Tag:Scott Rolen
Posted on: July 7, 2010 2:02 pm
Edited on: July 7, 2010 2:13 pm
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7/7 - La Russa's Cardinal Sins

La Russa's Cardinal Sins

According to many end-times "enthusiasts" the end of the world is going to come in 2012.

Apparently, that wasn't soon enough for Tony La Russa as he personally summoned the Four Horseman of the Apocalyptic Bullpen last night in Denver to turn a towering 9-2 Cardinal lead into a 12-9 life-stealing loss.  Collectively, Blake Hawksworth, Trever Miller, Dennys Reyes and Ryan Franklin crafted quite the pitching line against the Rockies: 6 2/3 innings, 23 baserunners and all 12 runs allowed.

I've already spent enough time bashing Miller and Reyes for being ineffective lefty specialists and last night Miller had another mind-boggling outing by giving up two hits to left-handed hitters, recording no outs , and and then leaving the game.  This clunker put us directly on the path to losing - why?  Because it forced La Russa to bring in our best "closer", Jason Motte, and with just six pitches, Motte recorded three outs and allowed just one inherited runner to score.  The damage wasn't the single run - it was the Cards having to use Motte so early.

Hawksworth has been allowing baserunners galore this year and last night was no exception.  It was a miracle that the Rox had only scored 2 runs considering the 8 hits and 4 walks Hawksworth allowed in five innings of work.

But that wasn't all.  La Russa once again displayed his irrational love for veterans by putting (literal) castoffs Aaron Miles and Randy Wynn into the fray (Wynn was a late "defensive" replacement for the young, talented Jon Jay).  Miles and Wynn took turns looking like Hungry Hungry Hippos, voraciously attacking baseballs with little success, first Miles early in the game on some grounders to second and then Wynn later during the catastrophic ninth inning in right field.

And what can be said about Ryan Franklin?  It's hard to blame him.  He's a 37-year-old "closer" with below average stuff for a middle-reliever whom the Cardinals got lucky with as a closer last year.  But instead of the Cardinals organization being realistic about the gamble, cashing out their "winnings" and getting a real closer, they give Franklin a two year extension in the off-season.  Um, what??  It's really odd that our closer is the guy with only the sixth-best stuff in our bullpen.

The worst thing of all though, in the aftermath, is the realization that the Cards just don't play a "hard nine" anymore.  Not this year.  Not for the last half of last year.  Really the only Cardinal veteran that is still on the "upswing" is Adam WainwrightChris Carpenter, Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Ryan Ludwick are all in decline.  The future is bright in Jason Motte, Colby Rasmus, David Freese and Jaime Garcia but these kids are still getting established.  This team is just too flawed to truly compete and in a year where too many pieces are fitting into place for the up-and-coming Reds.  It's clear the Cards will not get to coast to another NL Central title.

Consider, the Cardinals:
  • are 33-19 when Carpenter, Waino or Garcia start and just 12-19 playing behind another starter
  • have four players with 10+ home runs while the Reds have a staggering six, led by NL MVP front-runner Joey Votto
  • are in good company with a poor road record of 18-23 but when contrasted with the Reds' 21-18 road record, its clear which team has been more tough-minded
At the beginning of the year most of us had doubts about La Russa's young bench - that Tony would stick with the youth movement - and those doubts were confirmed by last month's dumpster dive into the waiver wire.  Brad Penny has had a recent rehab setback and who knows when Kyle Lohse will return.  With a true pennant race at hand let's see if Tony will see the error of his ways and bring back some old school intensity.  And maybe even let the kids play a bit.

Well, we are long overdue for an another installment of...

The Hard Nine

1.  The Ghost of Rick Ankiel - Back in 2000, Rick Ankiel finished second to Rafael Furcal of the Atlanta Braves in the Rookie of the Year voting, which I always thought was a travesty.  Everyone forgets that Ankiel was the "Stephen Strasburg" of his day.  At age 20 he went 11-7 with an ERA of 3.50 and 194 strikeouts.  His Ks per 9 innings was 9.98 second only to Randy Johnson who was at the height of his dominance.

Maybe this year, Jamie Garcia brings the ROY to St. Louis to right Ankiel's snub.  After a terrible outing against the Royals (of all teams), Garcia was brilliant in his last outing going seven shutout innings and allowing just five baserunners against a tough Brewers team (who, incidentally, roughed up Chris Carpenter in the same series).  Garcia is on pace for a 16-8 record, a win total the Cardinals haven't had from a lefty since Mark Mulder's only good season with the Cards in 2005, and if that's not a bittersweet thought, I don't know what is.

It's interesting to think that if all the right decisions had been made the Cardinals today could have had a starting rotation of Carpenter, Wainwright, Ankiel, Danny Haren, and Garcia.

2.  All-Star Caliber Belly-Aching - This has been an odd year for All-Star voting, partly because so many usual suspect baseball stars are having down offensive years.  And it doesn't help that Charlie Manuel put Atlanta's Omar Infante on the NL squad as a utility player, a move some writers are saying could be the strangest pick in the history of the Midsummer Classic.  But I'm tired of people ripping the fan's choice of Yadier Molina at catcher over journeyman Miguel Olivo of the Rockies, who is having a terrific offensive year.

Molina?  Well Yadi is batting .230.  BUT, he's batted .293 and .304 the last two years so the precedent is well-established that Yadi is a fine offensive player as well.  That, along with Yadi's clutch playoff performance and his years of stellar defense makes him a star in this league.  And sometimes, the fans want to see the stars play - even if they are batting .230.  So get over it, pundits.

3.  Blues Lock Up Halak - Earlier this summer the Blues made a bold trade for Canadiens playoff hero Jaroslav Halak and this week they locked him up to a four-year $15 million deal.  After years and years of stop-gap solutions between the pipes, here's hoping that the Blues have finally found a long-term solution.

4.  What, Me Intimidating?   Joe Posnanski recently posted a terrific piece on Bob Gibson that is a must-read for any Cardinal fan or anyone that loves the history of baseball.  And it is fascinating how truth becomes legend and men become heroes.  Which brings us to Gibby.  In the story, Posnanski explains how Gibson has learned to enjoy fans comments like "Oh do I remember the way you pitched.  I remember all those batters you hit.  They were so scared of you!"  Privately, Gibson wonders, "Is that all I did?  Hit batters?  Is that really all they remember?"  The Glare, that Gibson was so well known for?  "I just couldn't see the catcher's signals", he explains.  Google and read this piece today.

5.  No Hall of Fame For You!  It's very strange to see a ballplayer with 2,000 hits, 300 career homers, and a lifetime .325 batting average hitting just .246 and slugging the same as Yadier Molina this year (.310).  Strange, but also satisfying.  Why?  Come with me on a journey.

Dial the Way Back Machine to 2003.  Albert Pujols won the batting title with a .359 batting average - Todd Helton finished a tick behind at .358.  This was during the height of offensive baseball lunacy in Denver.  Helton already won the batting title in 2000 with a .372 average.  Why did he need another thin air-inflated accolade?  Pujols' and Helton's home/away splits tell the whole story:

Pujols     AVG     HR     RBI     SLG
Home       .388    21     66      .713
Away        .331    22     58      .623

Helton     AVG     HR     RBI     SLG
Home       .391    23     72      .739
Away        .324    10     45      .514

Albert was the model of consistency, of course.  He enjoyed a definite comfort level at home, but was equally devasting on the road.  Helton?  Helton was a completely different player away from Coors Field.  At home he was Babe Ruth.  Everywhere else he was Mark Grace with a little more pop.  For his career he has a home OPS+ of 120 and 80 when away.  That is essentially the difference between All-Star and Average Joe.

Today, making roughly $18 million a year, Helton is on pace for four homers and has only averaged 15 a year the past four years.  I'm not trying to kick a guy while he's down.  Todd Helton was an extremely fine ballplayer and would have been a borderline All-Star annually had he played in any other city (it's doubtful his power numbers would have been consistent enough).

Baseball writers have always understood Helton's true value.  He's only finished as high as 5th in the MVP vote once.  And there is no chance he is going into the Hall of Fame.  Which is to also say, it's a good thing juiced Barry Bonds or Albert Pujols never played full-time in Denver in the late 90s and early 2000s or we may have seen records set that would never be touched.

6.  Ex-Cardinal Update - After a rocky patch, Joel Pineiro has channeled his inner Dave Duncan and has won his last six starts.  He now sits at 9-6 with a 3.96.  Yes, Joel would have been a much, MUCH better signing than Brad Penny.  Troy Glaus, of course, fell back to earth and batted .237 in June plus he's been recently slowed by a knee injury.  Scott Rolen has been so fantastic this year, I finally added him to my fantasy league and he's been about as steady this year as he was in 2004 (.300-17-57 so far).

7.  The Grass Is Greener - The Cardinals' middle infield has been a wasteland for the most part this year, both offensively and defensively.  Aaron Miles never really excited me even when we he was "good" but Tyler Greene, on the other hand, has some real upside.  And I can't think of anything that could give this club a more positive jolt than if he grabbed this shortstop gig and ran with it for the rest of the year.  It's easy to like Brendan Ryan, but there is no room in the majors for all-field/no-hit shortstops - and Ryan isn't even fielding all that well anyway.  Maybe Greene and pull a David Freese and own shortstop for a while.

8.  Quotes From Ground Zero -
          Ryan Franklin: "That's my game -- making the hitters hit balls.  They just hit it kind of hard."
          Tony La Russa: "That loss wasn't on Ryan Franklin.  It was on everybody who wore the gray, including the manager."
          Forum post at StlToday.com: "Maybe Franklin can throw to Holliday in the All-Star Game Home Run Derby..."

9.  Nationals Crisis Averted - Stephen Strasburg won't be representing the Nationals in the All-Star game and it is confirmed: he is ok with this.  "I'm sure I'll have opportunities somewhere down the road.  Right now, it was never a goal of mine", said the young hurler.  Whew.  You may now continue with your lives. 



WG







Posted on: June 18, 2010 6:36 pm
Edited on: June 19, 2010 8:38 am
 

6/18 - Holliday and the Cardinals - A Love Story

Matt Holliday and the Cardinals - A Love Story

Following the 2005 season, the Cardinals began looking for the perfect 4th place hitter to bat behind Albert Pujols - to protect him, take care of him, and make sure he got lots of fat pitches to hit.  After Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen could no longer fill the position (due to injuries, old age, La Russa's whims) the team started giving a plucky outfielder with a reconstructed hip the chance.  Ryan Ludwick was with his third organization, a "bat", other organizations would call him, but nothing more and a guy with a bad hip can't be taken too seriously, right?  But Ludwick was anything if not determined and through some hard work, he hung around long enough in 2007 to hit 14 home runs and started getting some looks in the middle of the lineup. 

In 2008, Ludwick, the scrappy underdog put on an offensive show from start to finish, batting .299, clubbing 37 home runs, enjoying All-Star status and Silver Slugger recognition.  That season, batting fourth behind El Hombre, Luddy's line was a hefty .295-20-59.  But injuries came back to haunt Luddy in May 2009.  He finished the season with a more modest .265-22-97 line as he tried too hard to justify his big raise after his monster 2008 campaign.  The Cardinals' eyes still roamed for the one clean-up hitter that would make everyone's dreams come true. 

On July 24, 2009 the Cardinals went "all-in" at the trade deadline to acquire Matt Holliday, the beefy Oklahoman that Tony La Russa and the rest of the organization had been dreaming of for years.  He was immediately inserted into the clean-up spot and hit .353-13-55 in 63 games.  Most cheered for our new heart-throb, but a small few of us felt bad for the rough-around-the-edges Ludwick, who despite the injuries in '09 still batted .278-14-55 in 62 games behind Pujols.  Aside from the average, his clean-up numbers were not much different from the club's new pretty boy and this even in a "down" year for Luddy.  Personally, I thought the tough-minded Ludwick deserved a little more consideration.

As it was, not since Paul McCartney paired with Michael Jackson was there such combined star-power as with Pujols and Holliday and for the most part last year, everything worked like a charm until things got serious: the playoffs.  The team crashed and burned unceremoniously, with Holliday making a major gaffe in the outfield to seal the team's fate (maybe those possible commitment jitters).  But Holliday and the Cards decided to get hitched anyway to the tune of a 7-year/$120 million contract - the best friend, Albert Pujols, approved.  The Cards got their man and kept him.  There was even a big announcement in the newspaper and everything.

Today is a new day, however.  Today is 2010.  Today is the "morning after" and the Cardinals just rolled over to see the studly Holliday isn't as studly as they thought.  With only 23 RBI in 53 games from their hero, what could the team do?  They saw the light and turned to Ol' Faithful, Ryan Ludwick, who already has 5 RBI in 4 games batting clean-up.  Things seem right again, in Cardinal Nation - we just have to find ways to keep our new boy toy happy while we pay him to NOT bat clean-up anymore.  Oh well.


It's time for...


The Hard Nine



1.  The "Morning After" - No words are needed.  Just check out Holliday's numbers so far in comparison to last year:

Year     Games     AB     AVG     HR     RBI     SLG     OPS
2009     63          235    .353    13      55      .604    1.023
2010     64          243    .284     6       25      .423     .795

Holliday's near MVP season was 2007 at age 27.  Why do baseball execs not understand that a player's peak years are typically during ages 24-28?  In retrospect, it's unfortunate that Holliday did so well last year, when he was obviously energized by the trade, by the huge fanbase, and by being in playoff contention.  He played way over his head and now we pay for two months in 2009 for the next seven years.  Hooray.

2.  Prodigal Sons Return -
We certainly had flashbacks to four years ago as Aaron Miles and Jeff Suppan have recently returned to the flock.  Even Tony La Russa was getting misty-eyed watching Soup deal to the (albeit) punchless Mariners.  But in a start in which he was shaking off rust as much as trying to give the Cards a chance to win a game (a chance they essentially NEVER had when P.J. Walters, Blake Hawksworth or Adam Ottavino took the hill) he made some great pitches that reminded us of the guy that confounded the New York Mets in the 2006 NLCS with an 88-mph fastball, a slow curve and a tantalizing change-up.  He even struck out the mighty Ichiro on a high hard one and doubled and scored for himself.  Welcome back, Soup.

3.  Take THAT, Sabermetrics Dorks - I love when the Cards play the Arizona Diamondbacks because I often get to hear the Dbacks color analyst, Mark Grace.  For me, he was one of the quintessential late 80s ballplayers in the vein of Will Clark or Tony Gwynn - not the ideal physical specimen but had just a sweet swing that stroked hit after hit.  And he is a fun TV analyst who calls things like they are, good or bad, for the home team or the visitors - he doesn't discriminate.  I would love to hear Mark and Ex-Blue Kelly Chase do a sports talk show - it would be hilarious. 

As I've said, I'm a stat fiend (but I'm NOT a Sabermetrics worshiper) and neither is "Gracie" as he talked about there being too many stats in today's game in a local Phoenix newspaper:

"The biggest stats for me were runs scored and RBIs.  If those are both up, that means you're driving them in when they're out there and you're out there to be driven in...But instead, it's this guy sees 4.7 pitches per at bat. How about hit the first one and knock the (bleep) out of it, you know?"

Amen.  Eloquently put, Mark.

4.  NL Comeback Player of the Year - THN has been following Troy Glaus closely this year as the Ex-Card is having the season this year the Cardinals wished he had last year.  In fact, Glaus has all but sewn up the NL Comeback Player of the Year award considering he leads the NL in RBI and has carried the Braves to their first place standing in the NL East.  Glaus is on pace for 31 homers and 128 RBI which would be his highest total ever by a mile (his career high is 111 RBIs in 2002).  And while he strikes out as much as ever, he still has a stout .380 on base percentage.  Atlanta's sports writers have already come to terms that Troy has played himself into a big contract and probably right out of Atlanta. 

5.  Better Late Than Never -
And speaking of resurrections, what on earth has gotten into Alex Rios of the White Sox?  At age 29, it seems he is finally figuring out how to put his otherworldly talent to good use and that is an understatement.  He's having an MVP-type year that has stunned pretty much everyone that laughed at the Sox for taking him (and his massive salary) off Toronto's hands.  But maybe it isn't all that shocking - he wasn't even an All-Star until 2007 and that was only his third full season.  The Blue Jays gave up on him in 2009 when he was batting .247, and he completely tanked after going to Chicago batting .199.  Today he's hitting .313 and is on pace for 33 homers, 85 RBI and 49 steals!  The difference?  How about plate discipline?  After striking out over 100 times in four of his six full seasons, he is on pace for just 77 Ks, which in this day and age is stellar for a guy with 30-homer power. 

6.  "Big Sweat" Hits the Big Wall - In my last entry, I wrote about my distaste for our lefty relievers efficiency.  My distaste has turned to disgust, at least where Dennys "Big Sweat" Reyes is concerned.  In May he was immaculate (unrealistically so, in fact), and in June he is paying for it.  In four June appearances he has recorded just two outs, both on strikeouts.  Reyes has allowed 10 baserunners (9 hits, 1 BB) and six earned runs in those four appearances and his ERA has ballooned from 1.59 to 3.63.  He's given up seven consecutive hits to  LEFTHANDERS.  The only appearance of the four where he didn't give up a run he came in, gave up a hit, and left the game without getting an out.  Tough day like that has got make you want to pop open a hard-earned Dos Equis. 

7.  Look Me In The Eye and Tell Me You Can't Score Two Runs -
Jaime Garcia, while being a little less stellar lately, has still been hugely effective overall for the Cardinals.  In his last outing, he lost 2-1 to Seattle (as Holliday, once again, failed to deliver a runner from third) and as in all 13 of his starts, he has yet to give up more than two earned runs which is explains his 1.59 ERA, still second in the NL.  The Cardinals' record in his 13 starts: a pitiful 6-7.  Aye caramba...

8.  Blues Go Into "Halak-down" Mode - Ok, if you don't know how to pronounce "Halak" it's (ha-LOCK) - there, now my headline makes sense, right?  Oh well.  Really, this is the news of the week for THN.  I fell out of my chair to hear my St. Louis Blues traded for 25-year-old Jaroslav Halak, the Montreal Canadiens playoff hero this past spring, and focus of my adoration in my April blogs as he helped the outgunned Habs knock off the powerful Capitals and Penguins in two seven-game series.

He was going to be a free agent soon and will need a massive raise from his $800k salary, but the Blues finally made a smart, strong, gutsy move to acquire a young budding star goaltender, a position the Blues (since the departure of Curtis Joseph) have seemingly always filled with a "wily veteran". Take your pick: Grant Fuhr, John Casey, Pat Lalime, Manny Legace, Chris Osgood, Chris Mason, Tom Barrasso.  That list right there makes me want to put a bag over my head (except for Fuhr, who was exceptional when not injured).  The last talented young goalie the Blues traded for (Roman Turek) blew up on them spectacularly in the playoffs so we have reserved excitement about this trade of course.  The Blues did give up their #1 forward prospect in Lars Ellar, but seriously, he's Danish - he's only in the States to pick up girls, so the Blues sold high (as did Montreal). 

But there is a good omen here: Halak is a Slovak - not a Czech (like Turek) - and the Blues have had some terrific luck with Slovaks over the past 15 years: Pavol Demitra (one of my all-time favorite Blues who was simply the best hockey player in the 2009 Winter Olympics), Michal Handzus (the bruising power center) and Ladislav Nagy to name a few.  Hopefully, in ten years we'll be adding Halak to this list. Maybe even less.

9.  Still Nailing those Calls -
I was watching a Nationals game on MLB.TV and with my basic package I can't choose whether to get the home or away broadcast.  On this occasion it was the Nationals' broadcast I was listening to and the play-by-play man's voice immediately brought back a flood of Cardinal memories.  It was none other than Bob Carpenter, the St. Louisan who called the Cardinal games from 1993-2005.  How many "See...you...LATER!" calls did he get to make in 1998?  I'm going to be tuning into some Nats games more and more just for the walk down memory lane.



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 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