JUPITER, Fla. — Am I really going to start a post about my visit to the St. Louis Cardinals spring training camp on Wednesday by mentioning he who shall not be named?
You bet your sweet unauthorized billboards I'm going to.When Albert Pujols arrived at Los Angeles Angels camp in Tempe earlier this month, he was asked about what he thought the main differences between training in Arizona and Florida would be. The former center of Redbird Nation said something about the proximity of camps being closer in the desert and that his days of 2 1/2-hour bus trips across the Sunshine State were over. I laughed at this because Albert being required to take more than one long bus trip a spring — if that — probably ended before he ever won his first World Series with the Cardinals.
I also, however, found it a little interesting. While the ease of travel definitely ranks as the No. 1 advantage that Arizona holds over Florida, I believe it must share the title with a better consistency of weather.
For the most part, spring in Arizona is one long day in the mid-70s with zero humidity and little precipitation. You know exactly what you're in for when you show up at the ballpark in the morning. Just lather on the sunblock and nothing will ruin your day.
Florida, of course, is much different. The temperature can fluctuate more — I never took my North Face jacket off during a trip a few years back — and there's no guarantee that rain won't wash out your day. That was the case for the defending World Series champions on Wednesday as the day went from stretching and a Mike Matheny press conference under the sun to a torrential downpour that ended up ruining the day just a few minutes later. Not exactly ideal when you're a team looking to get into a routine, but also part of the deal when you're training in the Grapefruit League.
A few more shots of my time with you-know-who's ex-team can be found below ...
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It's hard not to notice the big changes in Cardinals camp this spring. In the clubhouse, Lance Berkman welcomed wave after wave of reporters, a style in stark contrast to the usual don't-distract-me thousand-year stare that Pujols liked to wear even during the spring. Meanwhile, first-year manager Mike Matheny occupied Tony La Russa's old shoot-the-bull space out on the lawn, but didn't do much shooting. I think he and the St. Louis press corps are still figuring out the tone of their rapport and feeling each other out. It's early.
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The rains came soon after Matheny spoke and the back fields at the Roger Dean Stadium complex were quickly cleared. The position players soon found their way into street clothes and headed home for lunch but pitchers and catchers stuck around long enough to make sure they stayed on their throwing routines. A 20-minute window allowed all the scheduled pitchers to get some sort of work in, but they pitched off mounds instead of throwing their slotted live BP.
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Chris Carpenter was not one of the scheduled throwers and so he paid tribute to all of St. Louis by also refusing to wear shoes. (Oh, this Chicagoan kids ... he kids!) But while we're on the subject of Carp's feet, check out his left leg. If you look close enough, it appears as if he's working toward matching his inked-up right leg. (Jake Westbrook, however, still has a ways to go.)
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Say Yadi, is that your new $75 million deal arriving in an armored truck?
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Nope, just more rain.