Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Let Slip....the Dogs of War!*

7-0 whitewash. Nice.

For the first time since April 16, we're not rooting for a loser. Keep chugging, fellas.

Now, as a .500 team that happens to be in second in the division, let the serious discussions begin about making the playoffs.

Just keep an eye on the Reds in the rear view mirror. They're just as hot as the Cardinals are right now.

*Originally written by some dude named Shakespeare

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


A couple of quick thoughts.

With Chicago and Milwaukee beating each other up this week at Wrigley, a golden opportunity presents itself to climb into second in the division or (dare I say) into the lead. To take over the division lead would take something of a miracle, as the Cubs and Brewers are virtually tied for first, Cardinals trail by 2, and both teams can't lose all three games! (although it would be cool, I'm not ready to rip the space-time continuum).

Not to mention it still makes me chuckle that we're talking about a team that's been under .500 since April 16 taking the division lead in September.

So let's focus on what's important here - taking 2 of 3 from Houston and getting level again.

Houston's had a tough year, have played better of late, but are tied with Pittsburgh at the bottom of the Central. It appears Woody Williams has regained his St Louis mojo, and Oswalt is (as always) one of the elite pitchers in the league. Nice of the Astros to line up their two best pitchers for us in the first two games of the series. It's the thought that counts. Matt Albers will toe the slab in the third game.

Adding insult to injury, today comes word that Garner and Pupura have been fired. From a callous perspective, a little disarray in the clubhouse will probably help. Of course, if Cecil Cooper is a breath of fresh air, then the club might get a bounce and play really well. We'll see.

Cardinals counter with Looper, KFW, and Piniero on the hill. Not exactly Carpenter, Mulder and Suppan, (or even Wainwright, Reyes, and a pitching machine) but they've pitched fairly well of late - St Louis wouldn't be a game under .500 without them (take that any way you want).

So let's keep our focus this week - get to .500. After that start worrying about catching the Cubs.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Nobody cares about your fantasy team - SMS version

I have (amazingly, for how much time I spend agonizing over it) not blogged much about my fantasy team this season. The club has recently run into a rough stretch, for two reasons:

- the Indians aren't hitting. Yes, the entire team has stopped hitting. Victor Martinez has hit 2 home runs since the All-Star Break. C.C Sabathia has given up 2 ER OR LESS in his last 7 starts (including tonight); he's 1-3 in those starts (including tonight's loss). Fausto Carmona: 1.80 ERA since 15 July; he's 4-4.
- My pitchers quit winning. See the Indians starters above, as well as Dice-K (Boston doesn't seem to hit for him - 3-3, 3.06 ERA since the break).

So tonight I'm monitoring the Indians game. Sabathia's starting, as mentioned, against Kansas City. Should be a grapefruit game, right? NO. Indians get 6-hit, lose 2-1.

But here's what really gets me. Cleveland's scuffling. They need some momentum; they're desperate for some momentum. They trail 2-0 in the 6th, get a 2-out clutch hit, cut the lead in half. Seventh inning, they get a 1-out triple from their #9 hitter. Up steps Kenny Lofton.

He's the leadoff hitter. A speed guy. Knows how to lay one down.

Did I mention the team's struggling? Need some momentum?

I can tell you what LaRussa would have done in that situation with Eckstein - somewhere in that at bat, Eck-er would have tried to lay one down on a safety squeeze. Damnit, get that run it. This pitcher's working his but off, and has been for over a month. Give him a break.

Instead, Lofton fouls off 2 pitches and waves at the third. Sit down. Blake then rolls out to second. Inning over.

Managers have to be willing to step outside their comfort zone occasionally and try to shake up the team. Again, LaRussa's did that by moving the pitcher to the #8 position in the order - and the team has taken off (there are other factors, I know, but you get the idea). Would it have killed Eric Wedge to try something new, like a squeeze? If it doesn't work, so what? You've still got a guy on third and your #2 hitter up. If it does, and you tie it, who knows what would have happened next?

A team that has no confidence at the plate needs help scoring runs. Way to sleep at the switch, Eric.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Yet another bone of contention with the MLB front office

It's nice to have a home field advantage again; since dropping the first game of the last home series with Milwaukee, the Cardinals have won 10 of their last 12 at home. It's a large part of their current surge - the ability to win at home.

Milwaukee's loss tonight means the two teams are even in the loss column. Milwaukee has played 4 more games than the Cardinals, which accounts for the two game deficit in the standings. Chicago has also played more games than St Louis (2).

While looking at the Cubs and Cardinals records against the NL, I noticed they have remarkably similar records. St Louis is actually better against the Central (30-22) than either the Cubs (27-26) or the Brewers (28-27). Cubs are .500 against the other two divisions; Brewers 1 game over, and St Louis 6 under (most of those losses are against the East).

Adding up their records against the NL, here's how it shakes out:

Cardinals 55-53 .509
Brewers 57-55 .508
Cubs 57-56 .504

That's right - without Interleague, the Cardinals are leading the Central by percentage points, and have a 2 game lead in the loss column. So it may come to pass that St Louis has the best record in the division against the division but won't win the division.

I hate interleague play. Thanks a lot, "Bud".

Monday, August 20, 2007

Don't Look a Gift Horse In The Mouth

Some will say, well, they lost 2 of 3 in Chicago (and may have lost 3 of 4, considering Zambrano was pitching).

I say, they just completed a 6-game road trip to the two cities they're chasing, and they went 4-2.

I say, they departed on the trip 5.5 games out of first and return 3 games back.

Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.

Now, the team plays 13 of its next 17 games at home - where they've suddenly become very tough to beat. Here's the golden opportunity to move even closer (or even take) over the lead in the Central.

For the first time this season, I've become more interested in the Cardinals than my fantasy team. Though that may be in part due to the fact that my once commanding 14 point lead is now down to a single point.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Thanks for the beer, fellas

Nothing like taking 3 from the division leaders to propel yourself firmly back into the pennant race.

The most ridiculous part of this remains the fact St Louis is still 2 games under .500 for the season. They shouldn't be 2.5 games back and be 2 games under .500.

Take 1 game from Chicago this weekend and it's a winning road trip. Take 2 and we split in Chicago, which would be a major victory. Anything more than that is in the realm of impossible dreams, where it will stay - especially since our best pitcher (Wainwright) pitched today, so he won't go against Chicago.

However the way the guys are throwing the ball right now it may not matter. So for now let's just enjoy the ride.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Five and a half..... 5 1/2......

If you read this site, there are probably two things we have in common. One is obviously an affection for the St Louis nine. The other is a love of most things baseball, to include cinematic treatment of America's Pastime.

Which means you probably love 'Major League'.

Vaughan's next pitch is crushed towards South America. Cerrano's gonna need a visa to catch this one...

The Indians in that movie had a pretty good team, but still spent the majority of the year hovering around .500. Until that one thing happened to "put it aaallll together".

The mood, at least according to published reports out of St Louis since Friday, in the Cardinal clubhouse since Ankiel joined the club has been positively upbeat. They've played 4 of their best games since last Thursday. Even the 2-1 loss Friday night was a nail-biter between two great pitchers. And in the other 3 games, the offense has positively exploded, with the pitching being solid across the board.

You don't think we've had our Rachel Phelps moment by calling him up, do you?

This team remains flawed. Not enough starting pitching. Too haphazard an offense. And yet, through all that, they're only 5.5 games out of first.

If I were the Cubs and Brewers, I'd be looking over my shoulder every day now. They should have left this Cardinals team for dead months ago. But they could never put the final stake through the team's heart. And now, with all that talent on the team, and all that playoff experience, and all that baptism by fire since 2000.....

And Edmonds looking more and more like the Jimm-E of 2004-2005 each day, and Rolen driving the ball, and the kids (Ryan, Ludwick, and Rick Ankiel) providing a spark...

"I figure it will take 30 more wins to win this thing. Each time we win...a piece comes off."

Other notes:
- I attended the Chargers mini-camp at MCAS Miramar yesterday. Photos and story to follow this week. I have some doozies, so stand by. I think the lads at 'Kissing Suzy Kolber' will be pleased.

- I've updated my fantasy team roster and will be adding links this week. As my team is in free-fall, but still has a 6.0 point lead in the standings, I've started to become anxious...but it's not a full-fledged panic yet (would it kill you, Justin Morneau and Victor Martinez, to hit a few more HR before the season ends?)

- I've added a new Cardinals link to the margin - Cardinal Nation Globe. Check it out.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Chris Young is a class act

Continuing the maddening, lurching, schizophrenic path this season has taken, the Cardinals lose 5 of 6 to the two worst teams in the NL, and turn right around to take 3 of 4 from the best pitching staff in baseball - the Padres.

I got to think the Padres must dread playing in St. Louis. It's been a house of horrors for them for years. Only since they moved into Petco Park have they been able to consistently beat the Cardinals in San Diego. Why, in the last salad days of Jack Murphy/Qualcomm, we OWNED the boys in Brown and Yellow. I used to loove going to games there. Saw my only in person no-hitter there. Not so anymore; now the Cardinals lose 2 of 3 every year here.

But in St Louis, they always seem to get ambushed. Which is, even in this lost year (which still finds the team only 5.5 out and 6 under), they still own the Padres at home.

But I don't want to talk about that. I want to discuss Chris Young. And to do that, I'll start with Rick Ankiel.

As you may (and if you read this blog, probably do) know, Rick was the #1 pitching prospect in baseball from 1999-2000. Made the majors in 1999. Second in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2000. Forgot where the strike zone was in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Braves, knocked around for 5 years before hanging them up as a pitcher and trying to make the majors as a hitter.

Well, he's back. Called up today, started in RF tonight and batted second, hit a 3-R HR in the seventh. Storybook stuff.

Cardinals fans have long memories. This is why they booed Rickey Henderson 16 years after he broke Lou Brock's single season steals record. So they know all about what Rick's gone through these last 7 years. So as he strode to the batter's box in the top of the first inning, they gave him a standing ovation.

Chris Young then stepped off the rubber to allow the applause to build.

He didn't have to do that. He's trying to win. He spent the first 6 innings allowing only 3 hits, 2 walks and 1 run to the Cardinals. But he felt it important to recognize the effort Ankiel's put in in trying to make it back to the majors. And that's the definition of a class act.

I am a Cardinals fan. Have been since I was 7, will be (barring the team moving to Mexico) for the rest of my natural life. But I have always reserved the right to cheer for the guys who play the game right, or who are examples of the kind of men we should all strive to be.

Chris Young is one of those men.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Baseball is Life

After the euphoria of taking 3 of 4 from Milwaukee, many in the blog-o-sphere (myself included) thought the Cardinals had a legitimate chance of returning to the pennant race. Especially after they one the first game at Pittsburgh - a team we've pretty much abused throughout this millennium in their home ballpark.

And then the Cardinals lose 5 straight to two of the worst teams in the NL. Now 3 games under .500 after the all-star break, 8 under overall, and 8 back.

Yep - that should just about do it.

In come the Padres. They're hot. They just got finished sweeping San Fran at home. Winners of 4 straight. David Wells is on the mound - a lefty. Not looking good.

So of course, the team ties a Major League Record with 10 consecutive hits - and explodes for ten runs in the fifth inning. 10-5 is your final.

I don't get it. Much like life, you got to take it one day at a time.

Do I think the team has a reasonable chance of competing for a playoff spot? No. I just want them to finish at .500. That, after all that's transpired this year, would be a accomplishment.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Piniero? Why?

On to the 4 game winning streak! From all accounts, the Cardinals looked like a team that played hard and knew how to win, which is refreshing (especially this season).

On the heels of the trade deadline, let's discuss pitching for a moment.

Cardinals acquired Joel Piniero from the Red Sox. I did a modicum of research on Piniero. Here's what had to say:

"The Cardinals just traded for Joel Pineiro. On purpose! He now gets to team with Spiezio again. Hope the pharmacies stay open late in St. Louis."

And here's what Viva El Birdos had to say:

"the cardinals picked up joel piniero for a ptbnl. this guy's career era away from capacious safeco field is above 5.00. even in his good years (2002-03) his era was largely a ballpark illusion --- more than 1.50 lower at home than on the road in both seasons. i don't know why the cardinals even bother with players like this"

Of course, I can't find the numbers now that I looked at yesterday, but suffice it to say that Piniero's pitching numbers since 2005 are so bad only SIDNEY PONSON pitched worse.

So naturally the Cardinals have decided to give him a slot in the rotation and bump Brad Thompson, one of the rare starters the team has used this year that can actually get people out consistently, to the bullpen.

Why do we insist on giving these hopeless rejects a chance? It's as if the Cardinals clubhouse has turned into the Betty Ford clinic for recalcitrant pitchers. I can see the slogan now: 'Made the Majors? Having trouble sticking? ERA over 4.00 career? Lost more than you've won? Then come on down! We've got a uniform and a plane ticket for you. Believe in yourself!"

When you want pitching really bad, you get really bad pitching. If La Ro Ro and Dunc would stick with Wainwright, Looper, Reyes, Thompson, and a pitching machine as their rotation, they might actually make up ground in the race. Sure, you'd lose with the pitching machine...but would you notice the difference between the machine's outing and KFW's? Or Maroth's?

[update 2300] So much for the 4 game winning streak. Looper and Maroth get baked.

[update 2 August 2129] I found the story I was looking for yesterday. It's here. Never mind about the article, just read the gray box at the top right hand corner.