The Read

Hello ladies and gents,

Follow me on a small expedition into the back of my head as we begin another work week.  Counting the hours and days until my baby arrives is becoming a stressful experience, which only means I head back to the keyboard and fire off a few rounds of prose for the masses.   Monday stream of conciousness begins now..

What’s impressive about the Cardinals 5 game winning streak?   The all around productivity of this team.   The ability to put it all together helped propel this team back into the wild card race and also keep an eye on Milwaukee.  The starting pitching performed well all week, starting with Carpenter’s gem and ending with Jake Westbrook’s 5.1 innings on Sunday.   The lineup didn’t hit one home run against Atlanta while manufacturing runs with 2 out hits, sacrifice flies and moving runners around via the bunt and key grounders.  The Cards got back to scrappy baseball, producing their first come from behind win on Friday and not relying on the home run for the first time since late June.  Everything fell apart in late June.   Albert got hurt, McClellan and Lohse fell apart and Rasmus started his swoon.  This past week produced the first 5 game winning streak of the season and showed the first signs of unified play in months.   Jason Motte is solidifying the bullpen with his 5 saves in 5 chances the past 2 weeks.   Motte played a part in each Braves beating.  He plowed through the heart of the order on Friday in the top of the 10th to preserve the tie game, locked down a one run win on Saturday and struck out the side on Sunday.  Motte is pitching on an unbelievable stretch of productivity that hasn’t been seen in the Cardinals bullpen in 10 years.  He has allowed only a single run in over 30 innings since late June.   He is making the Cards decision very easy for next season.  With Salas back to setting up in the 8th inning and the return of Lance Lynn and Eduardo Sanchez next season, the bullpen is going to be a strength.  The most impressive thing about Motte’s performance is the timing.   Pitching at the end of the season against competing teams and becoming a strength in September(something Ryan Franklin could never do).  Albert Pujols’ second half performance is also impressive because the hardest stretch to improve your batting average is the last two months of the season.  All around the roster, from Daniel Descalso’s key hits and Rafael Furcal’s defense to Jon Jay’s reemergence, the Cards are finally bringing everything together.

What’s next for the Cards?  Three games in Pittsburgh.  Win all three.   The Cards must continue their stretch of play in order to stay in the hunt, create a payoff for fans and maintain the momentum.  A loss tonight with Kyle Lohse on the mound would cripple this team.  The Pirates are reeling but represent a dangerous speed bump before the birds take on Philly this weekend for four crucial brutal games.   At this time of the year, we can’t afford to lose. With 16 games left, the Cardinals have to go 13-3 and hope for some Braves failure along the way.  We are in must win/watch the scoreboard territory.

The Cardinals lock up Chris Carpenter for 2012-2013.   Doing exactly what I said to do(second wish granted in 3 days), The Cards scrapped the 15 million dollar option and gave him a 2 year extension worth 21 million.  A solid move for both sides, with Carpenter rebounding to put together decent numbers this season(everything except the record is respectable).   Carpenter is vital to this team’s chances, with the unstable back end of Lohse and Westbrook and the shaky future of Wainwright and Jaime Garcia.   Locking him up was a good move.  The rotation for 2012 is in place, which is good and bad.  Good to have one area to not worry about but bad because of Edwin Jackson’s performance in his time here.  Jackson is a talented young pitcher who will want a multiple year deal and due to the fact of giving Westbrook 2 years and Lohse a ridiculous contract 3 years ago there is no room for Jackson in the rotation or in the payroll.

GM John Mozelaik is working smart by starting early.  Wasting time is for weaker general managers. Locking up Wainwright for two more years at a bargained price, giving Carp the extension, and getting in contact with Furcal and Lance Berkman’s reps.   The Albert Pujols talks will take awhile, so it’s smart to get the important small pieces out of the way.   The Cardinals can’t afford to wait on extending key parts of their rotation and defense.  I expect Carp, Furcal and Berkman to be taken care of by the end of the season.   That way, after the World Series ends, the Cards front office can deal with Mr. Pujols only.

The Rams suffer an ugly season opening loss to Philadelphia.  Going into the game, many around me thought the Eagles were unstable and capable of defeat, and I kept correcting them, calling this game a potential upset pick but harder than most expected.  Too much blue kool aide was passed around the table.   The Rams were beat 31-13, and fell asleep after a promising 1st quarter.   Chris Long sacked Michael Vick on the opening series and Steven Jackson ran for a 47 yard touchdown to put us up 7-0 quick, but everything went down hill from there.   Jackson left the game with a quad injury, Vick ran wild for over 100 yards and the Rams defense crumbled in the 4th quarter.

A few notes from the game-

  • Sam Bradford didn’t throw any interceptions, but made a few mistakes and didn’t make much else happen on the field.   He was constantly under pressure and didn’t have many open throwing lanes with the Eagles strong secondary swallowing up the field.  In a nutshell, he was shut down by the Eagles defense, especially after Steven Jackson left.   The Rams didn’t start Michael Sims-Walker or Danario Alexander, so there was no deep threat for Bradford and Josh McDaniels to play with.   Bradford left the game in the 4th quarter when he slammed his hand on a helmet.  X-Rays were negative but there may be nerve damage.  Losing Bradford and Jackson in a single game humbled the Rams fanbase rather quickly.
  • Cadillac Williams ran well in Jackson’s absence.   He accumulated 91 yards on 19 carries, creating a consistent stream of running power but getting zero help from the passing game.  Jackson and Williams backed up the defenders, but Bradford couldn’t find receivers.
  • A key turnover by Bradford flipped this game completely around.  Taking a snap and missing a hand off to Williams, Bradford collided with guard Jason Brown, lost the ball, got tied up and watched the Eagles take it back for a 56 yard touchdown.   This broke the Rams back and we never recovered.
  • Ladies and gents, there are no big game receivers on this team.  Once you cut Donnie Avery, the Rams had to start Walker or Alexander and they did not.   Who is the deep threat on this team?  Brandon Gibson?  Give me a break and step back and realize something.   Can the B Cast of receivers succeed this season under enhanced expectations?  While we figure that out, Rams GM Billy Devaney needs to call Randy Moss’ agent.  Why not?  Moss is a cancerous self centered bastard but….he can catch the deep pass and win a jump ball struggle in the end zone.  The Rams failed in the red zone yesterday and only came away with a couple field goals.   Josh McDaniels can design a master plan of attack but you must have the talent to make it happen.   McDaniels worked with Moss in New England, where Randy resurrected his career.  Now it’s time to call his agent, offer him a 1 year deal and get him into camp.
  • The Rams generated a pass rush but 80 percent of the time they only brought heat from one side of the line of scrimmage, which created an open lane for Vick to run through.   That’s the problem with dealing with a player like Vick.  He can now run and throw, and is equally deadly.  He can step up and fling it 50 yards off his back foot or take off for 15 yards.   Unless you bring consistent pressure from both sides, he will burn you.
  • To quote the great Bill Simmons, “The NFL Season has officially begun.  Steven Jackson pulled something.”  Jackson can’t stay healthy in the latter part of his career and its going to hurt him.  The exact reason the team went out and got real depth at the position.
  • A reality check for the team.   The Rams are going to endure a tough 7 game stretch where the Cowboys, Giants, Ravens, Packers and Saints bring the heat every week.   Next week, we march into New York to take on Eli Manning and the Giants.  The Giants are suffering from defensive injuries and Eli is a mixed bag, but the game will be tough.   A wicked change of perception took this team up to a level that they couldn’t handle.   Going from 6-42 in 3 seasons to 7-9 last year flipped the switch on the expectations.   The Rams ran into a blunt brick wall of truth yesterday.  We will see if they get up.

Moving on with more NFL recaps and further ramblings.

The Cowboys and Tony Romo coughed up another game on National television.  Playing in New York against the Jets on the biggest stage, the Cowboys wasted a 24-10 lead and went down on a last minute field goal.   Romo’s 2 late turnovers poisoned Dallas’ chances and they never recovered, giving Mark Sanchez the chance to become a 9/11 hero and grab an emotional win for the Jets.  An interception and fumble returned Romo to Chokeville.  Quarterbacks, when faced with strict adversity, either make plays in the clutch or they screw up.   Tony Romo will never be a Super Bowl winning QB because he flunks in big moments.  A shaky arm with zero confidence who has a little too much fun on the field and needs to focus and become the leader of this team.  If I am Jerry Jones, I am ordering a few more bottles of scotch.

Post Peyton period started off disastrous for The Colts.   When Kerry Collins came in, one logical football mind could summon up the idea that they would be able to move the ball and score some points.  However, the impact of Manning is being felt already in week 1.  Houston tromped the Colts 35-7.   A sign of things to come.  Side fact on the loss.  I carry 3 Colts receivers on my fantasy team, so I lost as well.  The best case scenario for Colts is to sit Manning for the season, finish 1-15 and select Andrew Luck with the first pick to be groomed as Peyton’s backup.

The Steelers get their ass handed to them at Heinz Field by Joe Flacco and the Ravens.   In a game that is usually won by field goals, blood, sweat and brutal hits, Ben Roethlisberger threw 3 interceptions and the Ravens defeated them 35-7.   A huge season opening blow for Pittsburgh, who suffers a loss to a division opponent and worse, they do it at home.  What happened to the Steelers?

While he was facing a weak Arizona secondary, I was impressed by Cam Newton’s 442 yard, 3 touchdown performance on Sunday.   Anyone still think he can’t throw?  Newton has a good head on his shoulders, is being groomed as the king of Carolina and has time to grow into it

The Packers and Saints will be tough to face.   Thursday’s game must give the Rams nightmares about their meetings with them.   Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers combined for 800 yards and 6 touchdowns in a knockdown drag out slugfest that Green Bay won 42-34.   The defenses were roughed up, but I am quick to point out that both team’s carry explosive offenses.   If the Saints score 34 points on a high ranked Packers defense, what happens in November against the Rams on turf?  Painful.

Ironically, the Packers and Saints games don’t scare me as much as the division games with Arizona, Seattle and San Francisco do.  The Rams don’t care of business against the weak division teams and Arizona will steal this division.

What’s waiting for a baby like?  Imagine waiting on a package from overseas and having zero clue of the landing date.   You sit, wait, wonder, prepare and wait more.  It’s a quietly agonizing experience.   Someone needs to tell Vincent Buffa to break the seal and start the process.   The nursery is beginning to call my name and there’s no baby yet.

Random Selections-

HBO’s Entourage enjoyed a satisfying if tease inducing wrapup to it’s 8 year run.   A fitting farewell to Vince Chase and the gang from Queens precedes a movie version coming in 2 years.  The arc of the storyline from the final season’s subpar bag was brought to an end, but a movie is required to fully satisfy fans.   For now, fans have to be satisfied.  Eric and Vince saw predictable ends but Creator Doug Ellin spun an interesting puzzle for Ari Gold.   The climax of Gold’s story wrap is fine but the short tid bit after the credits sets up the fireblazing agent up for the decision of a lifetime that all the fans can define their own meaning for. Thoughts?? While the final season was weak, the final 2 episodes were entertaining and good enough but leaves us wanting more.  Entourage episodes are classically short and don’t give enough once a week, so a full length 90-120 version would work well.  Entourage is a breezy comedy about the healing power of friendship amidst the star crossed poison of celebrity.   Ellin kept the heart of the story in the Gold Family, which is smart because Jeremy Piven’s shark agent has always been the jewel of the show.  Leaving his story line unfinished is good housekeeping by Ellin and company and leaves the door open.  The series has always been about a movie star and his friends wild journeys, but the acting of Piven has kept Entourage watchable for 8 years. While the guys were nice wannabe millionaires, Ari was the devilish gold digger who spit out every kind of profane racist vulgar batch of destruction that he made us remember what Hollywood is all about and built on.  Money and greed.  Here was the amazing part of Piven’s performance.  Whether he was insulting his wife or cracking a gay joke at his assistant Lloyd, we rooted for him.  When he got fired from his job, we felt as down as he did.   When he was offered the studio head job, we prayed he would remain Vince’s agent.  For everything evil and blunt that came from his mouth, we registered with his sick monster agent.  The same magic goes for Vince and his entourage.  When the show wasn’t funny, we registered with the almighty pack of friendship between these guys.  If you have a group of friends you’d stand in front of a firing line for, Entourage registered with you.  While it was never great or will go down as one of the best shows on television, Entourage reins tall as the greatest guilty pleasure on television.   Watching Vincent Chase and his hounds run around Hollywood trying to make a name for themselves with Ari putting out fires carrying an assault rifle mouth and two cells, you followed them and hoped they’d find success.   The greatest examples of Entourage’s sweet spot came in these two moments.

-Johnny Drama getting the TV role for the mobster show, Five Towns.   Bent out of shape on whether he’d gotten the role with his audition, Drama got into his Cadillac and drove out to the Grand Canyon.  He wakes up in the Cady, answers his cell, finds out he got the role and falls to his knees screaming victory as Cream plays in the background.  One of the most satisfying moments.

-My favorite episode, the Blackout.  Right after Aquaman opens and the boys go see the movie and Gold is scrambling around for box office estimates, a blackout runs through LA.  The boys head to a party and Ari goes home defeated, watching Vince’s future hang in the wings.   News comes in that Aquaman sets the record and Ari crashes the party.   One of the best written episodes of all time.

When Entourage was good, the writing was crisp, Gold was steamed, and the boys met success.   Here’s to another trip with the boys in two years.

On the other hand, True Blood finished it’s fourth season in entertaining unmemorable fashion.  A show that is good if not great because it runs too many storylines at once.  The 4th season finale was a bloody drunk uneven mess, but it brought the action and drama just enough to entertain.   True Blood is like a steak without seasoning.  It’s only good for a few chews until you notice there isn’t much here  A soap opera about vamps, wolves and witches all clawing for a human’s blood is only minimially satisfying.  The 5th season is coming and hopefully Alan Ball keeps the storylines anchored and doesn’t allow the ship to get too heavy.  The acting is good if not a sea of “types” and the ideal mixture of graphic violence and sex makes it watchable.  How deep does TB go?

While I didn’t watch Starz’s series, Spartacus during its first season(finding it comical and flat with the CG blood overdose), I do want to give a warm batch of condolences to Andy Whitfield’s family.   The young Australian actor played Spartacus in the first season and came down with lymphoma before the second season launch.  After an 18 month struggle, the 39 year old actor passed away over the weekend.   Like his acting or not, 39 years is too little to live a life.  Unfortunate loss for Hollywood’s young class.  One of the bright spots of Spartacus was Whitfield, who brought a gritty innocence to the role as its roughest origin.

5 little things that keep me Sane

1.)A clean house.  Nothing says sit down and relax like a clean floor and counters.  I am the kind of anal retentive soul that sees the dust under the entertainment center and instantly grimaces.

2.)A cold beer.  Just 1 at times can do the trick of shifting yourself into a good mood.

3.)Coffee.  Where would any of us be without the java mood boosting jolt in the morning and night?  Buffa’s Coffee Pick of the Week-Starbucks Cafe Sumatra, a middle eastern extra bold blend that is a perfect blood kicker in the cranky hours of the A.M..

4.)Workouts.  If I didn’t run or work with weights, I would be a tension filled anxiety popping maniac.   Thank you 24 hour fitness.  Also a side kiss to the open road, where I spend 30 minutes a day roaming around Kirkwood or South St. Louis.

5.)A good salad.  That’s right.  A little ruffage goes a long way for this hardened italian.    Minimal for sure, but there’s something about a well put together caesar salad with steak or chicken that calms the nerves and creates a standing ovation in the colon.  We all like the standard burger, steak or pasta dish, but a salad hits the spot.  Latest salad crush of the moment-Bread Company’s Steak and Blue Cheese Chopped salad with carmelized onions and sweet vinagerette dressing.

Song of the Day-

Led Zeppelin-“Going to California”

The song used to send Entourage off into the sunset on last night’s finale is a sweet riff on a blues love ballad.  Robert Plant’s creepy yet sweet vocals dance around a garden with Jimmy Page’s sensitively cool guitar riffing.  Scott Venar, Entourage’s Music Supervisor, called this one of his favorite songs and a perfect choice to end the television series.   Give it a listen.  A change of pace for the usually fast moving rocking of LZ.

More Bits-

  • Classy showing by the NFL and MLB in honoring 9/11/11 victims across the country.   Whether it was a field covering american flag or a small video, the job got done and nearly every ceremony avoided a melodramatic pause or wound opening monologue.  A selfless day by sports franchises.
  • Rams Injury Report Update-Steven Jackson is doubtful for next Monday’s game against the New York Giants.  He has a quad strain, which is unfortunate after a preseason that saw him in the best shape of his career.  Sam Bradford has a bruised finger, but will play Monday.   Prime time football is no place to come up limp for your team.   Danny Amendola is questionable and there is no info on his injury.   I seriously don’t know why teams can’t just come right out and say, “this is hurting him”.   For the people who pay these guys their money, we deserve a decent injury report.   Cornerback Ron Bartell has two broken bones in his neck and is out.  According to Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo, the Rams set a record for the longest injury report for a single game.  A rough way to start a season.   In general, this team took a few bullets to the chest to go with a painful defeat.
  • It’s time to put the happy pills down, Rams fans and understand this team doesn’t see one clear victory in this seven game stretch.   Washington took care of the Giants on Sunday, so that sure win is out the window.   The Giants are a threat in New York on Monday night.  The Rams failed in their last nationally televised game when they lost the tiebreaker to Seattle.   While the Rams are talented and capable of winning, the combined dread of a tough schedule and early injury toll will make the next two months tough.  If we go 2-5 or 3-3, that’s a good start.
  • It’s crazy to get too mad at the Rams for Sunday’s performance.  With the injuries and working machine of the Eagles, the result wasn’t going to be pretty.  The Rams hung with Philly for 3 quarters and got knocked out, a similiar procedure from 2010.   It’s their challenge to change that the next few weeks.  This team simply has to compete and make smarter crisper decisions.  However, please call Moss.
  • With the fall comes hardcore television drama.   HBO’s Boardwalk Empire and Showtime’s Dexter return this month.   Good times ahead.  Empire is known for its cold blooded depiction of the men who benefited from Prohibition and the women who backed them up.   Dexter is a serial killer’s pledge for normalcy and justice in a steady dose.  I’m ready.
  • Do the Cards make it or not?  Honestly, I can’t tell you but if I was betting I’d put my cash on failure right now.  When in doubt, go with the odds and history.  Gambler’s fiercest allies.
  • What time is it?  Shower time.  Dinner.  A beer.  Relaxation.   That’s right.  I’m bringing this rant to an end.  My third rant in three days.  Yes, I’m feeling good.  No,  I am not on fire.  What can I say?  With the baby on the way, I’m getting as many blogs done and as many workouts in as I can before Vincent takes over the house.  That’s right.  A 7 pound baby will capture every ounce of attention and every waking moment of my life.   My sleep schedule, my free time, my movements, eating time, and the precious bounty of casual dead zone daydreaming.   This isn’t my swan song, but I’m letting the hands go until I get taken away for a while.

Thanks for reading folks and come back for more.  Remember one thing, I know I’m in my own little world at times, but they know me here.  Do what you do well and stick to it.

Goodnight and good luck,


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