Tag:David Freese
Posted on: June 24, 2010 11:14 pm
Edited on: June 26, 2010 10:43 am
 

6/24 - The MLB All-Caveman Team

The MLB All-Caveman Team

Since Adam Wainwright got shelled up in Toronto, I don't get to blog about the Cardinals strong pitching and how they swept the Blue Jays.  And incidentally, the league needs to send Tony Randazzo a little memo reminding him that home plate is only 17 inches wide - not 3 feet as he appeared to give Brandon Morrow.  But I understand his incompetence - he's from Chicago so he grew up watching poorly played baseball.  Also, Randazzo looks like a meathead, which must mean something.  As an ex-baseball player himself, had he made the majors he might have made the MLB All-Caveman Team!

This is a list of some of THN's favorite Neanderthals, both past and present.  Pitchers who screamed battle cries from the mound, hitters who would have looked more comfortable swinging tree trunks at the plate, all with plenty of gnarly hair over their face and chest (and we presume, their back). 

RHP - Pete Vuckovich - Any pitcher that can play a terrifying Yankee slugger in a movie is nothing if not imposing.  He was much scarier as a Brewer than a Cardinal.  That's probably why the Redbirds traded him - not cuddly enough.

LHP - Randy Johnson - After he killed a poor bird in spring training with a 95-mph heater, rumor is he ate it for lunch.

Relief - Rod Beck - One of the most colorful personalities to grace the diamond.  Stories of his exploits in the minor leagues after his major league career was over are legendary with local fans.

OF - John Kruk - It's doubtful there has ever been a worse physical specimen squeezed into tight baseball polyester.  Also makes sensekruk he couldn't stick in San Diego, but was adored in Philadelphia.

OF - Colby Rasmus - A young knuckle-dragger in training, he's a mouth-breather through and through, but some of the deadliest warriors are like that.  They look innocent, you lower your defense and them BOOM - they strike.

OF - Jay Buhner - Bald-headed and crushing 40 homers a year using the most intimidating batting stance in baseball history: he held the bat directly in front of himself as if about to enter a gang fight.  He dared the pitcher to throw a fastball, and then pulling the bat BACK and THEN swinging, would connect, sending the ball into orbit.  Awesome.

SS - Gary Gaetti - For some reason, the vast majority of shortstops throughout history have been excellent athletes, good-looking, more or less stars on their teams.  So it was hard to find a true caveman, but luckily Gaetti logged some time at short, and for a guy that played into the 90s, none were more "old school" than him.

3B - Dave Kingman - One of the most feared sluggers of the 70s and 80s both on and off the field.  The only thing that could make the guy smile was seeing sports writers tortured, but fortunately for them, it was the 20th Century - not the 5th.

2B - Jeff Kent - Few players combined such extremely high talent with amazing ambivalence to what they did for a living, and that kind of attitude toward something 99.9% of the population would consider a dream come true, is quite scary.  Plus he was a jerk.

dunn 1B - Adam Dunn - Dunn is the ultimate barbarian the clan sends to the plate with the game on the line.  The pitcher is too busy watching the way his 6'7" frame is blocking out the sun to focus on throwing the ball properly.

C - Darrell Porter - The MVP of the Cardinals' 1982 World Series victory, he literally looked like Quasimodo at the plate, hunched over, almost crippled - until he unleashed his wicked swing.  The man was nails, cold-blooded when it counted, like any good warrior.

Well that was cathartic.  So let's savagely sink our teeth into...


The Hard Nine


1. Towers of Power - For the first time in a while the Cardinals have three regular outfielders who are a threat to go deep.  With Matt Holliday's recent power surge, each member of our current trio is on pace for 25+ home runs: Colby Rasmus (34), Ryan Ludwick (25) and Holliday (26).  Holliday, until very recently, was on pace for just 15 dingers.  The last time the Cardinals had three outfielders all finish with 25+ homers was 1998 when Ron Gant (26), Ray Lankford (31) and Brian Jordan (25) brought the thunder, which, with just a little help from Mark McGwire's 70 homers, led the NL in big flies.  Too bad our pitching was as bad as our slugging was good that year. CBSsports.com currently shows the Cards' outfield rated 2nd in the majors to the Texas Rangers' thumpers.

In fact, since 1985 the Cardinals have had just five seasons where even TWO outfielders hit 25+ homers in the same season with Jim Edmonds factoring in three of those five seasons.  With Holliday locked up for a very...long...time and Colby Rasmus still pre-arbitration, if we can sign Ludwick to a reasonable multi-year deal, we could be set for a long time, which is fairly critical since we don't have any impact outfielders in the minors at the moment.

2. Not So Lone Ranger -
Speaking of the Rangers, Josh Hamilton was one of the most inspiring stories of the 2008 season.  After a long journey back from substance abuse and finding peace as a born-again Christian, Hamilton had a successful comeback season with the Reds in 2007.  He was then traded to Texas for promising pitcher Edison Volquez.  Hamilton promptly became an All-Star with Texas in 2008 with a season that was highlighted  by an incredible power display in the All-Star Game Home Run Derby that left everyone in awe.  But 2009 was not so kind and while battling injuries and some off-field regression, Hamilton hit only 10 home runs.

Happily, (excluding the Rangers' opponents in the AL West, of course) Hamilton has rebounded with his best season yet, hitting .339 with 17 home runs so far.  But more importantly, he's serious about his new life.  Josh doesn't go out alone.  He stays at home with the family during home game stretches and hangs out with his mentor, Johnny Narron, on the road at all times.  He never has more than $10 on him.  That's humility.  It's a joy to cheer about things greater than baseball - like a changed life.

3. Yadi! Yadi! Ya...Oh Nevermind -
Um yeah, so I've stopped with the Yadi 100-RBI pace updates, if you haven't noticed.  Yadier Molina hasn't simply hit the wall - the wall seems to have snuck up on him and knocked the snot out of him upside the head with a two-by-four.  Get this man a medic!

His average is down to .242, his lowest since 2006 when he batted .216.  And what is really discouraging is how completely disinterested he looks at the plate.  Chris Carpenter is giving a better effort at the dish and that's not saying much.  After giving us batting averages of .275, .304, and .293 the last three seasons, it certainly seemed like Yadi had "figured it out".  I don't think he's regressing, technically.  I just think he's beat up - I've seen him take some nasty pitches off the body this year and those things add up.  I really hope he doesn't make the All-Star team.  He needs a break.

4. He Must REALLY Like Football - I do not come to bury Steve Smith, but to praise him.  We've heard plenty of freak injury stories that have befallen professional athletes over the years.  A lot of the times the accident leads to lies, a cover-up, and finally the embarrassing truth.  The St. Louis Blues' own star defenseman Erik Johnson lost his entire sophomore season to a golf cart knee injury.  Players ride motorcycles without helmets.  They cut themselves with hunting knife birthday presents (yeah, Mike Matheny wasn't an All-Star, but that one STILL hurts us Card fans).

But at least Steve Smith hurt himself actually playing flag football.  He was apologetic, but defiant: "I wish I could take it back," Smith said. "But I am a regular guy outside of football. I mow my grass, too. I can get my finger chopped off fixing my lawnmower. I could roll my ankle playing tag or slip-n-slide with my kids. In hindsight, yeah, I won't do it again. But I was just having fun, playing with some guys."

And yeah, that's a huge loss for Smith, personally, and for the Carolina Panthers organization and the fans, but for a while, how cool was it for those "other guys" to get to play football with a Pro Bowler?  Forget the autograph, wanna play catch, Albert?  Uh, was that your elbow that just popped??

5. Protecting the World's Jewels Since 1930 - Dear World: we get it.  You dislike us evil, greedy, lazy, overweight, spoiled Americans.  That's fine.  But there are still things we really suck at and soccer is one of them.  So if we score a legitimate goal, can you at least feign impartiality and allow the goal to count?  I promise, we are sure not going to win the "World's Cup"...whatever that is.  I'm not sure we even want to win it.  Hygiene and all...

6. Stephen Strasburg's Debut Revisited - I finally took an hour this week to watch most of Stephen Strasburg's debut against the Pirates a couple weeks ago.  Simply put, he has video-game-set-on-cheat-mode stuff.  His high-90s fastball starts right down the middle and then runs to the corner causing lefties to flail and righties to get sawed off, assuming they even make contact.  And this is what's really sick: his change up is 90-mph.  Ninety-miles per hour change up.  What a laugh.  His change up smokes probably 50% of the veteran fastballs in the majors right now.  But the difference between 90 and 99 is lethal.  You swing to hit 99, you won't hit a ball coming in at 90 and vice versa.  And the icing on the cake is his circus breaking ball that drops down an in to lefties - he can throw it for strikes or down out of the zone like a splitter.  Curt Schilling knows a few things about stuff and he says he's never seen anything like what Strasburg can do.  Like I said, I'm really looking forward to this young man setting the single-game strikeout record against us and whadayaknow - the Cards are in D.C. for a four-game set starting August 26th.

7. My Slumping AL Teams -
I don't think any baseball fan over the age of six thought the Tampa Bay Rays were going to lead the AL East wire-to-wire and they can officially be re-classified as underdogs again.  They are just a half game out of third place and both the Yankees and Red Sox are streaking by.  The Twins were solid favorites in the AL Central but the resurgent Tigers are not laying down as they are just 1 1/2 games back and are 7-3 over their last 10 while Minnesota is 4-6.  The Twins main problems?  Like most teams, inconsistent offence is to blame.  But the back end of the rotation has been mediocre, further complicating things - Kevin Slowey (4.58), Scott Baker (4.61) and Nick Blackburn (5.80)?  Eeesh.  Cliff Lee, anyone?
 
8. Step Right Up and Wreck Your Season! - Something has to be done about the All-Star Home Run Derby - namely, dropping it, forevermore.  PLEASE, MLB: NO ONE CARES.  A great majority of ballplayers who have participated in the derby have had bad second halves of the season and/or a down year entirely the next season.  Many articles have been written about it already.  The players are wising up.  Albert seemed terribly gassed the second half of 2009 and had a big power outage.  Jim Edmonds removed all guesswork by getting injured DURING the derby in 2005.  More and more sluggers are bowing out.  I'd rather see Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Jim Thome and Barry Bonds have a "Bring Back the Juice!" home run derby promotion.  Now THAT would create some interest.

9. Vogon Poetry or Watching the Cardinals Hit - I told my wife that it was a very, VERY good thing that I didn't watch the Cardinals' 1-0 win over the Blue Jays last night.  Only after the game was over did I realize that Chris Carpenter got the well-earned win when the Cards scored in the top of the NINTH.  Nothing like waiting to the last minute, boys!  I'm sure I would have had to go to drastic measures to keep from spontaneously combusting had I watched the game live - the Cards left 11 men on base.  Last night, at least, the culprits were Colby Rasmus and David Freese (two guys who have been positive contributors for the most part) instead of the usual suspects, Pujols and Holliday.  Of course, the Cards got shutout completely tonight.  Time to gnaw off a leg to maintain my sanity.



WG









Posted on: June 10, 2010 5:21 pm
Edited on: June 11, 2010 11:23 am
 

6/10 - Thanks for the Memories, Albert

Thanks For The Memories, Albert


Just as soon as we think the Cardinal bats have finally thawed out, they run into a team that can actually pitch well.  The Dodgers swept us and exposed our lineup as a bit fraudulent. 

Just as the Giants did.  Just as the Phillies did. Just as the Padres did. 

Obviously, the team is dealing with some nasty injuries - Brad Penny, Colby Rasmus and David Freese are all major cogs in the Cardinals machine (I guess you can call it that: a machine that produces pop-ups and double-play grounders, anyway).  Kyle Lohse, when healthy, is better than any of the other #4 and #5 hurlers we have currently, but he is out indefinitely. 

Even at 100%, the Cardinals are really only the sixth best team in the NL.  As usual, if the Cards make the playoffs, it will only be as the NL Central "default" playoff entry who will scare no legitimate team. 

What a terrific feeling of deja vu Tony La Russa must have had this week in L.A.  It was the 2009 NLDS all over again, but at least in that series we scored a few runs and lost one game due to a Holliday fielding gaffe.  This time around we simply got beat.  First the bloodbath provided by sacrificial lambs Blake Hawkesworth and PJ Walters. Then the offense went to sleep for Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright - again.

Our least-heralded player has been our best all season: Ryan Ludwick, who is now THN's Official Favorite Cardinal.  Luddy hit his 10th homer last night and has played the best defensive right field of anyone in the NL with flair and abandon that Aaron Rowand would admire.

But looking at the bigger picture, I think it's time to go on record and say the Cardinals need to seriously consider trading Albert Pujols after next year. The Matt Holliday contract is terrible - he has borderline 20-homer power, whether he's hot or cold.  There's nothing we can do about that, except to not make the same mistake with Albert.

As incredulous as it sounds, the club needs to let Albert play out his option next year and see how much he has left in the tank.  To me, he appears to be on the verge of becoming "just" a .300-25-100 first baseman.  Is that terrible production?  Of course not.  Is that worth $30 million a year?  OF COURSE NOT. 

These are the Cardinals - not the Mets, Yankees or even the Cubs.  Albert is going to tie up over 30% of the team payroll for the rest of his career if he remains with the Cards, and as with all the other wonderful companies in the Good Ol' U.S. of A, you think Bill DeWitt and Company is going to increase team payroll to stay in step with inflation?  Yeah right.

Do I want Albert to be traded?  Of course not.  I want him to remain a .330-40-120 guy for the rest of his career and retire as the greatest right-handed hitter baseball ever saw (and he still might) but that's not realistic.  I love Albert but I love the Cardinals more and his trade value will never be higher.  The Cardinals could pick up two cheap top everyday players, two or three great minor league prospects and a bunch of high draft picks in such a deal. 

We've had the one-in-a-lifetime privilege of cheering for a player who won the Decade Triple Crown for the 2000s (in only nine years, at that) but that era is over.  The Cardinals got the best bargain in baseball out of Pujols - it's time to take that profit and invest it into the future of the team.

Albert won't be able to force those sore legs to keep chugging much longer.



Well, a ton has happened in the MLB since the last regular THN entry, so let's dive right into...


The Hard Nine


1.  The 28-Out Perfect Game - I'm sure you all are slightly sick of this story by now.  It's been hashed, re-hashed, re-fried, and served with a side of feel-good moments a hundred time already.

But I didn't get my say yet.   

In the aftermath, I actually respect Commissioner Bud Selig more after he made the decision not to overturn umpire Jim Joyce's missed call.  In my mind, this was a slam dunk - the final out of the game, completely missed by the ump and no one else on earth.  In this fallen world, there are so few moments in life when something that was wrong could truly be made 100% right and not one person could argue against it.  And Bud didn't do it.  He must have bigger cajones than anyone thought.

This is a game of human decisions and judgments, right and wrong.  Armando Galarraga lost the 21st perfect game in history.  He lost his first no-hitter.  But baseball lore gained the first 28-Out Perfect Game ever and probably the only we'll ever see.  It's something we won't forget.

2.  A Zit, a Geo Metro, and Stephen Strasburg - I'm calling it right now: Stephen Strasburg will break the single game strikeout record (which is 20 set by Kerry Wood and Roger Clemens) for a pitcher this year and he will do it against the Cardinals who are turning every pitcher they face into some mutated combination of Sandy Koufax and Nolan Ryan.

Every other game, it seems an opposing pitcher is setting or tying their personal high in strikeouts against us this season.  Such luminaries include:

Manny Parra  10 Ks
Bud Norris  9 Ks
Carlos Silva 11 Ks

This, against guys who are getting knocked around the rest of the league (aside from Silva, which is a totally separate weird occurrence, one that makes me wonder if we have not actually crossed over into the Twilight Zone). 

3.  Congrats to the Blackhawks - The Stanley Cup once again resides in the NHL's mighty Central Division.  Even though only 87 people watched the games on T.V., it still counts, and it's yet another Chicago championship not won by the Cubs.  (Sorry, obligatory Cubs shot.  It's in my contract.)

4.  Soft-Tossing (My Cookies)
- At times it seems the Cardinals go out of their way to maintain old and out-dated baseball stereotypes: shortstops that can't hit for power, catchers that can't hit their weight, and left-handed relievers that can't touch 90 on a gun unless they happen to be holding a Ruger P90 pistol. 

This last phenomena has been really grating on my nerves lately.  Now, hear me, we typically always have very effective left-handed relief, but they are specialists in every sense of the word and I'm getting a little tired of watching Tony leave Dennys Reyes and Trever Miller in against too many righties and get knocked around.  But what I want to know is, why do we have to settle for these guys?  I mean, a 95+ mph fastball is hard to hit whether it comes from a lefty or righty, is it not?  Yet our lefties hum it in there at a blistering 87!  Ricky Horton, Randy Flores, Jeff Fassero, Kent Mercker, TONY FOSSAS, JUAN A"BUST"O - I mean Agosto?!  I'm in the fetal position, even now thinking back on these jokers. 

This week we saw what the Dodgers' Hong-Chih Kuo can do (1.06 ERA).  Or what about the timeless Arthur Rhodes (0.36 ERA) of the Reds who is blowing guys right out of the batters box?  Even Billy Wagner is still bringing it (4-0, 1.54 ERA, 10 saves) for the Braves.  But no, we get to watch Miller and Reyes toss frisbees up there to righties night after night.  Tony has more faith than I do, I guess.

5.  Youth Baseball League
- The NL East suddenly has a plethora of baseball prodigies.  Mike Stanton of the Marlins got 3 hits in his major league debut.  Jason Heyward, at 20, is the Braves best player and probably headed to the All Star Game.  Stephen Strasburg struck out 14 batters in 7 innings in his major league debut this week.  Has there ever been more evidence that teams need to focus on the draft and groom their own stars?

6.  Draft Horses - Speaking of the draft, it's good to see that if the Cardinals plan to pay a huge portion of the team salary to a few veterans, they also understand that they HAVE to take highly talented players in the draft regardless of signability issues to fill out the rest of the roster and they did just that.  Zack Cox was rated in the top 5 fell to the Cards at #25 and he very well could be their second baseman of the future.  It appears, that their cheap-drafting ways are over (No more "Pete Kozmas"?  Hallelujah). 

7.  The Big Flop - And still speaking of the draft, it's always fun to look back on past drafts and what might have been.  For instance, in the late 80s and early 90s we suffered through some very bad Cardinal teams.  The reward for some of this misery was the sixth overall pick in the 1989 draft.  The Cards picked Paul Coleman, a power-hitting highschooler who never made it past A ball.  With the very next pick that year the White Sox took "The Big Hurt", the "Pujols" of the 90s and future Hall of Famer, Frank Thomas.  Uh, whoopsy.

8.  I Can See Clearly Now the Ks are Gone - Ok, not completely, but since Colby Rasmus went to the eye doctor a couple weeks ago to get new contacts, he has been on a tear.  And then he tore his calf.  Man, that's like...Cubs luck (sorry, can't help it). 

9.  Bye, Bye, Big 12
- It looks like the Big 12 is going to fall apart and it is all over money.  I enjoy college sports, but I am not a fanatic.  College sports fanatics typically say to me that it's the purest form of competition, untouched by big contracts and endorsement deals.  No, my friends, it's still all about the money. 



WG














Posted on: June 1, 2010 11:45 am
Edited on: June 1, 2010 6:04 pm
 

6/1 - Burning Up The Clutch (Hitting)

Burning Up The Clutch (Hitting)

I have been looking forward to writing a blog like this for a while.

Cardinal pitchers finally got a chance to exhale this Memorial Day weekend (except for tough-luck starter Adam Ottavino who was fairly valiant in his major league debut in hostile Wrigley Field).  The Redbirds actually appeared to be swinging wood bats instead of over-sized icicles as they scored 36 runs in their last four wins, vaulting them back into a first place tie with the Reds

Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter both held serve against the Cubbies.  P.J. Walters looked like a keeper in San Diego giving up only 6 base runners in 5 innings.  I'll take a right-hander that only tops out at 88 MPH when he throws a sweet change-up like the one Walters possesses and Jaime Garcia continues to handle himself like a veteran coming back from a rain delay yesterday to settle down and earn a win against the hot-hitting Reds.  Garcia is on pace for 16 wins.  Unless Heyward hits 30+ homers, how can Garcia not be in the NL Rookie of the Year discussion with numbers like this?

On the back-end, Jason Motte and Kyle McClellan have been lights out and Mitchell Boggs has made definite progress this year.  Motte has become a shutdown fireman with a 2.61 ERA and a nice 23-5 K/Walk ratio.  McClellan has also cranked up the Ks and reduced the walks to go along with a stellar ERA (2.01, 22-7) and while Boggs has shown some vulnerability he continues to get better and better (3.57, 18-9). 

But enough about pitching - let's talk hitting. 

Of the 36 runs scored in the four wins, 15 came with two outs.  All NINE runs of the 9-1 win over the Cubs came with two outs.  You also may have heard that Albert finally looked like Albert by blasting three home runs in a game for the first time since 2006 (honestly, I'm shocked it had been that long).  Matt Holliday and Ryan Ludwick are both warming up.  Ludwick looks great in the two-hole and Holliday is working his way into that "protect Albert" mode - he had the big two-out hit yesterday, making the Reds pay for an intentional walk to Pujols to load the bases. 

Holliday has hits in 9 of the last 12 games, Pujols, 5 of the last 7, and what a month for David Freese.  Batman hit in 21 of the 28 games and currently leads the Cards with his .318 average.  He crushed - CRUSHED - a homer onto Waveland Avenue this weekend and we know his power is only going to get more consistent.  How is he going to look when his 13-homer pace starts creeping toward a 20-homer line?  He better win Rookie of the Month, no disrespect to the devastatingly talented Jason Heyward.  What a trade this turned out to be for John Mozeliak (Jim Edmonds for Freese).  The only bittersweet part of the story was that Freese didn't get his major league career on track last year due to injury.

If Skip Schumaker and Yadier Molina can return to .300-form and Colby Rasmus can learn to be more consistent, I think we will have achieved St. Louis Cardinal Nirvana.  As it stands, with the Phillies recent offensive struggles the Cards now have the best run-differential in the NL at +51. 

No need to be sneaky in moving to the Hard Nine this time.  What a weekend of MLB action. 

The Hard Nine


1.  Welcome to the No-Run Support Club, Rook!   I really hope Adam Ottavino's parents left Wrigley Field proud of their son who made his major league debut and lost 5-0 to Carlos "Cy Young" Silva.  I guess the boys didn't want to show favoritism to the rookie and actually give Silva some kind of challenge when they've been short-changing the entire staff all year.  But seriously, it has not been easy road for Ottavino.  The big guy was a first-round draft pick in 2006 and really never got on track in the minors until the end of last year.  He has taken his licks and persevered. 

And in his debut, he came within one out of a quality start but instead walked the pitcher, Silva, to load the bases.  And here is my only gripe on the weekend for Tony La Russa - he sends in Mitchell Boggs who, himself, is still very green and does not possess pinpoint control.  Boggs walks the first guy he faces to force in a run and tack on a fourth earned run to Ottavino's ledger, denying him the quality start.

Obviously, the game was lost already, but Ottavino battled some flighty control problems and still did an admirable job and he deserved better.  Maybe I'm also warming up to the kid so quickly because I swear he looked like old Matty "Mo" Morris up there on the mound, wearing Morris' old #35.  Both guys have a similar build and a similar hitch in their delivery.  Sue me: I get crushes easily.   I will be very excited if Adam can develop his control to go along with his 95 MPH fastball. 

2.  Fantasy and Reality Collide at Home Plate - I have a love-hate relationship with fantasy sports games.  I used to be a diehard fantasy football player, then I saw the error of my ways and quit, but then I picked up fantasy baseball this year just so I could build up my CBS account rating enough so I could write these stupid blogs.  So here I am, back in it. 

On my fantasy team, I picked my first baseman late, which is a very common (and smart) strategy as the pool of good offensive first baseman is very deep and once you get past Albert Pujols, you really don't need to stress picking your corner power hitter.  I made a great pick - Kendry Morales in the sixth round, right after another player took Joey Votto of the Reds (either would have been fine).  Morales was the clear MVP of the Angels so far this year and this past week hit a walk-off game-winning grand slam.  As he reached home plate, he lept in the air and landed awkwardly, breaking his leg.  He is now essentially out for the entire regular season.

Someone explain to me how bigger men in the NBA can jump up and down all day and not have the same thing happen.  Well, ok, it DOES happen to them on rare occasion, but, DUDE - I just lost my first baseman for the year and so did the Angels fans!

3.  Lost and Found - How nice was it to see Albert Pujols smile again?  Has he found his stroke?  I don't think so - he's been limping noticeably for the past month.  And as one scout said recently about Pujols, "Take a big man's legs from him and you take away his power".  But for one game, he found his smile and that's enough.  This is a game, after all.

4.  Left-handed Windmills - Pujols spoiled about three or four borderline pitches from Ryan Dempster before hitting his second home run onto Waveland Avenue, which got me thinking: I really never see left-handed power hitters do the same, as a rule.  Slap-hitting lefties do it all the time (like Ichiro Suzuki or Wade Boggs for old farts like me), but the thumpers just pile up Ks without a thought (Adam Dunn, Adrian Gonzalez, Ryan Howard).  The Cardinals have had some lefty boppers that could whiff with the best of them.  Jim Edmonds, J.D. Drew and Ray Lankford come to mind.  What with enduring Colby Rasmus and Jon Jay's all-or-nothing approaches, I've wondered when was the last time we had a regular lefty that was tough to strike out?

Last year, Skip Schumaker struck out 69 times in 586 plate appearances which is about standard for a lefty slap-hitter.  I wouldn't say that is an overly tough guy to strikeout.  Back in 2004, Tony Womack had 60 Ks in 606 PAs.  You have to go all the way back to 2001 when Fernando Vina struck out only 35 times in a whopping 690 plate appearances.

Of course, it helped that Vina always stuck his elbow over the inside third of the strikezone.  Ah, I loved Vina.  He'd get hit by a pitch and run down to first, grinning, every time.  What a pest.

5. D-Train Gets Derailed - The Tigers designated Dontrelle Willis for assignment this past week due to ineffectiveness that really has plagued him since 2007.  Even now he is only 28 years old.  What a sad story and one Cardinal fans can reflect on as Willis arguably was the better pitcher in 2005 when Chris Carpenter won the Cy Young and Willis finished second.  Dontrelle was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2003 at age 21.  He's a World Series Champion.  He lead the league in wins with 22 in that '05 season with a 2.63 ERA.  The two-time All Star was one of the most popular, marketable, and happiest guys you'd seen in those MLB commercials.

But maybe something happened in that big season, because the following two years he became extremely hittable (475 hits allowed in 428 innings in '08 and '09).  Perhaps too many innings pitched too young.  There were also some anxiety problems mentioned at times.  Here's to hoping the D-Train gets back on track.

6.  Stop Reading My Mind - I love Joe Posnanski's baseball columns.  Do yourself a favor and read him if you love the game at all.  He's a purist and also a Mid-Coast-er (you know, near the banks of the Mighty Mississippi).  The first thing I thought when I saw Roy Halladay had thrown a perfect game against the Marlins was, "Another perfecto?  What is going on?"  And apparently, so did Posnanski, as he wrote a great blog about that very subject.  Here are my thoughts on it - read Joe's if you like a "professional" opinion.

There have been 20 perfect games and over 200 no-hitters thrown in baseball history (obviously, all perfect games are no-hitters as well).  But three of the last four no-hitters have been perfect games.  Two of the 20 were thrown THIS MONTH.  What the what?!

I recall beginning in the 90s there were a rash of no-hitters - even pitchers who LOST no-hitters (due to the pitcher's own team committing errors, allowing unearned runs) which happened to Andy Hawkins on September 4, 1991.  A later rule-change took his no-hitter away completely, so at least he received that "consolation".

Teams have thrown COMBINED no-hitters as the Houston Astros did to the Yankees on June 11, 2003 using six pitchers to accomplish the feat.  A combined no-hitter?  Sounds like really boring Olympic event. 

So maybe this is just the natural evolution of pitching.  If you're going to throw a no-hitter yourself, and actually win it, you may as well throw a perfect game. 

7.  Somewhere, Bill Veeck is Smiling - Speaking of the Marlins, you gotta hand it to their marketing department.  That cheapskate team never misses a beat.  They have announced that they will sell the rest of the unsold tickets at full face value to the game in which Roy Halladay threw the perfect game against them .  That's like a circus promoting their lion for eating the ringmaster.  Classy.

8.  The St. Louis Blues, the Cubs of the NHL - I am grudgingly happy for Chicago as they are about to drink from Lord Stanley's Cup - something the Blues are not likely to do in my lifetime.  Let us remind the readers (yet again) that the Philadelphia Flyers had 88 points in the regular season and at least get to play in the Stanley Cup Finals while the Blues, who earned 90 points, missed the playoffs entirely.  But just like the difference between the NL and AL, the NHL Western Division the Blues play in is much tougher than the east and it is showing.  The Blackhawks lead the finals 2 games to none.  Hey, at least Detroit can't win it again.

9.  The Epic Quest For Hit #2 - Former Cardinals organizational Player of the Year, Allen Craig, is back up with the big club as they sent Joe Mather down (good riddance).  Craig, has one hit in 19 at bats for a .053 average.  He's not batting his weight.  He's not even batting my five-year-old's weight.  This can't last forever, can it?  Just one of those minor dramas I take sick pleasure in. 

Epic Quest Update: "Outfielder Allen Craig was optioned to Triple-A Memphis, one day after being recalled."  Well, hit #2 will have to wait...



WG











Posted on: May 26, 2010 5:50 pm
Edited on: May 26, 2010 7:20 pm
 

5/26 - I Just Felt Like Runnin'

I Just Felt Like Runnin'

I am a Colby Rasmus fan, no question.  I'll just be a much bigger fan in a couple years when he's an All-Star.  But at the moment, he's one of the lowest-rated center fielders in the league, defensively.  He's been much better at the plate as far as drawing walks this year, but he still strikes out a ton.  When he swings, he misses a lot and I mean even on pitches right down the middle.  And since day one that I've watched Colby play, I've had this nagging feeling that he's running about 15 Watts through a 75-watt bulb - yeah, it's pretty dim in there.

Case in point, in the Cardinals loss to the Angels this past Saturday David Freese was on third, Rasmus was at first, with Brendan Ryan at the plate with one out.  Ryan hit a chopper that was on the first base side of second that was fielded cleanly by Howie Kendrick.  Colby ran straight into the tag and then Kendrick threw to first to nearly complete the double play.  Luckily Ryan was hustling and was safe so the run scored from third.  This irked me.

Did the play have to be that close?

Now, I didn't get a good look at the replay and I am trying to give Rasmus the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe Colby thought the ball was going through for a hit.  Maybe he thought he could slip past Kendrick to second before the tag.  Maybe he was blinded temporarily by the scorching sun.  But most likely he was just not thinking at all.  The ball was not hit hard.  It was hit right at a defender.  The odds were high there would be a play at second.  If Colby simply stops running, it forces Kendrick to either run to second or throw to the shortstop Aybar at second before they can attempt to complete the double play.  But no, Colby made it as easy on Kendrick as he possibly could by running right...into...the tag.

Rasmus will be a good one, there's little doubt of that, but we are probably going to have to deal with his Forest Gump impersonations for a long time, I'm guessing.

You know what they say: Life (and the MLB Draft) is like a box of chocolates.  And so is...

The Hard Nine


1.  Right-brained...hitting - David Freese did it again Sunday. Facing a tough reliever in the Angel's Fernando Rodney, he hung in there against 97 mph heaters and 85 mph change-ups before driving a hit through the right side of the infield to score two runs and tie the game at 5 setting up the Cardinals' win in the bottom of the 10th.  I looked up Freese's hit chart at Busch this year and it is remarkable:
8 hits to left, 8 to center, 15 to right.  6 of his 7 doubles are to right and right-center.  Awesome.

Conversely, Albert Pujols' Busch hit chart is rather depressing.  He has ONE HIT, period, to right field - a double, near the line and not deep, probably a "blooper".  The cluster of outs made at shortstop is massive and his flyball outs are literally all over short and medium outfield (i.e.: popups).  If this chart is correct, Albert has not hit a grounder to the right side at Busch yet this year.

Until Albert resumes staying with those outside pitches and hitting them to right with authority, he will continue to be "Chopper-Popper".

2.  No Balls to Call Strikes - Poor Wade Davis of the Tampa Bay Rays.  I watched him pitch a couple nights ago against the Red Sox and I can confirm the Sox have officially been added to my Axis of Evil which includes the Cubs, Patriots, and Red Wings.  Davis wasn't sharp but the home plate ump sure didn't help matters.  He threw a low, but clear strike to Kevin Youkilis with two strikes and didn't get the call.

Instead "Youk" walked to load the bases with one out when Davis should have had a far more manageable two on-two out situation.  Eventually, 3 runs came in that inning and that was the game.  Just as the Red Wings are among the least penalized teams year after year, the Red Sox hitters enjoy one of the smallest strike zones in baseball.  (Also, the Patriots are cheaters - period.  Just needed to toss that in there.  I'm not bitter or anything...Rams 2001...)

3.  Your AL Middle Reliever is My NL Cy Young - I think I am ready for the NL to adopt the designated hitter rule just to help mitigate the offensive differences between the NL and AL which will in turn reduce the times I get whiplash doing double-takes looking at the stats of a guy who has switched leagues while simultaneously saying "WHAT THE WHAT!?".

Case in point: Carlos Silva is 6-0 for the Cubs.  Carlos "let- us-take- Milton- Psycho- Bradley- off- your- hands- if- you- take- this- hopeless- batting- practice- pitcher- from- us" Silva is 6 and 0.  Here are some notable (and some not-so notable) pitchers along with their career ERAs by league:

Player                NL ERA    AL ERA    Diff

Silva                  3.76    4.88           1.12
Carl Pavano        4.21    4.93          0.72
Javier Vasquez    4.02    4.61          0.59
Doug Davis         4.15    5.08          0.93
Andy Pettitte       3.38    3.99          0.61
Randy Johnson    2.92    3.60          0.68
Roger Clemens    2.40    3.21          0.81
Jose Lima            4.74    6.17         1.43
Pedro Martinez     2.52    3.32         0.80
Johan Santana     2.87    3.22         0.35
Jeff Weaver         4.17    4.91          0.74

Average difference for this eclectic sample of pitchers is a healthy 0.80 - nearly a full run higher in the AL which is what most would guess, I would think.  Bad pitchers become average and the good become great when moving from the AL to NL - reverse that if going to the AL.  What is interesting to me is that the Hall of Fame-caliber pitchers have less variance between leagues, when I might think the difference would be even greater for them - for example, Randy Johnson had a 3.60 ERA in the AL.  I would expect him to have a 1.80 ERA in the NL or thereabouts.

But the opposite is true.  The mediocre pitchers have the greater variance.  Basically, good pitching "stuff" is effective in any league.  Pedestrian stuff is punished consistently in the AL but not necessarily so in the NL.

4.  Let's Raise a Glass of Molson - The plucky Montreal Canadiens finally succumbed to a tougher foe in the NHL playoffs.  The Stanley Cup playoffs will feature the Philadelphia Flyers and the Chicago Blackahawks.  Let the battery-throwing and drunken brawls begin.

5.  Hitting Into Double Plays Doesn't Reduce Your LOB Total - In the Cardinals 1-0 loss to the Padres on Tuesday night, Colby Rasmus was 0-4 with a double play and two strike outs - 5 runners left on base.  With a kid so prone to strikeouts why put Colby in the 5th slot, Tony?  Why?  Another brilliant outing by a St. Louis starter wasted.

6.  Not Just a River In Egypt - The Associated Press has picked up on my recently-forged nickname for Albert as seen (sorta) in a story from May 24:  "Albert Pujols has no RBIs in nine games and he's just a few more towering pop-ups or infield choppers from having his average drop below .300."  There!  You see it from the nationally respected Associated Press: CHOPPER-POPPER!

I shall continue to bash Albert until he finally admits he is struggling, which of course he has not and, likely, will not admit.  The month of May has been very tough for El Nino: one homer, 10 RBI, a .256 average and .385 slugging percentage.  If you're a three-time MVP who slugs under .400 for a whole month, you either admit you're struggling or continue to swim in denial.

7.  Indecent Exposure While Flashing Your Leather - Ah, I love mixed metaphors.  Anyway, I get the feeling that Ryan Ludwick is not beloved by the baseball world at-large and even among Cardinal fans, he doesn't get enough love.  But I think he is a heart-and-soul Cardinal on par with Albert Pujols or Chris Carpenter.  And he is slowly getting more exposure for his defense and if he's not careful, may end up with a Gold Glove at the end of the year.  While unscientific, he is fifth in baseball in ESPN's Web Gems ratings.  He has been heroic in taking hits away in right field this year and sacrificing the body on numerous occasions.  Last night he ran about 40 yards and crashed into the chain link video scoreboard wall at Petco Park to take extra bases away from Will Venable.

8.  Big Fish, Little Pond - It is a metaphysical law of nature that the NL Central Division champ must beat up on the other teams in the division.  While the Reds and Cardinals are tied for first place, the Reds are a hefty 17-11 within the division while the Cards are only 11-10. 

9.  The All-Phillies All-Star Team - Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina should rest for this year's All-Star game.  Not just because they will both be gassed by the time the break arrives and will need the rest, but also because it will place eight Phillies starting the All-Star game for the National League.  EIGHT!  The entire infield, possibly the battery if Roy Halladay gets picked to start, and two of the three outfielders.  That would be Phunny and Phabulous at the same time.



WG









Posted on: May 18, 2010 11:03 am
Edited on: May 18, 2010 2:13 pm
 

5/18 - Old Dog, New Tricks

Old Dog, New Tricks

The relationship between the sports media and sports participants is fascinating to me - always has been.  In many ways it's a rocky relationship.  The media is paid to have a home team bias, of course, so they praise when things are good and critique when things are not so good.  And sometimes things are too coincidental. 

In St. Louis, the media writes about what fans are wringing their hands over: the Cardinals feckless offense.  Monday morning we read that Albert Pujols needs to bat fourth and Matt Holliday, third.  It makes perfect sense.  Holliday has been good with no runners on and terrible when he's had the weight of RBI opportunities on his shoulders.  Conversely, Pujols' intensity at the plate dials down about six notches when no one is on base, but finds focus when runners are on in front of him.  The Post-Dispatch's Bernie Miklasz figured there was some Missouri law banning Pujols from ever batting fourth again since the odds of stubborn old dog Tony La Russa making such a move were slim to none.

Lo and behold, Monday night, La Russa switches Pujols and Holliday in the batting order and it could not have worked out more perfectly for the Birds.  With two out and no one on base, Holliday took a walk.  Albert promptly, and simply, singled up the middle.  Colby Rasmus singled to score Holliday and David Freese then tripled to right to score two more.  Finally, Yadier Molina hit a flare to right to score Freese and the Cards get all the offense they needed for the night. 

All in one inning.  All with two outs. 

Everyone is a "La-genius"! La Russa, the media - and we eat it all up.  I can't help but feel this is a "Chicken or the egg" moment.  Did the media know La Russa was close to making this change or did the media pressure Tony into doing it?  Tony will deny everything but don't tell me that media can't pressure managers and players because they do.  Just ask Milton Bradley - at your own risk.

On that cheery note, let's turn to...

The Hard Nine


1. Mirror Image -  I routinely watch my Cardinal games on my wireless laptop and what with my slow DSL connection, I typically keep the resolution low to minimize lag in the game playback.  This tends to make the players look a bit blurry and it can be difficult to recognize who is who.  But it also allows me to "see" things I had not noticed before - kind of like staring at clouds in the sky.  For example, last night, I realized Matt Holliday resembles Rick Ankiel in a lot of ways - batting stance, bat wiggle, sharp jawline, and of course the amazing ability to whiff in the clutch.  If you put them both at the plate at the same time, you'd swear there was a mirror between them.  Just another little fun observation that makes me hate the Holliday contract all the more.

2. This Means Something, I Just Don't Know What - In 2009, Ryan Franklin, Jason Motte, Blake Hawksworth, and Kyle McClellan collectively had 4 at-bats in 227 games, 3 of those by McClellan alone.  This year these four Cardinal relievers already have 7 at-bats in 58 games.  Basically, once every 8 games, a middle reliever is getting an at-bat which is more often than I can recall in recent memory.  Someone please explain what is going on.

3. Don't Bash the Bash Brother - Many have already started grumbling about batting coach, Mark McGwire.  The Cards are showing little plate discipline, little patience, and terrible pitch selection.  I just hope everyone realizes this has been a problem since, oh, about 2005.  McGwire seems to have a good grasp of what the boys need to do: trust their talent more and look for hittable pitchers in certain parts of the strikezone.  Getting them to do it is up to them. 

4. The Power of Media - Less than a week after my blog post about Brendan Ryan's problems so far this year, he was benched last night.  Sorry, Brendan.

5. The Power of Media Part II - Holliday is on pace for 16 home runs this year and he's making $16 million in 2010.  Isn't it super-fun when you can divide two numbers without thinking hard?

6. New Kids on the Block - The kids are more then holding their own and that is the most encouraging aspect of this 2010 squad.  Colby Rasmus has had a rough May and is still on pace for 100 runs.  David Freese (as well as Yadier Molina) is on pace for 100 RBI.  Right now, Freese is the one batter I want to see at the plate with runners in scoring position.  My crush on Jaime Garcia continues - he is second in the National League in Earned Run Average with a cool 1.42.

7. I'm Okay, You're Okay - As the Reds took two of three against the Cards this week, Reds starter Bronson Arroyo (who pitched a complete game against us in the finale) said Pujols didn't look comfortable at the plate.  Albert's response: "I'm seeing the ball really good and I'm putting good swings on it.  I'm right where I want to be, like I told you last week ".  Uh, ok, Albert. 

8. Sense of Community - If you like sitcoms, paintball and one-liners from movies like Rambo, Terminator and any other 80's cliche war movie, for the love of Pete, please watch NBC's recent episode of Community: "Modern Warfare" on Hulu.  My wife and I have been hooked since the pilot and the show has taken on a wonderful Seinfeld-like absurdness already in the first season.  In this episode, the community college has a friendly campus-wide paintball war that quickly degrades into a post-apocalyptic, paint-splattered hell.  The war-movie parodies (as well as the bodies) pile up.

Jeff (Joel McHale) walks into the destroyed classroom.
Troy: "Jeff....Winger.  Haha!" (Hugs Jeff) "We thought you were dead, man!"
Jeff: (confused) "I was taking a nap in my car."

9. Home Cooking - The Cards really need to have a strong homestand this week.  They can sweep the Nationals today by beating lefty John Lannan.  Then the Marlins are in town for a two-game set.  The weekend brings the Angels and old friend Joel Pineiro who is still looking effective despite his move to the AL.  The Cards then head out to San Diego to take on the 1st place Padres and then it's on to Chicago to face the mangy Cubs who will be chomping at the bit to vent some frustration on us.



WG





Posted on: May 3, 2010 9:21 am
Edited on: May 3, 2010 9:51 am
 

5/4 - Batman is Freesing Hot

Batman is Freesing Hot

I am really trying hard to not be horribly complacent or obnoxiously cocky about the Cards’ good start but as “colleague” Bernie Miklasz pointed out today, who is going to challenge us in the Central?  No one, really – we have the best pitching in the division.

For me, the Cubs seem to have the most upside – Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells, and even Tom Gorzelanny have been pretty effective.  Carlos Zambrano will pull his head out of his nether regions probably sooner rather than later.  Their offense is really starting to heat up so I expect the Cubbies to be playing some .550 ball for a good portion of the summer.  Alfonso Soriano is having a big rebound year so far (hitting homers five and six on the season today).  Fukudome and Marlon Byrd are raking (but how can that last).  Anyway, the pieces are there and they’ll make some noise.  The comment that scared me the most about the Cubs this spring was, everything went wrong for them last year and they still won 83 games.

The Reds series opener was an exercise in frustration.  The Reds continually were given a strike six inches outside to lefties meanwhile, pitches at the knees and over the plate were called low, apparently, for Brad Penny.  Despite this, the Cards held a lead until the rain started coming down in earnest, and even though Penny stood on the mound shrugging his shoulders to the umps (i.e.: “What do you want me to do – I can’t even grip the ball”) play continued until the Reds were allowed to take the lead in a downpour.

Penny deserved better as did Kyle Lohse who had his first truly brilliant start of the season, but a blown save denied him a win.  The rubber-match of the series between Aaron Harang and Chris Carpenter was fairly predictable – a 6-0 win by the good guys.

Colby Rasmus cooled off so fast this week that I was afraid he would shatter like the T-1000 from Terminator 2.  On the flip side, David Freese more or less carried the offense for the club and we’ll start there on…

The Hard Nine

   1. I’m…Batman – So Freese is slightly superstitious.  He puts on a lucky Batman mask before the games.  Let us bask in that weirdness for a bit.  Meanwhile, he’s a man on a mission – his six-RBI game this weekend was a wakeup call for the league.  If Matt Holliday ever gets on track, this train will really pick up steam.

   2. “Yes, officer, that’s my Kryptonite.” – I hope this is what Jaime Garcia’s answer would be if pulled over by one of Philadelphia’s finest as the Cards visit to begin a four-game set with the Phillies.  He starts opposite enigmatic lefty Cole Hamels.  I really think Garcia has what it takes to stymie this scary-offensive club.  But enough about their hygiene, those guys can also hit the baseball very well.  I will giggle like a little girl if the over-paid, over-rated Ryan Howard strikes out 3 or 4 times tonight.

   3. Mr. Rolen, Professional Baseball Player – There was a really interesting tidbit shared during the game yesterday; a quote by Dusty Baker that Scott Rolen has changed the way the Reds take batting practice.  They’ve adopted a more business-like approach and that seems to be carrying over into the games.  My question is: the idea of showing up and doing your job as a ballplayer has been absent from the Reds clubhouse until now?  That might explain your last 10 years of futility.

   4. ROY Garcia or ROY Freese?    Maybe neither in a league that includes Braves phenom Jason Heyward who, at 20, is easily Atlanta’s #1 offensive threat.  But Freese and Garcia will give Rookie of the Year voters something to think about at the end of this year.

   5. Quote Quotient - "I don't direct anything to anybody unless they disrespect me, my teammates or the game, but this game is really, really important to me. It's done a lot for me. It's done a lot for my family. As much as I've been through, I don't take any start for granted, 'cause I never know when it's going to end. And I love doing it. I really do. And I love everybody in this clubhouse and I don't like anybody I play against when I'm between the lines. That's just the way it is. It's super, super important to me."  - Chris “Mad Dog” Carpenter

   6. Power Up – The Cards are #1 on ESPN’s Relative Power Index.  They are also the #1 rated team on CBS Sportsline’s player rankings.  Infield is 8th, Outfield is 4th, Starting Pitching 1st, and Relief is 9th.  Top ten in all categories in all of baseball.

   7. Law of Averages – The Cubs team batting average is a robust .278; The “offensively challenged” Giants, .277; St. Louis, .260, but climbing.  Just to further point out, the Cubs and Giants are scary as well as Philadelphia and Arizona for their pure slugging prowess.

   8. Les Canadiens de Montréal – I’m on the bandwagon.  Halak, Montreal’s goalie, has been incredible.  I don’t even want to know his first name.  I just want him to go by “Halak” from now on.  They have evened their series with the talented Pittsburgh Penguins at one game each.

   9. My Neuroses – The first half of last year, Pujols was the Cards’ offense.  Then we picked up Holliday.  This year third base is no longer a waste of an at bat.  I often wonder if Albert prefers having the entire offense rest on his shoulders or if he truly likes the balanced attack.



WG









Posted on: April 29, 2010 9:31 am
Edited on: April 29, 2010 2:12 pm
 

4/29 - Cinco Es Mine-o

Cinco Es Mine-o

There is too much to gush about right now with our beloved Redbirds.  The starting pitching and bullpen have been terrific.  The offense is starting to gel a little bit (but still has much further to go).  The Cards are 14-7 and the bats aren't even hot yet.  Chris Carpenter is still not locked-in but he's 3-0 anyway.  David Freese and Colby Rasmus both seem on a mission to prove their jittery rookie seasons last year are ancient history.  

Freese has played some great defense this past week and his RBIs keep steadily accumulating.  Does ANYONE remember the Brian Barden/Joe Thurston 3B platoon last year?  What a nightmare that was.  I'm still trying to figure out how we won 90 games.  There were more than a few reasons why most of the pundits picked us to finish 4th or 5th a year ago.  Not so this year.  Freese is playing like an everyday third baseman and that is just another question mark answered early on in this young season.

There's not much more to say about Rasmus except it looks like he seems poised to do a fair Jim Edmonds impersonation - hit for power, average, on-base, and yes, some strikeouts to go along with some above average defense in center field.  If he is ready to show consistency at this level, the Cards need to think long and hard about signing him to a scary-long deal, buy out those arbitration years, but lock him in for a long time at around $5 million per year.  Because, as we've seen with many ultra-talented young players who produce, they're going to break the bank in arbitration anyway.

But today we must bask in my current Cardinal Crush: Jaime Garcia.  And that leads us to...

The Hard Nine

  1. El Cinco is Mine-o!  Yes, I mean Garcia (our FIFTH starter), not Pujols.  I missed my live fantasy draft so my team, sucks, frankly.  I do have Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard so I should win the K category every week.  Oh wait, those are PITCHING Ks?  Well, anyway, Garcia was my first free agent pick up, and honestly, how does he not win 15 games this year on his way to a Rookie of the Year award?  Last night he was boring 92 MPH fastballs inside to the righties, then dropping his curve on the outside corner.  And like some other Cardinal pitchers, he's excelling without his very best stuff.  His curve is still not in mid-season form.  But Garcia is looking every bit as good as quality guys like Ted Lilly and Cliff Lee.  And this is our fifth starter - boy this season is going to be fun.

  2. Holiday, Celebrate!   Or I will when Matt Holliday gets this batting cleanup thingy figured out.  Right now, there is absolutely no reason to pitch to Pujols.
  3. The Eye of the Tiger...(Cardinal)? For me, this is the theme of this year's club - the young players who've had enough tastes of the bigs, who see the holes in the roster the club has intentionally left open for them to fill to balance the budget, and they are saying "That's MY job.  Excuse me while I take care of business".   And did they get this intensity from hanging around The Machine, Albert Pujols, who's intensity sets the tone for the team?  Or is it from The Bulldog, Adam Wainwright, who can have a bad-luck early inning, shrug it off and turn around and pitch a complete game?    Maybe all of the above.  Garcia looks like a guy who feels he should have been in the big club's rotation 2 years ago.  Motte, Boggs, Freese, Rasmus, and Garcia are my new Rocky movie.  "Since I was in spring training, when I was fighting for a spot, I said, 'This is going to be my year,'" the 23-year-old Garcia said.  Oh, that gives me chills.

  4. But Seriously - Yadier Molina is on pace for 109 RBIs!  But seriously, he's not even warmed up yet, batting only .239.  He'll be at .280-.290 before its all over with and I'm sure we'll see a career high RBI total among other things.  
  5. More Ex-Cards - Rick Ankiel has fallen back to earth and Troy Glaus - well, we've seen what's left of him last night - but some other ex-Cards are doing us proud.  Our Puerto Rican pal Joel Pineiro has been very effective for the Angels (3.42, 2-2) and has given up only one homer in 4 starts.  Scotty "I- almost- made-it-into- the-Hall-of-Fame- before-my- shoulder-was-turned- into- Spaghetti-Os" Rolen has hit (incredibly) five homers already after hitting 11 in each of the past two seasons.  Granted, the homer-happy stadium in Cincy is helping him out, a bit (.986 home OPS, .744 away).  I'd love to see Scotty hit 20 taters this year and get his career back on track.  Even favorite THN whipping-boy Todd Wellemeyer went seven innings against the Phillies giving up only two runs this past week.

  6. Willie the Announcer - In last night's game, the home plate ump (Dan Iassogna....huh?) showed an affinity for calling pitches low and off the corners as strikes.  He called a strike on Yadi that was clearly low and inside and Yadi turned around and had a little discussion with the ump about it.  Two pitches later, he got one even more inside which he swung at and fouled off - it looked he was trying to hit his own crotch - Al Hrabosky and I said in unison, "He [the ump] forced him to swing at that".  Not sure if Al meant Yadi's own crotch, though.
  7. Save Me - Matt Capps of the Washington Nationals has TEN SAVES???  Further proof you don't need a high-priced closer.  Also further proof that the Pirates are simply a farm team for all the other MLB clubs.

  8. Sha-Zamboni - I love the NHL, try as the league may to make us hate it with horrific officiating and completely inconsistent player discipline.  But the NHL playoffs are about as pure and exciting as there is in team sports.  Case in point: The Montreal Canadians, 8th seed and huge underdog to the Washington Capitals completed a series comeback after being down 3 games to one.  I'll be taking about 30 minutes this week to find some video highlights of Capitals Chief Prima Dona Alex Ovechkin dragging his pouty lower lip across the ice.  Think I'll make popcorn. 
  9. Ferris Bueller Game Today - Yes, day game and I will be watching/listening, pretending I'm not at work.  "Hey batta batta...sah-wing batta!"  Think I'll bring a broom to work and wait for perplexed looks from my colleagues.  


WG





 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com