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Pick-Six: Wong Can Tell Everyone to ‘Stuff It’; Carpenter Continues to Be the Cards’ Catalyst

A stream of conscious on local and national sports headlines…

1. Kolten Wong can tell everyone to stuff it, but you’re seeing why…
…fans and the media have bitched for over a year about the Cards’ defense. When they’re throwing the ball all over the yard, they find ways to lose. When they don’t, they win four in a row on a road trip despite not having two key pieces in their lineup (Stephen Piscotty and Dexter Fowler). Granted, the offense has awoken and every starter with the exception of Adam Wainwright has pitched at least six innings in the last turn through the rotation. But one of the primary reasons why this team has finally found traction is because its played stellar defense. Aledmys Diaz flashed serious range moving to his right and making a Jeter-esque jump-throw to get Adeiny Hechavarria out in the bottom of the fifth. Randal Grichuk nearly came up with an unbelievable diving catch in right field to rob Derek Dietrich, but with the help of Wong he threw out Dietrich at second anyway. Wong has also played clean, consistent defense at second base and has contributed to a slew of double plays the past two games. The Cardinals can say they always expect to play clean baseball but the reality is that we haven’t seen it for over a year. The caveat here is if the Cards do play fundamental ball, there’s a belief that this club is a legit contender. We’ll see if they can maintain this level of play when the schedule gets more difficult at the end of the week.

2. Matt Carpenter is, and has been for years, the catalyst in this…
….Cardinal lineup. He’s the engine. The straw that stirs the drink. Dexter Fowler may have brought the, “you go, we go” mantra to St. Louis from his time in Chicago, but the Cards’ offense often breathes or suffocates depending on Carpenter’s hitting. And how he’s hitting in the month of May, is eye-opening. His slash line for the season is .266/.423/.533, but that cheapens what he’s done thus far in May. In 24 at bats, Carpenter is hitting .333 with a 1.501 OPS, a .543 OBP and a .958 SLG. Contrast that to what he did in April when he hit just .243 with a .789 OPS, a .375 OBP and a .414 SLG and it’s easy to gain an appreciation for how he’s started this month. Granted, the damage has come in just 24 at bats. But I don’t think it’s coincidence that the Cardinals have averaged nearly six runs a game since Carpenter got hot. He’s seeing pitches, he’s squaring up balls consistently, and he’s helped ignite a sleepy Cardinal offense.

3. In wake of the Blues’ loss to the Predators in six games, the biggest…
…question the team faces this offseason is where the secondary scoring is going to come from next year. Nobody would suggest this four months ago, but the goaltending is set. Vladimir Tarasenko will be around 40 goals again next year. But the Predators had Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg, plus their top 4 defenseman can score. A year ago, the Sharks’ top three lines could all generate offense. For seven years, the Blackhawks have had a top-heavy roster, but multiple lines that could produce offense in the playoffs. The Blues wouldn’t have made the playoffs without the contributions from Patrik Berglund and David Perron. But the reality is that both of those players were ghosts this postseason and it hurt. In that Nashville series, the Blues finally missed Robby Fabbri. Can he be that consistent scoring threat to complement Tarasenko? Hopefully he can, or else the Blues will continue to have that missing ingredient that continues to bounce them out of the postseason every year.

4. There’s an interesting juxtaposition between the Matt Harvey situation…
…and the fallout from the Madison Bumgarner dirt bike accident. In one situation, Bumgarner, a three-time World Series-winner, immediately contacted the team’s trainer after he fell off his dirt bike and landed on his pitching arm. While his manager Bruce Bochy and teammates expressed disappointment that their ace would be lost for half the season, to a man they supported Bumgarner despite his lack in judgment. Harvey, meanwhile, has received zero support from his manager Terry Collins and from his own locker room. After Harvey skipped a game on Saturday reportedly due to a migraine, Collins and Mets players have suggested that the pitcher grow up. So on one hand, you have teammates rushing to support a player that made a poor decision to risk his health just to ride a dirt bike. On the other hand, Harvey reportedly was dealing with a migraine and his teammates offered zero sympathy. My point is this: Harvey has no one to blame for the backlash that he’s receiving. The Mets and the media isn’t orchestrating a witch hunt. If Harvey had a history of being reliable, then this situation would have blown over immediately. Instead, it’s Tuesday and he’s still in the headlines. There’s more beneath the surface and if Harvey doesn’t get his act together, that free agent deal that he can’t wait to sign in two years isn’t going to be what he wants it to be.

5. This is hypothetical, but if Aaron Rodgers did what Colin Kaepernick…
…did a year ago by not standing for the national anthem, would he remain on the open market? What about Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Matthew Stafford or even youngsters Jameis Winston, Carson Wentz, Marcus Mariota or Dak Prescott? As writers continue to pen pieces about how bad the NFL looks for avoiding Kaepernick, that question remains unanswered. Probably because the answer is no, Rodgers and Co. would not remain on the open market. Multiple teams would bid for these quarterbacks’ services. I’m not naïve to think that Kaepernick isn’t receiving the cold shoulder from teams because of his political and social stances a year ago. But it’s shortsighted to say he’s purely being blackballed by the NFL because of those stances. Stated in the same columns about Kaepernick are points made about how forgiving teams are to college players like Joe Mixon, who was caught on video knocking out a female. Why is that? Because of talent and upside. These columnists can’t suggest that Kaepernick is talented but remains unsigned because of his views, then suggest that NFL teams draft and sign players with off-field trouble only because they’re talented. You can’t have it both ways. Yes, he remains out a job in part because of what he did a year ago. It’s just not as simple as to suggest that’s the only reason.

6. According to NiceKicks.com, LaVar Ball sold less than 300…
…of his “Big Baller Brand” sneakers. From Nice Kicks: Out of the 328 transactions that happened on BigBallerBrand.com in the first 24 hours that the shoes were offered for sale, we tracked that a total of just 263 pairs of sneakers had sold in both signed and unsigned versions of the ZO2 Prime.” Two thoughts: One, apparently there aren’t a lot of “Big Ballers” out there, whatever that means. And two, people actually bought 263 pairs of those sneakers? That’s 263 more than I thought LaVar Ball would sell total, nevertheless on the first day of the shoe’s release.

More: Are the Cardinals a Serious Threat to the Cubs? Answer: Follow the Starting Pitching