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Tag:Marlins
Posted on: August 18, 2010 9:11 pm
Edited on: August 18, 2010 9:18 pm
 

8/18 - Cardinals Jekyll and Hyde Act Continues

Cardinals Jekyll and Hyde Act Continues


It probably shocks no Cardinal fan that after sweeping the Reds IN CINCINNATI (in a year where the Cards have been pretty bad on the road and extremely good at home) they turn around and embark on their first four-game losing streak of the season that saw Carpenter and Wainwright both get beaten - at HOME. 

On the bright side, they certainly didn't get shelled like has happened on occasion.  The dark side?  Once again a feckless offense is to blame.  As stated in this space recently, the Cardinals have decided to be a team with a handful of super-salaried stars fortified with a whole bunch of cheap fill-ins. 

Can the Cards AFFORD to have a shortstop and second baseman that can actually hit?  Nope. 

Are Jon Jay and Allen Craig legitimate major-leaguers?  They haven't been the past four years but suddenly, this year they are?  That seems fishy. 

One of the biggest concerns many experts had with the Cards when the season began was a lack of depth and a lack of veteran experience and the team has been exposed in both categories.  The only veterans they can afford to pick up are only those that have literally been thrown out with the trash.  Guys like Randy Winn, Aaron Miles and Jeff Suppan.  Super-sub Felipe Lopez could have been very effective as a part time guy, but has been overwhelmed as a starter.

The number of guys on this team that are borderline major leaguers is staggering.  Those I'd put in that category?  Tell you what.  It's easier to state those NOT in that category and we're talking position players (pitchers are a different animal).  Strictly limited to position players, Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina, Colby Rasmus, and...that's about it.

The Cards have literally only four everyday major league quality position players.  That's barring injury, the Cards' lineup is only comprised of 50% quality bats (not counting the pitcher, of course).  That's four legit bats out of eight in the lineup for those who are bad at math like me.  And you can almost not count Molina as he is not in for his bat, but his defense.  Certainly, that's been the case this year.

I mean, who is afraid of (deep breath)...Skip Schumaker or Brendan Ryan or Felipe Lopez or Jon Jay or Randy Winn or Nick Stavinoha or Aaron Miles or Allen Craig?  Right.  No one.

At our best, our offensive lineup is going to be 50% effective.  That's an "F" in my book - and probably any book.  And as I said before, this is the path John Mozeliak and the Cards have committed to for the next five+ years, assuming the contract Pujols will get this off-season. 

For comparison sake, in 2004 the Cards had one automatic out in the lineup in Mike Matheny.  This year, we have four or five every night. 

Here's to hoping Jay and Craig morph in players they've never been before.  Here's to hoping David Freese can stay healthy next year. 

Here's to a LOT of hoping for next year.

And now, with a bitter taste in my mouth after a Brewers two-game sweep...

The Hard Nine


1.  When Quality Starts Become "Quality" Losses -
I hope our top three pitchers don't lose their sanity this year.  According to Baseball-Reference.com's team neutral pitching stats this year Chris Carpenter should have 15 wins, Jaime Garcia 13, and (drum roll) Adam Wainwright 19 (instead of the 13, 10 and 17 they currently have).  Each of their last starts were quality starts - and they all took the loss.  Jake Westbrook is fast joining them.  He is only 1-0 in three starts even though he's been plenty good in all of them. 

2.  Worst Contract in Club History - I was feeling nostalgic about the "good old days" when Kyle Lohse was actually a decent pitcher and something occurred to me: he has never been a decent pitcher.  Ever.

In his best season in 2008 he was 15-6 but his team neutral pitching record that year says he should have been just 11-10.  That means he got lucky (everyone is entitled once a decade, right?).  But even without sabermetrics, he had absolutely no track record of success in his career.  Really, 11-10 IS a good year for Lohse, which is sad, of course and a record of 15-6 was a mirage.

He's never - NEVER - allowed fewer hits than innings pitched in a season.  His career batting average allowed against is .283 (and was a slightly better .272 in 2008).  A pitcher that allows a .280 batting average doesn't seem like he would be worth $10 million a year.

And of course, Lohse is not worth it.  Which is why he has the distinction of being the beneficiary of the worst contact in Cardinals history and Mozeliak has the distinction of giving it to him.  Congrats to both.  How fun it will be to see the Cards throw games away by giving the ball to Lohse every fifth day through 2012.  Wait, I forgot - he'll probably be hurt half the time.

Whew.  I was worried.

3.  Get Out Of Jail Free, Derek - I am happy for Derek Lee who has finally been granted his release from Cubs-Purgatory (though he could have left earlier for the Angels).  He was traded to the Braves today and he should probably send the Cards a thank you gift for allowing him to hit four homers in three days off of us, which probably sealed the deal.  But seriously, DLee has always been a real classy guy and I hope he can give the Bravos a jolt and help them hold the NL East lead over the Phillies.  And maybe old friend Troy Glaus will feel more like a real ballplayer moving back over to 3rd base, which might wake up his long-dormant bat.

4.  Year of the Pitcher?  Try Year of the Wierd Injury -
Kendry Morales of the Angels broke his leg running out a walk-off home run.  Super Sophomore Mat Latos of the Padres landed on the DL holding back a sneeze.  2009 Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan of the Marlins tore up his knee giving a celebratory shaving cream pie in the face to teammate Wes Helms during his post-game interview.  He's out for the year.  And this week, the weirdest and saddest: Francisco Rodriquez (K-Rod) of the Mets injured his finger punching his girlfriend's father in front of other players' family and kids and had season-ending surgery. 

5.  What If The Reds Were Even Better? - The Reds showed their commitment to build a quality pitching staff three years ago which led them to trade Josh Hamilton to the Rangers for talented starter Edison Volquez.  Volquez had a stellar year in 2008 going 17-6 and was an All-Star.  But this year he was suspended 50 games for testing positive for PEDs.  But even beyond him, suddenly, the Reds seem to have plenty of pitching.  Bronson Arroyo, we've talked about before.  He's solid.  Mike Leake is a great young talent with lots of upside.  Jonny Cueto is a tough pitcher (and a pretty good kicker, too).  Homer Bailey just came back from the minors and pitched a great game on Sunday tossing six shutout innings allowing just three hits and no walks. 

Meanwhile, Hamilton has emerged as an AL MVP candidate this year.  He's having an Albert Pujols-type year (.359 average, 26 homers, 80 RBIs).  Drew Stubbs, Jonny Gomes, and Jay Bruce may all develop into everyday outfielders but for now they are all very inconsistent which has stunted Cincy's attack.  If the Reds still had Hamilton, I'd wager they'd be the best team in the NL, period. 

6.  The Cards' Last Hope This Year - The Cardinals are about to embark on an epic road trip and their only hope is to continue the success they found in Cincinnati and since they apparently have lost their mojo at home maybe this is the best scenario.  Can they somehow summon a grinding offense in San Francisco this week?  Can they return the favor in Houston sweep the Astros?  They do have a ton of games left with the Pirates at PNC Park where Pujols is a monster so that bodes well too.  But, if they can't get it done on the road the rest of this season, they will finish second - or worse.

7.  God Bless Us, Everyone -
Christmas has come early for NL batters this year.  Tiny Tim Lincecum of the Giants has been a lot less like Scrooge and been more generous with opponents.  Hopefully that also means the door is finally open for Adam Wainwright to win a Cy Young Award.  His ERA has ballooned to 3.62 and he's almost given up as many hits this year as all of last year (in 80 less innings).  Adam should send him a fruit basket or something.

8.  We're Having Twins - For the postseason!  The Twins are proving me wrong in fending off the Chicago White Sox.  They are first in the AL with a team batting average of .282 and fourth in ERA (3.88).  The only thing that disturbs me about them is Carl Pavano.  He's tied for the league lead in wins (15) and has been sharp all year, but especially recently.  His ERA of 3.27 is fantastic (especially for the AL) and a full run lower than his career ERA of 4.31.  That dude sure gets motivated for his next contact don't he?  At least the Twins are the beneficiaries and his next team will be the chumps who sign him.

9.  Going to Confession - Jonathan Sanchez of the Giants (along with every other baseball "expert" that dissed the Pads) needs to finally confess that the Padres are legit and headed to the postseason.  Sanchez, if you didn't know, said the Giants would sweep the Padres in their most recent series.  But a funny thing happened: the Padres swept THEM and the Giants are now 5 1/2 games out of first place.  The Pads (now with one of my favorites, Ryan Ludwick) will be one of the "underdogs" I'll be rooting for.  But anyone will tell you they are anything but.



WG



Posted on: August 7, 2010 1:46 am
Edited on: August 7, 2010 2:05 am
 

8/6 - Road Warriors...At Least Tonight

Road Warriors...At Least Tonight


There are so many holes to plug in the Cardinals' roster that it's easy to overlook the single most pressing issue with the club (and quite a few other NL contenders this year, as we talked about last entry) and it has NOTHING to do with player personnel - who's hurt, who's under-performing, who do we need to trade for: the Cards simply need to be more competitive on the road. 

It's hard to call the Cardinal's 4-2 home stand a "success" when they beat up on the woeful Pirates and got torched by the suddenly potent Houston Astros.  But hey, someone had to stop the bleeding and Chris Carpenter answered the call in the last game of the Houston series. 

And darn it, somebody had to stop the bleeding on the road and who better than Adam Wainwright?  Ok, so his last road outing (against the Mets) was a clunker, but no matter.  This team has to find some kind of traction on the road if they are to do anything meaningful this season.  The division is there for the taking.  The NL Central is weak.  They need to pull their heads out, grab their lunch pails, and get to work on the road. 

Wainwright pitched an absolute gem tonight - a two-hit, complete game shutout and miracle of miracles: Tony La Russa didn't feel the need to bring in Trever Miller to face a right-hander. 

The boys need to remember that Cardinal Nation is still watching - home or away - and even if they are wearing road grays, we're all wearing Cardinal red and cheering them on, 24/7. 

If the Redbirds can remember how to impose their will on other teams as visitors, they can do some serious mental damage to the Reds' playoff hopes in addition to reclaiming first place in the division.  The rumble in Cincy starts Monday and I can't wait to see how it unfolds.

Now, please enjoy a quick edition of...


The Hard (Seven)



1.  Just A Bit Outside - Tonight's home plate umpire, Laz Diaz, seems to be a classy ump.  He picked up Brendan Ryan's bat on his double and handed it to Aaron Miles as he crossed the plate.  But his strike zone extended 8 inches off the plate.  He called a clear inside pitch a strike on Pujols (which Albert nearly spit out his gum in reaction).  Luckily AP hit the next inside pitch into the left field corner for an RBI double.  Later, poor Colby Rasmus took a called third strike on a curve that was a good half foot outside.  The MLB should be embarrassed.

2.  Beethoven's Third...Base -
I enjoy listening to most opposing team TV commentators.  As some of you know, I really like the Diamondbacks crew with Mark Grace and Bob Carpenter with the Nationals is, for my money, one of the best.  Conversely, the Cubs, Phillies and White Sox inferiority complexes seem to come through loud and clear via their TV broadcasts (which are, then, about as enjoyable as Vogon poetry).

Tonight I heard the Marlin's enjoyable duo of Rich Waltz and Tommy Hutton.  They were laid back and knowledgeable but I have to complain about one tiny thing: the Cardinals traded Ryan "Lud-WICK" - not "Ludwig".  He's not deaf and he once won a Silver Slugger Award, you know. 

3.  Bob Davidson Strikes Again -
There are a handful of really arrogant, bad umpires who think the term "The Show" refers to the fat guys officiating the ballgame and Balkin' Bob is certainly one of them.  He robbed the Marlins of a ninth-inning, come-from-behind win last night when he called a certain double down the line, a foul ball. 

The ball landed fair down the line AFTER it had already been called foul, with Davidson not even following the path of the ball.  Slow motion replays show the ball landed on the edge of the foul line right before it bounced over the third base bag, and then landed six inches fair in the outfield, making it virtually impossible to call the ball foul at any point.  

The MLB needs to give each manager one "challenge" per game and if the manager wants a call reviewed by replay, Boob Davidson can cross his arms all he wants, but he's still going to have to check that replay.

4.  Shame on Them?  Maybe Shame on Us -
If you feel really passionate about steroids in competitive sports (especially baseball) you owe it to yourself to read an essay on the subject at steroids-and-baseball.com, which is written by MLB analyst Eric Walker.  He argues (pretty convincingly) that our condemnation of doping athletes has been blown way out of proportion - basically, every argument we have against PEDs has been overblown.  Seriously.  Every one.

In reality, it seems our anger about 'roids has more to do with our feeling foolish about blindingly putting faith in fallible human beings.  It doesn't at all discount that illicit steroid use is illegal, but it sure didn't alter the history of the game as much as we think - not nearly as much as when the balls manufactured in a given year seem to have more "jump" in them than in the previous ten years.  Not as much as the sudden prevalence of "intimate" bandbox stadiums that seem designed to allow cheap homers.  Not as much as the batters' mindsets changing over the past 15 years so they simply don't care about striking out anymore - they swing for the fences with no, one or two strikes on them. 

Self-righteous indignation is a terrible filter to view such a beautiful sport with.

5.  The New Big Red Machine - I wasn't kidding when I said that Bronson Arroyo of the is a poor-man's Adam Wainwright.  Arroyo led the Reds over the Cubs today 3-0 by throwing seven shutout innings with 7 Ks against just one walk.  He is now 12-6 with a tidy ERA of 3.83. 

6.  Is "Lohse" French for "Loser"?
  I don't mean to burn any bridges but, Kyle Lohse appears to be Mark Mulder all over again.  The injuries are totally different.  They throw differently.  But, every time they are actually able to climb the mound, they stink up the joint.  The fifth spot may be a black hole in the rotation for the entire year, but Lohse hasn't show anything to suggest he should get that opportunity.  Except his ridiculously overpriced contract.

7.  Back When .300 Meant Something -
You faithful Cardinal fans remember Terry Pendleton, right?  In 1991, he won the batting title with a fairly low .319 batting average as he helped usher in the new era of Braves' dominance.  He wasn't an All-Star, but he won the MVP Award that year.  Were the season to end today Joey Votto of the Reds would win the batting title with a .322 average, which would be the lowest batting title since Pendleton's in 1991. 

Which is all kind of surreal, seeing as Albert Pujols is a lifetime .332 hitter and in any "normal" season would typically be batting about .340 or .350 right now and would have a comfortable 20-point lead in the batting race.  Albert finished second in the batting race in 2005 to Derek Lee's career-high .335 average and he was second in 2008 to .305 lifetime batter Chipper Jones who decided to bat a career-high .364 at age 36.  So of course Albert is batting just .309 (and below .300 just last week).

But this may be the perfect climate to see the first batter's Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.  In a down offensive year, maybe the NL's most consistent offensive force will rise to the top.

.326, 44 HR, 121 RBI
.316, 49 HR, 122 RBI
.327, 47 HR, 135 RBI

Pretty tough to tell the last two Triple Crown seasons (by Yaz and Frank Robinson) from Pujols' MVP campaign last year.

Just something to keep an eye on. 



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 21, 2010 3:20 pm
Edited on: May 21, 2010 3:51 pm
 

5/21 - On Second Thought, Let's Nix That

On Second Thought, Let's Nix That

Ok, maybe the Reds aren't ready to be NL Central Division champs just yet. 

As the Birdos were behind early yesterday to the Marlins 2-0, the Reds were pasting the Braves 8-0 in the second inning.  Joey Votto hit an opposite field BOMB for a grand slam that was simply awe-inspiring and the Redlegs were off to the races.  Hey, I will not pretend to hide my jealousy of the Reds' offense.

The Reds' young players are starting to figure this game out and they are simply an exciting ballclub.  Jay Bruce, Drew Stubbs, and Jonny Gomes in the outfield will be downright scary in two years - each guy probably has more actual power than Matt Holliday

Orlando Cabrera and Scott Rolen are more than veteran stopgaps.  They are also teaching the young guys how a major leaguer should do his job day in and day out and Rolen, in particular, is having a revival year so far.

The Reds have some great hurlers.  Rookie Mike Leake is a stud already.  Bronson Arroyo is a poor man's Adam Wainwright and I really mean that as a compliment.  He's lanky, is a great athlete and can beat you in a number of ways.  Arroyo can have a one bad inning and then shut a team down the rest of the way.  Edison Volquez is electric if he can stay healthy and Johnny Cueto is coming along very nicely and is still only 24. 

Cueto's only problem, historically, is he's a flyball pitcher in a homer-friendly home park.  His ERA last year was a mediocre 4.41 but he was very effective on the road (away ERA 3.83, home 5.16).  He was very hard to hit as he only gave up 172 hits in 171 innings.   This year, Cueto has really reigned in those issues with a home ERA of 3.96 (away, still great at 3.38).  He has 40 Ks against 13 walks in 49 innings and he's only given up 5 homers so far, 4 of those, of course, coming at Great America Ballpark.

And you know with Walt Jocketty at the helm, the Reds are going to stop doing what nearly all the teams in the NL Central do: two steps forward, three steps back, repeat forever. 

All that said, let's go back to the Reds' blowout of the Braves that was in process in Atlanta yesterday.  It's was 9-3 still in the bottom of the ninth when the Reds started choking some fielding chances, turning outs into errors. 

With the Reds' lead now trimmed to 9-6 and the bases loaded, somebody named Brooks Conrad hit a fly ball to the wall in left, and outfielder Laynce Nix had a bead on it.  Or so he thought.  Perhaps thinking he had less room than he did, Nix did a little hop in front of the wall as he reached up to make the catch and the ball bounced off his glove and over the wall for a game-winning grand slam for the Braves.  Conrad was already in lament at first base, his hands on his head as if to say "Ohhh so close".  Lament turned to shock and then jubilation as he found out what had actually happened.

If Nix doesn't touch the ball, it's probably just a double.  If he doesn't hop, maybe he catches the ball cleanly.  At any rate, the Braves, shockingly, scored 7 runs in the bottom of the ninth to win 10-9. 

Too bad there probably were only 5,000 or so fans left in the park to see the drama unfold. 

Too bad for the Reds they still have some growing to do.  Hopefully the Cards will figure out how to fix their offensive woes in the meantime. 

At any rate, this is what I really want to know: is it IMPOSSIBLE to give an outfielder an error on a ball he touches that goes off him and over the wall for a home run?  Enlighten me after...

The Hard Nine


1.  Service with a...Scowl
- I think it goes without saying that Chris Carpenter is a warrior.  He is the model starting rotation ace.  He's a hard-working New England-er and ex-hockey player with a bulldog mentality.  You could easily imagine him and Chris Pronger patrolling a blue line together and doing some head-hunting of any forwards that dare enter their end of the ice.

But I wonder if Chris is starting to go off the deep end a bit.  When his stuff was top-shelf, his performance could stay ahead of his insanely competitive intensity.  But at age 35 now, his stuff is falling off ever so slightly which has brought some occasional ineffectiveness which has lead to more screaming by Carpenter on the mound.  Here's to hoping we get Carp some run support.  We don't want him to succumb to those voices in his head.

2.  Hits, Errors, and Other Mysteries of the Universe - Official baseball scoring can be more art than science when it comes to errors.  What I need to know right now (before my brain explodes) is why a misplayed fly ball that ends up over the wall is a home run and not an error?  This ranks right up there with the Theory of Relativity, Nuclear Fission and Ryan Seacrest's sexual ambiguity.

If an outfielder simply stands and does nothing and the ball falls in 1 foot from him, it's a hit and not an error.  Why isn't that hit taken away for "fielder indifference"?  If the ball glances off his glove and falls its an error , UNLESS the outfielder ran a really long way and it becomes a "tough play", you can't assume the out, so they say.  So a dropped ball in that case is a hit

But you ask any outfielder that has played a ball off their glove or head over the wall accidentally for a home run (that would not have been otherwise, of course) they will say its an error !  I did extensive research online for about 5 minutes today and I found no good explanations.  Some said it has to be a home run because the ball is now out of play.  What?  If you drop a foul ball it is out of play, but can still be ruled an error if they say you should have caught it.  So it seems to me that the home run is a special case.  If an outfielder accidentally or even purposefully deflects a fly ball over the fence it's ruled a home run - period.  Someone please explain this to me!

3.  Rolen Right Along - Great interview on SI.com of Scott Rolen.  I'd have to say if guys like Grady Sizemore or Hanley Ramirez have the perfect ballplayer's body, Scott Rolen has the perfect ballplayer's soul.

"In 2004 I played on the best team I've ever played on'' in St. Louis, says Rolen. "We got swept (by Boston) in the World Series. Stars all over the field, and we got pounded. I told my wife after that, 'I'll never win a World Series.' That was the best team I'll ever play on.  A couple years later, we back into the playoffs'' with 83 wins. "We were probably the worst team in the postseason that year. And we win the World Series in a walk'' over Detroit.

I'm just happy that man does have a ring. 

4.  Missing 100% of the Shots You Don't Take - I realized this week that it seems to me the Cardinals aren't taking good, hard rips at 2-0 or 2-1 pitches.  And poof, like magic, another column appears confirming this has been a problem for us.  We're doing fine on 1-0 and 3-1 counts, but the Cards are batting only .244 on 2-0 counts and .231 on 2-1 counts.  This also explains our power outage somewhat as well.  2-0 and 2-1 are your meatball/fastball/Tball home run-eligible offerings and we're batting under .250 on those pitches?  That's just awful, and right now I'm regularly seeing Holliday and Pujols not even swinging at 2-0 pitches.  Why?  If you're not comfortable with a pitch, even if it's a fat strike, you don't swing.  And here's the problem: right now, Albert and Matt aren't comfortable with ANY PITCHES.

5.  Ex-Cards Update - I should wait until after the Cards-Angels game tonight, but I'm fairly confident Joel Piniero will do just fine against us.  Scott Rolen is up to 8 home runs on the year and is on pace to top 20 bombs for the first time since 2006.  Troy Glaus finally came around and he's batting .289 with six homers.  His OBP is a healthy .374.  I miss greasy-haired Chris Perez sometimes.  He's been doing pretty well in Cleveland with a 1.98 ERA, 5 saves and only one homer given up in 13 innings of work.  I was not happy to see Mark DeRosa move on in the off-season but Giants news sources say he's still struggling with his wrist injury from last year.  So maybe we dodged DeBullet.

6.  Blue Cat People are Neat-o - Finally saw Avatar last night.  Not much to say, except, I just don't get excited about movies anymore and this is more proof why.  When a super mega blockbuster movie that garners multiple Academy Award nominations and wins and breaks all kinds of box office income records is merely "good", its time to move on.  The magic is gone.  The effects clearly out-shined the acting and story - it really felt like I was watching a two-hour cut scene in the middle of a Halo video game.  Not that that's a bad thing - it just is what it is.

7.  Put Your Head Between Your Legs and Walk Backwards - Hindsight is 20/20 they say.  I say the Cards should have re-signed Joel Piniero and let Brad Penny tease some other team's fans.  I also say the Cards should have waited to see if Kyle Lohse could repeat his lucky 2008 season before throwing $40 million dollars at him.

8.  Lack of Roids Rage - Runs and home runs are down all over baseball.  The per-game home run rate is at 1993 levels.  I wonder if fans like the "pure" game it is now or miss the "WWF" MLB of the 1995-2005 "juiced" era. 

9.  Mt. Carmel Wildcats Team Update - I help coach my 5-year-old son's T-ball team.  We've worked hard coaching them in the fundamentals of the game and they've come a long way this year.  We had a four-game winning streak end this week.  The other team was better - our best players are in the infield and the kids that like to play with the dirt are generally in the outfield.  As long as the infielders can stop the ball, we do well.  This was not the case this past Tuesday as we got beat 21-9.

I just want to say to other T-ball coaches out there: I understand teaching kids to play 100% hard the entire time.  Play a HARD NINE, right?  This is the right thing to do.  But when you send a runner from first to second every time the fielding team runs to third to tag the runner, that's just a little bit obnoxious.  You're not teaching the kids good base running.  You're sending them to second because the fielders can't cover two bases at the same time - not because the play dictates they should take an extra base.  Besides, you're wining by 10 runs anyway...



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 13, 2010 5:04 pm
Edited on: May 14, 2010 4:35 pm
 

Reorganizing the Divisions by Team Salary

Willie's Bodacious Bonus Blog

Reorganizing the Divisions by Team Salary

Every so often I like to think about the aspects of baseball not tied specifically to how teams are playing or how players are doing (especially when the Cards are stinking it up or my favorite players are going 0 for 20). 

Today I pondered: everyone wants parity in baseball, but parity is not based on talent (at least not in this league) - it's based on the almighty dollar.  So if you want true parity, we need to divide the teams by salary.  I have set up the divisions according to team salary and it jumps out pretty quickly how much more interesting baseball would be this way.  Team salary had slightly more weight than geographic location and the cutoff between the "Haves" and "Havenots" is about $90 million.

Honestly, how have die-hard (if they exist) Blue Jay and Oriole fans not killed themselves yet?  You wake up on Opening Day and your team's forums and blogs hot topic is "Will we finish 4th or 5th?".  "You kidding?  We're gonna be awesome this year - I'm saying FOURTH!!"
    
So many casual fans stay away because of such scenarios.  They know the playing surface isn't level and they are correct.  This remedies that problem.  In a more fair division their team's record will be more representative of their team's actual talent.  The Blue Jays could very well win the "Havenots" Central every year.  Their biggest competition is the Reds and Brewers.  That sounds familiar.  Who did they essentially replace in that division?

Oh yes - my Cardinals.  Not to pick on them, but how can you not: they are a big fish in a little pond, relatively.  Put them in the "Haves" Central Division with the Twins, Tigers, White Sox and Astros and they would finish 3rd every year - maybe.

And lets be honest: a "Haves" East Division with the Yankees, Phillies, Mets, Red Sox, and Cubs would be a media circus all unto its own.  The Cubs would continue to stink which is always fun.  The Phillies would get some actual competition.  And we'd at least get some national baseball coverage variety as opposed to seeing Red Sox/Yankees 24/7.

And if the biggest argument is that a weak "Nots" team would meet a powerful "Haves" team in the World Series every year, fine - seed all eight teams against each other and guarantee the best two teams meet for the title.  And put the DH in across the board for all teams and put that argument to rest - finally.

Let's take a look at the new divisions and how the standings would look (keeping everyone's existing records) and who I predict would make the playoffs.

Haves East - Imagine the TV revenue!  Are youse kiddin' me?  Tell Guido: dis division is weh its at! Tawk about braggin' rights - Fuggeddaboudit!  Seriously, let the rich kids beat up on each other.  How is that not ultimately fair for all?  There would be so much drama, even folks that live west of the Mississippi or south of D.C. would pay attention.  The games will average four and half hours, though.  The Yankees will still outspend their rivals here and the Phillies will muscle their way to the wildcard.
Average team payroll in the division: a wallet-busting $158 million.

Yankees        206M    22-11    Champ       
Phillies          142M    20-13    Wildcard
Mets              133M    18-16
Red Sox         162M    18-17
Cubs              147M    15-20

Haves Central - A fine division here.  All have made World Series appearances recently except for the Twins and they could certainly make an appearance at any time now, considering their talent.  The Cards would battle the Tigers all year long and relieve the glorious 2006 World Series (or gory-est, depending on your tastes).  If the Rangers jacked up their payroll, we could put them here and give the Astros a geographic rival.  The Twins are the class of the this division now and for the foreseeable future. 
Average team payroll in the division: a healthy "middle class" $103 million.

Twins           98M     22-12    Champ       
Cardinals     94M     20-14
Tigers          123M   19-15
White Sox    108M   14-20
Astros          92M     12-21

Haves West - Why does a West division always get to have just four teams in it?  Historically, the NL West division title is up for grabs (while the Angles typically dominate the AL West) but the Angels have slid so this title is again, a toss-up.  The Giants pitching will probably carry them to a title.  Boy are the team salaries evenly matched here. 
Average team payroll in the division: a cool $99 million.

Giants           98M       18-14    Champ
Dodgers        95M       17-17
Angels           105M    15-21
Mariners        98M       13-20

Nots East - Can you hear the fans from this division just cheering all over the eastern time zone?  The spending "bullies" are the thrifty Braves, followed closely by the Orioles.  The Rays, though, would probably have 30 wins already if they played in this division so everyone else will have to fight for the wildcard.  The surprising Nationals could be up to the task as the Marlins and Braves, while usually competive, have struggled.  The Orioles' record won't be as bad here, but - yeah - they'll still be bad.
Average team payroll in the division: a modest $69.3 million.

Rays            72M    24-10    Champ       
Nationals    61M    19-15    Wildcard
Marlins        56M    16-18
Braves         84M    16-18
Indians        61M    13-18
Orioles        82M    10-24

Nots Central - Boy, does Toronto feel good about their chances in this division?  Perhaps, but the Reds are on the right track and may give the Jays a run for their money.  The Royals and Pirates can fight head-to-head to see who is the worst in baseball.  See?  Rivalries EVERYWHERE! 
Average team payroll in the division: a bargain at $64.6 million.

Blue Jays    63M    20-16   
Reds            72M    19-15    Champ       
Brewers       81M    15-19
Pirates        35M    14-20
Royals         72M    11-23

Nots West - Quite the low-rent district here, but some compelling baseball would be played.  These teams for the most part all have very similar philosophies about building a baseball team - heavy emphasis on drafting and player development.  The Rockies are the big spenders and more able to keep their talent longer, but this year the low-budget Padres are playing the best. 
Average team payroll in the division: a Blue Light Special of $58 million.

Padres                38M    21-12    Champ
Rangers              55M    19-15
Athletics             52M    18-16
Rockies               84M    16-17
Diamondbacks    61M    14-21

Whether we keep an 8-seed format or the current two league playoff format (Haves vs. Havenots), the Rays meet the Yankees in the World Series and...


lose. 

So, in the end, I spent a few hours on this blog and the Steinbrenners still win in the end. 

Is there no justice?  Oh well.





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