Now that the weekend is finished and the Monday Blues have come and gone, lets do a little recap of the action that took place over the past couple days. This rant may not reinvent the idea of public opinion, but it will free my mind in the end.
USA WOMEN’s TEAM DROPS THE WORLD CUP
The ladies blew it on Sunday, giving up two leads in the latter part of the game and eventually falling in penalty rounds to the Japan team by 3-1. After wasting opportunities early in the game, the USA team got ahead 1-0 and blew it 4 minutes later. They reclaimed the lead in extra time 2-1, but couldn’t starve off the Japan team as they tied the game 3 minutes before extra time ran out. In this tournament, there is no sudden death overtime. When you score in overtime, you must hold off the opposition until the end of the given time. Abby Wambach proved clutch again, scoring the second goal on a perfectly timed header and scoring the only penalty shot for the USA team. USA goalie Hope Solo stopped as many shots as she could but in soccer, the angles don’t favor the stopper, so in the end Solo was helpless. The Japanese fought hard, tied the game twice, and used their knowledge of the USA penalty session style of to beat them in the end. The USA team had played with fire throughout the entire tournament, and their lack of finish got to them on Sunday. Simply put, the USA team dropped the ball at the wrong time. With Japan on the ropes early, they didn’t capitalize on several scoring chances. Late, when in the lead, they couldn’t clear the front of their net and lost control of the outcome. On the bright side, it was good for Japan to win because of the devastation their country went through in the Tsunami. They needed this more than we did, so in a small way, you were happy for them. On the other side, it was a disappointing finish for a USA team that seemed bound for glory once again. Wambach’s dream of lifting the Cup will have to wait 4 years until the next FIFA World Cup tournament. Once again, the World Cup action was addicting to watch. At one point, I was leaving the Cards game just to see how many minutes the game had left before the USA team would leave Germany with a win. Soccer is a nail biter of a game to follow because while the action is slow building and emotion stirring, patience is rewarded when the goals fly into the net. Every American had to be on their feet during this game and crashed and burned with the ladies in crunch time. A missed opportunity from a thrilling team to a country that needs a win. Sports titles stand as symbols of hope in this world and the World Cup will heal part of the tragedy of the tsunami. The intention was to win the Cup but at least in the aftermath, the loss comes to a country in need of a lift. On a racial slur note, how many times did I scream during the crucial moments of that game, “OH GOD, THIS IS PEARL HARBOR ALL OVER AGAIN! CLEAR THE NET!” At least four different times. Abby Wambach’s header to give the USA a 2-1 lead was a thing of beauty but we lost and that’s the way the chips fall. Also, on a body cleansing note, is it okay to ask the USA Women’s head coach to shave her beard now? That is highly disgusting in HD. Just saying. While she was explaining the loss, all I could do was count her facial hairs. Horrific.
THE CARDS DROP A SERIES IN CINCY
Once again, the Cardinals doomed themselves from the outstart when Fernando Salas blew his third save on Friday. Similiar to a series in mid May in Cincinnati, the Redbirds came back from being down 2 different times to carry a 5-4 lead into the 9th inning, where Brandon Phillips hit a walkoff bomb to literally rip the hearts out of every Cards fan chest. This guy getting the last laugh is like Bill Bidwell walking into Rams Park and lighting a fuse on another team. Phillips hit the sure homer, jumped and hopped around the base paths like it was Game 7, rubbed it in as much as he could, and at that moment the Cards lost the series. Salas blew his third save and put his own job in jeopardy right around the trade deadline. The Cards starved off back to back bleed out stabbings in the Redlands on Saturday behind more Albert Pujols power and Chris Carpenter grit, winning 4-1 and Salas getting redemption in locking down his 17th save. Albert Pujols is alive and well, hitting 2 go ahead home runs over the series and looking more locked in than ever. However, the bats went cold on Sunday and the Cards defense and lineup couldn’t solve Homer Bailey and the back and forth Reds-Cards rivalry continues. Right when you think we could snap their backs with a come from behind win on Friday, Salas blows it up and the momentum shifts on Sunday. If it weren’t for Carpenter gritting out 8 innings in the Great American Home Run Derby Park and Pujols’ clutch laser, the Cards may of been swept. A Reds dominated series that sets the Cards up now as zig zag artists, a team that can’t figure out if they want to stay up and take another kick to the ribs.
The Salas blown save/recovery over the weekend isn’t easy to explain but let me take a crack. First thing is, the man doesn’t walk many batters. He carries a 3-1 strikeouts to walks ratio and only gets beat by pitch location. His fastball to Phillips caught too much of the plate and got sent out. Jose Bautista’s home run at Busch was a well placed outside cutter that got lifted out. Salas doesn’t make many mistakes but the ones he leaves over the plate are getting hit hard. One defense of Salas is that La Russa uses him in several tied game situations and non save spots. If he is the closer(17 saves makes you the closer, TLR), than he should only pitch in tied games that take place during the extra innings. Salas is being overused by La Russa and is being exposed with the inning total. Granted, the loss of Eduardo Sanchez and lack of a quality lefthanded reliever put a strain on La Russa’s choices but he can’t keep dipping Salas in frequent situations that aren’t a save spot. Salas is slowly coming undone, enduring a subpar late part of June/first part of July after a stellar 6 week stretch after taking over the closing duties. He is wearing down because this is a real innings load for the young righty and that’s a wall every pitcher hits in their first full season. Can he last? My answer is mixed because I know how La Russa will use him, in his reluctancy to name Salas the official 9th inning arm. Another factor is Salas doesn’t get many 1-2-3 saves, and that leads to blown saves. Base runners put on by closers lead to breakdowns in the current situation or future save chance. Salas doesn’t have shutdown stuff. His pitches are far better than Franklin’s arsenal, but Salas is slowly getting hit. Friday’s meltdown could lead to a trade for Heath Bell. I was against the move two weeks ago because Salas wasn’t wearing down too badly yet but now the move may be apparent. The Cardinals can’t lose heartbreakers like Friday’s game in August and September if they wish to contend in this tight division race that has had a different leader each day of the past week. I like Salas could see him move into an 8th inning setup role with Lance Lynn if Bell arrives in St. Louis. The sticky spot here is the price required for Bell’s services. Colby Rasmus is expendable(making the Padres carry two Ex Cards in their outfield), but what else would San Diego want? The Padres are a sinking ship and want to move Bell but will ask for Shelby Miller, a highly touted pitching prospect that Mozelaik will not release. Mo will also want to lock up Bell for 2-3 yrs if a trade is made, which is smart if you are giving up Rasmus/2 other decent prospects. The Cards aren’t a win now team because they have a deep roster and farm system of reliable talent and carry young players on their roster(Albert, Yady, Waino, Garcia, Freese, Jay, Holliday) but are unloading salary and contracts at the end of the season. Do the Cards want to pay Bell 10-12 million a year if they are going to resign Albert, Berkman and potentially Carpenter? That’s the question. I don’t want to trade great prospects for a two month rental of Bell. It’s just stupid. However, there is a lot to like about Bell. He closed down 19 straight games before blowing a save Thursday and is 73-75 the past two seasons in San Diego pitching on a light hitting(that’s a nice label) team. Imagine his chances with the Cards high powered attack and the sky is the limit. However, can the Cards keep Bell around and what would San Diego want in return for a A-list closer? Big questions in little St. Louis.
Albert Pujols is still only hitting .280, but he is starting to crush the baseball. He has 11 home runs since June 3rd and is slugging close to .700 in that period. He nearly hit a homer in the 1st inning Friday but Chris Heisley robbed him with a great catch. He is cranking line drives all over the field and has decent power stats heading into the last two weeks of July. AP has 20 home runs and 55 RBI, and has also scored a team high 59 runs. He isn’t walking a ton, but he isn’t striking out either. He has hit into 4 ground ball double plays the past month after hitting into 15 the first two months. He will eventually kick that average up near .290 and by the end of the year could be sitting with .300, 34 HR, 105 RBI, which would down for his standards but a great recovery. Again, this comeback season does affect his contract talks but won’t split them in half. My belief is AP wants to stay in St. Louis and will only be able to ask for a lesser amount of years and lower annual pay. The 10 year deal is out the window, but the contract will still be strong if he finishes strong. Albert sets his fate here with his finish. He showed an amazing ability to recover from a serious injury and come back hitting stronger. My feelings are still him asking for 5-6 years at 23-25 million per season, which for Albert’s below market value requests/great production is fair on both ends.
Non performance note. I ran into David Freese at the Quik Trip in Kirkwood last week during the All Star break and can report the man is a gracious fella who stopped to say hello and provided me with a small bump to my usual paltry Monday. Any time you run into an athlete and find out they aren’t an asshole is a cool thing to be a part of. I said hello, congratulated him on the game winning home run against Arizona the day before, and also said farewell as I left and wished him well in the second half. I didn’t say, “stay off the booze buddy”, because that would of ruined things a bit but it is good to see Freese has turned into a cheap productive player and stayed sober for the most part during his past year of recovery. For a while there he was on a road to becoming Josh Hancock, Part 2 and his rehab from two DWI arrests is good to see. Freese came to St. Louis in the Edmonds to San Diego trade and the move is looking better every time Freese delivers a clutch opposite field hit. Once again, if we are to resign Albert and others, the need for cheap reinforcements at other positions is necessary. Players like Freese and Jay are required to make the budget fit the guidelines of the team.
One more thing about Colby. I don’t want to trade the guy for nothing and still see him as a worthy talent because something we are all forgetting is the kid is only 24 years old and still has years in front of him, a couple including cheaper ones. In actuality, Rasmus is collapsing under high expectations set down by team scouts, management and owners. Tony La Russa looks at him and sees potentia that’s going unrealized and eating up space in his daily lineup card. In all fairness, Colby isn’t an expensive guy to keep in center field. Here is the real kicker. If Colby could perform half way near his expectations, Jon Jay stays on the bench and is a dynamite 4th outfielder. If Colby hits, the team is near perfect on the lineup card. You have Allen Craig when he returns and Jon Jay on the left side or pressuring Colby for at bats. Rasmus has been given every opportunity this year to seize the job in center field but he hasn’t progressed, instead taking a step back. However, John Mozelaik isn’t going to give him away for two bullpen arms or toss him away. My firm belief is that he will hold onto Colby and give him more time to get into his zone. If Colby hits, the Cards offense is unstoppable, literally. There is no real weak spot in the first 7 spots if Colby hits. By failing to succeed at a position crafted for him, Jay is being pushed into more starting and going away from his role. Can Jon Jay be an everyday player and keep up the stats? While taking into account my argument on the subject, there is zero evidence to challenge that Jay is ready to take the everyday role. Which is why I see this happening. The Cards take fliers on Colby, see what’s out there, ultimately keep him, give him another shot because this team is doing so well with minimum output from Rasmus. Mozelaik won’t deal Rasmus because he won’t be enough to bring Bell into the closer role here or grab a rotation arm worthy of pushing Kyle McClellan back to the pen. Mozelaik believes Colby needs more time, and also that Salas can close and be reliable. Mozelaik’s entire plan is based on young players making big contributions and so far this 2011 team is near first place because of it. While we don’t care to see Rasmus get more chances to strike out or misplay a ball in center, he will get that chance unless a big trade presents itself. In the back of my head, I’m still quietly hoping that Colby starts to get hot. It raises his trade value and helps this team during this crucial two week stretch where we play The Mets, Pirates, Astros and Cubs.
The Pittsburgh Pirates get a dose of reality on Friday when they face the man they truly hate to see on a pitching mound and that’s Chris Carpenter. Carpenter is 4-1 in his last 5 starts, hurling 8 innings per game, looking sharper and sharper and throwing 120 pitches a start. In short sight, Carp is dominating right now and the Pirates will have to bring their A game to take him down. While I like the renewed spirit in the Bucs, I won’t jump on the black and gold kool aid bandwagon and say The Pirates have a chance to win the Central and say hot throughout September. This weekend’s series between the Cards and Bucs is huge because in order for the Pirates to steal this division they will have to continue to beat NL Central teams and that includes the Cards and Brewers. Big time action this weekend.
Quiet reason why Ryan Theriot was tossed from Sunday’s game by an umpire after making contact and saying the magic words. The ump leaned in and told him, “You really suck as a shortstop you overachieving ex Cub bitch”. Just a thought. This carries as much weight and humor as making the claim that Tony La Russa never had shingles and Colby Rasmus punched him in the eye several times one night when Tony kept referring to him a dumb calf. Another thought. Colby Rasmus hates Tony La Russa and that’s why he will never reach his full potential here. La Russa has always been reluctant to start or play Rasmus because of his laidback style of play and inconsistency. The sad fact that a simple change of scenery may do Raz a lot of good. Unfortunate but probably true. Theriot was suspended two games for his contact with the umpire, a rightful charge because there are certain things a player can’t do in a chat with the wardens on the field. Make contact, say certain words and try to seem like the smarter man. Bad idea.
- Please don’t lean over me while I type. Whenever I work on a rant at lunch or on break at work, I deal with several co-workers who lean down, breathe on my left ear and slowly read out loud my rant as I work on it. I feel like swinging around, smashing them in the ankle and shoving them back into the left side of my cubicle. Its simply impolite to lean over someone’s shoulder as they work. Its too remiscent of high school, where teachers loved to spy on you during assignments. The people that lean down over me are the same souls who will eventually get to read the rant when it is sent out. Everyone wants to know what Buffa thinks about this and frankly, they have to wait. The next time someone leans down over me as I write, I am going to push a button, which launches a pencil out of my shirt and into that person’s eye. Every request is best delivered through blood, sweat and tears.
- Monday’s suck, which means for the first 3 hours of my shift at work I really don’t need the mini press conference of questions, comments and remarks from co-workers. Sometimes, a man needs to be left alone. I leave myself out for slaughter because I am a very social person from 10am-330pm, but for the first few hours I don’t want anything sent my way. You ever give bad advice because it was too early and you hadn’t gotten a cup of coffee yet to correctly simulate a potent response? That happens to me all the time. Its quite tragic. One day, a person asked me about world peace at 830am and I responded quite tartly, “World Peace is overrated”. In reality, I respect the idea of World Peace but will admit the world thrives off a little dose of anger throughout the days of our lives. The fact is here that for the first 2-3 hours of work I don’t want to be talked to and need peace in order to perfectly calibrate my mind for the day’s activity. Hold the press conference, the 20 questions, the need to get inside my head and soon enough I will be ready to talk Cards, politics, Asian religion, Chinese cuisine, and other random topics. Give me some time.
- Cam Janssen signed a 1 year deal with the New Jersey Devils, returning to the team he started with and ending his 4 year career in St. Louis. After coming over in a trade for Bryce Salvador, Cam made the most of his chances and turned into a cheap effective enforcer, making 600,000 a season to run his body around the ice and take a fight when needed. He was a local hero who gave more back to the city in community service than any athlete in town. A St. Louis boy who was given an opportunity and seized it. He was also a player who wouldn’t turn down a fight and often fought the biggest guy on the other team and held his own. Up until the end of last season, Janssen was a credible fighter who won his fair share. When Ryan Reaves arrived, Cam’s playing time was cut and his effectiveness in fights and ice time decreased. Reaves is a hungrier fighter and a better all around player, so the move was warranted. Cam will be remembered as the underdog city boy who gave until it was gone on the ice. Good Luck Cam Janssen, one of my favorites. I look forward to a Reaves-Janssen matchup in the middle of the season. While I lament the departure of Cam, I understand it within the guidelines of this team.
- The NFL Labor Deal is coming to an end this week. Hopefully, the millionaires have sorted out their billions and the rest of us blue collar lovers can enjoy their fall football action on time. A CBA will be reached by Thursday, opening up free agency by Friday. For 3 days, teams can negotiate with their own free agents until Monday, when open free agency begins. A long annoying useless battle may be ending just in time for tackling to begin. Expect the Rams to be busy with an owner in place.
- The 100 degree temperatures continue today and that means consistent sweating from 7am to 7pm. There comes a time where you tell yourself that a stop point for sweating won’t come any time soon. My work environment is a piece of scorched earth that hits you in constant waves. Walk from office cool out into the warehouse heat and experience something the body doesn’t take a liking to. I am not one to constantly bitch about things out of my control(heat, gas prices, politics), but when you are standing still doing next to nothing and burning up so much that you are infected with sweaty arms, the feeling is not good. Here’s to 3 more days of this 12 hour madness.
- Last week was Lincoln Lawyer, and this week’s DVD must have is Limitless, hitting the shelves today and in need of viewing. Ladies and gents, Bradley Cooper’s first solo mission as a movie star was dynamite entertainment and one of the most enjoyable movies of the year. The story involed Eddie Morro(Cooper), a struggling writer with zero energy, blinded ambition and a life that represented a ticking clock towards slackerhood. Then, Eddie’s brother in law stops in and gives Eddie a pill that is designed to unlock all the hidden brainpower that scientists tell us exists lost in the mind. In less than 24 hours, Eddie is cleaning up his look, finishing his book, learning different languages and making friends in high and low places. With powers comes new responsibilities and soon Eddie finds himself a target. The rest spins quite nicely when seen. The power vessel of this film is the star making crackerjack performance of Cooper, free from The Hangover ensemble to chew on his own steak here. Cooper’s wild eyed gaze and ability to throw himself into the role breaks down a wall for the viewer because if we don’t like Cooper as Morro, the rest of the film falls flat. Robert DeNiro carries a part as a banker interested and perplexed by Eddie’s abilities. Cooper and DeNiro carry four great scenes together, carrying the look of two diggers circling a pot of gold. Both deserve credit for their work here DeNiro for taking an actual role where he can give a performance and Cooper for not shrinking in the competing role. If you have the cash and time, rent this film. A perfect mind rush for a hot summer night.
- Every time I watch the trailer for Moneyball, Brad Pitt’s film about Billy Beane’s overhaul with the Oakland A’s in the earlier parts of the decade, I like the hints more and want to see this film. At first glance, Pitt doesn’t seem a physical fit to play Beane, but when you make movies about real people and their stories, the look doesn’t have to be identical. Did Russell Crowe’s beefy post Gladiator physique fit the skinny frail look of John Nash in A Beautiful Mind? No, but Crowe was magnificient and nearly won an Oscar, losing only because Denzel blew us away with his evil nature. Pitt carries the charm, cagey attitude and easygoing confidence to play Beane, a man who singlehandedly changed the way baseball teams were built. Instead of relying on advanced scouting and feedback, Beane and his assistant(Jonah Hill) used sabermatrics, raw stats, and the numbers game to seek out their players. Dealing with a small payroll and a sinking franchise, Beane changed things and turned the A’s into a playoff team. While not liked, Beane’s actions were warranted. Moneyball is a film worth seeing if you like true sports stories told from the inside out. Pitt’s performance and the base of the story make this highly anticipated.
- U2 blasted Busch Stadium on Sunday evening, bringing their 360 degree tour to St. Louis for a show that few will soon forget. If I had the money and the time, I would of been there to take in a once in a lifetime show. U2 is a band that I have admired since I was in my teens, growing up on their legendary Joshua Tree album and savoring their hits over the years and finding time to take in their latest work. How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb and No Line On the Horizon. While some will say U2 have abandoned their original style of music, I will argue that Bono, The Edge and company have stayed true to their roots while stretching their music inside the universe of different genres. They can change styles of music from album to album yet retain their core sound. There is no better way to recognize a U2 song than to hear the electric sound of The Edge’s guitar. The thing I admire about this band is that they perform great live(based on several trusted accounts from friends) and they deliver consistently across the globe. Bono is a great rep for World Peace and The Movement to improve Poverty and does several good deeds. Bono is a musician/celeb who doesn’t just make promises yet fulfills them too. This is a band that gives back as much as they receive, something they haven’t lost over the years. While Bono’s voice has taken a hit(25 years of work will do that to a small irishman), his songwriting has remained strong on the past two albums, especially low riding hits like “All Because of You” and his shot to the heart from dealing with the passing of his dad, “Some Things You can’t do on your own”. While some complain that their giant stages and tours aren’t needed, they have grown into that arena of rock and earned the spectacle. I am 100 percent sure that if a fan of the band were thrown into that environment on Sunday, they would find little to complain about once the lights went out and the music got loud. U2 are one of the few bands who hung together, still create fresh music and don’t forget about their fans, young and old.
- A key to remembering lost good friends. A nod to my late friend Troy Siade, because the man deserves more words than my fingers can produce. The only way to extend a person’s legacy is to talk about them constantly. Remember his actions, his face, his electric humor, his energy and the way he changed the makeup of a room once he entered it. That’s the only way I’ve been able to get over his passing. Remembering him and keeping in touch with fellow friends of the Manual Scoreboard of Old Busch Stadium. Keep them alive in your own memories. I never wish to make someone emotional over a retelling of Troy’s effect on me. I bring them up because I miss them and the only way to heal is to remember what they did here. A friend asked me the other day why I am such a die hard Cards fan. Avoiding the usual thesis statement answer, I simply told them this. “I have to be double die hard for this team for myself and a late friend.”
- A key to knowing which friends of yours are the true ones. The friends you can go to the edge with in a conversation and come right back to a common ground of fair and concentrated opinion. Those are the keepers. I happen to have more than one in my back pocket and it keeps me sharp.
- Shows to Watch right now. Rescue Me and True Blood. If you only have one hour, make it Rescue Me.
- Once again, I’ll take the winter over the summer because cold weather is easier to protect yourself against.
- One more thing. I am not an expert but I do happen to know a few things. I don’t stand here as a god of all opinion. Just another guy unloading his inner thoughts.