Welcome to 2008, everyone. I hope the year treats you all better than 2007 did.
I'll be turning 28 years old this year. I find myself regarding this fact with the same stubborn disbelief I've always turned to whenever confronted with some piece of bad news. My disbelief, of course, never seems to stop, nor even slow the marching on of time, leaving me to deny in vain, until life finally forces me to sadly acknowledge my own helplessness to stop it from happening. Twenty eight. Old enough to stop thinking of my parent's house as "home". (I haven't lived there for about seven years.) Old enough to have some perspective on things like baseball teams. Old enough to stop torturing myself over the things I did when I was a teenager. Old enough to stop enjoying cartoons so damn much. Old enough to recognise when a girl is way too young for me to ogle. Old enough to stop secretly resenting my friends who made better decisions and became more successful than me. Old enough to stop, every once in a while, wistfully thinking about my high school girlfriend and just where she might be now. Sadly, it doesn't seem that I'm growing beyond any of those things; as if there's some part of me that doesn't feel grown up, that doesn't feel as if I should be approaching thirty years old. That part of me insists, very loudly, that the future is still stretched endlessly in front of me, with no decisions made, no dies cast, and that things will be just so forever. Oh well. All of my bad decisions are too long gone to change now, if I actually had any perspective, I probably wouldn't love the game the way I do, and the girl is probably a wide bottomed mother of two by now, no longer vital and exciting as my own memories of her, with only a nobility that I wouldn't recognise anyhow.
I'm sorry. I don't mean to get all philosophical this morning; this time of year always does it to me though. (By the way, I am perfectly aware that I am often kind of a bummer. I'm okay with it.) The past never seems so close as at the beginning of another year. However, in order to counter my personal tendencies toward looking backward, I'm going to focus on the most forward looking thing in the world: the New Year's Resolution.
However, a quick word before I do. Lboros, as he announced this past weekend, was asked to write an article for Ballhype's 'what if' series. I believe the article is actually due to post today, if I remember correctly. I've read the article; it's very good. Highly recommended. However, his announcement came as quite a blow to me. Why, you ask? I'll tell you why. My post for either this or next Wednesday was going to be entitled, "The Dynasty that Wasn't" and it was going to basically entail my view of how the Cardinal's recent history would have differed if Rick Ankiel hadn't lost his mind during the 2000 playoffs. Of course, unfortunately for my article, once Lb's Ballhype announcement, my own post sort of lost it's luster. Lboros and I talked about it a bit, and I was considering using his article as my jump point for today's post, refuting and discussing his postulates. Well, suffice it to say, on the topic he chose, my own conclusions matched up really closely with his, and it would have been kind of boring to read me just agreeing with him. "Well, you know, he totally said the stuff that I think too, so you should just read his stuff." Wow. Riveting. So I'll just encourage you all check out his very nice article, and I'm going to gaze ahead. Let the resolutions commence!
I personally have three resolutions this year. I don't usually believe in anything more than two; that seems to me the maximum amount of changes you can actually expect to have any success implementing. Any more than that and you just end up losing all your touchstones and you fall back into old patterns, just searching for a hand hold. I am a firm believer in making resolutions, however. In general, we humans tend to need to feel as if there's a definite beginning to any endeavour; it's tough to start something if you don't feel like you actually have somewhere specific to start from. Even a completely arbitrary one.
My Resolutions for 2008:
Pay more attention to, and take better care of, my financial portfolio. This is primarily involved in rolling over as much of my 401(k) into an IRA as possible, so that I can actually manage it the way I want to. My 401(k) retirement fund, for the year ending sometime in November, only brought in about a four percent gain. If I had just had all the money in a simple index fund, I would have done a whole lot better. Retirement planning is incredibly dull when it's still thirty or more years in the future, but it's not the sort of thing you should let suffer in the corner just because it's not exciting. I really need to put a little more effort into this.
Go to all the medical professionals that you're supposed to go to this year. Eye doctors, ear doctors, doctors in general, the dentist, maybe even that guy with the rubber glove in all the comedy routines. I'm really averse to actually going to any of these sorts of professional that help you to take care of yourself. I'm not a particularly macho guy, (trust me) but I do have that weird sort of ingrained attitude of, "I don't need a doctor so long as something isn't actively falling off of, or out of, me." Not sure why, but it really needs to change.
Make an actual, meaningful committment to the woman in my life this year. I'm lucky to have someone who's all the things I really want; trust me, she deserves much better than what she's gotten from me up until this point in the relationship. I've started on this front a little already; I've actually referred to her as "my fiance" once or twice in casual conversations lately. My theory is that if I refer to her as if I've already made this huge committment, then eventually, throught the magic of desensitization, the notion of taking our relationship in a serious direction in real life won't seem nearly so daunting. So far, my theory is failing to hold much water.
An addendum to this: after almost three years of going around in circles on the issue of whether we should have split up originally, (we eventually decided things would be better now if we hadn't) grudgingly referring to her as, "my girlfriend" as opposed to, "this girl that I'm seeing" in conversation does not count as a commitment. I cannot stress this point to myself strongly enough.
Those are mine. I highly doubt I'll do a very good job with them, but that's what I'm going to be shooting for this year.
Now, seeing as how this is a baseball blog, I think maybe we should try to decide what the Cardinals' resolutions should be this year. Just what do they need to accomplish to feel that the season was a success? Personally, I feel pretty strongly that they're not in a very good position to really compete this season, so we're going to have to look at some other sors of signposts to do it. I look at this season as a bit of a 'reset', by which I mean that this year is all about positioning. The Cards have been in a very similar position for quite a while now, i.e. competing every single year to play deep into October, and therefore certain other aspects of the organisation have gone a bit neglected. This year, they need to reset their priorities and begin putting new pieces in place to build a big time winner. I think that we should come up with three parameters, or resolutions, if you will, by which we can later judge how well the Birds stuck with their plan this year. Here goes.
St. Louis Cardinals' Resolutions for 2008
By the end of the 2008 season, the Cardinals should have their outfield figured out for the next three years or so. Whatever the players are at the end of the year, all of them should be the players that the club plans to have in those positions for at least the next three years. I expect Rasmus to be one of the three; whether it's Ankiel and Barton, as I believe it will be, or another combination of potential flycatcher, those names should be pencilled into their spots for the future. If we can look around in November of this year and feel confident that we know the starting outfielders are for 09 and beyond, I'll consider this point a success.
The Cardinals need to add one true No. 2 type pitcher before this time next year. They've had plenty of quantity the last couple of years; what they really need is an upper half of the rotation pitcher to help building around. I'm fully expecting this one to come through a trade; whether it's Rolen on the block, or Duncan, or a multiplayer deal with one of those guys as the principle piece, I really don't much care. What I do care about is the building block high in the rotation that the Cardinals need. They have Wainwright; Carpenter could be back. A big part of successfully turning this thing back around in the ledgers is going to be one more really solid young arm to help solidify the top of the rotation.
The Cards need to have an impact, long term solution at 3b. Even if Scott Rolen comes back healthy and productive, the relationship between he and his manager has deteriorated to the point that I don't see Scott's future being here in St. Louis. He and LaRussa are both at least somewhat in the wrong here; unfortuately, it doesn't look as if either will be giving in any time soon. So, whether the player comes over in a deal for Rolen at some point, if he's healthy, or if he's part of another deal, (or, technically,) already in the system, then he needs to be found and acquired. For this team to have a really solid base going forward, an impact talent needs to be found to take the place of their current third sacker. Ordinarily, I'm a big proponent of building up the middle of the field first. However, there are enough MI prospects that I'm comfortable just keeping an eye on them for the moment. More pressing is filling in Rolen's spot, both on the field, and in the batter's box. I firmly believe Scott will be moved, regardless of how he performs, so there's a large void that will need to be plugged in. I would start my player acquisition search there.
There it is. That's it. It's just that simple. If the Cardinals can accomplish those three things this year, then I will consider it a successful season, almost no matter what the won losse record ends up looking like. By the end of this year, I think the Cardinals should have their outfield set for the next three years, have acquired one upper rotation pitcher, and a player they want at third going forward. They accomplish those three things, and they've come up with a pretty significant framework for a great baseball team. That's my real criteria for success this year. How about yours?