As the lovely wash of a World Series title hangs in my memory, here’s some thoughts as I deal with the side effects.
Happy Halloween readers. First shock of the day is…
Tony La Russa retires from baseball. To me, this wasn’t a shocking move at all. La Russa managed here for 16 seasons, won 2 World Series titles, went to the playoffs 10 times, won 3 pennants and has picked the right time to walk away from the game. What’s a bigger high note than completing a miraculous recovery and winning the World Series. I suggested he make his exit after this season when we were down 10.5 games in August and that was when he contacted GM John Mozelaik. Look, its hard to fault what La Russa has done here with a wild variety of baseball teams. He has dealth with tragedy, injury and a set of young and old ballplayers like a pro and accomplished a great amount in his long career. Love or hate him, you can’t fault his 3 World Series titles, 6 pennants and finishing 3rd on the all time wins list. He leaves a hole in the dugout that won’t be easy to fill. This works for the Cards because while veterans like Carpenter, Berkman and Holliday are coming back, the team is slowly transitioning into a young talent based team. Jon Jay, Allen Craig, Jason Motte, Fernando Salas and David Freese are all coming into bigger roles and now is a good time to introduce some new blood into the manager’s post. It will be genuinely weird to not see La Russa stalking that dugout step during games, removing his glasses as he makes his way up those stairs for a pitching change or revel in his in game genius calls. More on this as it develops, but as mentioned, this is a good time for La Russa to exit. Leave when you have done it all and planted your feet as one of the best. It’s better to leave on a high note than walk away with people speaking of your decaying existence. My guess is he will be back in baseball soon, whether its in Chicago with his friend Jerry Reinsdorf or on the West Coast somewhere. La Russa will have a job in the front office or get back in the dugout. Today was his time to exit Cardinal Nation.
First Interviews for the New Job. Third base coach and well respected former player Jose Oquendo has to be the first choice on the table. Oquendo is highly respected by the players and the front office, and waited for the opportunity to manage this team. Hire Oquendo and Pujols will stay for sure. He managed a team in the World Olympics and is a smart tenured baseball mind worth putting in charge. After Oquendo, I expect Mozelaik to make a call to Terry Francona(recently parted ways with Red Sox). Everything is up in the air, and I respect La Russa for making the decision earlier rather than later. Last season, he took a road trip to decide but this season the idea of a summer off hit him early enough for the team to make plans.
World Series Thoughts-Sitting on my couch on Sunday, the idea that the Cardinals had won the World Series slowly began to roll in. Being a die hard fan, you don’t know how to let go once a season ends. The MLB Network is showing replays of the postseason Cards games, so I found myself watching some of the highlights. There isn’t much more to say other than the Cardinals winning it all allows a fan like myself to ease into the offseason more comfortably. There is no rage or anger. I am content. I know what the Cardinals have to do and now that La Russa is retired, another interesting jaw of possibilities is thrown into motion. The idea now is set our sights on Pujols’ contract and the inevitable calm of peace in an offseason not marked by questions yet carrying a definitive grasp of joy for a season well done. We not only won the World Series. The Cardinals won one of the most memorable and thrilling World Series in baseball history. Chew on that.
The Rams Swallow the Red Pill, Beat Saints
If someone had told me The Rams would beat the Saints with ease at home yesterday, I would have tested their blood for narcotics. Taking a 24-0 lead into halftime and only allowing a late surge by New Orleans with the game in hand, the Rams finally broke through with an overall strong team performance. Let’s break it down in bullets.
- The Defense played very well, creating a pass rush that got to Drew Brees for 6 sacks and several hurry up throws and hits. Those hits allowed the secondary to get an extra step and intercept Brees twice and return one for a score, the Rams first INT return for a touchdown for the season. James Lauranitis had 10 tackles and a sack. Chris Long had 3 sacks, each in a different quarter. Long is capable of being a top flight DE threat in this league and showed another flash of his talent against the Saints strong offensive line. The defense also held the Saints huge running game to 56 yards on 20 carries.
- Steven Jackson ran wild, accumulating 159 yards on 25 carries and scoring 2 touchdowns. He also caught 4 passes for 32 yards. This is what Jackson can do when given the space and protection. He is one of the top 5 running backs in the league for his consistency and his resolve to make this team a winner. He has grown into a team leader and led by example yesterday. When he gets an extra step or a little room, Jackson can separate himself from a D-line and get big yards. The only chance a defense has of stopping him is getting him early. Jackson is a battering ram out there and simply wore down the Saints all day. Look at yards accumulated over the past 5 seasons and Jackson is up there. He has consistently put up numbers with a decaying Bulger behind center, a rookie last season and A.J. Feeley yesterday.
- Speaking of our 3.5 million making backup QB, Feeley had a mistake free game. He threw for 175 yards and a touchdown, making Jackson the feature player on the offense and for good reason. Filling in for an injured Sam Bradford, Feeley wisely took a supporting role.
- The Rams were 3-3 in the Red Zone, improving in a previously horrible category. Teams win games by scoring touchdowns in the red zone.
- There were bad spots and dark holes on the day. The Rams were penalized 9 times for 64 yards, continuing a bad trend early in the season. There was a horrible fumble drop deep in Rams territory that the Saints returned for a touchdown in the third quarter. Greg Salas dropped a pass that was nearly recovered. The Rams were 5-16 on 3rd down, which only equals out to a mere 31 percent.
- Brandon Lloyd led the Rams receivers with 6 catches for 53 yards and a touchdown. Lloyd has sparked the passing game a little in his two games and things will only get better when Mark Clayton joins the team.
Overall, a solid win that still sits this team at 1-6 nearing the halfway mark. This team hasn’t had the easy road. After finishing 7-9, the Rams were dealt a brutal schedule that included a 7 game death walk to start. They have lost Danny Amendola for the season and Bradford for two games along with Danario Alexander. Nothing has been easy, and watching this team hasn’t been pretty because of the lousy play. Before Sunday, the Rams were plain old ugly. Do the Rams have a shot of catching 6-1 San Francisco? I doubt it, but it’s encouraging to see this team fall off the top draft slot for this town’s sake. A win over the Saints makes one wish we could have pulled off the Redskins or Giants game, but we go to Arizona on a high note with Bradford hopefully making his return soon. With the Rams, it will always be sweet and bitter. Appreciate the effort on Sunday as the Rams took a page from the St. Louis Cardinals and went out and played their asses off.
The Blues lose their second in a row, raising more questions
The Blues continue to be a zig zag franchise, winning 3 games and then losing 2 in a row to destroy any confidence built up. This team has scary areas of need and with the injury to Andy McDonald and pending status of David Perron, one wonders if they can improve their play enough to challenge for a playoff spot. Right now, the playoffs are non factor. Playing consistent hockey is key and right this moment, the Blues look rough. Here are some points.
- Jaroslav Halak is playing bad and inconsistent hockey, but is also getting put out to pasture by a bad defense. How many times does the opposing team come skating in with the advantage and fire willingly on Halak? This has been the problem for years. It doesn’t matter if it’s Manny Legace, Chris Mason or Halak. Unless the Blues defense improves, the goalie doesn’t stand a chance. Rather its Barrett Jackman turning over the puck or the Blues getting beat down the ice, Halak is facing a firing line every time. Granted he hasn’t been sharp. Allowing 4 goals on less than 25 shots is bad for business. Halak is 1-6 with a 3.58 goals against average and a unbearable .843 save percentage. The real question is, why is Brian Elliot faring so much better in net? He is 4-1 with a 1.67 GAA and a shutout. Where is the disconnect or the plug here between two goalies? Sometimes, players go hard for one player over another. Answers will come in time. Halak is the 4 million dollar kid that has 3 more seasons in net here while Elliot is the go for broke 1 year veteran. Is Halak losing focus while Elliot is sucking in every opportunity or this a matter of defense in front of the net?
- Alex Steen can’t be faulted, scoring 6 goals and netting 9 points in the first 11 games. A two sided player who can penalty kill and possesses the best one timer on the team, Steen is making his big contract stand up in the second year.
- With the additions of Scott Nichol, Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner in the offseason, I would think the depth would be better on this team but they are still struggling to make up ground and get the first goal in games.
- The power play is stagnant at 2-39 in the first 11 games. If this doesn’t improve, you won’t see more wins put on the board. If you can’t score with the man advantage, how can you be expected to do so at full strength.
- The penalty kill isn’t much better, ranking near the bottom of the league in efficiency.
- The Blues aren’t ugly to watch yet they rarely put together long sustainable winning streaks. It’s hard to generate excitement early when you produce uneven hockey. It’s early and there are 71 games left to play but the Blues don’t look too hot right now. Their home/road splits aren’t drastic in any direct area. The overall level of play isn’t there yet.
- One small hint. Play Ryan Reaves. The kid is a born enforcer and can handle the puck as well and skate on a fourth line. Just a small suggestion.
Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez, 24-7 on HBO
Watching these two prepare for their November 12th fight, I can’t get over the fact that Marquez doesn’t stand a chance against Manny. Granted, the last time these two fought in 2008, many thought Marquez got the decision and not Pacquiao, who hadn’t risen to the top of the boxing world yet. Manny has only grown in power, strength, speed and overall skill since then while Marquez has taken a step back. These two produced two legendary battles that ended in a draw and a close decision. That was 3 years ago. Since then, Manny has risen to the top while fighting anybody who steps forward and he has jumped in weight class and won 8 belts in separate weight classes. Marquez looked lost and old in a fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr. two years ago, the only other time Juan had stepped up to the lightweight division. Manny has something to prove this time. He wants to destroy Marquez and prove to the world who is the best in the three fights. HBO produces breathtaking sports entertainment, and 24/7 boxing is no joke. Liev Schrieber narrates while the cameras swoop in and out of Manny’s gym in LA and Marquez’s camp in Mexico. It’s wonderful theater, as the promo promises, “go into their lives before they go into the ring”. This is just another useless pit stop before Manny once again waits for the cowardly Mayweather Jr. to step up and agree to a fight. Once again, for the kids who choose to live under a rock and not pay attention, Floyd is scared of Manny. He is afraid Manny will ruin his legacy by handing him his first loss. Why else is there for Floyd not too fight Manny in a mega fight that would pay 20 million easily to each camp. If Floyd is about the money, he would fight Manny. Instead, he builds up this bullshit blood testing excuse and gets into tons of legal trouble out of the ring. Be honest. Floyd doesn’t care about clean boxing. The Boxing Commission takes care of that and Manny has passed all their tests. He agreed to Floyd’s propaganda but Floyd didn’t come to the table. As Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum said, the fight will never happen because Floyd is afraid of Manny. For now, we get to see Manny destroy an old foe.
My Prospects as Cardinals Manager-Since La Russa retired this morning, people have asked me should I get into the running? I responded with a sure fire grin and a promise to produce highly candid post game press conferences and a renegade style to games. I can only imagine myself, the youngest manager of all time, stalking the dugout steps, making pitching changes, taking wrath and smack from writers and fans. Who is this kid? I’d welcome it with open arms and work for what I make right now. If I did well, then I’d accept more pay. I would be the first in a revolutionary upheaval in sports. Young blood. Don’t get too excited. Even if I donated a kidney to one of the owners and saved Busch Stadium from a fire, I would never be made manager. I’m too young, inexperienced, and have nothing to show for experience. Just a thought. What If Scenario. I’m just a fan and it will stay that way. However, if I am called, I accept the offer. First request from me. Sign Albert immediately so we can get to work.
Daddy Blog Entry-Dealing with baby issues is the hardest thing about being a dad. What is wrong and what is normal? That’s the fight. This week Vinny is vomiting projectile style. This is especially bad when it happens out of nowhere. One minute he is fine and the next he is covered in white fluid, crying and helpless. As a parent, you take the blunt of the worrying and blame yourself and the genetic makeup. You won’t see the doctor more than when you have a kid. You won’t hear the phrase, “Yes, thats normal” more than when you have kids. Everything is trauma when you have a newborn. We are a natural born ER center at home now. One wrong cry and we both run for the crash cart. This isn’t complaining but only mere explaination. I love being a dad but I warn against wannabe parents….this won’t be easy and it will be the most entertaining and original ride of your life. Take your meds.
NFL Sunday Quick Thoughts-
*The Cowboys will never win a Super Bowl with Tony Romo. Complain if you can but remember what I said. He is a choker and Jerry Jones better realize it. Tank the rest of the season and trade up for Luck.
*Once again, Tom Brady can be beat like any other QB if the opposing team gets consistent pressure on him. Pittsburgh forced it and they beat the Patriots. Beat Brady and the deal is done.
*The Eagles won, but I still don’t believe they can beat the Packers.
*Come to think of it, no one can beat the Packers right now.
*Watch out for the Lions. They lost a couple games but when they are clicking, Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson can put up points and the defense closes the gap. Watch out Packers on Thanksgiving.
*Mark Sanchez is a horrible regular season quarterback but a great playoff quarterback. Weird.
*Are the Cardinals crying for Kurt Warner yet? Correction-Is Larry Fitzgerald crying for Warner yet?
Random Bits to close up shop-
*I’m going to the doctor today for a random checkup. First time with our new doc. Would it be inappropriate to not wear pants?
*Watched The Rock in Faster on Saturday. Great action film. One course asskicking fest. Don’t overjudge it. These kind of simplisitic action thrill ride that are rarely done well these days. He plays an ex con who spends 10 years in prison after the death of his brother waiting to get released and go killing.
Great line from the end-
Bad guy-“I created my own hell,didn’t I?”
The Rock-“And I’m the devil that crawled out of it.”
*Song to Listen to Right Now-Dawes performing “When My Times Comes”
*Final Thought-The Cardinals need to get a manager quick so Pujols can settle in and get his deal and the Cardinals can get to work. They knew this time was coming and that Pujols would need to get paid. If they were smart, they would have given Holliday and Pujols 8 year deals 2 years ago and been done with it. Now, they must the manager vacancy so the Pujols talks can get wrapped up before the new year. Less distractions the better.
That’s all folks. Thanks for reading.