Opinions and Thoughts

Welcome to the Bits Session

After the long epic plunge yesterday, I am not even close to being done.  I call this session the hammer round because its non stop bits and dives into various subjects, fleeting and introspective while laying down the stiff news.  Here we go.  Let the St. Louis sports cocktail begin.

  • The Rams take care of one hole and signed Quintin Mekkel to a 4 year, 28 million dollar deal that guarantees 14 million.   Mekkel is the top safety on the market, and the Rams pulled him in.  A required move after the loss of Oshimingo Atogwe right before the lockout.   Mekkel has 88 tackles and 3 interceptions for the Eagles last season, is young, and a great leader.   With James Laurenitas leading the linebacking crew and Chris Long on the line, Mekkel will bring order to the secondary.   Good first move out of the gate for the Rams.
  • The Cards beat the Astros 3-1 on solid pitching, timely hitting and a couple bombs.  Here are various points on the proceedings.
  • David Freese has amazing opposite field power, a key trait for a hitter.  Nothing scares a pitcher more than a guy who can hit to the opposite field for power.  It limits the pitch selection.   This makes him a threat.  His 5th home run last night was also his 5th to the opposite field.  Impressive.  This is the guy we got in the Jim Edmonds trade.  Freese is turning into a cheap necessity at third base.
  • Jake Westbrook is quietly 9-4 after last night’s 6 inning performance.   Since the All Star break, Westbrook has been dialed in and won 2 of his 3 starts.   In his last two starts, Westbrook is 2-0 in 14 innings with only two runs allowed and 1 walk.   If his pitches are down, the sinker is working and ground balls happen.  Known as a second half pitcher, Westbrook’s success comes right in time when early season faves like Kyle Lohse and Kyle McClellan are starting to recede.
  • Ryan Theriot can’t hit lead off because since July 17th, he is 2-35, and one of those singles he was picked off first.  Combine it with bad defense, no power and a decreasing ability to get on base and you have a dead player.
  • Brief Football Note-Donovan McNabb is going to the Vikings if all talks are finalized.   McNabb is a good fit for Minnesota because they have the offensive tools there to give him the help to get back to the playoffs.  D.Nab is a player who is talented yet needs help in reaching a goal.  Without players like Westbrook, Maclin and Owens, he faltered in Washington.   Matt Hasselback is going to the Titans, which is also a good place for him and gives Tennesee a chance to ease Jake Locker into the role.   With Mekkel out of Philly, they will trade Kevin Kolb to Arizona for Antonio Cromartie.  That’s all for football news.

The Latest on Cards Trade Deadline Activity-

If all things go as planned this afternoon, the Cardinals just upgraded their team and cut some dead weight.  The Cards are trading Colby Rasmus, Brian Tallet, Trevor Miller and Pj Walters to the Blue Jays for Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel, Mark Rzepczynski and Corey Patterson.   I like this deal for various reasons.  Here we go down the list.  In one trade, the Cards nearly fixed every problem they had.

-Colby Rasmus, a problem child is finally dealt.  The final nail in the coffin of Rasmus, full of potential yet carrying no staying power, was bringing his father, Tony Rasmus, into the Busch Stadium facility and using him as a coach.   For a control freak like Tony La Russa, that’s a bad idea.   Add in Rasmus’ bad attitude, regression and you have a goner.  I don’t need to sit here and name the reasons why Raz needs to go.  With Jon Jay and Allen Craig in reserve and Holliday and Berkman powering the outfield up, Rasmus was expendable and he will fit into the swing happy bunch in Toronto.  Bye Bye.

-In Edwin Jackson, the Cards get a good 4th-5th starter capable of winning 13-15 games, giving 200 innings and doing a solid job.  This allows Kyle McClellan to go back to the bullpen, where he is better suited in the long run for this ballclub.  Jackson wasn’t going to be enough by himself, but he will help the rotation stability and his contract runs out after this season, so the ties are cut dry until next notice.  Jackson will help.

-Octavio Dotel is a loose cannon hard throwing righthander who can offer another option in the pen to this team.  This is a bonus piece of the trade that is a no lose situation.  Dotel can be great or be bad.   His contract is also up after 2011.

-Mark Rzepczynski is another required piece.  If you unload Tallet and Miller, the Cards needed a lefty in this trade and they got a good one.   Lefthanders are only hitting .159 against  this LHP in 2011 and he is an effective young lefthander who can instantly strengthen the bullpen.

-Corey Patterson is another bonus piece who can add depth to the outfield.   Patterson gives you speed, base stealing ability and a backup to the young talent on this team.  At the very least, he plays a great centerfield and can be a fast set of legs off the bench.  Patterson is an ex Cub who was having a decent season in Toronto as a reserve.  He hits National League pitching well and fits here.

What did the Cards lose in the deal?  Except for Rasmus, the Cards cut dead minor and major league weight.  It doesn’t matter if Trevor Miller or Brian Tallet didn’t fully implode in 2011, because if La Russa isn’t going to use them in pressure situations, they are no good to this ballclub.  Miller isn’t having a good season, Tallet is injury prone and both were dead weight.   You cut two and added one, and got stronger.   Pj Walters was a player who couldn’t stay on a major league roster and didn’t rise above the “band aid” status of minor league talent.  Walters didn’t fit here and will get a chance in Toronto with a fresh set of eyes.

Rasmus followers will say the Cards simply got rid of him and that isn’t true.  Rasmus was a problem child here, carried some value, wasn’t producing at his normal capacity and needed to be moved out of town.  In return, the Cards got a starter, a speedy bench bat, a quality lefty in the pen and an additional heat arm from the right side.   We dropped baggage and got stronger here.  Read over the stats and I am backed up here.

In one trade(if all goes as planned, the Cards corrected a lot of mistakes and holes on their roster.   Jackson pushes McClellan to the bullpen.  Dotel helps the young Boggs and Motte in depth.  Patterson add speed and defense while Rypenski gives La Russa an arm he can use in the pressure spots during the game.   All in all, a good trade for each team.

If Rasmus goes on to hit 30 home runs, drive in 100 and hit .290, good for him and the Blue Jays.  I will tell you this.  He wasn’t going to do it here, wore out his welcome and punched his own ticket when his attitude trumped his game.  Goodbye Colby.  Pack up the farm animals, hay and cornbread and start watching hockey.  All good will reserved, I am glad we were able to get a good return here.  Jackson wasn’t going to be enough, and the Cards added to the deal.  A strong deal from John Mozelaik to get equal value here.

ESPN writer Bill Simmons writes that he loves Rzepczynski and adds that Jackson has been sneaky good in 2011, hoping his Red Sox could of pulled one of them in.  Having read Simmons for a year, I can tell you the man knows his language and that his approval means a lot.

When examined from outside the Cards emotional radius, the trade works very well in a number of ways.   The trade is designed as a “win now” move, but with the Cards farm system producing quality talent like Jay and Allen Craig, a move is possible.  We could walk a mile and discuss Rasmus’ potential but the end will be finalized when the production comes into question.   Its simple when examined.  Rasmus is regressing as a once promising All Star talent, and carries only so much value.   The Cards struck while the iron was hot.

Juice Note-Edwin Jackson pitched a no hitter last year for the Diamondbacks, albeit with 8 walks included.  He has 97 strikeouts and 31 walks in 2011, an impressive 3-1 ratio which is good for any league.  He also carries a workman like 3.92 ERA, good for the AL.  Jackson is a contact pitcher who is enjoying a very good second half and slots in as the Cards 5th starter.

Jackson and Rzepczynski are the key components of this deal, while Dotel(3.68 ERA, 30 K) and Patterson are the potential bonus pieces.  In the end, this is a risky yet successful and required trade.

Bottom Line-While people around baseball consider this a great deal for the Blue Jays, I can easily question that analysis.   What we have here is a question of value.  A need for value.  No one can sit in a sober state and say Colby Rasmus will be a great player in St. Louis if he had stayed here for a few more seasons.   A conflicted player of massive complexity and stoned faced acknowledgement, Rasmus refused to work with Cards coaches, requested a trade in 2010 and obviously wasn’t happy here.  This would of led to more subpar play and means he had to go.  In return, we get a variety of weapons.  In Jackson, The Cards get an innings eater who is only 27 years old and is in a contract year.   In Rzepcynski, the Cards fix their #1 need in bullpen help from the left side.  In Patterson and Dotel, they get depth and insurance to the young players on their roster.  This is a good deal for a Cardinals team trying to win a division in a four team race.  If they sat around and gave Colby time to grow and he didn’t, the widespread talk would be that they didn’t strike while the iron was hot.  Rasmus can come into his own in Toronto and help the Blue Jays battle the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays for the toughest division in baseball.  The Cardinals get stronger as well and can make this trade because it allows them to move Kyle McClellan back to the bullpen, gives them the flexibility of moving Motte or Boggs after bringing in Dotel, and Patterson gives the bench a speed threat with pop and a player who can steal bases.  Looking at the little things, the deal works and while it carries risk in St. Louis, the alarm isn’t scary on this end.  The hardcore reality is this.  La Russa isn’t going anywhere, so Rasmus had to move.  My true feeling is he wouldn’t of been able to do well here because A.)he wasn’t happy, B.)Carried the pressure of a highly touted first round draft pick and C.)had better players breathing down his neck.   Rasmus didn’t have the drive to call off Matt Holliday in the outfield for a fly ball, much less rise to the occasion.   This deal worked for the Cardinals because Colby Rasmus wasn’t going to work in La Russa’s system, and love or hate the skipper, that’s just the way it is.

With more on this soon, Im moving on to more bits.

-With Theriot going downhill, Skip Schumacher has stepped up his production.  Since July 16th, Skip has raised his average from .262 to .288, signaling a turnaround for the transitional player.  After hitting .300 for two seasons with a .350 plus on base percentage, Skip had a rough 2010 season.   His defense worsened, which put more stress on his hitting approach, causing the downhill collapse.  In 2011, his defense has improved and his bat is following suit.  He needs to split time with Descalso and Jay in the leadoff role.

-Albert Pujols’ two run homer was up for debate last night as the ball struck the top of the center field wall, causing an instant replay and a debate from the Astros dugout.  In my opinion, the ball wasn’t a home run, but the umpires ruled for Albert.  If you’re a Cardinal fan, you keep your mouth shut and like it.  If you have a problem with instant replay on home runs, file it with the judge.  If MLB wants to improve their system of replays, go to the war room where several sets of eyes can see the replay and lay down a ruling.  This is the format in the NHL, where refs will call up to the Toronto war room, where all games are monitored and get a ruling.  Leave it to human error or add another set or two of eyes.   Complaining about it does no good.

-A Brief Mention for A Beer taking care of me in the summer.  Consider this a commercial break.   Ladies and gents, after you replenish your needs with a wheat beer of any kind, settle down at night and crack open a bottle of thick delicious Trader Joe’s Stockyard Stout.   This isn’t a stout season, but real beer lovers can dive into any brew at any time, so make the plunge.  Carrying a deep rich taste that contains barley, chocolate and coffee afterthoughts, Stockyard delivers the goods for any Stout fan.  Recommended by a good friend, I bought a 6 pack and have drank a bottle per night.  One bottle of Stout satisfies the soul and finishes the day off perfect.  This is a beer that puts hair on your chest and peace in your mind.  For the ladies, the hair is held back but the genius factor is included.  Give it a shot.

-Cards fans, Don’t worry about Lance Berkman.  Remember the Neil Young song.  “Old Man/take a look at my life/it’s a lot like you.”  Berkman is getting old, will miss games here and there yet deliver when in the lineup.  Last night, he took two at bats, didn’t feel right and pulled himself out of the lineup.   If Berkman plays 130-135 games in 2011, that’s good news.   The key is to keep those knees fresh and ready for September and use the bench in order to keep the Puma ready for big time action.   Look at his stats right now and he is better than 2009 or 2010.   .286 BA, 27 HR, 69 RBI, 66 Runs scored.   Give me a break and him while you are at it.  He is an MVP candidate who needs rest.

-The Cards are hot and have won 5 of 6 by taking care of business.  After taking a game against the Mets, we took care of the Pirates and are beating a bad team in the Astros.  Keep it up and the record gets padded before the next week begins.  This is how the 2011 team succeeds and the 2010 falters.

-The Reds traded Jonny Gomes to the Nationals to insert power and relieve the Reds of attitude trouble and dead weight.   Gomes is a clown who has worn out his welcome and will add marginal power to the Nats, who are suffering with 22 million dollar boy Jayson Werth hanging low iwith Gomes like numbers, .217 BA, 11 HR, and 35 RBI.  That’s called a solo project that’s sank in the water.   Werth is sinking under pressure without the firepower of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley behind him.   He makes Matt Holliday look like a bargain contract.

-King Felix Hernandez is staying put.  The Mariners are a horrible team without offense and depth, but they aren’t stupid.  They won’t trade their Cy Young award winning centerpiece in Felix and risk their future.  If you take away the centerpiece, the table collapses.  Bad idea.  Keep Felix, sign some power hitting and regroup for next season.   Anybody who thinks or dreams King Felix is leaving needs a reminder that the ground they walk on belongs to reality.

In Entertainment news-

-Looking forward to an indie film premiering at the Toronto Film Festival called, Ides of March, starring George Clooney and Ryan Gosling. A political drama about a presidential candidate(Clooney) who runs into a brick wall while on a campaign, due to a scandal involving his assistant(Gosling).   Clooney is directing, and his track record is pretty solid behind the camera as he makes classy politically ambitious films, the best being Goodnight and Good Luck, about radio voice Edward Morrow’s stand against Joseph McCarthy in the Communism struggle.   With Clooney, there’s juice to spare and the supporting cast is littered with talent like Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti.  A film to look forward to.

-For all the True Blood fans, I’m heavily awaiting the Bill-Eric bash kickass fest this Sunday. In a show about vamps and humans co-existing, the thrill has always been the raging sexcapades and the interesting characters and unpredictable nature.  This is Rome with vamps and staged in the south.  Season 4 has seen Bill thrust into higher power and Eric into stupidville, so Im glad a change is coming.  Since he lost his memory, Eric has gone flat for me.  Since I carry two thumbs and like the ladies, his looks don’t interest me. As played by Alexander Saarsgard, Eric’s allure has been the little things.  His attitude, ability and way of handling business has always been the thrill for Mr. Northman in this house on the male end.  From the moment he came on screen in Season 1 at the bar in the king’s chair, we knew he was dangerous and wouldn’t be denied screen time.  I haven’t read the books in the series, but these vamps intrigue me and chief among the instigators is Eric and his “give it to me now” way of acting, so after he runs into Bill with 2 fingers and a member deep into the centerpiece, Sookie(the lovely Anna Paquin),  hopefully Eric gets his mojo back.  Season 4 is entertaining but missing the key element of Eric Northman’s dangerous persona.  The loser puppy routine is growing old.  If you don’t watch the show, this paragraph will seem like spanish.

-Since I am not a Seinfeld fan and don’t watch Curb Your Enthusiasm, seeing Larry David on the cover of Rolling Stone carries zero interest to me.  RS ranks among the top in entertainment journalism and quality cover piece writing, but this issue I will pass.  David is Woody Allen’s nervous brother when it comes to interviews, so no thanks.  A No Go.  I’m sure he is a comic genius who spurned a classic series and went on to star in a quirky one of his own, but right here it gets a slow…mehhhhhh.

-Look up Hugo’s cool alternative rock album, Old Tyme Religion, for a fresh take on various genres in music.  His folky spin on sound and his bluesy cool vocals produce entertaining cool tunes.   Hugo is doing things different and we’re better for it.

That’s all I have for now.  A  baseball blood soaked rant here with bullets of Cardinals persuasion mixed with entertainment and free speech.   Just another collection of words from my head to your eyes.   Time for me to exit stage left.  All I have is what I’m going after, so for now I am giving it a rest.


Dan L. Buffa

“L” stands for Larry


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