The other day on Twitter, via fellow St. Louis Bullpen writer Alex Turpin, I found an interesting tweet (a rarity, as this one isn’t a picture of a cute dog). It is from some person I’ve never heard of but it made me think.

This person may have completely made this up, but I love the idea of this. In addition to being a baseball nerd, I am also a music nerd, and knowing #1 pop songs is something I enjoy. But the #1 song on the day you were born is irrelevant to your actual life. For instance, I’m pretty sure if it weren’t the answer to the question for me, I would have never heard the song “Two Hearts” by Phil Collins.

But if a song was #1 in the United States on the day you turned fourteen years old, you probably remember it. I know I remember mine.

As an enjoyer of my mom’s spaghetti, I think this one pretty much nails it for me.

Age 14 is a formative point in one’s cultural awareness. Four years earlier’s #1 song, “Have You Ever?” by Brandy, is a song I’m just now listening to for the first time in my life. The song from my 18th birthday, Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable”, is a song I certainly know, but one which came after I was jaded and/or realistic enough to know that being the biggest song on pop radio is temporary glory. It’s disposable entertainment. But it felt like every song that was a big pop radio hit when I was in middle school was going to eventually populate oldies stations and that my grandchildren were going to revere B2K’s “Bump Bump Bump” like I regarded the Beatles.

But now I wonder what lessons could be gleaned by looking at the #1 song in the United States when various St. Louis Cardinals turned fourteen. What can be learned by their songs? How old are we all going to feel by looking at them?

Yadier Molina

The song: “California Love” by 2Pac

The significance: Technically, the #1 song was a double A-side single (Yadier Molina is old enough that physical single releases were a thing during his middle school years), so I’m opting for the more famous song of the two. And while Yadier Molina’s contract, which takes him into his age-38 season, may assure that Molina retires a Cardinal and never experiences California Love first-hand, he has certainly loved playing against one particular California team in his career. The opponent against whom Molina has hit the best in his career are the Los Angeles Angels, formerly the California Angels, an otherwise usually decent team that has allowed a 1.168 OPS against the Cardinals catcher.

Francisco Pena

The song: “Baby Boy” by Beyonce

The significance: Did you know Francisco Pena is 28 years old? Maybe it’s Brayan Pena’s lingering legacy or maybe it’s constant references to his father, 1980s Cardinals catcher Tony Pena, but he feels like a good second option to Jedd Gyorko for Most Deceptively Young Cardinals Player.

Matt Carpenter

The song: “Smooth” by Santana feat. Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty off the multi-platinum album Supernatural

The significance: For a couple years, Cardinals Twitter destroyed Matt Carpenter’s defense at first base. The numbers said it was average, but he would have occasional misplays which hurt his reputation. And in 2018, with Jose Martinez garnering the lion’s share of the innings at first base, Matt Carpenter is looking quite a bit better. By comparison, Carpenter looks so smooth. Let’s not forget about it.

Jedd Gyorko

The song: “Dilemma” by Nelly

The significance: This video, which includes St. Louisan Larry Hughes (I assume Jayson Tatum checks his phone after every game to see if Nelly’s making a new album) and Kelly Rowland texting her boyfriend on what appears to be Microsoft Excel, is a weirdly memorable one, and its title sums up Jedd Gyorko’s role with the Cardinals, one which an optimist may call flexible and a pessimist may call shaky. He was acquired as a utility infielder, became way too good to not play every day, but to this day arguably doesn’t start as much as he should because the Cardinals are stuck with their own dilemma–they like Gyorko and the stability he provides, but they see the flashiness of Kolten Wong or the offensive upside of Matt Carpenter or the “has actually played shortstop on a regular basis”-ness of Yairo Munoz and looks elsewhere.

Tommy Pham

The song: “Always On Time” by Ja Rule

The significance: Honestly, even though I too was in middle school when this song came out, I don’t remember it. I just think it’s funny that it wasn’t Marcell Ozuna’s song.

Dexter Fowler

The song: “Say My Name” by Destiny’s Child

The significance: Having written more than one “here’s why Dexter Fowler should get less playing time” post this season, it does feel like I’m cheating on Dexter Fowler. Which is unfortunate, because he’s great! Dexter Fowler might be my favorite personality on the Cardinals (on my less petty days, it’s Fowler; on my pettier days, it’s Tommy Pham by a mile)! It feels like I’m cheating on him. He has a million karat smile and he has an adorable family and he seems like an incredibly likable guy and yet here I am, acting kinda shady. I am still holding out hope that Dexter Fowler isn’t our LeToya Luckett.

Tyler O’Neill

The song: “Boom Boom Pow” by The Black Eyed Peas

The significance: I mean, have you seen the homers this dude’s hit in the Majors?

Carlos Martinez

The song: “Gold Digger” by Kanye West

The significance: This is a somewhat ironic choice, because rather than coming up gold, Carlos Martinez tends to come up more silver.

Adam Wainwright

The song: “Kiss From a Rose” by Seal

The significance: “You remain my power, my pleasure, my pain” is a perfect descriptor of the mixed feelings Cardinals fans currently feel towards the very obviously diminished veteran. Fans that hate watching Adam Wainwright pitch today still can remember the good times, as they weren’t that long ago, and they were truly wonderful and glorious. Also, this is an excuse to watch a music video in which Seal is singing his dang heart out interspersed with footage of Jim Carrey acting in a Joel Schumacher Batman movie. The 1990s were weird, man.

Bud Norris

The song: “Angel of Mine” by Monica

The significance: I’ll be honest–I took him for granted. When the Cardinals signed Bud Norris, I didn’t hate it, but I was hardly excited about it. It came soon after the Yu Darvish signing and, to put it lightly, it felt like a weak counterpunch, even if that wasn’t the intent of the move. And here we are, with Bud Norris the most consistent Cardinals reliever throughout the year. He is truly an angel.

Jordan Hicks

The song: “Love the Way You Lie” by Eminem

The significance: First of all, let’s not think about how young Jordan Hicks is. Why yes I was a senior in college while he was probably just becoming aware of adult-oriented pop culture and why no I am not capable of handling this. But as baseball metaphor, this is pretty spot-on. The headline of Jordan Hicks is that he throws the ball literally harder than anybody else in baseball history. But digging deeper into the numbers reveals that his velocity is, perhaps not a direct lie but certainly misleading. As has been covered endlessly not only in the Cardinals blogosphere but nationally to a point of becoming a cliche, Jordan Hicks isn’t striking guys out. He has a 2.48 ERA while he has a FIP over 4 and an xFIP over 5. He’s striking guys out with less regularity than Mike Leake or Bartolo Colon. And yet…how do you not love watching the guy? His career to this point has been a lie, but it’s at least been an interesting lie.

Mike Matheny

The song: “Missing You” by John Waite

The significance: Looks at Tony LaRussa, remembers that he routinely batted Skip Schumaker leadoff in the lineup, and screams “I ain’t missing you at all!” Then, in a moment of weakness (recalling Michael Wacha in the 2014 NLCS), I look longingly again at LaRussa and whisper, “I’m lying to myself.”

Alex Reyes

The song: “Disturbia” by Rihanna

The significance: Yesterday’s news that he’s heading back to the Disabled List was terrifying. Please come back soon, Alex.

One thought on “Cardinals players as defined by a song from their adolescence

  1. I just looked up that thing, and the #1 song on my 14th birthday in the US was “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?” by Bryan Adams. Completely forgot about that song. I had to jog my memory for a moment there.


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