Monday, October 29, 2007

The King Is Dead; Long Live The King.

And with Jonathan Paplebon's strikeout of Seth Smith, the Cardinals reign as World Champions officially came to a close.

Congratulations to the 2007 Boston Red Sox.

Isn't it interesting how the worm has turned? The Yankee mystique began to crack in Game 7 of the 2001 Series, took another hit while losing the 2003 Series, and officially turned south with Dave Roberts' stolen base in 2004 ALCS Game 4. Oh how the mighty have fallen. Look at your modern Red Sox - they really have become that which they despised most, the Yankees. And they broke their streak of appearing in one World Series every even numbered decade.

Of course, Boston won 5 of the first 15 World Series contested, so we'll have to see if this is the dawning of Red Sox Century or proof they're like the city Brigadoon - allowed to appear as a power for 15 years out of 100, then they disappear for the rest of the century.

I don't have much to say about the last two games. I thought Game 4 was the best game of the set; it certainly (to my mind) was the best played game. I must admit to being slightly off on a few things. Game Three (Dice vs. Fogg) did NOT favor the Rockies. I thought Fogg would acquit himself well - 10 hits, 6ER in 2 and 2/3 isn't a very good effort. Some prognosticated he would get torched:

"...the long layoff seems to have hurt colorado (although their lack of offense in game 1 is probably josh beckett's fault); their pitchers aren't sharp, and they've made mental errors in the field and on the bases. i haven't counted them out just yet, but in the next two games they will start josh fogg --- a finesse pitcher who the patient red sox hitters ought to slaughter ---"

and they were right. I also thought Dice K would pitch poorly (wrong), and that Francona was silly not to start Beckett in Game 4 (wrong) because the extra day off between Games 4 and 5 (wrong, no day off) would allow him to pitch on normal rest (not needed).

This is why I don't play the lottery on a regular basis.

This is also symptomatic of why I no longer blog at - I'm not paying as close attention as I have in the recent past to what goes on in sports (general themes yes, minutae no). Speaking in broad brushes is, to my mind, OK on a personal blog; not so much when you're more mainstream.

A couple of quick thoughts on some recent events in Cardinal-land:

1. Cardinals released Mike Maroth. With the way he got lit up in the NL this season post-trade, and the low 80s hop on his fastball, he's probably finished in baseball. Mike's a high character guy the likes of which the world needs more of, not just baseball. Here's hoping he'll latch on somewhere else; if he doesn't, Major League Baseball is poorer for his release.

2. It appears almost a formality that Chris Antonetti will become Walt Jocketty's replacement as GM. Sites that I frequent - and the aforequoted Viva El Birdos - both have high praise for him. I certainly don't always agree with the opinions expressed at these sites, however in this case I have no reason to quibble with them. Chris is 33 years old, and about to become the General Manager for my favorite team. It is an opportunity I would jump at if I had the chance. I'm not that much older than him (37); anyone out there got some advice on how to get a job in a Major League front office?

One thing: It appears Chris will not be allowed to pick his own staff; he will work with those already in place (Mozeliak, LaRussa, Ludnow, et al). Coming in as the boss and working with an established core of professionals can certainly be done - it's how the USN works on board ship for COs, XOs and Department Heads - but it's got to be a little disconcerting for Antonetti. Whatever the bag is, he's just been handed it. With all the inherited internal politics, hidden agendas, strong personalities, and the like. Again, it can be done; but it will take a tactful man to turn the trick, something I'm not sure I could have done as a 33 year old (and to hear my wife tell it, probably not something I can do now).

To Chris: Good Luck; be patient; keep your wits about you.

3. A-Rod opted out of his contract. That'll save the Yankees about $70M in salary and the Rangers about $22M. This is better news for Texas than New York. It also leaves a huge hole in the Yankee infield and batting order. Some thoughts on this:

- I wonder if the Steinbrenners did a 'worst case' analysis when they decided to low ball Joe Torre. Did A-Rod leaving figure into their decision?
- How many other Yankees will follow him out the door?
- Will this mean New York is planning on backing a dump truck full of money up to Mike Lowell's house in an attempt to woo him from Boston?
- A-Rod and Scott Boras don't make this kind of financial decision without a lot of prior research and some assurance they can get what they're asking for (reputably in the $27 to $30 million per season range). If that's true, there are only really 5 places he can go: Mets, Red Sox, Dodgers, Angels, and Cubs.

I don't see him remaining in New York to play for the Mets.
I believe the history between he and Boston precludes him playing for the Red Sox.
Arte Moreno reportedly has said he won't pay what Boras is seeking for A-Rod's services.
The Dodgers are an option, especially if they fire Grady Little and hire Torre (more speculation).

However, my money says he'll sign with and play for Piniella's Cubs. Now, I have a source in the Cub organization that says it won't happen due to the impending sale of the team; the Tribune Company hasn't finished enumerating all their assets, and MLB won't allow them to take on the kind of financial burden A-Rod's signing would require before the team is sold. But I still think that's the most likely place he'll end up. If he does, Chicago immediately becomes the team to beat in the NL - they would have the most feared lineup in the league, and their pitching is good enough.

Besides, I've been wrong about so much over the past 2 weeks, I'm sure to be right about this thing...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Who's The Hobo?

Tough loss for the Rockies in Game 2 - certainly a winnable game for them. Long day at work for me (got home after 1830, which is about 2 hours later than normal), so I didn't hear the Rockies score their lone run. I also started doing homework after the seventh inning stretch, and didn't tune back in until the top of 9.

Some random thoughts on Game 2:

- Jimenez's fastball is legit. He generates a lot of power from that skinny frame of his - a la a young Pedro. This isn't to imply he's going to be as good as Pedro, but that he has easy gas - 97 mph.

- With that weapon, why oh why did Torrealba mess around with his other pitches? And why did he insist on flipping junk up there when behind in the count and with runners on in scoring position? I agree with what Joe Morgan said on the radio - quit messing around and throw the heater (that's a paraphrase). Lowell was sitting on a breaking ball when he lined the ball into left for the go-ahead run in the 5th.

- Based on Schilling's hat tip while exiting the game in the sixth, you get the feeling he won't be back next year and he knows it?

- Are we sure that's Eric Byrnes in the Fox pre and post-game shows, not some Hobo they pulled out of the Cask and Flagon? Dude, showing up on TV with a severe case of bed head is bad enough, but do you have to dress like you slept in a trash can?

- Boyz II Men had 4 members in their heyday. They sung God Bless America with 3. Apparently, the guy with scoliosis was the one that could carry a tune.

- I think the Fox contract with MLB includes the following two caveats: (a) Boston is not allowed to be retired in order at home during the World Series; (b) A random draw is held before the series and that player is not allowed to be retired from an 0-2 count (Youkilis right now, Manny in the ALCS). How else to explain why the 0-2 and 1-2 pitches to Youkilis have been nowhere near in this series?

Colorado really needed this game. They can still win the series, but now two things are assured: They will have to win it at Fenway, and they will have to beat Beckett at least once. Dice K against Fogg is a favorable matchup (in my opinion) for them in Game 3. They need to do something to rattle Beckett early in Game 4, like bunt for hits, be real aggressive on the basepaths, step out a lot, something. Hopefully the series will be 2-1 at that point, but the way their bats have cooled off (again, nice 8 day layoff, Bud) they may be in a 3-0 hole instead.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Steal A Base....Steal A Taco

It's hot, my head hurts (as it normally does when the Santa Ana winds start a-blowin'), the entire eastern county is on fire, I haven't been to work since Monday, and we're all out of coffee.

OK, I made the last thing up.

And, the World Series got underway today.

The game is still in progress, but it's been over since the bottom of the fifth. 13-1 Red Sox. Yikes. Colorado gave up 8 runs total to Arizona in four games. Some instant observations from Game 1:

- Beckett is really good.

- Eight days off will kill a pitching staff (way to go, MLB and FOX!). Denver's a hockey town, rumor has it the Nordiques play there. Sometimes, during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, when one team has survived a grueling 7 game series and their opponent won in 4 or 5 games to earn some days off, you hear the 7-game survivors say, we'll give a good effort, but we really don't expect to win this game. Think Clint Hurdle told that to his guys before Game 1?

- When Drew scored the 12th Red Sox run, Joe Buck intoned, 'That breaks the team record for runs in a World Series game.' The previous record? 11. As in 11-9, Boston, Game 1 in 2004. Thanks for the reminder, Joe. A small part of my mind secretly hopes Boston wins this series; maybe then we'll stop seeing ads of the team celebrating as Cardinal players exit the field from 2004.

- I don't think I can sneak Pedroia by everyone next season in my fantasy league. Probably not going to get Ellsbury, either.

- A lot of air has been heated comparing the Red Sox's 30-5 blitzing of Cleveland to Atlanta's 32-1 blitzing of St Louis in 1996. Note to all overconfident Red Sox fans: In 1996, Atlanta blasted the Yankees 12-1 in Game 1 and 4-0 in Game 2. They then lost 4 straight. Stay tuned.

- One more thing about that comparison: 30-5 doesn't do justice to the Indians. They trailed 4-1 in Game 5 when Boston scored 3 runs on 1 hit (and 2 balls hit out of the infield; both were sac flies) in the seventh. They trailed 3-2 in Game 7 until Pedroia's HR in the seventh, then got blown out in the eighth because Wedge stayed with Betancourt about 4 hitters too long. Cleveland lost the series because Carmona and Sabathia went 0-3, and their bullpen finally turned mortal. St Louis lost to Atlanta because Atlanta was better; it just took Atlanta until Games 5-7 to show it.

- The best part of this game was Clayton's conversation with Coco Crisp about the Taco Bell promotion. No wonder baseball can't attract new fans.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Two More Years for LaRussa

As reported in the Post-Dispatch today, Tony LaRussa agreed to terms with the club and will return to manage the Cardinals through the 2009 season. Specifics of the deal were not released.

So that's settled. Now all we need do is find a GM.

And a shortstop.

And two starting pitchers.

And a bench.

And select who will play in the outfield.

I'm ambivalent about Tony's return. There is no question he's one of the great managers in the history of the game. But I think he was driven to experiment this season with players and line-ups based on the number of injuries and because he'd run out of traditional ways to motivate the team. Based on how ungracefully some of the veterans have aged, he needs to continue to give the younger members on the roster playing time, and not just platooning. Or every 5th day. Playing the kids over veterans hasn't exactly been LaRussa's mantra in the past, and I think to be successful next season he's going to have to change his stripes, as it were.

When he's had roster questions that he would fill from within the 40-man roster, like he will with the outfield, Tony's gone about it two ways. The first was to declare an open competition for the spot (a la Royce Clayton and Ozzie Smith). That backfired on him so badly that Ozzie won't speak to him to this day, and doesn't attend Cardinals functions that Tony's at (which, frankly Ozzie, get over it - it was 12 years ago. What are you, 6?). The other was to declare a player had the spot and that was the end of it (a la Braden Looper as a starter last season). That worked out much better.

Unfortunately, the OF situation is sufficiently muddled that declaring who will man each position at this point is probably counter-productive. Tell Edmonds he's the everyday CF? Jimmy hasn't played 150 games since 2005; his hitting is clearly declining, although he's still above average defensively. Will Duncan's defense improve sufficiently to justify leaving him in left, especially with Ludwick and Schumaker proving they can hit at the major league level last season (and both are significant upgrades defensively)? And we haven't mentioned Ankiel yet.

Viva El Birdos (as usual) does a superlative job laying out the players and the options for the 2008 outfield; so what does La Russa do?

(Footnote: I was wrong about Game 7 - Dice K did start, and pitched well for 3 innings. Given his history over the last 3 months, that was a ballsy decision by Francona. And Dice did rise to the occasion, for 9 hitters.)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Piniero, Playoff schedules, and ALCS Game 5

- Piniero

There's been a lot of excellent discussion about the Piniero signing. Look at the comments for the below post, to start. Other articles to read include Fungoes, the Society of American Baseball Research chapter in St Louis; comments at That's a Winner; and of course Viva El Birdos.

All of it is making me slowly realize my initial thoughts that this is a good signing may be wrong. The problem is I don't know what the right answer for the rotation is. We've been through this. Wainwright and Looper are givens. Reyes? I still he's a good option, but I know his manager/pitching coach don't trust him. Mulder? Carpenter? Thompson? Wellemeyer? Who knows who fills out the rest of the rotation. For a free agent fix, what are our options? Jae Seo?

I guess it's wait and see who declares for free agency time.

- There's a great article at about playoff scheduling and the current malaise affecting MLB. Well worth the read.

- Some comments about the just completed ALCS Game 5:

1. I loved the Beckett/Lofton confrontation. Beckett's a competitor; Lofton is too. Lofton had already admitted to some gamesmanship before his first AB (he homered) against Dice-K, which I'm sure rankled the Red Sox a little. Beckett's 3-0 pitch to him, that he thought was ball four, was clearly a strike. Beckett let him know what he thought after Lofton hit the fly ball. Lofton, of course, didn't back down. That's all good to me. Frankly it's about time a little emotion showed up, since I don't think Manny will get drilled with a fastball (that he richly deserves for showboating, by the way).

2. Speaking of Manny, nice 390' single, slap head. When did he forget to hustle out of the box? All this 'Manny being Manny' excuse spin is horseshit. He should have been hustling, and he shouldn't act like he won the series when he hits a HR while his team trails by 5 runs. It didn't matter; he wouldn't have scored anyway; but come on - you're fighting for your playoff life; you gotta care a little bit.

3. Speaking of the 390' single, exactly why are there 6 umpires on the field again? Oh, yeah - to prevent mistakes like this. The replay clearly showed the top of Sizemore's glove at the bottom of the yellow stripe, and the ball landing above his glove. HOME RUN. Six guys screwed that up. MLB should mandate what was suggested during the division round - make the two umpires down the lines stand further down the lines, like at least half way, so they don't have to run to get into position (and miss a call because their vision is jumping around). I'm not an advocate for replay in baseball, but the umps could have used it tonight. That play was the most egregious error since the Jeffrey Maier 'homer' in 1997.

4. Youkilis' triple in the seventh? All Gutierrez' fault. Yes, Sizemore didn't hustle and the ball glanced off his glove, but realize this: A ball hit by a right handed hitter to right field will ALWAYS slice towards the line. Always. I know this and I play beer league softball now. A Major League outfielder should damn well know this. Gutierrez should have anticipated that ball slicing back to him, and been in position to make the play. Sizemore knew it, and fully expected Gutierrez to play his position correctly. Gutierrez didn't; Sizemore tried to cover; and you saw what you saw.

5. So, assuming Schilling wins on Saturday, who pitches Game 7 for Boston? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Here endeth the experiment

Well, I blogged over at for about a month. I'm back over here. We won't go into why, however, it's nothing that did, and I'm glad I got an opportunity to write over there.

One by-product is I was introduced to Dustin Mattison, who writes for the blog Whiteyball - a great resource for news on the Cardinals farm system. His site is bookmarked under Cool Cardinals Links to the right, and is worth a look.

If you're interested, and missed it, I've included a link to all the stories I posted there in the margin. Below my LEAGUE CHAMPS Rotisserie Baseball roster. You may not care about my fantasy team, but I do - and the reward for my obsession was a not insignificant amount of scratch (which my wife has already spent, by the way).

Speaking of scratch, the Cardinals signed Joel Piniero today to a two-year, $13 Million dollar deal. This will keep him in St Louis through the 2009 season, and provides some much needed depth in the rotation. As I pointed out here, the Cardinals had holes to fill in the rotation; this gives them Wainwright, Looper, and Piniero as definite starters next season. What remains to be seen is who will fill out the final two spots. KFW? No friggin way. Reyes maybe, but I firmly believe that will depend on whether LaRussa returns or not. Mulder says he'll be ready for spring training, but after two surgeries in less than a year on his shoulder I think he's much more of a question mark than he's saying publicly.

In the same linked article above we briefly discussed the Cardinals payroll for next year. With Piniero's signing, the numbers stand at $80.55 Million.

Personally - I think this is a good pick-up. Piniero was solid down the stretch, much more so than we had a right to believe (seeing as he was jettisoned by Boston). With the clubs dearth of starting pitching, and slim pickings expected on the free agent market, this is a good move.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Some non-related Cardinals news

Writing for has been interesting, at least. Hopefully my loyal readers have wandered by the site to see what's being said by all the writers, not just myself.

No, I do not look like Fredbird in real life, but I thought it was a funny photo to use so I'm going with it.

Some non-Cardinals notes:

- The Padres elimination game last Monday was tough to take for this town. Their best pitcher gives up 6 ER in 6 1/3 innings, and then their franchise pitcher blows a save that would have put them in the post-season - for the second time in three days, no less. The really odd thing about that inning in Colorado was the absolute lack of change-ups that Hoffman threw to the 4 hitters he faced. By my count, he threw 2 - both for balls, and one bounced. Hoffman not being able to locate (or have any confidence in) his change-up is what undid him in that game. Some of my co-workers (I'd been off work since my second son was born, Friday was my first day back) mentioned that the change-up gap had come up on local sports radio here, but I've not heard anything about it nationally. Interesting.

- The Chargers are really bad. More to follow if they lay a gagger this Sunday in Denver - and since they haven't won in Denver in consecutive seasons since joining the NFL, I fully expect a gagger.

- Some in blogdom have railed against the off-day format for this year's playoffs, and I can't agree more. TV driving (a) a playoff game in Boston to start at 2130 EDT, (b) a playoff game in Chicago to start at 1700 EDT (the only, mind you, majority daytime game ballpark left in the majors), and (c) the ridiculous fact Boston vs Anaheim will have 2 days off before Game 3 is played just makes me sick. Baseball series aren't played this way from April through September; why do the powers-that-be in baseball allow greed to play a role in determining who makes the World Series (beyond payroll greed)? Why is the most difficult thing about playing baseball (the day after day grind) allowed to be less important when the chips are down? It makes no sense.

The amount of abuse St Louis has taken since winning last year has been a favorite topic of mine to defend around here, but let's not discount the role favorable scheduling played last playoffs. Allowing the Cardinals to throw Carpenter in Game 4 on REGULAR REST against what had been the hottest team in the NL (Padres) immediately prior to the playoffs starting was a huge advantage for the Cardinals.

Maximize TV revenue is today's mantra. Gone are the days where you could sneak a radio into class and listen to a day game in the playoffs (as I did all through high school). MLB says it's got the fans interest at heart; it wants a big national audience; it wants to recruit kids to be baseball fans. Starting every game at night guarantees most kids (at least the ones with involved responsible parents) won't be around when it finishes. Starting a game at Fenway at 2130 guarantees young Sox fans won't be awake to see how it turns out, which to me is really criminal.

Having the Division Series be on TBS exclusively is a 'Fuck You' to the fan that should be discussed separately.

That's enough for now. For my thoughts on Jocketty's dismissal see Also, vivaelbirdos has a great article on Jocketty that's worth reading.