist from Stan Musial.

stan_musial23Cardinals president Bill DeWitt III and team general manager John Mozeliak met with invited bloggers for 45 minutes on Sunday afternoon, April 28, 2013, as part of the club’s annual Blogger Event.

Relaxed and talkative, DeWitt and Mozeliak answered every question asked of them in a lively and unrestricted question-and-answer session with bloggers in a Busch Stadium executive conference room.

DeWitt said the long-awaited Ballpark Village next to Busch Stadium “is on track for opening in spring of next year.”

“We’re really moving fast,” DeWitt said. “We should see steel come up in three or four weeks.”

Ballpark Village will have three anchor tenants, DeWitt said. Those are:

– Cardinals Nation. This will feature a Cardinals hall of fame and museum, bar, restaurant, store and party deck with a view into Busch Stadium, DeWitt said.

In addition to including Cardinals already in the National Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, N.Y., the Cardinals Hall of Fame eventually will honor 50 to 70 other Cardinals, DeWitt said. He added the club still is working on the criteria for induction.

“We’ve been on the lookout for Cardinals memorabilia to buy for the museum,” DeWitt said. “We’ve spent $2 million on Cardinals memorabilia to beef up this museum.”

DeWitt added that one reason the club was confident it could house a museum was because of the quality of its Stan Musial collection. “Stan donated a substantial amount of his great memorabilia to the Cardinals in the late 1960s and early 1970s,” DeWitt said. “We’re very fortunate to have a collection of Musial stuff.”

– Brew Pub. This will showcase the international brands of Anheuser-Busch and may include a shuttle to the brewery for tours, DeWitt said.

– Live Marketplace. This will include a music stage and will be a place for special events. It will be enclosed, with a retractable glass roof, DeWitt said.

Asked whether the museum would include the St. Louis Browns uniform of midget Eddie Gaedel that belongs to DeWitt’s father, who was a Browns batboy and who now is the Cardinals’ owner, DeWitt explained that the uniform is at the National Baseball Hall of Fame but that “it would be fun” to see it displayed in the Cardinals’ museum for a while.

Two other topics discussed by DeWitt:

– Whether the Cardinals will settle on blue caps or red caps with their road uniforms: “It’s likely we’ll use blue caps on the road against teams that have red as the primary color in their outfits and we’ll use red caps against teams not wearing red.”

– On the future of Memphis as the Cardinals’ Class AAA affiliate: “We intend to be in Memphis for a long time as our Triple-A club.”

Here were answers from Mozeliak to some of the wide array of baseball questions he was asked:

– On whether he agrees with national media comparisons of Cardinals outfield prospect Oscar Taveras with former big-league standout Vladimir Guerrero: “I understand the comparison. Both are from the Dominican Republic. Guerrero was a free swinger, though I think Taveras is a little more disciplined. But, with Oscar at age 20, I think of two other hitters: Albert Pujols and J.D. Drew. Then there’s Oscar.”

– On the progress of Taveras and two other premier Cardinals prospects, pitcher Michael Wacha and second baseman Kolten Wong: “These guys are major-league ready. We just don’t have a spot for them … My job is to create opportunities for these guys. We’re not afraid to promote from within.”

– On whether it is inevitable that the designated hitter will be adopted by the National League: “I don’t feel it is. I don’t see it on the horizon. I’m not overly concerned if we switch to it. I hope we don’t.”

– On Cardinals rookie starter Shelby Miller: “A special arm who will be a front-of-the-rotation type in the future.”

– On developing a shortstop: “Looking three or four years down the road, no one jumps out at shortstop. We’ll look into the draft now or look to the international market to address that.”

– On whether he sought advice from Stan Musial, who was general manager of the 1967 Cardinals, on how to do the job: “I never did. My interactions with Stan were in social gatherings. A gentleman I did speak with about it was (former Cardinals and Mets general manager) Bing Devine. Bing was a very good mentor to me.”

Previously: Cardinals executives candid with bloggers

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For all Cardinals fans 60 and younger, the 13 years of the 21st century represent the golden era of the franchise.

game7_2011Since 2000, the Cardinals have had just one losing season. In addition to 12 winning seasons in the stretch from 2000 through 2012, the Cardinals won two World Series championships and three National League pennants.

The last time the Cardinals had so many winning seasons in that large a period was 1939 through 1953, when they went 15 consecutive years without a losing record, earning three World Series titles and four National League pennants.

The one on-the-field constant in St. Louis’ successful stretch from 2000 through 2012 has been Jose Oquendo, a Cardinals coach for each of those 13 years.

St. Louis’ only losing season since 2000 occurred in 2007, when the defending World Series champions were 78-84 and finished third in the National League Central.

Since then, the Cardinals have had five consecutive winning seasons and have earned a World Series title (in 2011), but they’ve won just one National League Central championship in that period (in 2009).

The Cardinals have placed second in the National League Central in each of the last three years, but because of the wild-card playoff qualifier they have won a World Series title and advanced to the National League Championship Series twice in that stretch.

St. Louis seems overdue for a division championship in 2013.

In participation with a United Cardinal Bloggers project, our predictions for the National League regular-season finish in 2013:

_ National League East: 1. Braves. 2. Nationals. 3. Phillies. 4. Marlins. 5. Mets.

_ Reason for Braves: Outfield of Justin Upton, brother B.J. Upton and Jason Heyward has awesome slugging potential and closer Craig Kimbrel rates as best in the business.

_ National League Central: 1. Cardinals. 2. Reds. 3. Pirates. 4. Brewers. 5. Cubs.

_ Reason for Cardinals: Young power arms Shelby Miller in the rotation and Trevor Rosenthal in the bullpen paired with power bats of Matt Holliday, Allen Craig and Carlos Beltran carry Cardinals.

_ National League West: 1. Dodgers. 2. Giants. 3. Diamondbacks. 4. Padres. 5. Rockies.

_ Reason for Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Josh Beckett and Zack Greinke form an all-star rotation. Outfielders Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez are core of impressive run producers. Coach Mark McGwire and super sub Skip Schumaker bring winning attitudes to underperforming franchise.

Previously: Power personifies 2011 World Series champion Cardinals

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