The countdown is on: Important dates to know for all Cardinals fans
ST. LOUIS -- The countdown to the New Year is entering its final hours and you know what that means? It's time to start counting down the days until the 2015 baseball season.
There's plenty on the docket in the 96 days before Adam Wainwright and Jon Lester begin the Joe Maddon era at Wrigley Field on Sunday night, April 5:
Tuesday, Jan. 6
: Hall of Fame Class of 2015 is announced. The most likely inductee to have worn the Birds on the Bat is John Smoltz, but he is not a shoo-in. Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez are, however, and Craig Biggio should also get the call this time. A bunch of others will be waiting anxiously by their phones, including Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, Tim Raines and Mike Mussina. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens might be too, though they figure to be disappointed.
: The arbitration season begins. The Cardinals took care of new reliever Jordan Walden by handing him a two-year deal on Christmas Eve, but John Mozeliak still must deal with the cases of Lance Lynn, Jon Jay, Tony Cruz and Peter Bourjos. From what Mozeliak has said, Lynn is a prime candidate for a contract extension. What is worth watching is whether the Cardinals try to sign him for just a couple of his arbitration years or if they look to lock him up long term. Homer Bailey, 28, scored a six-year, $105 million deal from the Reds last spring in his final year of arbitration. This will be the 27-year-old Lynn's first crack, so the situations aren't the same. Still, which right-hander would you rather be paying a nine-figure deal?
: The Winter Warm-Up converges again on the Hyatt Regency across from the Arch for three days of shoulder-to-shoulder Cardinals fans trying to rub shoulders with their heroes. And to get their autographs, too. Yadier Molina tops the prices at an even $100 but the club has not released a time when he will appear. Which means, of course, no one knows if the most popular Cardinals player will show up this time.
Autograph tickets go on sale on Tuesday, Jan. 6. Here's a link to all of the prices (Adam Wainwright, at $90, is second-highest).
The St. Louis Baseball Writers Dinner makes its second appearance at the downtown Renaissance Grand. The 1985 National League champions will be honored, with most of the key players from the club expected to attend. Who knows, Molina might even appear to receive his newest Gold Glove award. You can purchase your tickets at stlouisbbwaa.com.
: Finally, the words that every baseball fan craves to hear this time of year: Pitchers and catchers report. At least, that's the date Cardinals pitchers and catchers will be due in Jupiter. If recent years are any indication, most already will have arrived.
: Position players report. If the over-under is 1.5 on the number of position players who will wait until the mandatory date to show, I'm taking the under.
: Cardinals-Marlins in the exhibition opener. Finally, we get a glimpse at where Mike Matheny is looking to slot new right fielder Jason Heyward in the batting order. I'm going with second behind Matt Carpenter.
: The Cardinals play at Roger Dean Stadium for three days in a row, against the Orioles, Marlins and Twins. This will be the only time they're at Roger Dean for three consecutive days until the final week of camp.
: Cardinals at Cubs in the Sunday night opener at Wrigley Field. Wainwright versus Lester with all of the baseball world watching will make for a hot ticket. Just be sure to avoid buying one for the left-field bleachers. They're behind schedule on the renovation of Wrigley Field.