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Ortiz: Matheny as hungry as any Cards fan to cut the gap on the Cubs

Most of the Christmas decorations have already been taken down and stored around these parts. There is no NFL franchise here, much less playoff football, to keep the local sports fans occupied.

And even when the Rams were in town, local sports fans traditionally started to turn the focus back toward baseball after the new year in St. Louis. Actually, you can safely argue that folks here never turn their focus away from the Cardinals.

Whatever the case, the turn of the calendar year usually signals the period when major-leaguers begin to ramp up their preparations for the upcoming season.