Monday, October 30, 2006
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Last night's victory ended the longest stretch in franchise history without a title since it's inception in 1892 (they went 34 years before their first appearance in the series - a win - in 1926). It also ended the longest stretch in franchise history without someone on the team who had won a title as a Cardinal (7 years since Willie McGee retired; the previous had been 3 - the time between Lou Brock's retirement in 1979 and the 1982 title). That will suffice as the 'randomly obscure fact' for the day.
The baseball world was shocked by the Cardinals title only becasue of how difficult the season had been following Pujols' oblique strain. Saint Louis had the best record in the NL when he went down (a fact which was conveniently forgotten until they had a 2-1 series lead). This team, at it's core, was still the same dangerous team that had won 205 games the previous two seasons. Injuries had hit the team hard, as they had last season, but this year the team did not play well for long stretches like they were able to do last year. In the end, only getting into the post-season mattered. After that, the team was able to field a reasonably healthy lineup, and they started to produce around AP against the Padres and really against New York, and never stopped, leading us to this result.
Other random thoughts from the clincher:
- So Taguchi becomes only the third Japanese League star to win a World Series Title, joing Hideki Irabu (NYY, 1998-1999) and Tadahito Iguchi (ChiSox 2005).
- Fox still sucks. Graphic as the Cardinal lineup was announced: Cardinals are 9-12 in World Series elimination games. Not quite. Cardinals were actually 14-14 in those games going into last night (15-14 now). You may say, but they've only won 10 titles, so how can they be 15-14? Because in 1926, 1934, 1946, 1967, and 1982 the team was down 3-2 in the series and came back to win. Also, anyone else besides me half expect Jeannie Zelasko to take off her jacket and start slapping Mr. Dewitt in the ass while screaming 'SAY MY NAME! SAY MY NAME!' during the trophy presentation? What a tart. Dewitt and Walt Jocketty looked a little non-plussed at her idiocy, although they handled it well.
- David Eckstein was a pretty good choice for MVP. But he won it based on two games worth of excellence (he started the Series 0 for 11). I think any of the below would have been a better choice: Scott Rolen: .421 Average, 5 R, 3 2B, HR, 2 RBI (first and last), .476 OBP, .736 SLG. Only player with a hit in every game of the World Series; his post-season hit streak stands at 10. Yadier Molina: .411 Avg, 3R, 2 2B, 1 RBI, .500 OBP, .473 SLG. Think the HR in Game 7 gave him a world of confidence? It would appear so. Let's see if he can keep it going next season. Sean Casey: .529 AVG, 2 R, 2 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, .894 SLG, .529 OBP. The only truly dangerous bat in the Tiger lineup (other than Guillen). Cardinals Bullpen: 1 ER in 10 innings (0.90 ERA). Seem silly to give it to a group of guys? The 1981 MVP went to a trio of Dodgers following their win over the Yankees.
- Pitching, pitching, pitching. It all starts there. Viva El Birdos does a great job showing the improvement the playoff Cardinal staff had as compared to the regular-season staff.
- I would like to know the real reason why Kenny Rogers didn't pitch last night. Jim Leyland is a good manager, but Verlander's first inning is exactly why I didn't think he should start. Why would you go with a rookie instead of the 18 year vet in the biggest game of the season? Seemed strange at the time and still does. I wonder if he was goaded into that decision based on the rumor that Carpenter would start Game 6 - his thinking: that Rogers was the only pitcher he had that stood a chance of matching Carpenter's excellence. We'll never know now.
I'll take a little time off to absorb everything that's happened in October, before I start taking a look at the free agent market and what I think the Cardinals should do roster-wise going into the winter meetings. I also look forward to seeing who's the Cy Young (my money's on Hoffman, although Carpenter was the best pitcher in the NL the whole season) and MVP (AP is the MVP, but based on TSN MOP and the Hank Aaron Award, it will probably be Ryan Howard) winner in the NL for 2006. That, and trying to figure out how to transfer Game 5 to a DVD for permanent inclusion in the archives.
Congratulations to the 2006 World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals.
Friday, October 27, 2006
Thursday, October 26, 2006
First, let me dig into this big plate of crow for ever implying Preston Wilson can't play defense. My bad. One dazzling play in LF, and a great job cutting off Pudge's 8th inning double on a wet field. I hope he starts out there tomorrow. I don't expect Encarnacion will see any more action in the starting lineup this season, so Duncan will probably be in RF the rest of the way.
Talk about some self-destruction out there on the mound. Detroit's pitchers are killing them, but not because they're leaving fastballs up or letting breaking balls back up over the heart of the plate. These guys either don't know how to field their position (Jones), don't know how to play their position (Zumaya) or just run into bad luck (Rodney). Really too bad for Rodney, he was filthy in the 6th inning (albeit against Miles and J-Rod), but will be remembered for shot putting the throw to get Taguchi's down the RF line.
Getting the sense that this is the Cardinals year? Ever since Game 2 of the NLCS I've had a feeling. Not the gnawing hunger or 'what is the name of the girl next to me' sinking feeling, but, a slowly forming on the edge of my consciousness feeling that we're destined to win this one. Off-days line up to give Carpenter 2 starts in 4 games against San Diego. Taguchi homers off Wagner (who hadn't blown a save against StL since 1998). Suppan divines Gibson (1ER in 15 innings) in the NLCS. Duncan homers off a lefty (Feliciano). Chavez makes a rip-your-heart-out catch in Game 7, and the Cardinals win anyway. Reyes sets down 17 in a row. The Tigers start helping the cause with key miscues that lead to runs. Now Granderson falls down in CF chasing an Eckstein fly ball that leads to 2 runs, and Eckstein's next batted ball is juuuuuuust out of Monore's reach.
I won't count chickens before they hatch. There's still a lot of baseball to play, and I think La Russa is really rolling the dice moving up Carpenter to Game 6 (if it gets that far - boy that feels good to say), but that feeling won't go away. My 'Retire #51' shirt remains safely unwashed in my room, the 1968 World Series Press Pin I broke out has brought luck (we've won both games I've worn it), and even Will Leitch can't jinx us.
Of course, to bring me back to reality, Fox runs the 'last time StL held a 3-1 series lead: 1985' graphic. Thanks. Somewhere Don Denkinger's phone rings. Cardinal fans the world over would like to thank Fox for picking at that old emotional wound.
High probability of thunderstorms tomorrow. We'll see if the weather cooperates to allow Game 5.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Carpenter was dealing last night. That's your 2005 (2006?) NL Cy Young Winner. That's the pitcher I wish the Cardinals had available two years ago against Boston - it might not have changed the final result, but StL might have avoided the sweep.
Odds and Ends from last night:
- Gotta love a team who's lineup introductions are done to the old Budweiser theme. Awesome.
- Couldn't believe Wilson was starting - until the 'vs. Robertson: 5 for 5, 2 HR' graphic appeared. Good call, Tony! And reminds me: is there anywhere on line I can find these types of statistics? Say I want to know the batting average, after the seventh inning, of sons of former major leaguers. Where can I find this information? If I have to break down and buy the Elias Sports Book, I will, but since people can find porno of virtually any mammal combination copulating on the internets I should be able to find out Ronnie Belliard's career statistics against Bonderman.
Wilson did strike out once (it's in his contract to strike out once per game, I'm sure), but he lined out hard to second and started the 4th inning rally with a sharp single.
- My boy So started! He made 2 good plays in RF (he didn't overrun the ball Ordonez hit; righties with an inside/out swing who hit to the opposite field will impart enough spin on the ball so that it tails back towards the line, and that's what happened on that ball), and was involved in the eighth inning rally. Wish he'd done more than pop-up to short in the 4th with the bases loaded, but oh well.
- Explain to me again why Belliard hit fifth? Nice o-fer. Belliard tore the cover off the ball in the NLDS but has disappeared since. Belliard should not hit higher than seventh the rest of this series, and with Molina hitting the ball pretty well Belliard should probably hit eighth.
- I don't share the hate for Tim McCarver found in other corners of the blogosphere, but no one can beat a dead horse like McCarver. Tim: I know Zumaya made a bad play. You don't have to tell me 60 times for me to get it. Move on. Or, stick to color commentary from the catcher's perspective, which I always find insightful.
- Do you think someone had the 'last time the 1-5-3 DP was turned was 1923' factoid at their fingertips, or was it a look-up? I envisioned they contacted some monk in a cubicle, bent over a book, researching obscure baseball facts by candlelight, as the source for that gem.
Let's not get too comfortable with this 2-1 lead. The boys in red were 2-13 last night with RISP. Looking deeper into the numbers, StL has scored 13 runs this series, with 5 a direct result of Detroit miscues (2 on Inge's error, 2 on Zumaya's, 1 on Miner's WP), and another as an indirect result (Jones' error in the ninth of Game 2 allowed Encarnacion to reach and the inning to continue). Cards need to hit better in run scoring situations, because if Detroit tightens up their defense it may get dicey.
Rain is forecast tonight. I think a rainout will hurt the Cardinals more than Detroit; StL has all the momentum in the world right now; hopefully Mother Nature will not give the Tigers a chance to re-group with a rain day.
Suppan is the man on the bump for Game 4. He's 8-2 at home this season, and 1-1 in the playoffs. I would expect Encarnacion to be back in the lineup tonight, and probably also Duncan's left handed bat against Bonderman. So here's my projected line-up tonight (this is fun, that's why I've started doing it):
See you after the game.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Now it's a best-of-5 series, and the Redbirds have home field advantage.
It gets better: their best 2 second-half pitchers will start the next 2 games. The possibility that Reyes could start Game 5 with a chance to win the Series is no longer a pipe dream, it is a distinct possibility. Players play all season for a chance like this; now's the time to reach out and take it.
Some things I hope to see tonight:
1. The game. I've still only seen about 2 innings total through the first 2 games. Look for that to change.
2. Cardinals play from ahead. The opponents have scored first in the last 6 games, and in the first inning in the last four. The good news is that StL has split the last 6 games playing from behind. However, after watching Detroit swing at anything thrown towards the plate (including hot dog wrappers, spittle, very small rocks, and vitriol) during their Game 1 loss their free-swinging ways don't play well when trailing. Let's jump ahead tonight. Carp is tough anyway; Carp pitching with a lead is unhittable.
3. Taguchi in LF over Preston Wilson. Viva El Birdos laid out a pretty good argument as to why Encarnacion should get a rest. Although both he and Wilson are swinging at any pitch which might be in the strike zone over it's first 4 feet of travel, I have more faith in Encarnacion's defense than Wilson's. Besides, Taguchi had the key at-bat in Game 1. Without his protecting Molina (who went on a hit and run) by essentially throwing his bat at the pitch, Molina's out by 40 feet, and that entire inning's different. That play is #2 on my unsung key plays in this post-season (#1 is sending Wilson on a 3-2 pitch with Pujols at the plate in Game 4 of the NLDS. Pujols' grounder to third is a DP ball. Instead, Wilson gets to second with 2 out, and eventually Belliard ties the game with a single. Look it up.).
My proposed line-up for St. Louis:
See you after the game.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Seems pretty off the sports path, right? Why would I even mention it? Because as a result of this I missed Game 1. Initially the ceremony was to be at 1630 (4:30pm. All future times here will be military time, deal with it), then dinner, and I figured, well, there'll be a bar in the restaurant I can monitor, and at any rate, I'll see the end of the game. Except the event didn't start until 1800 (bride was late - couldn't find any shoes to match the dress, so she had to buy some), and we didn't start ordering dinner until 2000 (bride and groom took 1.5 hours to drive about 30 blocks. No further comment necessary). We didn't get home until 2230. Flaky people piss me off.
Which meant I saw the Tigers score their first run, and Rolen's HR in the second. I heard Duncan's RBI double in the third, and Edmonds' RBI single in the sixth, while in the car from one location to the other, but that was it. Which is why this column will be bereft of it's usual 'penetrating' analysis. But, when I found out what the final score was, I was quite pleased. Giddy, in fact. Or that could have been the wine and Remy Martin talking.
Anyway, as if to prove a thought strand from my last post, StL again showcased superior starting pitching. 8+ allowing 2 ER. Retired 17 straight hitters at one stretch. Well done, Anthony Reyes. Additionally, Rolen and Edmonds went 4-8 in this game with a HR, 2 RBI, and 3 R scored. If they've returned to even a semblance of the form they displayed 2 years ago during the regular season, this has suddenly become a very dangerous team. You can't pitch around AP if Edmonds and Rolen continually make you pay. Sweeps are created that way (although I will not be silly enough to float that possibility).
Life is much more manageable if you set small goals. Starting off with a goal of, "I want to win an Olympic Gold Medal in the 200 butterfly" may not be met because it's so lofty a goal, it's difficult to measure progress towards that goal. However, smaller goals to help you along the way keep you going: 'I want to have a AAA time in the 200 fly by the end of the year. I want to qualify for Senior Nationals in 2008'. That sort of thing.
The Cardinals exemplify that latter philosophy. Start by getting into the post-season, because anything can happen after that. Then win the NLDS. Then the NLCS. Then win one of the first two World Series Games in Detroit. Now's the time to up the ante. StL can cripple the Tigers with a win in Game 2. And, Jeff Weaver may indeed have a chip on his shoulder about proving something to his original franchise. He's pitched well in Coamerica once already this year (3 May loss when with Anaheim: 7 1/3 IP, 5 H, 2 ER), so why not do it again?
Looking forward to tonight's effort. Especially since the Jag-Hags knocked me out of my suicide pool today. Nice effort, bozos.
Lastly, to Mark: Thanks for the note and complement. Although not on your team, I do work with an elite group. Thanks for your service, which ensures my wife and son can live in peace and freedom.
Friday, October 20, 2006
Then I read this.
First, the Mets did not lose the NLCS. The Cardinals won it. Just like the Padres didn't lose the NLDS; the Cardinals won it. San Diego hit 2-32 with runners in scoring position. New York was what, 5-48? Under the Mendoza line, certainly. So 2 consecutive series where the opponent couldn't drive in a runner from second or third (or both). That's superior pitching, folks - of a kind I wouldn't have thought possible 3 weeks ago.
Any talking head who decries the winner by saying 'the other team lost it' insults the effort of the winner. Cards won 4-3. They won 2 road games, including Game 7 - the franchise hadn't won a road Game 7 in 39 years (Gibson over Lonborg in the 1967 World Series). So respect the Mets. But even more so, respect the Cardinals.
Second: I am personally soooooo tired of AL teams from the NorthEast. My casual dislike for them has developed into a great hate. It's bad enough I have to suffer through every single Yankee/Red Sox game being broadcast on national TV (ESPN? NESN? what's the difference?), all the boo-hooing from fans of the teams with the 2 largest payrolls in the game, the A-Rod circus, Manny being Manny, blah blah blah. Now our league is constantly referred to as AAAA by the remaining Page 2 gasbag. Listen up, AL fans: if I want to watch a softball game I'll go down to the local rec center. Or better yet, I'll sign up and play in one. (I know your thumbs are well conditioned from all that PS2, gasbag; any idea how to swing a bat?)
All this from a guy who has ALREADY TURNED on the GM that led Boston to their only WS title since Wilson was President. Nice, jackass. I agree with a little constructive criticism, but the bile is just appalling.
Next thought: Who are the 'best' managers in the AL right now? Joe Torre (cut his teeth in the NL as a player/manager), and Jim Leyland (cut his managerial teeth in the NL).
Next thought: from 1960-1987 the AL won 4 All-Star games (1986, 1983, 1971, 1963). Based on the stars in the AL over that span, I don't think anyone would refer to them as AAAA. NL currently has stars of similar wattage. Perhaps the current AL run of success in that event is more due to the cyclic nature of life? Or luck (two
Next thought: any comparison of World Series victories is always skewed by Yankee success. AL teams have won 60 of the 101 WS played. Take out the most successful AL (Yankees) and NL (Cardinals) team, the numbers drop to 34 (AL) and 32 (NL). Lotta parity there, eh? And despite winning the last two, AL vs NL is only 3-2 in the WS since 2000. Yeah, NL is a bush league all right.
I want StL to win because I've been a fan of this team since I first learned to read a box score, so I have a biased opinion. But for all of you fans of the National League: Detroit is a great story. However, you follow BASEBALL. Searching for someone to back tomorrow? Back your league. I know this is hard for Dodger and Padres fans, and especially painful for Mets fans, but aren't
And for the Page 2 Gasbag: See below.
First, I am beside myself with satisfaction at the 3-1 Cardinals win. This SOOOOO makes up for last year's disappointment. And it had to be the Tigers. We've had a horrific World Series record since 1968 Game 5, and I for one would like to see that curse ended. Enough with the losing. Enough with the moral victories. I've waited 24 years for another WS win, and now is as good a time as any to get it.
My Mom's family is mostly full of Red Sox fans; on my Dad's side, they all root for the Cardinals. This made the 2004 WS a lot of fun. Initially. Not so much fun as it developed. And I've never heard the end of it from that side of the family. In fact, I enjoyed the endless teasing so much that when I met a Red Sox fan I found tolerable on a deep personal level I married her - and now never hear the end of it 24/7 vice 12/5. Nice. You want to know annoying? Try getting every available Red Sox-logoed infant clothing for the mini-Rant. From all corners of the family. As well as the Mrs's fanatical Boston transplants out here in God's Country. At least he has the Fredbird mobile over his crib, otherwise he'd be lost in a sea of Red Sox angst.
So it figures that, here in the magical year of 2006, the Cardinals play the Tigers. Did I mention my Mom's family is mostly Red Sox fans? Guess which team the rest of the family backs? So here we go again.
Couple of odds and ends from tonight's game:
First, Endy Chavez. Unbelieveable. Fantastic. Spectacular. Tremendous. Phenomenal. Great, great play. Easily the best catch in a big spot I've ever seen. This trumps the ball Jimmy E ran down off Ausmus' bat in Game 7 of the 2004 NLCS - because of the difficulty in making the catch. Wow. I still can't believe he caught it. The Associated Press description of the play, by the way, is much, much better than I can do.
- Preston Wilson: sleep well tonight, and forget about this game. Three horrible at bats. If LaRussa should pencil him into the #2 spot for Game 1 of the WS, he should pause, walk back into his private bathroom, slap himself for 5 minutes, then erase the name and stick someone - ANYONE - else in there. I prefer Taguchi, but I'm not the manager.
- Scott Rolen has hit 3 balls hard (with 2 hits) out of his last 5 at bats. That's very encouraging. We really need him to get hot for the World Series. Right now none of the options (Encarnacion, Edmonds, or Rolen) are particularly attractive in the 4-hole protecting Pujols. We need you, Scott. Keep swinging the bat. Oh, and it was nice to see him and LaRussa hug and share an encouraging word on the field after tonight's game. Thank God. Now we can stop hearing about the high-school girl tiff between the two of them in the press.
- Jeff Suppan with a yeoman-like effort. Who would have guessed he'd be the best pitcher on the staff in this series? But he was. A well-deserved NLCS MVP. The only downside of this is, he's probably pitched himself out of the Cardinals' tax bracket, which is too bad. He's had 3 good years for the Redbirds, and eats up a ton of innings (200+ this season). I've enjoyed rooting for the Crespi High School Alumnus, even though it is a rival high school. Never thought I'd pull for a 'Critter'. Nicely done, Jeff.
How will LaRussa stack his rotation? As I've stated previously, Marquis should not pick up a baseball the rest of this season. Of course, that means Reyes starts Game 1 on normal rest. LaRussa has thrown the book out the window during these playoffs (see: Duncan pinch-hitting against Feliciano in Game 5), but he hasn't had his mind wiped. So I don't think so with Reyes. I foresee Jeff Weaver starting Game 1 on short rest, Carpenter Game 2 on short rest, Suppan Game 3 on regular rest, then possibly Reyes Game 4. Lines the rotation up nicely for the rest of the series.
Final thought on this most gratifying day. 24 years ago my brother entered the world, making it a much more interesting and enjoyable place. That fall the Cardinals won the World Series. This year the mini-Rant entered the world, making it a much more interesting and enjoyable place. This fall the Cardinals are in the World Series. Do I believe in coincidence? You bet I do.
Cards in 6. Carpenter WS MVP.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Seemed more mature than [expletive deleted].
Because I have no where else to turn, I'm blaming this on Will Leitch. Hey, Will: 1's an aberration, 2's a coincidence, 3's a trend. 0-6? Stay the fuck out of Shea tomorrow. STAY OUT. I don't care if Aurora Snow invites you into her skybox for a private 'hide the wiener' show.
Just kidding, Will. Not blaming you. Stay the fuck out of Shea tomorrow.
Odds and ends from tonight's game:
- First inning killed the Cardinals. Maine was clearly nervous in the first half inning. Second and third with 1 out, then bases loaded with 2 out, couldn't get a run in. That, coupled with Reyes' HR, allowed the rook to settle down. Cardinals don't get another hit until Belliard's leading off the seventh.
- Bottom of the seventh inning was like being slowly bled to death. Spiezio ALMOST catches Tucker's dying quail. LaRussa guesses Tucker's stealing on a 2-2 count, Molina air mails the throw into CF. Eckstein makes a great stop of Reyes' grounder, no play. Reyes takes second on what should have been Defense Indifference. Looper almost hits Lo Duca with a 1-0 pitch, and, not wanting to face Beltran with the bases loaded, gives in enough to allow the 2 run single. Ball game.
- Second Guess Corner: Why hit for Carpenter in the seventh? He'd only thrown 76 pitches, and with Belliard at first and one out, it was a good bunt situation. If you're trying to make something happen, why not use your best pinch-hitter, Taguchi? I don't understand that move. Although had Duncan gone with the 1-2 pitch instead of trying to pull it, he might have singled to left. Or he could have hit into a 6-4-3 DP vice a 4-6-3 DP. Who the hell knows.
Oliver Perez to get the start tomorrow. Jeff Suppan on the bump for the Redbirds. Perez was shaky in his last start, and is going on short rest. St. Louis must, MUST jump ahead early tomorrow - get into his head, give Suppan a working margin, turn this game into another Game 3. They will have a good shot at winning in that scenario. If NY scores first, it just gets harder, like pushing a boulder uphill.
Not sure how much blogging will be done for the World Series should NY make the comeback. We'll see. However, I do expect the pitching to be Verlander Game 1, Rogers Game 2, Bonderman Game 3, Robertson Game 4. This sets up Rogers to feed off the home crowd twice if need be, and gives your most experienced fireballer the nod in Game 7 should it get there.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
But now, they've given me hope. I'm starting to believe the Cardinals are the team of destiny this season, not Detroit; how else to explain the resurgence of Weaver, the suddenly rock solid bullpen (less Thompson and Hancock), the rest of the lineup picking up AP's tender hamstring?
I've got the same euphoric feeling I had after AP's bomb left Ten-Run last October. The belief that we've got this thing won now. We beat their best. They're running scared. I had those hopes dashed last year. I don't know if I can handle that again this time.
This marks the fifth time the Cardinals have won 3 games in a 7 game series since their last World Championship. Three of the previous 4 times they've lost the series (1985, 1987 World Series; 1996 NLCS). You've come this far, you can't stop now. Win that fourth game. Send the arrogant Mets packing. Send Fox brass into convulsions. Send me to bed happy.
I don't care what happens in the World Series. Winning it all is beyond our wildest expectations, so let's just keep that crazy thought out there, shall we? But I want to get there now. This team probably won't look the same next season (Edmonds, Mulder, Suppan, Marquis, maybe Rolen, maybe Izzy, moving on?). I want another crack with this group. I want to avenge that egg we laid in 2004. I want to see my NL team, hell any NL team, win a World Series game. Especially I want to see Carpenter pitch on the biggest stage.
So close them out tomorrow.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Items to ponder from tonight's bloodletting:
- I understand that Duncan/LaRussa believed Reyes was tipping his pitches. I wasn't paying that close of attention to his windup motion, and they are far more experienced in spotting that stuff from the dugout than I from 1500 miles away while peering at the game in HD. And it does explain how 0 for 11 David Wright could launch a ball to the back of the Met bullpen, which remains his only hit in this series. But from the stretch he negotiated the fourth pretty well. At this point he had given up 3 hits and 2 ER. Not bad. Why not let him pitch in the 5th? Of course, this is sooooo much easier to say now that we know Brad Thompson will only retire 1 guy in the fifth, and Hancock won't get anyone out in the sixth. But while allowing for my rose-colored glasses filtering the past, it still seems like LaRussa overthought this one.
Duncan and LaRussa have jealously protected Reyes' arm all season. He's only thrown over 100 pitches once, and that was 27 Sep against San Diego. This would seem to be a good game to go slightly over that mark (he had thrown 86 through 4 innings). But what do I know? I'm a balding, slightly overfat white guy chowing down at my in-laws house during the game. Makes for a pretty picture, eh?
- Wonder how much different the game would have been had Belly Lard not been thrown out at third in the second inning. Oquendo gets the blame for this one. I think, with the pitcher on deck, that he should have held Belliard at second. Reyes then sacrifices the runners to second and third, respectively, and then Eckstein hits - he who led off the game with a single. We could have gotten to Perez for more runs early, and that may have changed the outcome. I think the Mets achieved a slight momentum shift with that play, and they kept it rolling with the solo HR's in the third. Then the Cardinal bullpen blew up, removing all the suspense from this one.
So on to a CRITICAL Game 5. The good news: Glavine's pitching on three days rest. Historically, he hasn't excelled in these situations (2-5, 6.75; last time 7 June 06, 6 runs in 5 2/3 innings). Bad news: so is Weaver, who has never started on 3 days rest. Oh, goody.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Wouldn't it figure that the worst Cardinal team this millenium (in terms of won/loss record) would be one that makes it into the World Series?
Comments from tonight's extravaganza:
- What's with the random facts about players? Endy Chavez's brother's name? Shawn Green's favorite childhood book? Scott Spiezio headlines a garage band...actually that would partially explain that unbelieveably gay thing he has growing on his face. The only thing gayer is Inge's (Nice landing strip, douche). Stick to the germane statistics. 'My favorite book is Curious George Goes To The Hospital' is only mildly interesting when the player is 12 years old or younger. And even then only to his/her relatives, who probably already know that. As for me, I don't care.
- Can we finally establish that the Cardinals can't hit left-handed starting or long relief pitching? Wells (5 IP, 2 ER), Glavine (7 IP, 0 ER), Oliver (6 IP, 0 ER). 18 innings, 2 runs. This is why other teams sign any non-comatose leftie and rush him to the mound when the Cards come to town, because the Cardinals can't hit them. Cardinals can never hit these guys. I know historically this is true, I just don't have the Elias stats book to back it up. Think Randolph wishes he'd started Oliver tonight? Don't think I expect Perez (3-13. THREE AND THIRTEEN and he gets the Game 4 start. Wow) to throw 6 shutout innings tomorrow? You bet I do. I will need more booze for tomorrow's game. Lots more.
- Rolen looked good tonight. Maybe LaRussa was playing a mind game with him last night. He played with a chip on the bad shoulder tonight, and played well.
- Until the 9th, I thought they were playing that game in a mausoleum. These are the greatest fans in baseball? More like the quietest fans in baseball. What the hell? Good God, conventions for mimes have more sound (From what I've heard. Second-hand. And we kicked his ass afterwards for bringing it up. How 'bout dem Bears?). You could hear McCarver's train of thought the entire game, which is never a good thing.
I've worn the same 'Retire #51' shirt last night and tonight. This shirt won't be washed again until the Cardinals' season is over. Hopefully that's around Halloween.
Here's hoping Reyes vs. ChiSox shows up tomorrow, not Reyes vs. Brewers.
But it did create some speculation on why the Redbirds had not won a World Series since the Darrell Porter-led team in 1982. Some popular opinion has lain this drought at the feet (or in the coke straw) of Keith Hernandez. Nay, nay, moosebreath. This curse goes all the way back to 1968.
For the record, Lou Brock was my favorite Cardinal as a kid (recently replaced by So Taguchi. It's not just a name, it's a chant! It's a question! It's a game winning HR!). However, getting thrown out at the plate during Game 5 of the 1968 World Series is a defining moment in the history of the Cardinals. Statistics to back this up:
Cardinals post-season results up to 1968:
World Series Champions (8): 1926, 1931, 1934, 1942, 1944, 1946, 1964, 1967
National League Champs (3): 1928, 1930, 1943
Cardinals post-season results since 1968:
World Series Champions (1): 1982
National League Champs (4): 1968, 1985, 1987, 2004
An interesting fact is that, in terms of overall World Series won/loss record, going into game 5 of the 1968 World Series the franchise was only 34-33. It's pretty amazing, then, that they had won 8 of the 11 World Series they appeared in. They remain the only team in the NL that has won more World Series than they have lost against the vaunted Yankees (3 of 5), and have played them more than once (so stuff it Marlins and D'Backs fans).
But since that play, the Redbirds are only 10-18 in World Series Play, and have lost 4 of their last 5 appearances.
Luckily there is a cure: to reverse the 'curse' you must defeat those who have tortured you the most. Boston turned this trick by beating the Yanks in the 04 ALCS, then the Cardinals in the World Series (they were 0-2 against STL, losing in 1946 and 1964). The Cardinals must reverse this trend by beating Detroit in a World Series.
There's no time like the present.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Can't say this result surprises. Jeff Weaver did, in fact, pitch his butt off for 5 2/3 innings, but that one pitch sent me into convulsions, and revived memories of Beltran wearing that hideous alternate Astros jersey two years ago, You know, the one that makes them look like the Dairy Queen Astros. What's he hitting now, .700 against the Cards in his playoff career?
Other things to ponder going into Game 2:
- Do you really think LaRussa agonized over giving Carp the start tomorrow on normal rest like the papers made it out he did? C'mon. Even for an over-thinker like LaRussa, that decision was a no-brainer.
- So much for AP's vaunted base running. Got to be better tomorrow.
- Having Rolen start again tomorrow makes sense for this reason - the Mets start a rookie. Here's a chance for Rolen to get his hacks against a kid. I would really like to see him drive the ball tomorrow night, even if the hit turns into just a loud out. Would probably do him a world of good on the confidence scale. If he looks as pathetic tomorrow as he did in Games 2 and 3 of the NLDS, LaRussa should start Spiezio for the rest of the series at third. I'll take the defensive hit. We need another bat in the lineup.
- At least we had some hard outs. But the Mets are a better defensive team than I thought. No breaks tonight at the plate. The Cardinals need to be more patient at the dish. They should have known Glavine would try and paint that damn outside corner all night, with the occasional inside pitch. You have to work the count to have success against him, and they really didn't. With a rookie going tomorrow, and all that adrenalin, he could be all over the place. They'd BETTER be patient. Hammer the good pitch when you get it. Remember, the Dodgers ate this guy up early in the game.
One more thought: Last year Carp beat the Astros 5-3 in Game 1. Game 2: Oswalt shuts down the Cards 4-1. To anyone who knows anything about the game Oswalt was (and is) the Astros ace. Just like Carp is St. Louis' ace. Now I'm not such a rah-rah Cardinals fan to suggest that Weaver/Suppan/Reyes backing up Carpenter are the equivalent of Pettite/Clemens/Rodriguez behind Oswalt, but there's a parallel here. Our ace is pitching tomorrow. All the road team ever wants out of the first two games is a split. Houston did it last year and went to the World Series. We can still do that. And, as we took 2 of 3 from NY(N) in our park earlier this season, we're very much in this series. Suppan's 7-2 at home, Reyes is a tough hombre with a plus fastball and changeup, Weaver has thrown 10 2/3 innings this postseason with an ERA under 2. Win tomorrow, take 2 of 3 at home, and bring Carp back on regular rest for Game 6.
I said it before the series, and I'll say it now: Cards in 6. As Captain Caveman might say, your comments are welcome.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Lou on Joe Blanton: "He's a pitcher!"
Lou on Rickey Henderson: "He's the greatest leadoff hitter ever!" (this comment immediately followed Thom Brenneman's observation that Henderson was the greatest leadoff hitter in MLB history.)
Lou on Dave Duncan: "He's really helped [the Cardinals]."
Sweet Lou may be a kick-ass manager, but as a descriptive commentator he's out of his depth in a puddle. Stick to analyzing managerial moves, like Milton Bradley taking off for third down by 5 runs in the eighth. Leave the elaboration to those who completed grade school.
For the love of God, please please please please please please PLEASE don't team this Master of the Obvious with Joe Buck and Tim McCarver to call the World Series. My head might explode like a FEMBOT.
Monday, October 09, 2006
Is it just me, or does Carlos Delgado look none too pleased about being douched with cheap champagne?
The only way to enjoy Budweiser products responsibly.
Nice to get the crowd involved after 19 years of futility. What are you going to do for an encore if you advance deeper?
I can see celebrating the playoffs on the field. But you haven't really WON anything. And although it wouldn't really shock me to find out MLB is required by the French government to buy 1500 cases of cheap champagne each year for these celebrations, this is just silly. You need to keep this in perspective, Detroit. You need to work up to the big celebrations. You've left yourself very little room for improvement on that impromptu celebration after vanquishing the Yankees, short of (a) crucifying Matt Millen on the mound, (b) burning down Chicago, or (c) invading Canada.
Seeing as the 'tradition' is too ingrained at this point, allow us at the Stance to suggest some alternate methods of celebrating as you progress through the playoffs.
1. Clinch Playoff Spot: Congratulations. You've bested 22 other teams and are still alive for that big World Series winner's share! You've got illigitimate children to feed. Have a Coke on the house. Feel free to spray it around the locker room; it doesn't sting, and it celebrates your status as a beneficiary of the greatest capitalist free-market system in the world. Where else but the US can you make $250,000 to warm the bench?
2. Win Division Series: You've succeeded in spite of yourself. It never hurts to have Grady Little managing your opponent. 2-32 with runners in scoring position? How did you win, again? This calls for a celebration, with a sobering reminder of how close you came to this. A little Martinelli's Sparkling Cider is just the understated thing. You may wish to drink your cares away, but management wants you alert and sober for the LCS.
4. Win World Series: Draw your own conclusions. But choose wisely, because we don't want to see this ever again:
Sunday, October 08, 2006
Instead, Carp made it to the 8th. And thanks to a wholly unexpected Cla Meredith meltdown, StL had a 6-2 lead at the time.
Well done, boys. Cards 6, Pads 2. St. Louis wins series 3-1.
So it's on to NY and a date with the Mets. Once again, the starting rotation is the hot topic of concern going into the series. I would expect the two Jeffs - Weaver and Suppan - to start Games 1 and 2, respectively. LaRussa might try and bring Carp back on 3 days rest for Game 2, taking into account Soup's record at home this year, but I doubt it. Will Anthony Reyes see any action in this series? Of course, he'd have to be activated first. I fully expect he will be, which means Jason Marquis won't be - and we're a better team that way. Reyes might - MIGHT - pitch game 4 of the series. I would think either StL would be up 3-0 or down 0-3 for that to happen. There's really no pressure in either of those situations; lose Game 4 when up 3-0 and you still have game 5; lost Game 4 when down 3-0 and you get swept (since only 1 baseball team has ever come back from 3-0 down to win the series, you have to expect you're going to lose it anyway).
Other news and notes from the baseball day:
- Glad to see Scott Rolen finally admitted his shoulder was bugging him. He fouled out to first twice in Game 2, and it was pretty clear to me sitting in that park that he wasn't right. Game 3 he actually squared around to bunt. I remember him trying to do that last year in June (after he came back from the first failed surgery) because he knew he had no chance to drive the ball. He also didn't hit a ball out of the infield yesterday. So good for him to tell his manager he had a problem.
However, shame on him for playing 'I have a secret' with LaRussa. And additionally shame on him for whining about the day off he got a few weeks ago (even though it obviously helped him). I'm sure that made it harder for LaRussa to consider holding him out of the lineup. I hope LaRussa's gut has been screaming at him all this time to sit Rolen. If it wasn't, he is an even shittier leader than some think he is already. How can you not know when your people are in trouble? How can you not be willing to make the tough call here? You're the MANAGER. It's your job.
- If the Yankees fire Torre (9 straight AL East titles? 4 World Series titles?), Stienbrenner is an IDIOT. Oh, never mind - he already is.
See you Wednesday for NLCS game 1.
Saturday, October 07, 2006
Pads 3, Cards 1.
Woody Williams vs Chris Carpenter tomorrow. Wood's 1-2 lifetime vs the Redbirds. However, for those wondering why he's starting and not Peavy, Wood was the hottest pitcher the Pads had the last 6 weeks of the season. Of course, Carp is the best StL has.
Prediction: If StL can't close out the series tomorrow, they aren't winning Monday in SD. Take that to the bank.
Thanks to the Yankees laying an egg against Detroit, at least we can look forward to lots of National League baseball on Fox during the League Championship Series - instead of FX where it would have been relegated to had the Yanks pulled through.
Some more news and notes from the day in baseball:
- Chris Duncan really, truly, is a horrible outfielder. He's worse than Reggie Sanders, if that's possible. Love the attempt to catch Todd Walker's drive in the first inning with his left knee. Uh, Chris: that's what the glove is for. Of course, I can see why he didn't trust the leather, after dropping a ball that HIT THE GLOVE in the eighth. Although they awarded Bowen a hit, come on. I can play LF better than Chris Duncan, and that's not saying much for me.
- Anyone besides me expecting to find A-Rod in the University of Texas clock tower sometime in the next year?
- Grady Little has no more idea how to manage a major league game than my 2-month old son. To wit: today, bottom of 5, LA has all the momentum in the world after erasing a 4-0 deficit and taking a 5-4 lead with 2 out. Olmedo Saenz is his best pinch hitter. Here's a chance to take firm control of the game. His choice: one-legged Nomar. Predictably, Nomar hits back to the box to end the inning. Way to go for the jugular, Grady. Someone should have told him the "one-legged man comes up with the huge hit at Chavez Ravine" Magic card was cashed in 1988. NY(N) comes out, scores 3 in the 6th, and never looks back.
Although any manager who uses Brett Tomko twice in relief deserves to lose.
- When a pitcher is struggling, you DON'T swing at the first pitch he throws to you. You hear that, Kenny Lofton and JD Drew? No, I didn't think so.
- Kudos to the Detroit Tigers - now THAT's how you celebrate a series win. Well done. In that vein, if I was Commissioner of Baseball, my third act (after banning the DH and ending interleague play) would be to require the World Series trophy presentation to occur on the field. Just like the rest of the major North American sports do. It's time to reward the fans who shell out $150 to take a family of 4 to the ball park with seeing the presentation.
Until tomorrow, sports fans...
Thursday, October 05, 2006
My buddy RW managed to get 4 tickets to Game 2. I submitted a Special Liberty chit (think memo with approval signatures) and got today off, allowing me and Mrs. Rant to join him and another friend at the ball park. A can't miss good time. And it didn't.
Some pictures you won't see on Sportscenter:
Navy LEAPFROGS. Another bene of living in San Diego - steely eyed killers PARACHUTE into the stadium before big games. Note the precision landing, and shameless home team advertising. This guy's from StL and cried himself to sleep last night.
"Now Meester Poo-holes, I vill zimply ztretch the mussckle vor du. Dis von't hurt a bit. "
"Goddamn that guy. Every time he tries to touch me here."
- I hope whatever kool-aid pitcher Bochy drinks from gets shared with Grady Little, Willie Randolph, and the ALCS winning manager. You keep RIGHT ON pitching to AP. Never mind he's the only guy in the Cardinal lineup that can consistently hurt you.
- It's almost as if the Cardinals and Padres have switched the roles they were playing last week. The Padres can't hit, and they look like a bunch of little leaguers out there. Blum 'forgets' to cover second on a rundown? Walker 'can't' get the ball out of his glove to throw Edmonds out at first? Wow. I feel for Dave Roberts - although he got burned on Preston Wilson's double leading off the fourth, he looks like the only guy out there really laying it all on the line for the Padres. Of course, I hope SD continues to sleepwalk through Soup's start on Saturday. In the meantime, the Cards are getting solid pitching (ERA through 2 games: 0.50. That is not a typo), great defense (who knew Belly Lard had that kind of range?), and just enough clutch AP. Fantastic. A great 2 days to be a Cards fan in SD.
- Saturday's a day game. Cards now 39-19 with the sun up. Hey FOX Sports: Assuming the Cards close the Padres out this weekend, can all the NLCS games be afternoon starts? Can we start the World Series games in the mid-afternoon too? You want to bring the children back to the game, right? RIGHT?
More later this week. Rooting hard for Dodgers to pull off the miracle series victory vs. Mets.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
"Here stands baseball's perfect warrior. Here stands baseball's perfect knight." - Ford C. Frick
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
- Think the Twins are wallowing in their own piss right now? Santana hadn't lost a game at home in almost 2 years. So much for that. Big Hurt puts a BIG HURT on the Twin Cities' hopes.
- The Padres are, on paper, the better team than the Cardinals. Especially where pitching is concerned. San Diego sports the best team ERA in the NL. Their starters are deeper, their bullpen is lights out, and their lineup does just enough to win. In fact, the only area where the Cardinals are noticeably better is.........in day games! Cardinals were 37-19 during the regular year under the sun. So I'm sure the Padres front office is REALLY pleased that both home games are being played in the afternoon. I'll bet John Moores isn't sending David Hill, president of Fox Sports, any Christmas cards this year.
- And while we're on the subject, here's the prime time game for the first 4 nights of baseball playoffs:
Tonight: Yankees /Tigers. Wed: Yankees/Tigers. Thurs: Mets/Dodgers. Fri: Yankees/Tigers. See a trend here?
This is why I hate all teams with 'New York' in them. I even include 'New Jersey' teams in this, since Northern NJ is New York's septic tank/garbage dump/drug source. I understand they are the biggest media market in the country, but they aren't the ONLY city with a sports team! Most of the 280 million Americans NOT living in or near the 5 boroughs couldn't give 2 shits about NY sports. Every fucking year come playoff time Fox Sports executives sit together in a little room, and decide how they're going to get the most NY exposure on the tube in prime time. Every year.
Normally this bias means that you'll only see 1 NL playoff game in prime time during the Division Series, at least until the Yankees either advance or are eliminated. Don't believe me? Check the broadcast times for all NLDS games played the past 3 years. I dare you.
This year is especially bad since both NY franchises are in the playoffs. To make it even more sickening, they both enter the playoffs with the best record in their respective leagues, so Fox can JUSTIFY the NY love-fest. Fox probably had to have the board room at the sports division fumigated and re-painted, because there was so much semen smeared on all the walls. So we're to be subjected to the Yankees/Mets hit parade until we go insane. Here's hoping they both make an early exit. Perfect world: Padres (or Cards) play the Dodgers, in the NLCS; Tigers play Twins (or A's) in the ALCS. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Hill.
- Nice to see LaRussa came to his senses and is having Weaver (4-1 on road) start game 2, with Suppan (7-1 at home) starting game 3. I don't think Weaver is a better pitcher than Suppan - quite the opposite. But if we're playing the numbers game as a starting point for giving the team the best chance of advancing, this rotation is a no-brainer.
- Nice to see LaRussa then planted his newly senses-restored head firmly up his ass by having Marquis on the active roster for the NLDS instead of Reyes. He trusts Reyes to start the last game of the season on short rest, but not to pitch in the playoffs? Decided to go with all that experience, that 'knows how to handle pressure' quality Marquis brings to the table? Did LaRussa have his mind wiped after Sunday's game? Because Marquis certainly used all that experience to good effect when his team needed him in September (0-4, ERA 8.46). So we reward medocrity? Brilliant. If Marquis throws even ONE PITCH in a close game during this series, I'm wearing a Padres jersey to every sporting event I attend, or every game I play in, for the rest of this calendar year. I play softball 4 nights a week, so you see this is no idle threat. LaRussa. What a Jackass.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
Additionally, ol' LaRussa threw me a curveball with Reyes starting today. I guess he decided he'd rather save Carpenter for the potential make-up game against the Giants tomorrow, if needed; and with any luck, StL would pull through, make the playoffs today, and Carp would then be available for Game 1. A good gamble to take, especially with Smoltz starting for the Braves against a Houston rookie, and it paid off.
So the Cardinals win the NL Central, despite losing 9 of their last 12, and now we wait to see exactly who they'll be playing next week. Somewhere on the left coast, of course; hopefully against the Padres, because I might be able to get tickets to one of the games.
I'm still interested in seeing who LaRussa announces as his starters for Games 2 and 3. It looks like Carp, Weaver, Suppan. I think that makes the most sense, and that is how he's set his rotation up, but we'll see.