Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Top Five Cardinals Stories of 2008

And so we come to the final page of the Year 2008, which, by the Gregorian Calendar, marked the 2008th year since the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. And you thought this was just a baseball blog.

As we prepare to ring in the New Year, let us look back at the year that was from a Cardinal perspective.

Well, that's a lot of ground to cover. How about we limit ourselves to the Top 5 Cardinal stories? Yes, I think that would be better. Less writing for me. Less reading for you. And, the United Cardinal Bloggers recommended capping the list at 5 as well.

So, here are my most important stories from the past year, ranked from 5 to 1:

#5 - Mark Mulder's arm falls off, released by Cardinals.
This is a big story in my mind, although a tragic one (mildly funny byline notwithstanding). Obviously Mark's arm didn't actually fall off. However, after fighting for 3 years to restore the strength in his pitching shoulder so he could return to the throwing arm position that marked his successful years in Oakland, his return to the Majors was a 16 pitch effort against Philadelphia where he didn't get out of the first inning. Mark's tenacity was commendable and is admirable, however, the Cardinals got nothing for the 2 year deal they signed him to following the 2006 season.

We thought he would again become a mainstay of the rotation for 2007-2009. He didn't. Recognizing the mistake, and moving on, was a big story. Cutting him loose for $1.5 million allowed them to use the option year money on his contract more wisely, in this case, to fund Kyle Lohse's $41M contract.

Which, in light of the ridiculous money the Yankees threw at Sabathia and Burnett, now looks like a bargain signing. I'm not above saying I may have been wrong in my panning that signing earlier this off-season.

#4 - Khalil Greene traded to the Cardinals, to play short stop for 2/3 of the year.
Cardinals have had a dearth of power hitting from the middle infield positions since Renteria left the club after 2004. Although they will continue to employ a banjo hitter at second base, whoever that turns out to be, Greene represents a significant upgrade at the plate from Izturis, Miles, and the band of merry men used in 2008.

Now if he can only figure out how to not break a finger during the season....

#3 - George Kissell Dies.
This Baseball Reference article is succinct and says it all. Employed by one Major League Baseball club longer than anyone in recorded history. Widely credited with protecting, and passing on, the 'Cardinal Way' of playing baseball.

When someone who teaches the young players how to play the game right passes away, that's big news to me. He will be missed by the organization.

#2 - Albert Pujols wins Second NL MVP award.
BBWAA members belied their not paying attention, 'what have you done for me lately' reputation, looked past their infatuation with Ryan Howard's lone good offensive month and voted the award to the best player in the NL. I was fully prepared for Albert to not win the award, and was pleasantly surprised when he did.

#1 - Cardinals finish 86-76, stay in playoff hunt until last 2 weeks of the season.
Let's face it, we all predicted this would be a sub-500 season. In fact, I'm pretty sure I prognosticated the team winning only 74 games this season. But look at all the positive story lines from this year:

- Ryan Ludwick's career year
- Isringhausen stepping aside for Perez at the back of games
- Ankiel's great first half (including two of the most ridiculous outfield throws to cut down runners you'll ever see)
- Kyle Lohse pitching like an All-Star
- McClellan a right handed anchor in the seventh/eighth innings (until he was exhausted)
- Molina's bat
- VASTLY improved team defense
- Troy Glaus being better than expected all around (robbed of a Gold Glove, by the way)

This team fought, scratched, had one of the best offensives in the NL, and far, FAR exceeded expectations. That's the biggest story of 2008 - a spring of resignation turned into a summer of hope, and a fall of satisfaction, that the team played competitive baseball all season.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Renteria to the Giants

2 years, $18.5 mil.

$9.25 mil per year.

Well, they wouldn't pay him that much in 2004, so that explains why he didn't come back to St Louis.

Khalil Greene at SS. BLEEECH.

Khalil Greene to the Cardinals?


Greene has never played a full season for the Padres, breaking a variety of fingers on both hands either while playing in the field or punching water coolers. He had one good year in 2007. His numbers are pedestrian other than that.

I'd rather have Renteria. Or even have Izturis return.


Greene's a bum.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Your 2008 NL MVP is...

For once, the BBWAA got it right. My anger is stilled; my sagging faith in this organization is buttressed.

Congratulations, Mr. Pujols, and WELL deserved.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Gold Glove Awards are out...

Yadi won - finally. Yeay.

Pujols didn't win - again. What else is knew?

Glaus didn't win, with the best defensive season for an NL third baseman. What a crock.

After Russell Martin won a Gold Glove last year, nothing surprises me anymore.

Managers and coaches vote on these awards, like the BBWAA vote on MVP/Cy Young/ROY, because they see every game. This may have made sense in the era of radio and newspaper as the only means to get game coverage, with a TV baseball game once a week. In today's world, there are PLENTY of folks who have the means and interest to watch every single game their team plays; in some cases, multiple games involving multiple teams a night. Why, even I was once one of those guys - watch the Cardinals game starting at 5:10 PDT, and that game would be almost over when the West Coast games started at 7:05.

So here's a thought: How about MLB allow fan input into the Gold Glove Awards? I'm not saying turn it into the All-Star ballot; even if Alfonso Soriano won an award every year, it wouldn't be much sillier than it is now. But empanel some of the best blogs on the net - ones with readership, and actual baseball related statistical content/analysis like Viva El Birdos and U.S.S. Mariner - to weigh in. It would help keep debate alive during the hot stove months, it would provide a forum for the blogger community to get involved, and it would allow MLB to reach out to its fans.

Win Win.

And who knows, maybe guys who actually deserve the awards would win them.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

They're Celebrating at Smoky Joe's

Congratulations to the Philadelphia Phillies, 2008 World Series Champions.

Last night’s coverage mentioned, a lot in conversation and on ESPN's bottom line, this being their first championship in 28 years; apparently that’s the fourth-longest wait for a championship in MLB history. Which doesn't seem right based on what Cardinal 70 posted today. I though it would have hit closer to home if they’d also mentioned this was Philly’s second championiship ….EVER. Which it is; Philadelphia’s poorer franchise has only won the NL 6 times in their 126 year history. In contrast, the Philadelphia A’s won the AL 9 times before leaving the city in 1954. I guess it helps when Connie Mack is your manager for 50 years.

Former Cardinal alert – So Taguchi won another ring last night. He’s made appearing in the World Series in even-numbered years a habit lately. He’s also not seen a World Series go more than 5 games yet. So didn't get an at-bat in the Series, but so what? It would be interesting to hear his take on the celebration last night in comparison that ours 2 years ago.

For a game that lasted just over an hour, it was pretty exciting. Baldelli just missed the ball Jenkins hit into RC. I thought the Rays did the right thing bringing the infield in for Werth; too bad it backfired when Iwamura couldn’t make the play on that pop-up to CF (that was a tough play). Then there’s Baldelli’s HR to tie it. 3-3.

It’s difficult to describe how heads-up the play Utley made to get Bartlett at the plate and end the seventh was. Jimmy Rollins, after the game, said that as the play unfolded he thought “Man that’s a heads-up play!” and had to duck so the throw wouldn’t possibly hit him in the head on the way to the plate. I haven’t heard anyone attacking the Ray’s third base coach for sending Bartlett, nor should they; it was amazing Utley got to that ball in the first place, and when he made the throw home Bartlett was probably 15-20 feet around the bag and committed. With two outs you have to send that guy. Good baseball.

Rays hit into tough luck. Upton’s double play ball in the eighth really hurt. Zobrist smoked the ball he hit in the ninth, but it was right at Werth. Hinske had no chance against Lidge.

I was hoping Perez would try and swipe third in the ninth. There wasn’t any real utility to doing that, except to try and force a throwing error from Ruiz – which may have been possible based on how he bounced the throw to second earlier in the inning. If he had been thrown out stealing to end the game, it would have led to a discussion of one of my favorite trivia questions – has a World Series ever ended on a caught stealing? (Yes). When, and who? Feel free to guess in the comments. I’ll narrow it down for you: the Cardinals played in that World Series.

Interesting commentary after the game, at least on the radio; I heard the bottom of the eighth and top of the ninth while driving home. Werth credited the fans for pumping the team up before the game. Based on Jenkins’ reaction as he stood at second after his leadoff double in the sixth, they did a real good job. Moyer was listed as a kid from the Phila area, and boy does that come through when he’s interviewed; I haven’t heard that accent since I graduated from Villanova, but it’s unmistakable. Best quote (other than Rollins’ above): Interviewer: “Congratulations, Jamie, enjoy it.” Moyer: “Thanks. I will.”

With this win the NL stands at 4-5 in World Series this decade, and have one the last 3 without home field advantage (thanks again, “Bud”). We live in a world where the Phillies are world champs. Again, having spent some time in the City of Brotherly Love, I have a bit of an appreciation of what this means to the city and area. I was rooting for the Rays, but seeing Philadelphia win doesn’t bother me at all. So enjoy it, Philadelphia.

Post Script – at 0645 Thursday morning one of my co-workers showed up in a Rollins Jersey and Philly hat. All I could do was smile and nod appreciatively.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Charlie Manuel's Dilemma

Well the weather washed out all hope of playing yesterday. Today's forecast (20% chance of rain, high in the mid-40s, but a pleasant low of 30 is forecast for tonight) bodes better for Game 5 to be completed.

MLB has scheduled a 8:37 EDT start time for the last 3 and a half innings of the game.

One of the points made after Monday's game was suspended revolved around Cole Hamels. The Rays could rightly take solace from the fact that they faced down Hamels and were tied when the game 'ended', meaning they'd faced him for the last time in this series. And I agreed with that.

The pitching matchups for Games 6 and 7 favor Tampa Bay. Shields against Myers in Game 6; Garza vs Moyer in Game 7. Not to mention home field advantage.

But that analysis occured before the entire series had to be shifted to the right one day due to yesterday's rainout. Now, moving a potential Game 7 to Friday means Hamels would be available on 3 days rest. So I ask you: If you are Charlie Manuel, do you leave your rotation as is, or do you bump someone in favor of Hamels starting Game 7 ? And if you do pencil Hamels in for a Friday start, who do you bump?

Short post - my quarterly management team is in progress this week (the team spans the country - literally), so off to the telecon!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Rain (finally) suspends Game 5

I'd say the umpires finally came to their senses in the bottom of the sixth, but apparently Bud Selig reserves the right to make decisions regarding the weather and the baseball game in playoff time, so that's not accurate.

So, apparently Bud Selig came out of his tryptophan-induced coma around the time BJ Upton scored, realized the field was rapidly turning into a marsh, and ordered the umpires to put the tarp on.

I wonder what the Amazing Bud would have done had Tampa not tied the game in the sixth? Let it go on? Call the game on account of rain and award the Championship to Philadelphia? How ridiculous would that have been?

FOX showed a photo of the weather system during the top of the sixth. You know, one of those pictures you see on the nightly news, where the rain systems is highlighted in green? Well, it showed a corridor of rain that stretched 50 miles across west to east, with Philly in the middle. It also showed the weather system extended at least 200 miles in a northeast/southwest direction. I can't believe there's no one in the commissioner's office with the brain capacity to type into a web browser and look at the weather forecast. Had they done that, they would have realized, BEFORE the game became an official one, that the weather would not support completing this game; and that once the rain began to fall, play could have been suspended in the top of the fifth, so if the game needed to be washed out entirely it could have been.

That would have been the sensible thing to do. But if baseball's taught us anything in this series, they don't do the sensible thing; witness Game 3 starting at 10pm EASTERN TIME and ending at 0147 am the following morning.

At some point MLB needs to pull its head out of its collective ass, realize that the weather in late October doesn't care about the new episode of HOUSE that airs every Tuesday night, and start scheduling these games during the day. So if there's an extended weather delay, there's some flexibility for starting it that doesn't match the start of Jay Leno's monologue.

Additionally, if I was the Players Association legal rep I'd complain to the league office about the potential for injury playing in those conditions presents. I remember quite distinctly watching a Cardinals/Cubs game, at Wrigley in 2003 (11 May 03 to be exact; the game was rained out eventually) where Eli Marrero severely sprained his right ankle on a ball hit to right in the muck. He missed over 3 months recovering from that injury. I can't believe MLB would risk serious injury to a player in their marquee event just because they need to get a game in and appease TV.

Now, let's turn our penetrating gaze to the umpires. I won't detail the number of blown calls in this World Series. I won't even get upset about that; umpires are human, although getting the Longoria tag on Rollins call wrong in Game 4 is unbelieveable. What I find particularly galling is the Umpire Collective Bargaining Agreement that Ken Rosenthal described during last night's telecast. According to him, the CBA mandates that (a) umpires can't work consecutive playoff series, and (b) umpires can't work consecutive World Series. All in the name of spreading the wealth, if you will; the union wanted to give more umpires a chance to work in the post season.

Which I find completely ridiculous. Here's why: baseball teams play 162 game schedule to get to this point. They eliminate 22 teams, then another 6 teams in 2 tiers of playoffs. Philly and Tampa have survived the crucible of fire to get to this point; why would MLB decide it makes sense to have a second (or third) tier umpire working this series?

Just look at some of the ball and strike calls from last night. Jeff Kellogg clearly called pitches strikes for Cole Hamels that he called balls for Scott Kazmir. CLEARLY. In one sequence, he called a 3-0 pitch to Navarro (4th inning, one on, 1 out) a strike that was at the very top of the strike zone, and a 3-1 pitch to Burrell (5th inning, one on, 0 out) in the exact same spot a ball. The only difference seemed to be the Navarro pitch was a fastball and the Burrell pitch a change up, but that shouldn't matter since they both crossed the strike zone at the same point. What the hell? The old adage is, I don't care if you're bad, but be consistent. Kellogg was bad and inconsistent. No wonder Kazmir left the mound after the first inning shaking his head.

If MLB wants to give more umpires experience working high leverage games in the post season, that's understandable. You have to train the new generation; having the same umpires work World Series after World Series until they retire isn't good for the health of the game. But, MLB owes it to the teams in the Series to have the best umpires working those games. So, I propose that they select the 4 best umpires to work the series, and use two other slots for younger umpires, who have excelled during the regular season, but haven't worked that many post season games.

This plan would require some sort of peer review during the season, evaluations of how well umpires are doing (calling balls/strike in accordance with the rule book, number of blown calls, number of overturned calls, etc; I'm sure the smart guys in NY could come up with appropriate metrics), as a way to differentiate the wheat from the chaff, and ensure MLB's marquee event doesn't turn into a farce. Hell, ask me nicely and I'll flesh out something. They need to do something, because this is, as I said before, completely ridiculous.

Monday, October 27, 2008

United Cardinal Blogger Project - Roundtable Questions

Greetings to the UCB and those following the discussions on member blogs!

I had the opportunity to pose a question to our august panel on Friday, and below is the transcript of the discussion that followed.

Question: Player agents negotiate terms for their clients and are largely responsible for setting the free agent market price for players. There has been some murmuring on the internet about these men wielding too much power (see ESPN's Bill Simmons' recent article on Manny Ramirez). Do you think agents have too much sway over where players play year to year? If yes, what course of action would you suggest for MLB to rein these men in?

Trey (Cardinal Virtue): I think this is a really thought provoking question. My feeling is that yes, the agents in MLB do have too much power. One example of this is "agent nepotism" were less prominent players that are with an agent follow a big-name signing to the same team. One high profile example of this is how Pettite always followed Clemens to the same team (though they are also good friends besides being with the same agent). I'm not sure MLB can do much about this situation unfortunately, because the players union holds so much sway when it comes to free agency. Certainly, the agent system has been very good for most of the union's players, so they likely want to see it stay in it's current form. The best way for agent's to hold less sway is for induvidual teams to be more responsilbe with their investments. I believe we are starting to see some signs of this with more and more teams investing in young talent and staying away from spending big bucks on free agency or players like Manny who try and throw their weight around. Of course, we might quickly see a reversal of this trend with the best free agent crop in several years coming up this offseason.

Deaner (Cardinal Nation Globe): Yes. I definitely think these agents (a.k.a. Scott Boras) have way too much sway. It's seems like when their players come up for free agency only a select group of larger market clubs even have a chance at aquiring them. The most unforunate thing, however, is how these agents affect the draft. Many small-market teams will often step away from a Boras client, even if he is the best available player, out of fear that they won't be able to sign him. Pittsburgh did pick a Boras guy, Pedro Alvarez, with their number one pick in this past draft and they had a TON of problems with the signing.

Don (The Redbird Blog): Do agents have influence? Sure. Too much influence? Maybe in the case of younger, unsophisticated players who aren't comfortable with contracts and finances. Ultimately, however, it's the player who makes all the choices. If he doesn't like the direction his
agent is suggesting, he can simply say no. Or change agents. Happens all of the time.

Ryan (Cardinal Diaspora): There's plenty of culpability to go around, but in the end, it's the owners who have to sign the checks. Maybe something should be done to protect owners from themselves, like a hat, er, maybe a cap...a cap on...salaries.

Me: I agree that owners are to blame for the contract silliness. Lohse couldn't get $41M for four years following the best season of his career if (a) an owner wasn't willing to pay that, and (b) an owner wasn't afraid some other knucklehead would offer him more cash, and his services would be lost.

And even though some of the economic disparity has gone away in MLB (witness Meche's $40M plus from the KC Royals two years ago), the fact is exorbitant contract demands for Class "A" free agents limit their availability to only the teams with the most cash. Since agents control how much cash these players will ask for (again, mostly because some bozo's gonna pay it, but also because they get a cut of the revenue), they tacitly decide who goes where and plays for whom. How is it good for the overall health of the game to have the same teams in the playoffs year after year after year, and the rest of the league goes into the season with no realistic chance of advancing past Fan Appreciation Weekend?

Dan (Redbirds Fun): Another thing not helping the situation is an agent like Scott Boras who wants the highest possible contract for his clients.

Me: THAT GUY's (ed note: clearly I hadn't seen Deaner's email at this point) business practices are the primary driver for my question. Scott Boras had a direct influence on how this year's playoffs has gone, if you buy into the argument he was the driving force behind Manny Ramirez's petulance in Boston the first half of this season (and I think the argument there has some merit).

Owners get hammered for perceptions of collusion against players, fair market value, etc. Why not extend that line of thinking to agents?

Ryan: Except that if you're a player, you want an agent to serve you 100% and getting maximum value is typically right at the top of the list. That's why players choose Boras for their representation...and Boras chooses who he represents.

As yucky as they can be, I just can't blame the agents. They merely filling a need created by the process itself.

What about owners who opt for profit taking over competition? The National League has been notorious for that in recent years. (The only reason that's really changing is the paradigm shift of more and more owners seeing the value (economic and on the field) of player development/advanced evaluation). In part, teams willing to settle for 81 wins and in-the-black consistency have driven higher priced players to teams that shell out the dough. Teams competing with the Yankees and Red Sox have found longer-term value by making expensive moves and taking a temporary hit on their profit margins with the payoff being more competitive teams that build a fan base and longer term profit margins.

Don: I agree with Ryan. Ultimately the owners and the Players Association have created the system in which the agents work. At any time they can collectively bargain to restrict agent authority. The players are unlikely to agree to such restrictions unless the owners will make it worth their while (e.g., sweeter pension guarantees, reduced vesting periods, etc.)

Dan (C70 at the bat): I do think that the owners and GMs wind up giving the agents more power than they should have. In most years, I've blamed management for not standing up to Boras and his ilk and saying, "No, we're going elsewhere." The problem is, it takes all the owners doing that to make a difference and, eliminating collusion, that's just not going to happen because there's always an owner who thinks Player X is just that last piece they need.....

However, if the whole Boras/Manny situation is true, there really should be some limits or restrictions placed on the agents. I don't have as much trouble with them getting all they can get for their client, but when you pull a move like that just to fatten your commission, you've gone over the line.

Tom (CardinalsGM): I think it is TOO easy to say they have too much power. Let's not forget this is a business and this is a job for these guys They are doing what is right for their clients. Just because an owner has more money than another is not the fault of the agent. To get as much money as one can for working their job is the American Way. Therefore, no they are not too powerful. Just doing a job.

[UPDATE 10/27 0945: Do to a unintentional error, Nick wasn't included on the original email string. Here are his comments.]

Nick (Pitchers Hit Eighth): I think MLB has to do two things to try and curb increasing agent power in the game.

The players union needs to be brought down a notch or two, constantly filing grievances, claiming collusion, etc. This will help to even the playing field again between owners and players.

Second, the league needs to make thorough investigations into some practices by agents. Rather than it just being rumored and discussed as a *nudge, nudge, wink wink* thing - MLB needs to take an active interest in things like allegations of impropriety in the Manny Ramirez situation. If it's believed that Boras orchestrated Manny's moping and general bad attitude in Boston as a way to get Manny on the open market this off-season, something needs to be done. Suspension, revoke his free agency, ban Boras from MLB...something.

When the players and agents have all the control and can force the hand of a Boston team where they seemingly very literally have no choice but to trade one of the best hitters in the game, something is broken.

So what can we pull from the discussion? It seems most of the participants agree the process of signing free agents is broken. Most UCB-ers place the blame on the owners for being willing to pay exorbitant prices for a player's services. In their mind, the agent is simply being a good advocate for his client, driving the bidding up for their client's services to realize the maximum return for his talents.

In that vein, I agree with the majority - owners have created this situation. As was said above, there is very little chance the owners will be able to rein in agents (and by extension, the players) to bring the salary discussions down to a more manageable level without substantive and significant concessions to the players association. MLB players at the elite end of the spectrum have gotten rich under the current arrangement; why would they voluntarily restrict their access to untold fortune? A salary cap would restrict the number of big contracts a team could handle, but since that would restrict access to the pie, it's unlikely the players association would go for it.

One of the more interesting items that came up in the discussion was that regarding draftees. The Pittsburgh/Alvarez experience is not unique when it comes to agents driving a hard bargain for a first or second round draft pick. If memory serves, J.D. Drew held out for a full year because the Phillies wouldn't pay the $10 Million he and Scott Boras asked for, re-entering the draft and being taken by the Cardinals. Some teams may very well be scared off drafting a particular player based on who his agent is. There is also the problem of where the player falls in the draft order, and whether the team will only offer as a signing bonus what MLB recommends, or go beyond that if needed, but that's a topic for a later discussion.

I recommend reading the Bill Simmons article on Manny Ramirez, if you can stomach the Red Sox lament that's imbedded in his writing. The issue I have with what he described, and what led me to ask this question, is Manny's alleged tanking of the season while playing for the Red Sox. Ramirez tore the cover off the ball in the NL, but really didn't do that in Boston in 2008. Why the stark discrepancy? The cast of characters hadn't really changed that much in Boston, so I doubt it was locker room issues; besides, by all accounts, Manny's unconscious when it comes to locker room intrigue. There had to be some external driver. Perhaps Scott Boras is too convenient a target - he's universally reviled (unless, of course, he's working for you), so it's easy to turn venom against him.

My issue here is the integrity of the game. If Manny turned the hit machine off on the advice of his agent, in order to opt out of his contract in favor of a big free agent payday this off season, his actions directly affected the intregity of the game. You're supposed to play hard all the time. Not only would his 'tanking' have affected his statistics, but it directly affected the seasons of two teams - Boston (how much more dangerous is that team with Manny in the lineup, especially with Ortiz struggling as bad as he did and Lowell hurt in the ALCS), and the Dodgers (no way they make the playoffs without Manny). It also indirectly affected the seasons of at least 3 other teams - Tampa (do they win the East, much less the ALCS, if Manny's in Boston playing like he's capable?), the Chicago Cubs (they face Arizona in the playoffs instead of the Dodgers, the whole NL playoff result is different), and Philadelphia (who knows how well they do if they have to open the NLCS in Chicago vice having home field against LA).

If nothing else, MLB should look into the allegations. What should they do if they find proof? Manny should be fined, and Boras should be censured (unable to represent clients for a year? A fine of some amount? Something). But if this goes uninvestigated, more players will see this as a model for getting out of a contract in search of a more lucrative payday - and they won't all be Scott Boras clients.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

World Series Game 3

I'll say this in all sincerity - it is absolutely essential the Phillies win Game 3.

I know it's hard to grasp the thought of this game, in a World Series that's tied 1-1, as a must-win game. But if Jamie Moyer is able to bottle the stuff that made him a 16-game winner during the regular year (and he was 6-4 with a 4.91 at home, so it's dicey he'll be able to control the Rays hitters), and the Phillies regain their mojo with RISP, then...

They have Joe Blanton, who's been their second best pitcher in the post-season, for Game 4.

And they have Cole Hamels, who handled the Rays without his best fastball in Game 1, in the potential clincher.

Man I like my odds if I'm Philadelphia in that scenario.

Lose Game 3, and all of a sudden you're looking at Brett Meyers and Moyer having to win either Game 6 or 7 in Tampa. And I'm assuming that Blanton beats Tampa in all these scenarios.

Philly's gotta have tonight.

Now let's hope the rainy skies clear up long enough to get the game in.

Finally, some friends of the family, who recently relocated from here to New Jersey, have tickets to tonight's game. Hopefully we'll have evidence of that at some point tonight/tomorrow.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

World Series Game 2, and other things

Well the Rays won tonight's contest 4-2, evening the series at one game each. As with most series, the road warrior Phillies accomplished their goal - they got a split of the first 2 games in the other team's park. Philadelphia wrested home field advantage from Tampa in Game 1. Now we see if they can cash that in.

For Phillie fans sake, I hope the Jamie Moyer who toes the slab in Game 3 resembles the 16-game winner from the regular season and not the guy who got absolutely blown up by the Dodgers in Game 3.

Some comments from the coverage of Game 2:

- I was very surprised the Phillies conceeded those two first inning runs, given the way they've struggled with runners in scoring position. Either one of the ground balls Myers got from Pena or Longoria would have been sufficient to retire the runner at home. Interesting.

- Philadelphia's struggles with runners in scoring position have officially passed into the realm of ridiculous. One for 30? The law of averages has to catch up with you at some point, right? Although Boston also struggled against the Rays with RISP until the seventh inning of Game 5.

- Jimmy Rollins was hit by a pitch in the ninth. That blown call completely changed that inning. Then, when Werth reaches off Longoria's glove to score Ruiz, suddenly the Rays have to contend with Utley, Howard, and Burrell with the tying runs on. Apparently the home plate umpire blew two other calls in favor of the Rays in this game. For men working the sport's crown jewel, that kind of incompetence is unacceptable. It also appeared he turned away from the pitched ball that hit Rollins (at least on the replay).

- Nice stat on the NL's DH's - .058 with 1 HR and 14 RBI. You think, gee these guys really suck, until you realize the stat was since 2003. How many World Series games has the NL won since then? Five, and 4 of those wins were in 2006. The DH's suck? No shit, sherlock; the NL hasn't exactly been playing winning baseball since 2003. That suck-i-tude is symptomatic of the general malaise that has gripped the NL in the World Series of late.

Loyal Reader Stephen posed a question on whether or not 2 expansion teams have ever played each other in a World Series. The expansion era started in 1962 with the addition of the New York Mets and Houston Astros in the NL, and Los Angeles Angels and Washington Senators (now Texas Rangers) in the AL. Since then, as you know, we've added 10 more teams.

And in no World Series since 1962 have two expansion teams played each other for baseball's ultimate prize. There has always been one of the original 16 teams in the World Series. That's quite remarkable when you think about it; expansion teams have played each other in basketball (including two old ABL teams playing each other), football, and hockey's championships, but never in baseball.

And remember: The Twins were originally Walter Johnson's Washington Senators, and the Orioles were originally Bill Veeck's St Louis Browns, so they don't count as expansion teams. The Oakland A's are just the Philadelphia A's moved west, like the Dodgers in LA and Giants in SF. Boston's Braves settled in Atlanta.

For the sake of padding this post, here is a list of all the expansion teams that have made it to the World Series and their result:

1969 - Mets (won)
1973 - Mets (lost to Oakland)
1980 - Royals (lost to Philadelphia)
1982 - Brewers (lost to St. Louis)
1984 - Padres (lost to Detroit)
1985 - Royals (won)
1986 - Mets (won)
1992 - Blue Jays (won)
1993 - Blue Jays (won)
1997 - Marlins (won)
1998 - Padres (lost to New York)
2000 - Mets (lost to New York)
2001 - Diamondbacks (won)
2002 - Angels (won)
2003 - Marlins (won)
2005 - Astros (lost to Chicago)
2007 - Rockies (lost to Boston)

Expansion teams are 9-8 in the World Series. An expansion team has appeared in 9 of the last 12 World Series contests.

I'm up in the question-asking as part of the United Cardinal Blogger project. The fellas will be pondering the question over the weekend, and I'll post the transcript here on Monday.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pujols awarded NL MOP

Congratulations to Albert Pujols for winning his second NL Most Outstanding Player award, as voted by his peers in the NL. Albert won the award in 2003 as well.

There were rumors during the All-Star game that the NL players didn't vote Albert onto the team, and that he was a manager's add to the roster. Some made some hay about Hanley Ramirez being the best player in the NL at that time, having supplanted Pujols. Guess not.

Derrick Gould posted a story on the award at the Post Dispatch site, and there's a video report on it over at Yahoo! sports.

As Derrick mentioned, there's no correlation between winning this award and winning the league MVP. Does AP deserve both? Based on his numbers, yeah. But there are a lot of other worthy candidates out there, as I've detailed here previously.

Today we start the last series of the baseball season. Game 1 of the World Series. Kazmir vs Hamels. Two good left handed pitchers. Should be good. Hope people besides the baseball niche audience (and large audiences in Philly and Tampa) tune in.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Mulder not coming back

Derrick Gould reported yesterday the Cardinals have not picked up Mark Mulder's option for the 2009 season, instead bought out his contract for $1.5 mil. I don't think this comes as surprise to anyone, including Mark Mulder. The article stated Mark's still working out at his home trying to rehabilitate his arm, but I don't think anyone's going to come calling.

We also found out yesterday that the Cardinals probably aren't really in the Jake Peavy sweepstakes, based on Bernie Micklasz's article (which referenced a SD Union Tribune article by Tim Sullivan). That, I think, is unfortunate, but in some ways understandable. If they really, really believe that Colby Rasmus will be the franchise's CF for the next 15 years, then trading him to San Diego for 5 years of Jake Peavy might not be worth it. And if the Padres won't even start negotiations if the proposal doesn't include Rasmus, then perhaps it's DOA. But boy wouldn't a rotation of Peavy/Carpenter/Wainwright/Lohse/Wellemeyer be fun?

Some belated comments/thoughts about Game 7 of the ALCS:

- You realize no Florida-based ML team has ever lost a post-season series?
- The Jon Lester that pitched the first 3 innings of Game 7 is the Lester I thought would show up for Game 3.
- I knew Matt Garza was good, but I didn't think he was good enough to 2-hit the Red Sox for 7 innings.
- In the crazy eighth, Pedroia JUST MISSED hitting a 3-run HR. And he knew it, judging from his reaction in the dugout after the at bat.
- This is the first time a Wild Card winner won't be in the world series since the Mets/Yankees series (as we mentioned before).

Of course, the 'this sucks, no one's going to watch this series' articles have started appearing (here's one on No big media market involved. No 'As The World Turns' drama with Manny. No end the curse stuff with the Cubs. Boo frigging hoo.

I'm sure the fans in Philadelphia and Tampa will be respectfully apologetic they're in the WS. If asked, I'll bet the teams will defer to Chicago and Boston to give Fox the matchup they really wanted.

Yeah right.

What you will get, however, is some excellent baseball. Lots of young pitchers, good hitters, and solid defense in this series. For the baseball fan, this will be a great series. In fact, I don't think the Rays are that overwhelming a team when compared to the Phillies. I think this series will be competitive and a lot better than expected. I also think it will be the first series since 2003 to see a Game 6 at least.

Should be fun.

One more interesting little tidbit. Jimmy Rollins recently said he wanted to change the culture of losing in Philadelphia when he got there. The Phillies have been around for 126 years. If he'd played during the first 98 years, there'd have been a culture of losing needing fixing; after all, the Phillies won exactly 2 NL championships in those 98 years (1915 and 1950). However, starting in 1980, guess who the teams are to have appeared in the World Series more than twice?

AL - NY Yankees (7 - 1981, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003), Boston (3 - 1986, 2004, 2007)

NL - St Louis (5 - 1982, 1985, 1987, 2004, 2006), Atlanta (5 - 1991, 1992, 1995, 1996, 1999), Philadelphia (4 - 1980, 1983, 1993, 2008).

The Phillies have been to twice as many World Series in the last 28 years than in the first 98. I think the culture has already changed, and that change started with Michael Jack Schmidt and those great Philly teams in the 1970s. For what it's worth.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Even More Peavy News - from the Front Office

Paul DePodesta, one time Dodgers GM, now special assistant to Sandy Alderson of the Padres, has his own blog. He weighed in on the Peavy trade rumors Thursday.

There's not much revealing in what he had to say. We're trying to get better, clubs rate value of players differently, if we can get a high return for offering Peavy we should consider it, no player is untouchable if an offer comes in that will help out the club. All of those comments, frankly, are common sense from a purely business perspective.

If the Padres are weighing the potential public relations nightmare trading Peavy for prospects could bring, they aren't saying so - at least, DePodesta didn't allude to it in his article.

You can read the entire post here, if you're interested.

Why am I spending so much time discussing Peavy? Because, if he's available, and the Padres want a starting CF and pitching prospects in return, the Cardinals have the players in their system to match that offer. I had proposed Ludwick, Anderson, and perhaps Boggs and Parisi to get Peavy. That's a high price, however, and the Padres might not take Ludwick - they may hold out for Rasmus. That's an even higher price, and takes two of our best prospects out of the system. However, based on (a) our depth in the outfield, (b) the fact that Yadier Molina is the best defensive catcher in the league, and has figured out how to hit, and (c) we desperately need starting pitching depth given Carpenter's injury and Wainwright's recent injury, it's something we should seriously consider.

Peavy isn't going to go into the tank overnight. He is one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Now, that said, I just remembered he missed time this season with elbow trouble...we'd better do an exhaustive work-up on his health before committing those kind of prospects in this deal.

Game 6 of the ALCS is tonight - looking forward to watching that one.

Friday, October 17, 2008

More Peavy news

Simmons' article about ALCS Game 5 is up. You can jump to it by following this link. A 'somewhat' more readable article than the one I posted below, but that's to be expected; Simmons writes for a living, I write in those few spare moments I can wrangle out of my day (or when half-asleep and/or after an adult beverage or two, as was the case last night).

Buster Olney has more info on the Jake Peavy Sweepstakes. Here's a link to his article. Some interesting things from the article:

At least one team the Padres have spoken with about Peavy have demonstrated an interest in expanding the deal to include shortstop Khalil Greene, whose $6.5 million salary the Padres would like to move,

Cesar Izturis has been maligned by a large segment of the Cardinals on-line community, mostly due to a lack of offensive production. However for my money he's a much better option than Khalil. First of all, there is no difference in defensive ability between the two. Second, Khalil isn't a hit for average guy; he won't hit above .260. Third, 2007 was a career for Greene (27 HR, 97 RBI), and last year he returned to something approximating his career norms. Fourth, other than his 2007 season, he has missed significant time each year with various hand issues (usually broken bones in his glove hand). So if Greene is a mandatory part of this trade to get Peavy, well, unless Mo can swing a 3-team deal to move Greene on somewhere else that's a deal breaker.

Multiple sources consider it likely the Padres will deal Peavy in the weeks ahead, and that is a virtual certainty that he will be traded before the July 31 deadline next season. The Padres are seeking at least two young pitchers in return, along with someone who can become the team's everyday center fielder sometime in the immediate to near future.

Cardinals have a plethora of guys who can play center (Schumaker, Ankiel, Ludwick, Rasmus). Two young pitchers? It would probably take someone like Jimenez, Parisi, Motte, or Boggs. Piniero if we're lucky.

Peavy's agent, Barry Axelrod, told local sports talkradio yesterday that Peavy did take a 'San Diego discount' when he signed his extension last year, so he'd be looking for additional compensation from whatever team landed him via trade. Seeing as the Cardinals already committed (gulp) $42M to Lohse for the next 4 years, I'm not sure how much room remains in their budget.

However, I remain convinced that when talent comes available, that can help your particular situation, you should go for it. Go for it, Mozeliak.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Epic - And a Stomach-Punch Game

Bill Simmons is wont to post on Fridays. Normally, at this point in the calendar, it's a football column that discusses his picks for the weekend's games. Somehow I think his post tomorrow will be about this game.

Bill is also given to calling games where you take a heartbreaking loss as a Stomach Punch Game. Especially when you lead 7-0 in the seventh in a series you led 3 games to one.

I couldn't figure out why Maddon removed Kazmir, but, he had thrown 111 pitches through his 6 innings. Balfour had been good in the post-season, and even though he lost the shutout on Pedroia's single, all was not lost.

Until the 1-0 pitch to Ortiz.

Big Papi had struggled mightily in the playoffs, and especially in this series, with one meaningless triple in this series (meaningless because the game was 13-1 against when he hit it). As he goes, so, it seems, go the Red Sox. The fans were appropriately supportive of the team, but there was understanding of how difficult the task was at hand, to come back from 6 down with 7 outs to go.
When that ball landed in the right field stands Fenway exploded. Not only were the Red Sox only down 3, but Papi had finally, FINALLY delivered in the clutch in this post season. They had reason to hope.

And, they believed they would win this game. More importantly, the Red Sox players did, too.

The rest was almost a foregone conclusion.

I thought Francona used his bullpen correctly. Okajima came in early when it became apparent Dice didn't have it. Despite the 2-run double to Upton, Paplebon in the seventh and eighth was the right call; he had to hold the Rays right where they were in order to have a chance.

And finally, the team got some luck. Upton slightly overran Kotsay's double and it ticked off his glove. Gross had his plant foot slip when trying to throw home on Crisp's single that tied the game in the eighth. Longoria made a horrible throw on Youkilis' grounder (after making a great play on the ball) to extend the ninth. And Drew's game winning ground-rule double was just over the outstretched glove of Greg Gross.

Before we get all warm and fuzzy about Boston coming back, again, from 3-1 down to win the AL (it would be the third time in 5 years they've done that), remember - no Boston starter has made it out of the fifth since Dice went into the seventh in Game 1. Tampa gets the next 2 at home. Shields is tough at home, as is Garza who would pitch Game 7. Beckett isn't right.

However, I will say this: Tampa better win this thing in 6. Because if they give Jon Lester a chance to redeem himself after the game 3 egg he laid, they might not have enough to win.

I had to mention all of that, because I'm sure Simmons will focus on the inevitability of Boston's comeback based on this game tomorrow.

More on Jake Peavy

These comments are quoted from

Kevin Towers said last month it would be “very, very difficult to trade Jake Peavy” because of the ace pitcher's value to the Padres. Nonetheless, the general manager is open to trade offers for Peavy, who has guaranteed salaries of $11 million, $15 million, $16 million and $17 million over the next four years.

“Jake has a strong preference to stay in the National League,” Axelrod said. “It is hypothetical, but Jake, by any measure, has had a great deal of success in the National League. He has a comfort level with knowing how to approach hitters here.”

Axelrod made one concrete stipulation to any trade scenarios: “Jake would only approve a trade to a team with a solid chance of winning and a winning tradition. Those teams in the National League may be in locations that are more acceptable, or would be.”

Among the cities Axelrod mentioned
were Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles and St. Louis.

Paging John Mozeliak: If you haven't called Kevin Towers to inquire about what it would take to move Jake Peavy to St Louis, what the hell are you waiting for?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Your 2008 NL champs - Phil-a-DELPHIA

Well at least the Manny Ramirez Circus is over. For 10 days or so. No more hearing about where he could go next. No more hope for a Boston/LA series. By extension, no more Nomar/Derek Lowe back to Fenway in the WS stories.

Glad that's over.

If Boston comes back to win, the Phillies will be heavy favorites to win their second World Series ever. But that's not going to happen (see previous post).

A Tampa/Philadelphia series should be a real good one from a pure baseball perspective. Two good teams with a ton of power, young stars, and excellent pitching.

Here's hoping.

Jake Peavy, anyone?

The local news is reporting the Padres are actively shopping Jake Peavy. Peavy, along with Trevor Hoffman and Adrian Gonzalez, is the face of this franchise, not to mention one of the best pitchers in baseball. Why ownership would be willing to part with a true Ace is beyond me, especially an organization coming off a 99 loss season.

The Padres have significant deficiencies all across the diamond they need to fix. Only 1B and RF are set for next year (RF is Brian Giles, BTW). Mozeliak did a good job of replenishing the farm system during last year's winter meetings. Here's a chance to grab lightning in a bottle. Trade some of that capital for Peavy. He's only 27. What a steal that would be.

In other news, the Rays HAMMERED Boston for a second consecutive night at Fenway, winning 13-4. Boston is down 3-1 again. There have been 4 teams down 3-1 in the ALCS who have come back to win:

1985, Kansas City (against Toronto)

1986, Boston (against California, er, Anaheim, er, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim)

2004, Boston (against New York, more famously remembered because they were down 3-0 as well)

2007, Boston (against Cleveland).

Kansas City and the 04 Red Sox managed to win Games 6 and 7 on the road. The other two teams won Games 6 and 7 at home. That KC team had some pretty good pitchers (Mark Gubicza, Charlie Liebrandt, Bud Black, some guy named Saberhagen), and the 04 Red Sox had a bloody sock (and some stalwart pitching too).

This Red Sox Team? Well, they had their best pitcher get bludgeoned at home in Game 3, their pitching hero from last year hasn't looked right all season (and especially since the end of August), they don't trust Byrd, Wakefield got absolutely HAMMERED last night, they're missing two big bats (one to trade, the other to injury), Ortiz isn't hitting....

They aren't coming back.

Tampa shifting Kazmir to tomorrow and saving Shields for Game 6 in Tampa - where he's 9-2 with a 2.56 ERA this season - was really smart. And then they've got Garza in Game 7 - he's 7-3 with a 2.89 ERA at home - in case the Red Sox start to come back from the dead.

They aren't coming back.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

We've lost a Giant

George Kissel died last night, succumbing to injuries suffered in a Monday car accident. He was 88.

Please read this article by Derrick Goold on the man. Three things jumped out at me from that article: (a), he went to an open tryout that included at least 385 players and was 1 of 2 to be signed; (b), he was signed by Branch Rickey, making him almost certainly the last man remaining in baseball Branch Rickey signed as a player; and (c), he served his country during WWII in and around Guadalcanal - which was not a safe place to be in 1942-43.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Rays and Red Sox move on

It's almost too bad the Sox eliminated Anaheim tonight, because that series was just beginning to get good.

Scioscia will take a lot of flak for attempting the suicide squeeze in a tie game in the ninth. He had a lot going for him on that call, however. 2-0 count. His best bunter at the plate. A speedy runner at third. The only problem was, the Red Sox were looking for it; they've read the scouting report, too. The first 2 pitches Delcarmen threw were not bunt-able, no way. The third one wasn't buntable either. In fact, I can't believe it didn't hit Aybar on the way by. A perfect pitch to spoil the bunt.

Here's why that play didn't make sense. Assume Aybar does something that doesn't drive in the run. On deck is Figgins. He tripled in his last AB of game 2, and scored the tying run in that game. Including that at bat, he was 6 for 12 since - .500 - after starting 1 for his first 9. He's their hottest hitter not named Teixiera. Although he was 0 for 1 against Delcarmen in this post-season, and 0 for 2 with a walk all time against Delcarmen, I like the odds of him getting a hit to drive in that run.

Rays? It seemed preordained they'd make it this far. That should be a fun series.

Now, the next question is why o why are we made to wait until Thursday for the LCS to start? Why can't the NLCS start tomorrow? Why can't MLB run its playoffs like the NHL does?

Update 10/7 0845: A thought occurred to me while driving in to work this morning (yes, most drivers are concentrating on the road ahead, I'm replaying baseball in my head. You may shake your head in Why didn't Scioscia call for a safety squeeze? Willits is in the game solely because he is one of the fastest guys on the Anaheim roster. With a good secondary lead off third, and a bunt, he could easily beat the play home. Why take the riskiest option available to try and force that run? I know hindsight is always 20/20, but I wonder why he chose that path.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

More Quick Thoughts

- Philadelphia sent Milwaukee into that good night 6-2. So much for the NL Central, who exit the 2008 post season derby having lost 6 of 7 games they played.

- Not resigning Suppan looks better and better every year, doesn't it?

- John Danks is a beast. Another dominating performance on the mound. I had him, briefly, on my fantasy team last year and he wasn't very good. My wife drafted him this year and I thought I was helping her out by telling her she should jettision him. She didn't listen. Good thing, too. Danks was also 2-1 with a 1.88 ERA over 5 starts against the Rays going into today.

- Boston really had no business extending their game into 12 innings tonight, when you consider they only got 7 hits in those 12 innings. However, I think they will rue this loss, especially given how many opportunities they had to close the Angels out (bases loaded in 10th, runner on second in 11th, and so on).

Yet another reason to love the Pacific Time Zone: Baseball during working hours. Rays/Chisox at 1330, Angels/Bosox at 1630. Very cool.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Some Quick Thoughts

- Watching JD Drew's HR leave the Big A last night caused me to flash back to this game. Not quite the same way that 2000 NLCS game ended, but boy - to watch the Angels fight back to tie, then lose in the ninth - the similarities were eerie.

- A Wild Card team has reached the World Series every year since 2000. Continuing the spooky trend, the leagues have actually alternated (bold means won WS) sending the Wild Card team to the World Series (they both went in 2002):

NL: 2001 (Arizona), 2002 (Giants), 2003 (Florida), 2005 (Houston), 2007 (Colorado)
AL: 2002 (Angels), 2004 (Red Sox), 2006 (Detroit).

Think the Red Sox know that interesting statistical anomaly? They're the AL wild card this season.

- Has Dale Sveum always known that interference rule he went out to discuss with the umpires in Game 3 of his series, or does Milwaukee have a 'managing for dummies' course they require all their managers to go to, complete with required memorization of obscure rules?

- Craig Sager looked like rainbow sherbert last night. Very tacky. My wife's comment, upon seeing him: 'Who's the retard?' I think that sums it up nicely.

- Thanks to Milwaukee for winning Game 3. I was getting tired of seeing the same teams win in each series. At least one of the LDS series is interesting now.

- It's hard to believe this is the first time the Dodgers have won a postseason series since 1988, and the first time they've swept since guys like Koufax and Drysdale prowled the mound (1963, to be exact).

- In all seriousness, did we really expect another result for the Cubs than what they got? Piniella mis-managed Game 1; there was no sense leaving Dempster in to pitch to Loney when (a) he had just walked the bases loaded, (b) he had struggled throught his 4 and 2/3 innings to that point, (c) ball 4 to Ethier was his 101st pitch of the evening, and (d) Piniella had men warmed up in the bullpen. That HR will join the 4 things I listed in my last post as the ones that drove a nail in Cub playoff aspirations.

After that HR, everyone - and I mean, EVERYONE - in Wrigley tightened up. Except the Dodgers, who suddenly believed they could win the game. TBS continued, helpfully, to show Cubs fans in various stages of agony. Cubs players began to think, "Oh shit, here we go again." Lost that game. Played an awful Game 2 and got buried. Then, tonight, with the season on the line, they did the worst possible thing by giving up 2 in the first, because I'm sure the 'here we go again' thoughts started moving through their heads. Not to mention those two first inning runs nearly blew the roof off Dodger Stadium, if that was even possible given the energy in that building before the game started. After D Lee struck out on a pitch he couldn't hope to hit to end the fifth, flung his bat towards the dugout, and fired his helmet into the ground, I told my wife 'The Cubs are done."

This was, you'll have to believe me, before TBS zeroed in on that act as a prime example of Cub frustration.

I would have won a lot of money if I had predicted the Cubs would be the first team out in the 2008 postseason.

- One final thought - did you know the Cubs have NEVER won a World Series at Wrigley? That's right, they played their first game there 8 years after winning their last WS title. So, of course, the solution to their woes is simple. Build a new stadium on the site of their last WS win and tear Wrigley down. The Red Sox waited 86 years to win a WS, but their 1918 title was won with Fenway as their home ballpark.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Imagine you're a Cub fan...

And you go into every year with a sense of hope, but you don't believe in it.

And most years you're right. You end the season with a blase feeling about the losing. Some seasons (like 1969), the team is competitive for a while but falls apart in the end; those years you have your heart ripped out and stomped right in front of you.

But every now and then (1984, 1989, ;1998, 2003) your team pulls it together and has a good season. Good enough, in fact, to make the playoffs.

But you can't really enjoy it, because in that deep dark corner of your mind you refuse to acknowledge the foreboding remains. Something is going to go wrong.

Which it does. Ground ball through Durham. Will Clark. Braves pitching. Alou's tantrum and Gonzalez's error.

Those years, not only is your heart ripped out and stomped, but you live long enough to watch your killer have sex with your hot girlfriend in your bed.

Only the 2001 Yankees have recovered from losing the first two LDS games at home to win the series. AND, losers of Game 1 of an NLDS series have lost the series 23 out of 26 times.

Looks like they get to watch the sex again this year.

Man I'm glad I'm not a Cubs fan.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Lohse gets rich; Ludwick gets third

In case you missed it, yesterday's White Sox-Twins game was quite tense, and a well played one. I was very surprised the Twins sent Cuddyer to the plate on that short fly ball to CF. Ken Griffey Jr, although getting on in years and not the perennial All-Star he once was (yes I remember he made the team as a starter again this year), he is still a very competent OF. That throw was a chipshot for him. Loved Cuddyer's attempt to fly through AJ Pierzinsky, however. AJ tagged him with his body, not sure if the ball ever touched Cuddyer's side.

The LDS kick off today, everyone's in action except White Sox/Rays, which is eminently fair since the Sox have to travel to Tampa for that game, at least in my opinion. "Evil Mike" hopes Lowe completely shuts down Chicago in the opener. Lowe threw 7 shutout innings against the Cubs back in May in a ND - game was at Wrigley. Can you imagine the unmitigated angst in Wrigley if they are down 1-0 with the loon Zambrano and his tender shoulder taking the mound?

On to Cardinal news.

Kyle Lohse was re-signed for 4 years, $41 million yesterday. Or at least the deal was consummated yesterday. Nice raise for Mr. Lohse. He will almost triple his career earnings with this contract. Details of the deal can be found here. I don't have any problem re-signing Lohse, however I can't believe the cost. He had a great year, I will not dispute that; but it was his first winning season in the NL and his first winning season anywhere since 2003. Also, looking at who baseball-reference compared him to did not warm my heart:

Similar pitchers: John Thomson (in KC's minors)? Mark Redman (2-5 for Colorado this year)? Adam Eaton (bleech)?

Similar pitchers at age 28: Jose Lima, Joel Piniero, Steve Trachsel, Jason Marquis (!), Sidney Ponson.

Giving an average of $10.25M (yes I know it's backloaded) over 4 years for what at best projects to be a #3 starter seems slightly insane. Here's a list of current #3 starters in AL (and bear with the AL comparison, it's from my Rotisserie League, and I'm using it because it's available on short notice), and their compensation:

Joe Saunders (ANA) - $425K
Chris Waters (BAL) - League Min
Jon Lester (BOS) - $421K
Gavin Floyd (CWS) - $400K
Jeremy Sowers (CLE) - $397K
Zach Miner (DET) - $410K
Zach Greinke (KC) - $1.4M
Kevin Slowey (MIN) - $395K
Sidney Ponson (NYY) - league Min
Sean Gallagher (OAK) - league min
Carlos Silva (SEA) - $12M
Matt Garza (TB) - $404K
Matt Harrison (TEX) - $390K
Jesse Litsch (TOR) - $395K

Granted, most of these guys are either very junior or teams took flyers on them at the end of the year, but it doesn't bode well that the only guy in the same income bracket with Lohse on this list went 4-15 and didn't win a single game after the first of June.

Let's move on from depression to frustration.

How in the hell does Ludwick finish third in the comeback player of the year voting? Yes Brad Lidge went through a tough spell after AP's HR, but he still saved 51 games in 2006/2007 with Houston - it's not like he dropped off the face of the earth, or spent an entire year in the minors like Cliff Lee did (who completely deserved the AL award). Kerry Wood has a much better argument than Lidge, seeing he threw the most innings he's thrown in 4 years and became the anchor of the Chicago bullpen this year.

But Ludwick? First, he plays every day. Second, he set career highs in HR, RBI, Runs scored, and on and on and on. Third, he played 81 games in 4 years at the ML level as he fought back from a variety of injuries. His 2008 numbers are so far beyond what he had put up in any season before it's ridiculous, not to mention he was third in the NL in HR, sixth in RBI, second in Slugging, hit 40 doubles... wow. Hard to believe he got third.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Well I got what I asked for...

...And that was a sweep of the hapless Reds. It's nice to go out on a winning note, especially a 6-game winning streak. St Louis finishes 86-76, which is 14 more wins than I predicted they'd get at the beginning of the season. Well done to all.

Additionally, this club finds itself in a LOT better shape as it enters the 2008 off season than it did entering the last. Last year we had questions at second (who?), short (resign Eckstein?), third (Rolen's friction with LaRussa), right (who to succeed Encarnacion), center (would Edmonds be healthy), and in the rotation (Carp out, Reyes on the way out, and a patchwork of other starters). This year, we have questions at second, because Miles isn't the answer, short, because I'm not sure Lopez is the answer, and the bullpen. That's actually a lot better than it was.

- Glaus turned into a more than capable replacement for Rolen, with the bat (despite his cold start) and surprisingly with the glove. Glaus is a legitimate Gold Glove candidate at 3B, and if they still took defensive stats into account when selecting that award he'd win it.
- Pujols had another typical MVP year.
- Molina proved his hitting actually has improved and turned into one of the more reliable Cardinal bats.
- Ludwick realized the enormous potential he's always had.
- Ankiel proved his second half surge last year wasn't a fluke.
- The committee in left (Duncan, Schumaker, Barton, et al) was competent.
- Wellemeyer has a future as a starter; he pitched very well in his first full season as a starter, including Pitcher of the Month in May.
- Lohse won 15 games and carried the team the first half.
- Looper was more good than bad.
- Kyle McClellan. At least until August.

- Izzy's done.
- Bullpen in general.
- Revolving door at second
- Joel Piniero
- Carpenter's new arm injury
- Wainwright missing 3 months to a strained ligament
- Wasted money on Mark Mulder and Matt Clement
- the Anthony Reyes debacle

So as the off-season starts, I like the foundation Mozeliak's put in place. Wainwright, Lohse, Wellemeyer, and Looper make 4/5 of a pretty good rotation. Carpenter is a HUGE question mark; how his arm responds to treatment will, I think, largely define how next season goes.

Priorities in my view: We need to find a reasonably priced starter as insurance for Carp. The bullpen must be rebuilt; Perez as closer and McClellan as set-up are good places to start, Thompson can be the long relief bubba, Springer probably has some gas left in the tank, but left handed specialists and 1-2 more reliable right-handed arms are a must. More offensive production must be found at second. Get a thumper in there, and we can put up with Izturis at short (love the glove), although a better bat (more gap power) would obviously help.

Chicago is the best team in the NL right now and probably will be again next year. Milwaukee just made the playoffs, but their best 2 starters will probably play for someone else next season. Wild Card and 90 wins should be our goals for next year. Once we make the playoffs, as we learned in 2006, anything can happen.

And hopefully we won't be happy with a season-ending sweep of the Reds next year. Unless, of course, we're playing the Reds in the NLCS.

Since the Redbirds won't be in the playoffs this season, I'll have to adopt someone for rooting interest. There will be interest in the baseball playoffs at my house so long as Boston remains alive, courtesy of my wife, but I need something else to write about. I've been thinking about this since St Louis was officially eliminated from the playoffs, and after careful consideration, there's only one team to back.

Whenever someone makes their initial trip to the post-season, some part of your soul has to root for them. So it is for me. We'll be watching the Tampa Bay Rays here at the Stance.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Fan Appreciation Weekend

Well here we finally are. The last weekend of the season. For the Cardinals, this will be the last 3 games of 2008; they are not to be seen again (on a baseball diamond, that is) until pitchers and catchers report in Feb 09.

The end of the season is always bittersweet. On the bad side, there's no more baseball on every night across the country. My fantasy team will no longer be a viable path to distraction during those boring days at work. On the good side, we get to see other teams play on TV than the Yankees/Red Sox/Cubs/Lame-o West Coast regional game. And playoff baseball is usually compelling and fun to watch.

Of course, the Cardinals will not be in the playoffs this year. As has been pointed out elsewhere, this will mark the first time this decade (and millenium, for those of you given to soaring hyperbole) the team won't be playing in October in consecutive years. So that's a bummer too. But I can't really be all that upset as the season winds down; although currently 4th in the division, most of us thought they would be sub-.500 all year. They weren't. And they were alive for a post season berth (although granted, most hope of that happening was washed away by their 7-game losing streak this month) right up to the final week.

Because of that, I will go to this last weekend with my fan-head held high. They fought. They came up short. That's life.

I would, however, like to see them sweep the Reds, because then their final record would be 86-76; since they spent most of the summer between 10-15 games over .500, it would be appropriate.

Going back to yesterday's post, one prominent name (in addition to Ryan Howard, who Pitchers Battting Eighth mentioned in the comments) I left out was Adrian Gonzalez of the Padres. In case you hadn't noticed, and because the Padres suck, you probably hadn't, Adrian his hitting .281 with 36 HR and 118 RBI this season.

He compares, statistically, favorably with AP.

Here's the kicker, however: San Diego is 15th in the NL in runs scored (630). Gonzalez has knocked in 19% of their runs. He's also scored 102. Take away the 36 for the HR he's hit, so we don't double count those:

118-36 = 82 + 102 = 184 / 630 = 29.2%. Yep, one man has either knocked in or scored over a quarter of San Diego's runs this season.

Just for fun:

AP: 184 / 753 = 24.4%
Ludwick: 174 / 753 = 23.1%
Delgado: 172 / 794 = 21.7%
Wright: 206 / 794 = 25.9%
Howard: 197 / 779 = 25.3%
Manny: 72 / 242 = 29.8% (prorated for his time with LA)

How ungodly bad would the Padres have been without Adrian Gonzalez in the lineup?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I'm Back

But this will be a short post. Gotta work in slooooowly. :)

I'm glad to see the Cardinals are still playing with a purpose. I'm sure Arizona doesn't feel the same way. Its a crippling blow they've dealt the D-Backs so far in this series. A win today for the home team, and it doesn't matter what LA does tonight. Ya think Joe Torre will send LaRussa a fruit basket as a thank you?

The Cardinals swoon earlier this month, coupled with the Dodgers' surge, has made the past week the first time St Louis wouldn't have been in first place in the NL West all season. Something for the useless trivia file.

There's been a lot of talk out there about the NL MVP. Lots of opinions, some of them informed, some not. I would break down the top 6 candidates or so this way:

- Albert Pujols. Enough said.

- Ryan Ludwick. He has had an MVP caliber year. He will suffer from being on the same team as AP, much like Rolen and Edmonds did in 2004, however his numbers, and defense, compare favorably with what Albert has put up this year. Merits serious consideration. If not the MVP, he should definitely - DEFINITELY - be comeback player of the year in the NL.

- David Wright. Plays in NY. That alone will get him votes. Knock on Wright is he sucks with RISP. I can't find a RISP stat table anywhere (AARGH!) that supports that perception, but he did stink up the joint last night against the CUBS - in the 3 innings I watched he left 4 runners on.

- Carlos Delgado. Tanked the first half of the season, assisted in getting Willie Randolph fired. Then decided to show up. Sorry, you're not MVP-caliber.

- Manny Ramirez. Tanked the first half of the season to get out of Boston. Admitted as much later. Now tearing the cover off the ball. His play for LA makes him a candidate, however I disqualify him for the same reason I wouldn't vote for Delgado.

- CC Sabathia. Single-handedly keeping Milwaukee relevant in the Wild Card race. 10-2 with the Brewers. Was 6-8, 3.83 with Cleveland, but after a disastrous first 4 starts he was 6-5 with a 2.16 ERA. Merits serious consideration.

For my money, the only 2 serious candidates in the NL are Pujols and Sabathia. This may come down to a 'who makes the playoffs' vote. If the Brewers sneak in, I don't see how you can not vote for Sabathia. He's also a serious candidate for the Cy Young. If they don't make it, well, it's a toss-up.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

On Hiatus

There's no cool way to say this.

I've missed the last two United Cardinal Blogger projects, one I really wanted to do (who are the 4 Cardinals you'd like to have dinner with and why), one I Really REALLY wanted to do (top 7 Cardinal minor leaguers). I've felt like my writing has slipped somewhat; I've only got about an hour to do research and write, so everything is rushed, and I'm getting lazy. If you can be lazy when you're rushing around.

But what's really driving this is I'm at the end of another academic quarter. The coursework hasn't been difficult, but there's a lot of it. My team is doing final preps for our presentation in a week in the one class, and the other will be posting the final on 19 Sept.

What am I saying? What the title of this post implies. I'm going to take some time off to focus on my courses. I hope to be posting again before the end of the season. I probably won't post again until after 21 Sept.

All this as the Cubs roll into town for their last series of the season. Ugh.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Peaks and Valleys

From the high of watching Wainwright dominate, to the trepidation of watching Wainwright leave after 5 1/3 with back stiffness...

From the anxious pacing from watching Carpenter allow the first two men to reach, to the relief from watching Carpenter pitch out of it...

From the despair of watching Lohse struggle in August, to the appreciation of watching Lohse throw six shutout...

From the anger at watching McClellan (exhausted) scuffle again, to the hope Jason Motte brought while firing 98 MPH gas in the eigth...

To seeing my heart laying on the floor when Arizona rallied in the ninth and won.

So much for Villaneuva's gesture galvanizing the club. They've lost 5 of six since that game. They get today to lick their considerable wounds before trying again Friday against Florida.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

I opened the Post-Dispatch to read the game summary, and the photo coupled to the story features David Eckstein. I then flipped my Cardinals calendar to September. Care to guess who the featured player is for September? Yep.

As a seque, it has amused me for years the number of players that appear in the Cardinal calendar who are no longer with the team. This year that august list includes Edmonds, Rolen, the aforementioned Eckstein, and Juan Encarnacion (although the reason he's not with the team is anything but funny).

I saw the score scroll across ESPN's bottom line as 7-6 D-Backs, in the eighth or so (the inning escaped me, although it was late in the game), after sitting through what seemed to be an hour of college football scores from this weekend. Final score, as I'm sure you're aware, was 8-6 Arizona. What I didn't know until reading the game summary was the Cardinals led 5-1 through 4.

Who helped engineer this claiming of defeat from the jaws of Victory? Joel Piniero, that's who, the guy who leads the universe in 'games where I had the lead but couldn't hold it'. Jeez Joel, how do you sleep at night? How have you started 22 games but only gotten 11 decisions (the team is 11-11 in those starts)? How can you continue to cough up leads you're given? At what point does being durable (he's thrown 131 innings, which really isn't that durable but bear with me) get trumped by 'he can win games for us'?

Another stinging loss for a team that can't afford to lose right now. To add insult to injury, both Chicago and Milwaukee lost yesterday. It's probably my paranoia, but doesn't it seem what when they lose, we also lose, but when we lose, they typically win?

Not going to catch anyone with those metrics.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Looks like Villanueva didn't wake them up

Got swept by Houston. Brewers sweep Pirates.

6.5 back with 25 to go.

The fat lady has bought tickets to St Louis.

(And even with this latest setback, at least they're still punching with a purpose in September. So, uh, we got that going for us.)

Let's just try and get one

I did a quick search of to see what the Cardinals record in Ten-Run, er, Enron, er, Minute Maid Park is since that bandbox opened in 2000. Turns out, including last night's game, the Redbirds are 38-39 down there. That surprised me.

Turns out, since Houston abandoned the Astrodome the Cardinals have had only 2 losing campaigns in Houston: 2003 (3-6), and 2006 (3-7). They've been .500 or better in every other year. I guess my belief that they get clobbered down there is distorted by the team's 1-5 record during the 2004 and 2005 NLCS'.

Even this year, going into today, they're 4-4. But the last two losses have really, really hurt.

Bernie Miklasz wrote an article, before the last Brewers series, pooh-poohing those of us who were approaching that series as do or die. He mentioned that there was still a full month of baseball left (true), and that the weekend series in Houston was arguably more important, as Milwaukee was headed to Pittsburgh where they've owned the Pirates. While I still disagree in that the Cardinals really needed to sweep the 2-game set, his comments about this weekend were right on the money.

5.5 out with 26 to play is far, far worse than 3.5 out with 28 to play. If the two games against Milwaukee were must games, then this one Wellemeyer's starting is an ABSOLUTE MUST game. You've got to assume Milwaukee's going to win (they're already up 1-0 as I write this), so we gotta keep pace. But let's be realistic; Milwaukee has 27 games left, we have 26. If the Brewers play out the string 14-13 we have to go 19-7 just to catch them. That's better than they've played (.730) all season.

So let's just get this one, huh? We'll go from there.

Friday, August 29, 2008

They're going to have to crack the 14 over mark

Talk about a glass ceiling. This team, for all the good things it's done this year, hasn't been able to get more than 14 games over .500 all year. They find themselves 14 over, again, going into the 3-game set with Houston over the weekend.

If they want to catch Milwaukee, they need to break through this glass ceiling. Enough said.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I was beginning to think we'd never score

Talk about a painful first 15 innings of the series. For a two-game set some felt (me included) we needed to sweep, to get shut out and somewhat embarrased on Tuesday sucked.

I'm not a very smart man (insert Forrest Gump voice here), because I have an XM radio that I haven't been able to figure out where to put at our new house. Problem is the antenna needs to face south, and the southern sky is blocked by our next door neighbor's house from all but one window, which is in the Master Bedroom. Now, there is an electrical outlet right under the window, BUT, the radio/speakers/antenna/power cables would be well within the reach of the NSGF (that's Not So Gentle Folk, our moniker for our two boys) and they can't resist playing with cables of any sort.

Until Tuesday night, when while barbequing, it dawned on me I could set it up outside! Wow! Only took me 4 months to think of this. So, I'm grilling chicken, and listening to the game. Sweet.

Sweet, that is, until I got a signal, and Fielder had already knocked in a run against Wellemeyer. When he wriggled out of the bases loaded jam, and Ludwick doubled with one out in the bottom of the first, I thought we were ready for this game, and about to pounce on Sheets.

I wish I could have seen AP's foul ball off Sheets in the first. It must have been a shot, because he got 4 wide ones after that. Unfortunately, that turned into the high point of the evening.
I turned it off after Thompson let the first two reach in the ninth. Thank God; I missed that 7-run debacle.

So we get pummeled 12-0, and the Brewers are leading 3-0 in the seventh having figured out our ace. Looks like the end of the line for the Cardinals. They get a run in the seventh, but leave the bases loaded. And that's when Carlos Villanueva submitted his name for the "Dumbest Athlete in Professional Sports" Award.

Dude: You're kicking the snot out of the Cardinals. Why agitate them? My Dad used to talk about this - you've gotten a good opponent down. Who knows why they're having a bad day - Problems at home, or stress on the job, or something, whatever. LEAVE THEM ALONE. Let them sleep. There's no reason to wake them up.

So Villanueva wakes the Cardinals up with his posturing, they hang a 4-spot in the eighth, and salvage a split. Thanks. I hope the Brewers veterans took him behind the woodshed after the game.

Much like a tie, this series didn't solve anything. The Cardinals are still 3.5 games out of the wild card, and have a heart beat. That's the good news, they still have a chance. But, they're 4 back on the loss side with 28 games to go. And, the Phillies are nipping at their heels.

At least it will make for an entertaining September.

So on to Houston we go.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Wellemeyer vs Sheets, 5:10 pm PACIFIC time tonight.

Sheets has been quite the enigma this season. Most observers (myself included) thought the Brewers' pick up of Sabathia gave them the best 1-2 punch in the league, even better than Zambrano/Dempster (at the time), Webb/Haren, or Pedro/Santana. However, the numbers haven't borne that out:

Before CC, Sheets was 10-2 with a 2.77 ERA.

Since 8 July (the day they added Sabathia), Sheets is 1-5 with a 4.06 ERA. The only team he's beaten is the Nationals. He earned a no decision against St Louis on 24 July.

I'm sure sports psychologists could fill volumes analyzing him to determine what caused the drop off in performance. It might be a simple case of the man trying too hard to stay with one of the best pitchers of his generation; who knows.

He has also not pitched well historically against the Cardinals (5-14 lifetime record), or at the new Busch (0-2, 4.74 ERA).

Yes I know what all this means - he'll be Roy Oswalt good tonight.

In other news, in case you hadn't noticed, Anthony Reyes is back in the majors with Cleveland. He's started 4 games so far, has thrown 5 innings or more every time (in fact, has only thrown 5 innings once, the other 3 starts he's gone 6, 6 1/3, and 7 innings), and has allowed 2 ER or less (actual stats: 2-1, 2.22 ERA) In short, he looks like the pitcher the Cardinals thought they had drafted back in 2003.

Larry over at VEB made a comment yesterday about Reyes that surprised me, which is quoted below:

anthony reyes made another strong start last night, 7 inn 1 run against texas,
the highest-scoring team in baseball. he now sports a 2.22 era in 4 starts for
cleveland. i’d be slightly, um, annoyed if we find out the kid can really pitch
and we gave him away for nothing . . . .

I think it is pretty clear that Reyes' struggles with St Louis since 2006 can be traced to his difficulty with management (specifically LaRussa and Duncan). Having not spent any time in the locker room I have no idea what caused the relationship to sour; for instance, I don't know if it was a case of hard-headedness on the part of the coaches trying to force him into complying with the organizational model of pitch-to-contact, or if it was a case of the cocky rookie not listening to the mentoring he was offered. Larry himself stated the Cardinals broke Reyes in an interview he gave to the Padre blog Ducksnorts before their May series in San Diego (yes I do read more on the web than VEB, C70 at the bat, and to monitor my Juggernaut Fantasy Team). There was never any question he had the stuff to succeed at the major league level; the question was would he be given a real shot to demonstrate it (and 2007 doesn't really count; that was a bad Cardinals team, and although his 2-14 record would imply he was with the team all year he still got jerked around between St Louis and Memphis).

Not to mention that Reyes probably knows the Cardinals jettisoned him for pratically nothing, and has that additional motivation (other than to prove the organization wrong) to pitch well in Cleveland.

The fact that he's pitching well in a new situation shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who followed the soap opera over the past 3 years here. Whether he realizes his full potential moving forward is anyone's guess, and is largely up to him; the Indians have demonstrated they will give him a fair shot, a fairer shot than he got in St Louis, and he's responded. Why his sudden appearance as a quality major league starter would apparently surprise Larry surprised me.

Mozeliak got rid of him because he knew the kid would not be a contributor to the team as long as LaRussa and Duncan were in charge of the dugout, and because he suspected the emotional scars Reyes carried from his time in St Louis were probably too deep to heal even if/when LaRussa/Duncan moved on.

I will continue to monitor Reyes' progress in Cleveland, if for no other reason than I waited too long and my fantasy league arch rival scooped him up off the waiver wire last week.

Monday, August 25, 2008

At least we didn't lose any ground

I think we all were hoping to sweep Atlanta this weekend, and after blugdenoing them 18-3 Friday, those prospects seemed pretty good. Losing Saturday's game, a very winnable game, hurt. At least the team bounced back and took the rubber match.

At least we didn't lose any ground. Chicago won 2 of 3 from the Nationals, the Brewers the same against Pittsburgh.

I believe both teams have today off in preparation for their 2-game series. I don't think its a stretch to say these currently are the two biggest games left on the docket. Get swept and kiss the wild card goodbye. Sweep and you're right in it. Split and, well, you still have a chance, but it's starting to fade, especially considering the weak schedule Milwaukee has the rest of the way.

The bullpen hiccup on Saturday (oh how big was that wild pitch in the eighth?) doesn't bode particularly well for the upcoming series. St Louis is 4-9 against Milwaukee this season. In those nine losses, listed below,

17 Apr lost 5-3 (10), led 3-0 in eighth,
22 Apr lost 9-8 (12), trailed 8-3 in seventh and had bases loaded in ninth,
9 May lost 4-3, led 3-2 in ninth,
11 May lost 5-3,
12 May lost 8-3,
21 Jul lost 6-3 (10), trailed 3-2 in ninth and had second and third, two out with AP up,
22 Jul lost 4-3, led 3-0 in seventh,
23 Jul lost 3-0,
24 Jul lost 4-3, led 3-2 in ninth,

they led late in 4 of the losses. In two others they had a chance to win in the ninth and didn't finish, but my major point is the bullpen took the loss in 4 of those games. With the rearrangement of the bullpen over the past 3 weeks, they've been much more solid; but I still think Milwaukee believes they can beat the Cardinals every time in a close game once it's turned over to the bullpen, based on this year's results.

Like I said, their hiccup on Saturday doesn't bode well. The day off will help. Hopefully, if we have a close game or two in this series, the mostly solid pen we've seen recently will be the one on the mound.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A good old beat down

Rushed this morning - finishing up my homework, leaving for class in 45 minutes, still got some minor reading to do in preparation for today's in-class discussion.

Short post.

Cards brought the wood, slapped the Pirates around. No ground lost in the races. Cubs won, Brewers too, so still 2.5 out of the wild card and staring up at Chicago (8.5 back).

Nice job Wellemeyer. Work on the baserunning, though.

Off-day today.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Looper shines as bats sleep

Braden Looper is going to start talking to himself one of these days. The guy has pitched his butt off since the All-Star Break. I did a quick numbers breakdown (courtesy of Baseball Reference), and since the break he's 2-3 with a 3.14 ERA in 7 starts. If we eliminate his 18 July start against San Diego (3 innings, 6 ER), he's still 2-3 but with a 2.03 ERA.

Yes that's right: he's barely given up 2 runs a game over his past 6 starts, and has 3 losses and a no-decision to show for it. Frustrating.

I like his comments in the Post-Dispatch today:

"It's a game we had a chance to win as a team," said Looper (11-10). "I make one
more pitch, or a one guy gets one more hit, and it's a different story. … We
need to win that game. These games are really starting to matter and we need to
win games like that."

Words of a competitor, who wants to win, who's frustrated, but who isn't Carlos Silva. And he's right: they only have so many opportunities left this season to make a move. Milwaukee lost last night, St Louis is playing a weak sister, they need to win games like that.

I hadn't realized they've lost 8 of their last 11 at home until reading the post-game write-up this morning. If you can't win at home, you most definitely don't deserve to be in the playoff hunt. They need to turn that around PRONTO.

The other big news this morning is Jason Isringhausen. It is bring reported today he has a torn flexor muscle near his right elbow. Izzy's season is over. The article indicated that he will call it a career rather than undergo surgery and rehab to repair the damage. Izzy's 37, and that's a lot of work to go through for what - 1 to 2 years more playing time? With the Cardinals closer of the future already throwing well in St Louis (at least these past 2 weeks), and closers being such a perishable commodity, he might not be able to latch on somewhere once his rehab is complete (although Troy Percival seems to have done well after 2 years off, despite 3 trips to the DL).

Lboros over at VEB till probably do a post-mortem this morning on Izzy. I haven't surfed over there yet, I wanted to get my thoughts on paper before I read theeir post and had it influence my thinking. But judging from what he wrote on Walt Jocketty earlier this year, I expect his Izzy discussion to be worth the read.

As for me, I'll say this. Izzy came into the league as a Met, a can't-miss starter who (along with Pulsphier and Wilson) was supposed to lead the Met starting rotation for the next 10 years (a la Smoltz, Glavine, and Maddux). Didn't turn out that way due to injuries to all 3. Izzy also fought TB while a Met, adding that to his pitching issues. He went to Oakland and re-invented himself as a closer. 293 total saves in his career. 217 as a Cardinal, the team's all-time leader in the category. He also holds the team's season record for saves (47) set during the fantastic 2004 season. Not a bad ending for a busted starting pitcher prospect.

Izzy always brought his lunch pail to the game and worked his butt off. The comsummate gamer. Yes he had his share of high-wire ninths, and in recent times his success rate dipped noticeably, but he always took the ball and battled. My lasting memory of him will be Game 4 of the 2004 World Series (also the last game my Dad and I went to together), where he came into the eighth with no one out and the sacks loaded and worked out of the jam. His only appearance in any World Series game. Busch was very, very loud as he walked off the mound that night, because he kept the flickering flame of hope alive for one more inning.

We've talked about great Cardinals who should have their numbers retired by the team. Not necessarily HOF players, but above average good ones who played well for the hometown nine. Willie McGee certainly deserves to have his number retired. Jason Isringhausen does too.

If this is it, rest your oars, Jason - you earned it. Vaya con Dios.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Carp to throw today; Cardinals torn between Waffle House and IHOP

Citing it as the 'bullpen session upon which the rest of the season rests', Chris Carpenter will throw today to test his sore tricep. For the first time, at least to my eyes, Carp admitted there was more than just muscle discomfort that drove him from his 11 August start against Chicago; there's discomfort when 'he raises his arm to a specific position'.


So Carp may be on the shelf for the rest of the year. OK, no problem; we've got Wainwright waiting in the wings. the Post-Dispatch story is accurate about when the Cardinals need a fifth starter next (2 Sept at Arizona). Assuming LaRussa/Duncan leave the rotation as is (which they may not, given the 6 off-days the teams has from now until the end of the year), here's how it stacks up. August opponents are here, September ones here.

19 Aug - Looper
20 Aug -Wellemeyer
21 Aug - OFF
22 Aug - Piniero
23 Aug - Lohse
24 Aug - Looper
25 Aug - OFF
26 Aug - Wellemeyer (Brewers)
27 Aug - Piniero (Brewers)
28 Aug - OFF
29 Aug - Lohse
30 Aug - Looper
31 Aug - Wellemeyer
1 Sept - Piniero
2 Sept - TBD
3 Sept - Lohse
4 Sept - OFF
5 Sept - Looper
6 Sept - Wellemeyer
7 Sept - Piniero
8 Sept - OFF
9 Sept - Lohse (Cubs)
10 Sep - Looper (Cubs)
11 Sep - Wellemeyer (Cubs)
12 Sep - Piniero
13 Sep - TBD
14 Sep - Lohse
15 Sep - OFF
16 Sep - Looper
17 Sep - Wellemeyer
18 Sep - Piniero
19 Sep - Lohse (at Wrigley)
20 Sep - TBD (at Wrigley)
21 Sep - Looper (at Wrigley)
22 Sep - Wellemeyer
23 Sep - Piniero
24 Sep - Lohse
25 Sep - TBD
26 Sep - Looper
27 Sep - Wellemeyer
28 Sep - Piniero

Later on in the Post-Dispatch story, this gem of a quote appears, attributed to John Mozeliak:

General manager John Mozeliak doesn't want to feed speculation. Yet
Mozeliak admits Carpenter's status directly affects how and when starter
Adam Wainwright returns from a 2½-month absence.

"I don't see it as that big a deal," Mozeliak said Monday about Carpenter's
toss. "I think it's important to get both guys back. (Today) might define how
Wainwright could be used. But in terms of how the next two weeks shake out,
I don't think it makes that much difference."

You're kidding, right? Not that big a deal? Having Wellemeyer (ok) and Piniero (crapshoot) start the two most important games remaining on the schedule (against the Brewers, based on current standings) is OK, vice having Wainwright or Carp potentially start one of them (and Carpenter is eligible to come off the DL 26 August)? WOW. Agreed, to throw Wainwright against Milwaukee in a high leverage, high intensity game right off the bat isn't ideal; nor is throwing Carp in the same situation his first start back off the DL, but I think even Mozeliak would agree both are better pitchers than Piniero.

The other thing I can't believe from that article is the idea that Wainwright, if not shifted to the back end of the bullpen (and Perez/McClellan have so far proven up to the task of closing out games), would be used in long relief:

"Different" doesn't necessarily mean Wainwright would return immediately as the Cardinals' closer. Rookie Chris Perez's positive showing since inheriting the closer's role from Jason Isringhausen means Wainwright could be activated to work in long relief.

I almost spit coffee on the screen after reading that sentence. We're fighting for a playoff spot, Wainwright has been the team's best starter since the all-star break last year, and the best thing for this team is to relegate him to long relief?


What in the name of Ken Reitz is going on here?