With temperatures in the eighties for the Cardinals home opener and two road series already under their belt, it sure doesn't seem like April.
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Usually the games aren't very intense this early in the season as players and fans alike seem to be feeling their way toward some sort of comfort level. But with the warm weather -- and the excitement of a Cardinals team picked to be amongst the best in baseball -- the season seems to have really hit the ground running.
Hopefully the Cardinals can take the momentum and run with it, building a good lead in the National League Central before other teams figure out what hit them.
It sort of makes me a little bit sad to see the Astros fall on such hard times. The Cardinals' main nemesis in the standings -- if not in the stands -- for the last decade, Houston is off to an 0-7 start with Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell and Roger Clemems in retirement, Andy Pettitte back in New York with the Yankees and Lance Berkman on the disabled list.
Berkman, who had knee surgery, told mlb.com that he hopes to be back on the field in about a week. But his manager, Brad Mills, is less optimistic. Mills told mlb.com he wants to make sure Berkman is 100 percent before he comes back so he's going to make Berkman, who could be in his last season as an Astro, take it slow. By the time Berkman is ready, the Astros could be hopelessly buried in the standings.
He's making $14.5 million this year in the last guaranteed season of an $85-million contract and has an option for 2011 at $11.5 million. But, with an increasing number of health issues over the past couple of seasons and a hefty option price, look for the Astros front office to pass. Berkman said this spring that, if Houston doesn't pick up his option, he's likely to look for a job elsewhere in 2011 instead of re-signing with the Astros for less.
The Cardinals and Astros combined to win the NL Central eight times in the last 11 years with the Cardinals winning the division six times and the Astros winning the division twice. The clubs also faced each other in dramatic National League Championship Series in 2004 and 2005.
Back for 2010 is the image of the Gateway Arch sprawled across the outfield grass of the Busch Stadium outfield. The design, coupled with a silhouette of the Old Courthouse, made its debut last season during the All-Star Game festivities at Busch Stadium. The courthouse disappeared later in the season, but the Arch remained.
Most fans I talked to liked the idea of keeping the Arch around permanently to make the field stand out from other ballparks.
Gone, apparently, from Busch Stadium in 2010 is Busch beer at the normal concession stands. A fan in search of Busch beer told me that he had to go to a specialty bar and wait in a long line to get the namesake beer of the Cardinals ballpark. I know Budweiser and Bud Light have been battling it out for the title of world's top selling beer for the last couple of years. But don't you HAVE to have Busch beer on tap at Busch Stadium? If not, why not go with August Busch Jr's original idea of calling St. Louis's baseball stadium Budweiser Park?
According to Cardinals spokesman Ron Watermon:
"From what I understand from our concessionaire Delaware North Sportservice, the request for Busch Beer is minimal," Watermon said. "To maintain fresh born on dates, it is necessary to limit availability. (unfortunately Busch is not produced in the plastic bottles)"
Busch 16 oz cans are poured into a cup and available at:
Back Stop Bar sec 150
Bar at Gate 1 sec 133
Casino Queen Party Porch
Quervo Bar sec 433
On the beer theme, the garish advertisement painted on top of the upper level press box has been changed for 2010. It used to hawk Bud Light and stuck out like a sore thumb. The sign has been switched from Bud Light blue to Budweiser -- and Cardinals -- red, which seems to fit better with the decor of the red-seated ballpark.