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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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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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Some Cardinals-related notes while waiting for the arrival of pitchers and catchers to spring training camp in Jupiter, Fla., soon:

UNITED CARDINAL BLOGGERS DIGITAL PUBLICATION

coverI was honored to contribute to the 2013 United Cardinal Bloggers Annual. It’s must-reading for any Cardinals fan.

This digital publication offers stories from 18 Cardinals bloggers. It includes a report on every Cardinals player from 2012, with their projected role for 2013.

I wrote about the epic 2012 season of Cardinals pitcher Kyle Lohse. His winning percentage of .842 led the National League. Lohse’s winning percentage in 2012 is the fourth-best in Cardinals history since 1900, and it rates No. 1 among those that qualified for league leadership.

The 2013 United Cardinal Bloggers Annual is available as an e-book at the Amazon Kindle store for $4.99. The book can be read on any of the devices in the Kindle family as well as by downloading Amazon’s free reading apps for your computer, tablet or smartphone.

HOW ED BOUCHEE BROKE HIS ST. LOUIS HOME RUN HEX

Ed Bouchee, a first baseman for the Phillies, Cubs and Mets from 1956-62, died Jan. 23, 2013, at age 79.

Against the Cardinals in his career, Bouchee hit .286 (97-for-339) with 10 home runs. In 1957, while with the Phillies, Bouchee batted .344 (31-for-90) versus the Cardinals.

Two games involving Bouchee and the Cardinals stand out.

In his first 26 career games at St. Louis’ Busch Stadium I, Bouchee failed to hit a home run, even though the dimensions of the ballpark favored a left-handed power hitter such as Bouchee.

He broke that streak in a dramatic way.

On Aug. 9, 1959, in the first game of a Sunday doubleheader at St. Louis, the Phillies led, 4-3, in the ninth. The bases were loaded with two outs when Bouchee batted against Dean Stone, a left-handed Cardinals reliever.

Bouchee belted a grand slam against the roof of the right-field pavilion, lifting the Phillies to an 8-3 victory and snapping a streak of eight consecutive losses against the Cardinals in St. Louis. Boxscore

Two years later, May 20, 1961, pitchers Larry Jackson of the Cardinals and Dick Ellsworth of the Cubs were locked in a scoreless duel at Chicago’s Wrigley Field. Leading off the bottom of the ninth, Bouchee hit Jackson’s first pitch for a home run into the left-field bleachers, giving the Cubs their second consecutive 1-0 victory over St. Louis. The pitch was a slider “too far out and up,” Jackson told The Sporting News.

Bouchee also tied a major-league fielding record for a first baseman by handling 22 chances (19 putouts and three assists) in that game. Boxscore

ANKIEL JOINS CARDINALS ALUMNI ON ASTROS

In their first American League season, the Astros could open with a roster that includes ex-Cardinals Tyler Greene and Brett Wallace in the infield and Rick Ankiel in the outfield. Greene and Wallace are on the Astros’ big-league roster and Ankiel has been invited to spring training camp on a minor-league contract.

Ankiel, 33, told his hometown online news organization TCPalm.com in January that he believes his experience will benefit a young Astros lineup. Ankiel said he feels comfortable with the Astros because he knows many key decision-makers.

Jeff Luhnow, the Astros’ general manager, was a Cardinals executive in charge of player development. Astros bench coach Eduardo Perez was a Cardinals teammate of Ankiel from 1999-2001. Also on manager Bo Porter’s staff are these former Cardinals instructors: assistant hitting coach Dan Radison, bullpen coach Dennis Martinez and bullpen catcher Jeff Murphy.

In 2012, Ankiel hit .228 in 68 games for the Nationals, who had Porter on their coaching staff.

Previously: Cardinals executives candid with bloggers

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In participation with a United Cardinal Bloggers roundtable, we asked the question: On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being “ho-hum” and 10 being “the sky is falling,” how significant is the departure of hitting coach Mark McGwire?

Following is an edited version of the roundtable transcript:

Big Mac has 3 great things going for him: His hitting ability, his love of the game and also his desire to teach. We know this due to his playing career and also what he had to endure to get back into the game when he could have just disappeared into the night.

To answer the question, I’ll say a 5. It’s 50-50 and really hard to predict the impact. The most important hitting instruction for players takes place well before the MLB level. If and when a player reaches St. Louis, he already knows how to use his tools and talent. The hitting coach just has to find a way to continue to harness that and maintain a confidence level while the player learns how to adjust at the MLB level. It’s up to the player whether or not to buy in. I’m not overly concerned and wish Mark the best. I’m glad he was able to put the steroid stuff behind him and get a chance to win a World Series as a coach here and now continue to teach while being close to his family.

Dustin McClure

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Closer to a 4 in my opinion.  I remember reading, in some of the postgame quotes after the NLDS, that McGwire was very helpful in noticing the way the guys were swinging early on in Game 5 before the rally started. John Mabry will be good, but I’d like for them to get a solid assistant hitting coach, too.  Maybe a Jim Edmonds, although I think a right-handed hitting coach would be essential, too.

Daniel Solzman

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I really liked having Mark McGwire around because it’s always been nice how open the Cardinals are to keeping former players in the fold. The guys I used to root for on the field become the guys I root for in the dugout, and that creates a sense of continuity and familiarity. I also think McGwire did a credible job as the team’s hitting coach; the offense flourished under his direction. That said, McGwire is far from the sole reason why this lineup gets the job done. Middle infield aside, the roster is loaded with talent at the plate, and I don’t think the offense misses a beat in 2013.

I wish Mark could have stuck around, but I get the need to be where he needs to be. I’ll miss him, but I think I rate his departure a four out of 10 when it comes to actual impact, and I’m not sure that’s even as low as it should be. When have we ever really cared when a coach left before? I think it’s our attachment to McGwire himself that makes this transition seem more daunting than it really is.

Brian Vaughan, StanGraphs

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I think a 5.  He’s good at giving the inside look if hitting, and the guys really like him. John Mabry will be a good hitting coach. We’re lucky to have him to take the vacant position so easily/quickly.

Mary Clausen

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I think the impact of McGwire’s departure will be minimal. While I can appreciate what some have said regarding his ability to command attention and respect from hitters, there is one very obvious reason his word carried no more weight than anyone else’s. At the end of the day, hitters listen to coaches not because they are nice guys, pillars of their community or physically attractive. They listen because they want to succeed at the plate. That takes perspective, observation and practice. Mabry can offer all of those things the same way McGwire did. The numerous competent bats in the Cards lineup will hardly bat an eye (so to speak) under a different regime. I can think of a time recently where a Cardinal team lacked a McGwire but won a World Series just the same. Coaches change all the time, it’s not nearly as big of a deal as a change in manager.

Wes Keene

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I’ll give this a 6, because McGwire’s voice really carried some weight with the hitters.  When a guy who hit 583 home runs and drove in 1,414 speaks of taking the ball up the middle and going opposite field, that work resonates a lot.  During his career McGwire was famous for his work learning tendencies and studying opponents.  His career .394 OBP implies that he knew when not to swing.  As much as I expect Mabry to stick with a similar philosophy, I think he will cater to some hitters much more than others.  I’m anxious to see how much input he can possibly have on a Matt Holliday or a Carlos Beltran.

Also, the Cardinals take a major step back in the “our hitting coach can kick your hitting coach’s ass” department.  They do take a step forward in the “fangirling for attractive baseball dudes” area, though.

Dennis Lawson

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I give it a 3. He had results, but I believe many woulda/coulda had the same or nearly the same with this group of players. Mabry expects to continue what Mac has done. He was there to see a lot of what went on. Might make a difference on who is hired as assistant.

Tom Knuppel

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I think the Cards lost one of the better hitting coaches in baseball when they lost McGwire.  Last year in the UCB postseason publication, I wrote about the job he’d done and what an improvement the team had seen under his guidance.  Pretty much everything I said there still reflects how I feel today: It’s up to the hitters to execute at the plate, but Mac still “owns” the results.  Imagine you’re giving McGwire his annual performance review, like you or I have in our jobs — you’ve got to rate the performance he was able to get out of his players.

That said, there were plenty of examples this year when the offense went missing — sometimes for days at a time. (See: 2012 NLCS games 5, 6, & 7.)  This is a solid offense, capable of much, and while I do think Mac enhanced the lineup with his coaching, I don’t think there will be a noticeable decline in production without him.  Mabry is very capable, and remember how many hitting coaches TLR went through in his time here.

Besides, Dave Duncan wasn’t around last year, and I think a pitching coach is much more valuable than a hitting coach.  If you’re asking me to put a number on it (and you are), I’d say it’s probably a 4 or so.  I say that because, when I think about “losing a hitting coach,” I don’t consider it a high-impact loss to the coaching staff.  I think of it this way, if Ted Williams was a hitting coach and he left a team, I’d probably give that a 6.  I just can’t imagine a scenario where (at least for me) the departure of a hitting coach registers that high on the scale.

Dathan Brooks, CRPS

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Definitely no more than a 5, and that’s higher than the cynical side of me wants to go. The loss stings more for someone like me, who grew up in the era that featured McGwire shattering the single-season home run record with his mighty forearms and a bat that looked like a toothpick in his enormous hands. For me, the sight of McGwire in a Cardinal uniform is comforting somehow, and I’m trying to fight off a silly feeling of betrayal that he’s leaving after making a name for himself as a coach in St. Louis, even if his decision was strictly location based. Ultimately, the Cardinals have a team full of professional hitters, and it’s often been said the area McGwire truly excels in is the mental aspect of hitting. He isn’t irreplaceable by any means, but it’s sad to see him go.

Spencer Hendricks
StanGraphs

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I would say a 5. McGwire did good work, but I think what he started will definitely continue with Mabry in charge too.

Christine Coleman
Aaron Miles’ Fastball

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I’d say it’s about a 4.  McGwire made an impact on this team, I don’t deny that.  So much so, in fact, that I expect Mabry to continue much of his work with the hitters.  Add that to the fact that there are not going to be many new faces for Mabry to work with and it may be hard to remember McGwire’s gone save for the increase in TV time for Mabry.

Daniel Shoptaw,
http://www.cardinal70.com

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Oh yeah, the hitting coach.  Let’s put it this way: when was the last time you came running up to your buddies and said “this is the year, we just signed <insert hitting coach name here>” or “our chances are shot, we have to rely on <insert hitting coach name here>”?  In addition, when did we credit a hitting coach with wins or anything positive?

Let’s face it, when things are wrong, a hitting coach gets fired and when things are right, we barely remember who it is.  I will say that I heard more talk about the work McGwire did then I have about any other hitting coach without it being a negative “he destroyed my swing”.

Overall, I give his departure a 3 as far as the team goes, a 7 as far as the fan base goes.  Fans loved having him here on this team.  Players benefited from him.  But there is a capable replacement and that’s all it really takes to move on from here.

Bill Ivie, I-70Baseball

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I was thinking along similar lines, but perhaps from a different perspective.  I was looking back at who the hitting coaches were in 64, 67, 68, 82, 85-87 to draw some parallels.  Heck, in most of those years, there was no specific “hitting instructor”.   But there was always George Kissell and ectoplasm of the Cardinal Way encasing all of those he instructed.

I appreciate how hard McGwire worked while a coach for the Cardinals.  He honored the uniform and was a good ambassador for the organization. I suspect John Mabry will work just as hard, perhaps without the fanfare and attention (as Hal McRae did earlier).

I’m totally with Bill on this one.  Actual impact is a 3.  Maybe not so much with the fans as Mabry was a favorite and a good emissary of “The Cardinal Way”.

Bob Netherton

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I got a glimpse into the inner workings of the Cardinals organization and I was impressed by what I saw.

The Cardinals hosted their invitation-only 2012 Blogger Event on Sunday, Sept. 9, at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. General manager John Mozeliak and team president Bill DeWitt III, son of the owner, met with select members of United Cardinal Bloggers in the Busch Stadium Conference Center, an elegant area ringed by glass-enclosed conference rooms that overlook the statues of Cardinals legends at the ballpark’s front entrance on Clark Avenue.

Mozeliak and DeWitt appeared relaxed and approachable, seated before the bloggers about an hour before the Cardinals began their game against the Brewers. They treated the bloggers with respect and answered them with candor.

Both of these progressive baseball executives opened their remarks by showing they understand how social media and credible bloggers benefit the Cardinals.

Mozeliak said the bloggers produce an “amazing amount of insight and content” about the franchise and complimented the bloggers for “the new ideas and nuances you bring to the table.”

Mozeliak reads the blogs. He said Cardinals bloggers generate “almost too much” information because there isn’t enough time in a day to read it all.

“You truly have a passion for a topic we hold close to our hearts,” Mozeliak said.

DeWitt said the Cardinals’ front office is seeking to become “an outreach organization at the social media level” and soon would develop ways to be more proactive in sending news and information direct to bloggers and through social media. He indicated more information from the front office may be geared for retweeting on Twitter rather than first being sent directly for mainstream media use.

Mozeliak and DeWitt also answered questions from the bloggers. The questions were smart and thoughtful and so were the answers.

Among the highlights:

— Mozeliak admitted it “has been a frustrating year from a baseball standpoint” for the Cardinals. He said the Cardinals knew there was a risk in counting on aging players such as pitcher Chris Carpenter, first baseman Lance Berkman and shortstop Rafael Furcal and that the breakdowns by those players because of injuries have been “an Achilles heel.”

With Berkman, for example, Mozeliak said, “Last year we rolled the dice and won the lottery. This year we lost all our money. That’s the cost of this game.”

— Mozeliak sees a bright future for the Cardinals because of a strong farm system that is stocked with talent. “We have a lot of depth. It is the strength of our organization,” he said. While some suggest the Cardinals should use the depth to make trades, Mozeliak sees it differently. “I look at those chips as assets (to be kept),” he said. That matches with an organizational philosophy to “focus on the long view” rather than the short view.

— DeWitt said the Cardinals, unlike the Astros, likely would have rejected $50 million to $60 million to move to the American League in 2013, partly because “I hate the designated hitter rule. My dad does, too.”

— Asked to assess the performance of first-year manager Mike Matheny, Mozeliak replied, “He has done an amazing job.” Mozeliak explained that Matheny’s “leadership is superb” and that the rookie manager “commands the respect of the players.” He indicated Matheny will be around for a while, calling the investment in Matheny “a long-term decision.”

— Mozeliak indicated the Cardinals work to prepare their minor leaguers for success because “St. Louis demands winning.” He cited outfielder Jon Jay and first baseman Allen Craig as examples of players whose success in the minors prepared them to handle well the pressures of performing for the Cardinals.

— The Cardinals are experiencing “challenges internally” about which avenues to take in investing in international player development and the franchise “doesn’t have a concrete path going forward.”

— Regarding Dave Duncan, the pitching coach under former manager Tony La Russa who resigned to tend to his ailing wife, Mozeliak said, “Dave is where he needs to be. Tony is where he wants to be.”

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We’re taking a break from Cardinals history this week to participate in a United Cardinal Bloggers project to forecast the 2012 big-league baseball season. Today, we look at the National League East.

Predicted 2012 outcomes:

1. Miami Marlins: Because the Cardinals share a spring training facility with the Marlins, we have seen a lot of the Miami team and there is a lot to like:

_ First-year manager Ozzie Guillen has brought positive energy.

_ Acquisitions such as shortstop Jose Reyes, starting pitchers Mark Buehrle and Carlos Zambrano, and closer Heath Bell fit well with an existing foundation of young talent.

_ Hanley Ramirez appears to have transitioned well from shortstop to third base and may be poised to reclaim his status as one of the elite performers in the National League.

_ Josh Johnson looks healthy and may rival the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright as one of the top right-handed aces in the league and a candidate for the Comeback Player of the Year Award.

_ The new ballpark on the site of the demolished Orange Bowl could play a factor in giving this franchise a confidence boost.

2. Atlanta Braves: The starting pitching is solid, with impressive youngsters such as Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy joining veterans Tim Hudson and Jair Jurrjens. The bullpen is filled with hard-throwing talent.

If outfielder Jason Heyward can pair with first baseman Freddie Freeman to generate consistent run production, the Braves will be wild-card contenders again and could provide a rousing sendoff for retiring third baseman Chipper Jones.

3. Philadelphia Phillies: With a starting rotation that includes Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, the Phillies remain formidable. But first baseman Ryan Howard and second baseman Chase Utley are injured and the lineup is aging (third baseman Placido Polanco is 36 and catcher Carlos Ruiz and shortstop Jimmy Rollins each is 33).

4. Washington Nationals: With a few breaks, it wouldn’t surprise if the Nationals finish higher than fourth and contend for a wild-card spot. More likely, they are a year away but will progress with a full season under manager Davey Johnson.

Phenom Stephen Strasburg receives the most attention, but Jordan Zimmerman and Gio Gonzalez are effective starters who each could be poised to win 15 or more this season. Edwin Jackson, the right-hander who helped the Cardinals in the stretch drive last season, will be a veteran asset to the Washington staff.

It appears former Cardinal Rick Ankiel will get most of the playing time in center field for the Nationals.

5. New York Mets: The Mets, facing financial headaches, could be moving players such as starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey and reliever Jon Rauch by July.

Previously: Jim Leyland may follow Tony La Russa to World Series title

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