Recently your host was given the opportunity to chat briefly with Ozzie Smith on the occasion of the All-Star Break. He's doing the press rounds first and foremost to discuss the Depend Campaign To End Prostate Cancer, which counts him among its ex-athlete spokesmen. He threw out stats in such a way as to make my inner Joe Strauss demand he get his nose out from the prostate-cancer-related spreadsheets in his mother's basement, but the main point of his message was this pull quote: "With early detection prostate cancer isn't just treatable, it's very beatable."
This is the first time Viva El Birdos readers have ever received a direct order from Ozzie Smith, at least so far as I know: Men 50 years and older (and African-American men 40 years and older) are hereby mandated to get their PSA levels tested, and regularly; the women of Viva El Birdos are to encourage their loved ones to do the same. Ozzie Smith said so. He went to the All-Star Game a million times.
After that we talked about the recent chemistry concerns that have filtered through the usual chemistry concern channels. Is the Cardinals' chemistry following Ryan Franklin's Greatest Hits, etc. To my surprise and delight, Ozzie Smith, noted King of Chemistry, favorite of fan and player, said this about that:
"Let me put it like this: You know, people ask me how do you spell chemistry, I spell good chemistry w-i-n. When you win, chemistry is always there... When you're losing it's just like anything—you fight with your brothers... with the daily grind of everything, the more you win, the better things are.
"It's not always glorious in a clubhouse. You know, I don't want a clubhouse where we're losing and everyone's happy. Give me that guy who's pissed off because we're losing. That's the kind of guy you want to be in the trenches with, that's the guy who you have a chance to win with. Nobody should be happy with a long losing streak."
There's something to be said for The Man Stew, but winning is what gets it simmering in the first place.
Finally, he demurred when asked about his increased power-hitting in the Celebrity Softball Game, suggesting he hadn't changed much as a hitter by necessity: "When you don't do it all year and you get up there and try to pull the ball out of the ballpark... I'm more of a go-the-other-way type of hitter these days." (I've seen him turn around on those slow-pitch softballs—I've seen it—but I wasn't going to press the issue.)
As for Matt Holliday's Home Run Derby exit, it was frustrating, as all Home Run Derby exits are. I was disappointed to see him swing so frequently and so (initially) unsuccessfully; Albert Pujols's 2009 exit was marked, at least, by long strings of taken pitches and an eventual switch to a completely alien high-leg-kick version of Albert Pujols who finally gave Busch Stadium what it wanted. But he did take the longest-distance shot of the night, at 497 feet, and if you're going to get kicked out in the first round it's best to get cut down in the prime of your swinging life, hitting golden balls for charity (but not, unfortunately, Three-Point Shootout-style double points.)
But what's especially frustrating about Matt Holliday's Home Run Derby exit is that I know it's frustrating now. Upon checking Wikipedia yesterday while preparing some SB Nation article or another I learned that the Cardinals have more home runs than any team in Derby history (100) and have sent more contestants (14), but still have zero victories to their credit.
My only recourse here? The Josh Hamilton defense—we can always fall back on Mark McGwire's 1999 performance, in which he tied Ken Griffey, Jr., for most home runs hit over the course of the competition, and took over press coverage of the event by hitting home runs over two Green Monsters stacked on top of each other, but lost because he hit them in the wrong distribution.