Let’s cut the opening chat and get right down to the daily dose of Buffa Opinion. This isn’t celebrated talk but it is freshly squeezed from the brutally honest section. Eyes wanted yet not required. Ready, set, go!
2011 World Series, Game 3 Recap-Pujols Greatness Arrives in Texas
A series of heroes rescued the Cards after a Game 2 meltdown, but the list begins and ends with one man. Albert Pujols. Once again, Pujols put on full display to the world why he is the best player in baseball and why he deserves the greatest contract. If dollars and cents connected with long balls and great swings, Albert Pujols cashed in at the bank last night. After a mild controversy about avoiding the media after Game 2, Albert Pujols put on a show again that no one will soon forget. It’s a common thing these days for Albert to turn around a slow start(0-6 in first two games) into a monstrous display of power and consistency. He put together the greatest game in World Series history, slugging 3 home runs and a pair of singles to equal 5 RBI and singlehandedly turn a 8-6 grinder into a 16-7 destruction in Arlington last night. With Nolan Ryan, George W. Bush and the Rangers faithful looking on as the Rangers attempted to come back from an early 5-0 hole, Pujols cranked a 3 run homer in the 5th inning to make it 11-6 Cards. He smashed a solo homer in the 7th and another in the 9th to stretch the lead to 9 runs and officially put down the Rangers in their own house. The amazing part about Pujols this team is that he is having these amazing games on the road in the playoffs. In Game 2 against Milwaukee, he exploded for 2 home runs and 4 hits to redirect the momentum in the series. Here, in Texas, in Game 3, he redirected the energy after a demoralizing loss in Game 2 in which he played a key role. Pujols is the classic adjuster, transforming his performance to rig another game changing explosion. How is this guy still surprising us? Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington said he wants to outlaw Albert, and that’s the only way to stop him. Put a bat in Albert’s hands and a ballsy pitcher on the mound, and he will destroy baseballs. Last night, a line from Rounders came to mind. From the mouth of Teddy KGB(John Malkovich) after Matt Damon’s poker player defeated him after an all night game of cards. “Pay the man his money. He beat me straight up.” Attention, John Mozelaik, were you paying attention last night? Remember it clear as day and mark it down. Pay Albert his money. Get the check ready, the keys set to hand over and get it done quickly. You don’t let a piece of gold walk away. For 11 seasons now, Albert has constantly redefined the word “amazing” in a Cardinals uniform.
Other Heroes and Keys to Last Night’s Game-
*Bring the bats. The Cards banged out 22 hits and 16 runs in 4 hours last night, rescuing a bad start by Lohse and a rough performance by Fernando Salas in the pen. In the 3rd inning, this game was already 5-3 Cards with nobody out. After two nail biting games, the bats finally reached the ground and tore up pitching so much one thought a crash cart was being rolled out in the 7th inning stretch last night. EMT’s were being lodged in the bullpens instead of arms. The Rangers didn’t back down early, turning a 5-0 deficit into 5-3 and a 8-3 deficit into a 8-6 contest before Pujols took out the shotgun. The bats will continue to play a part today as two talented yet vulnerable arms in Edwin Jackson and Derek Holland take the mound. Each throw hard and challenge hitters, which means more runs and hits and manager mind games will follow. The fireworks aren’t over yet.
*Credit Lance Lynn with sticking the tranquilizer into the Rangers last night. He pitched 2.1 innings and only allowed 1 run to finally put an end to the Rangers fighting spirit. Lynn is a talented weapon out of the bullpen, throwing 95 mph heat with a decent 80 mph curve to back it up. A starter at Memphis transformed into a late inning stopper, Lynn has been a breath of fresh air for an aching bullpen. He’s the silent hero last night.
*I’m tired of hearing about the call last night at first base where Matt Holliday was out but called safe, leading to 4 runs by the Cards. Umpires can’t get every call right and are having a pretty good series making close tough calls. Let’s not forget Mike Napoli fired a horrible toss from first base that allowed 2 runs to score on a one hop grounder. That was the big play of the inning. Umpires aren’t perfect and wont make every call and the Cards won’t be the recipient of every wrong call.
*Yes, the Thursday collapse still lingers in my mind. The one thing I can’t get away from is pulling Motte for Rhodes and conceding the run to Texas. Here’s to hoping Motte gets a shot to clear his head tonight on the mound and shut down the game.
*Prediction for tonight’s game. Today’s game will be another slugfest but there is a small chance of Jackson coming through and delivering 6 to 7 solid innings. He will have Jake Westbrook backing him up just in case but he could really put a charge into this team and provide the bullpen with some rest. Jackson is really good when he mixes up his assortment of pitches, throwing more power sinkers and changeups. When he starts firing fastballs 95 percent of the time in the 1st inning, he gets into trouble. The entire series, we have seen the Rangers are susceptible to good offspeed pitching. Can Jackson get that done? We will see. I still think the bats will stand tall tonight for either team. A 8-5 game is likely, but that doesn’t mean Jackson can’t provide innings. We need innings tonight and good ones. He is pitching for a contract for next season so the kid better listen to Duncan and keep the damn ball down. That’s where his effectiveness lies. Down in the zone, throwing sinkers in the dirt and fastballs above the letters to set up a nasty changeup. He sticks to a gameplan and he is fine. If not, bombs away!
Albert Pujols and Company Avoiding the Media
Reports came in Friday morning that Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and other vets left the clubhouse last night after the game without giving the media their 5 minutes. I didn’t like this news. Professional athletes in the modern era have to answer the media’s questions. Its part of the 16 million dollar package. Don’t run from the media. If Albert truly ran, I have a problem. Hearing him today come right up to the media hounds in Texas and debate his case provided answers. If we are to believe the guy, here is his answer. He waited for 40 minutes for the media to find him. There’s a code in sports these days that the media has to notify the team rep that they want to speak with Albert or another player. Nobody contacted the Cards guy, Brian. Albert said he stuck around for awhile, showered, ate something and never got a request. Is he telling the truth? Is that his fault? Look, the guy isn’t going to be cleaning off a seat for the media after a horrible loss. It’s not happening. However, professionals follow code and I don’t think Albert veered off to far here. It was wrong to leave the rookies to feud off the reporters, but if the writers don’t request these guys, they can’t complain too much. If he wasn’t requested to talk at the podium and he waited for the opportunity to be circumsized by the media, can we get mad at him? I decide to stop after a brief complaint. This isn’t heavy news, but it was worth a look. Veterans are expected to speak after a win or loss, but there isn’t a horrible crime in Pujols failing to stand outside waiting for the media.
Tim Tebow Fury
Look, I’m a Tim Tebow fan. I have been since his sophomore year at Florida, in the middle of his record setting tenure with the Gators. He won two national championships(beating Rams QB Sam Bradford in one Rose Bowl) and winning the Heisman. He was selected 25th in the first round of the 2010 NFL draft by The Broncos and Rams offensive coordinator(then head coach) Josh McDaniels. Tebow is an underdog with a million fans. Last week, he was named the starter of the Broncos and takes the field this Sunday against the Dolphins. I hope he shreds their defense and fires pass after pass into their secondary. No, I will not be going out and buying a Tebow jersey. I won’t paint religious scriptures under my eye or speak the word of GOD like Tebow. However, I like the kid a lot. I appreciate hard work and a player working against the odds(every NFL analyst telling the world you will suck at QB) to achieve a goal. Tebow waited a year and a half, playing in three games for Denver and playing well. Nobody will forget the comeback against the Texans or last week near comeback. Tebow is a winner and always has been. He’s psychotically intense on the sidelines, screaming at his teammates and pushing himself. That didn’t change from college to the pros. Tebow is a unique athlete with ability. Everybody in Denver wanted him to be the quarterback this season. It didn’t happen. The recycled QB Kyle Orton got 5 games and played horribly. He was pulled after halftime two weeks ago, and Tebow came in and generated excitement. I won’t sit here and tell you Tebow will be a good quarterback. That’s too hard to tell in this league. I couldn’t tell you if Bradford would make it. The NFL changes quarterbacks. It destroys kids wet out of college with a dream. Tebow transformed the classic perceived notion of a quarterback. He busted his ass to reshape his throwing method. He spent months in training while other NFL bound college hustlers waited for a call. What’s Tebow’s idea of training? Going out with his dad and brother to chop up trees and push cars down the road. Tebow isn’t fucking around and has made it. He starts on Sunday. All his critics are hoping he falls on his ass so they are right and all his fans are wrong. Here’s to hoping they don’t get their wish. You have to love the underdog in these situations. Imagine someone telling you that you can’t do something yet you know that you can….that Tebow’s fight. Hell, that’s everyone’s fight.
Blues Win At Home, Find a Pulse on Road
After impressively coming back from a 2-0 hole in the second period on Friday night to beat the Carolina Hurricanes at home 3-2 in overtime on a sweet Matt D’Agostini goal, the Blues walked into Philidephia last night and beat them 4-2 in commanding fashion. Two straight wins and a little hope and breath of fresh calming air for Blues fans. It’s nice to see us produce home/away wins on back to back nights. After Tuesday’s ugly 5-0 loss in LA, Head Coach Davis Payne called a team meeting and more than likely called a few players out and said some painful things that needed to be heard out loud. Payne is a young soft spoken yet blunt speaking head coach. He calls it straight. Last night, after TJ Oshie did something individual based and wrong, Payne benched him for an entire period. Payne said he is tired of bad individual play that is crippling the team. The Blues aren’t good enough to win based on one individual’s efforts, like Pujols taking over Saturday’s game. They need an entire group effort every night. Signals from each corner of the bench. Friday’s win was satisfying. Saturday’s win was impressive. Without Oshie in the second period and after David Backes left with an upper body injury, the Blues fired 40 plus shots at the Flyers net and came away with a solid victory. What’s the difference now? The power play notched a score last night with Daggs plugging one in, but thats still only 2 power play goals on the season. The key, plain as day, has been the change in net by the Blues. Backup goaltender Brian Elliot has taken over for the Blues the past 2 games and played very well. Elliot has seen 30 plus shots in each game and made some very big saves. He is 3-0 with a 2.08 GAA on the season and more than likely will get another start. Payne has to play the hot hand right now. What does this do to Jaroslav Halak? Light a fire under his ass, hopefully. This is a performance based league and world, and Halak wasn’t doing the job. He wasn’t the only problem, but he was arguably one of the bigger issues. While Halak plays with the pressure of a big contract and a #1 status, Elliot is on a one year deal and fighting off young players like Ben Bishop and Jake Allen behind him. Elliot is on the one year lease and has to impress. He is doing more than producing smiles right now. He is raising hope in this city. I play him until he falters or until Halak is red faced, insanely angry and ready to lay down the law in net. For now, let Blues executive former great Al Maclinnis fire slap shots at him for a few more days with a player poking rebounds right back at him on the follow up. Halak isn’t going anywhere folks and is simply going to school right now. Waiting for his chance. Lessons are learned in turmoil. I like the way this team is playing. We need them to produce exciting games this season and get into the playoffs. This has to be the year, with or without Andy McDonald. Jason Arnott has 7 points in his first 7 games. There is more depth on this team. Alex Steen and Daggs are out to great starts. Depending on the severity of Backes’ injury, this team may be looking at more adversity. Payne just needs to look at the Cards. They got hit with several injury blows and kept playing and shocked the world. The Blues can do it too. Just keep playing. If they are to pull it off, they will need good goaltending and the ability to win on the road. The past 3 days has produced a little hope in Blues Nation.
Rams Fate in Dallas
What happens today in Dallas for our Rams? The Rams personnel made a smart call yesterday in keeping Sam Bradford on the bench today against the Cowboys mighty pass rush. Bradford has a high ankle sprain and doesn’t need to be exposed to a Rob Ryan powered pass rush that broke down the Berlin Wall of the Patriots offensive line last weekend. Dallas DE DaMarcus Ware is a killer and would have loved to chase around a gimpy rookie all day. Now, Rams backup A.J. Feeley gets to take the snaps and a beating today. This is what backups are for. Stepping in when the starter isn’t well and trying to pull the impossible. Feeley is a veteran and will do fine if his receivers catch and his line gives him a few seconds to make a decision. Rams receivers Mark Clayton and newly acquired Brandon Lloyd are back and will provide sure hands.
A Few Keys to the Game for St. Louis and a Way to Cause headaches for Jerry Jones-
1.)Put pressure on Tony Romo, cause the mayor of chokeville to make mistakes. Romo is either pretty good or very bad this season, causing 4th quarter comebacks or collapses. The Rams need to put a pass rush on him and cause interceptions. I hate Romo and hope he leaves the field full of tears and rage.
2.)Rams receivers MUST CATCH what Feeley gives them. Attention Lance Kendricks, Austin Pettis and Brandon Gibson. When the man manages to stay on his feet and keep breathing, catch his pass. Clayton and Lloyd will help.
3.)The blockers need to give Feeley time to throw. A few seconds is all he needs. If Feeley gets crushed, the game is over. Tom Brady doesn’t play for the Rams.
4.)Run wild, Steven Jackson. If the Cowboys chose to bring the heat, burn them with the run. Jackson needs to get 30 carries today. With your top quarterback down, the running back needs to be the feature player today. Establishing the run in football is like a pitcher establishing his curveback in the first inning. Lay down the idea and keep pounding the ball all day long. Sooner or later, Jackson will break through to the Cowboys weak secondary.
5.)AJ Feeley needs to do some timely damage to a bad Cowboys secondary. If they blitz the house, throw quick and burn them underneath. This ties together with points #2, #3 and #4. Give him time, throw, and catch.
Prediction-The sadness continues. It’s hard to bet on a team that’s only carried the lead in 2011 for 6 minutes and 28 seconds combined. The Rams have scored the fewest points in the league and struggle to be effective in the red zone and can’t resist stupid penalties. They will continue to struggle against Dallas but will put up a fight and go down 27-17 today. The defense will keep the game close and the Rams will put up points late, but will fall to the Cowboys on the road. I sincerely hope I am wrong but right now, all I hope for with this team is a pulse. Once they get out of ugly territory, we start to win games.
*The Kurt Warner rags to riches story is still one of the better in sports history. Warner’s flight is being told on the NFL Network’s series, “A Football Life”. Warner went from being a grocery store shelf stocker to a European league to a Rams backup that was given the chance of a lifetime and led two teams to 3 Super Bowl games and came away as one of the most productive Quarterbacks in league history. The amazing thing about Warner is that he was never picked to lead a team. Trent Green went down, and he took over for the Rams. He played briefly in New York before Eli Manning pushed him out. When Matt Leinart went down, Warner took over in Arizona. He is a classic case of “walking the walk” in his football life. Warner spoke for himself with his ability. Great story.
*Song of the Day-Jimi Hendrix-“Fire”
No Explanation needed. Hendrix is a music legend and his music speaks for itself. Enjoy. If there was a universal song for a man feeling the need to make a play for a woman’s attention while knowing the dangers of getting close, here it is.
“You don’t care about me, I like it like that, You have a burning desire, let me stand next to your fire.”-Jimi
*Sunday night means HBO and Showtime entertainment. The night of my juicy dramas on cable television. Boardwalk Empire, Hung, How to Make it In America, and Dexter. A gangster drama, comedy with dramatic undertones, guility pleasure and a classic serial killer kill fest. My kind of time on the tube.
*For the last time, if MU wants to leave and can leave the Big 12 for the SEC conference, get it done. There are bigger games, better coverage and more money to be made in that division. If they want to play with the big boys and get a chance at bigger bowl games, make the move. I’m tired of hearing about it. Right now with the way they are playing, it doesn’t matter where they play. They will lose. This is a team in transition. Move now.
*Memo to Brandan Shanahan, the new NHL honcho on hits/fights in the NHL. Don’t outlaw fighting. It’s a part of the game and an integral way of establishing order on the ice. As Tony Twist beautifully explained on the Fast Lane on Friday afternoon, fighting establishes an order and justice. If a big star gets hit on a cheap shot, that guy will meet the team’s enforcer the next play or period. There are unwritten rules on the ice and they can’t be outlawed by a lame rule. Let the players fight and continue a way of life. Don’t let the NHL turn into MLB when it comes to confrontations. Let the fists fly. Al Maclinnis once said he would take a cardboard cutout of Tony Twist over another player on the ice because it gave him a couple extra seconds to shoot.
*Message to Barack Obama and his staff of 1,000. It’s about time. The US soldiers in Iraq are coming home at Christmas. I don’t care about the details or what made this happen. I am glad hundreds of thousands of innocent American lives are being restored back in home with their friends and families. There was no reason to be over there. Not anymore. Let the civil war go on without US bloodshed. It’s been going on for a long time. Why are we standing in the way? Solid move here.
*Movie to See this Week-Ides of March, George Clooney’s latest mind jewel that takes a harsh run at the world of politics and bluntly explains the cost of taking your shot in the political playground. A 90 minute killshot I’m going to invest in.
*Daddy Duty is great. Routines are being set in and the time required to change the kid for me is getting smaller every day. Diapers, baths and changes are welll practiced theater and the challenge isn’t on my shoulders any longer. Now, we monitor his heart rate and keep him happy. There are small pleasures with babies. Taking care of the kid by myself for 2 hours or taking him out to Bread Company with the parents only to have the kid turn into Brad Pitt for 30 minutes and attract strangers. Babies remind us of an innocence that exists in us that has to be preserved over time. They’re good people. Last night, Vinny got to hang out with his extended family, my entourage of friends. This morning, he met his grandparents and great grandmother for breakfast. The kid is getting play all over town. I’m the kind of parent who loves to have my kid be held by his friends and family. I don’t get in between the kid experiencing new people and situations. I hate parents who lock their kid down around people they trust. What’s the point in bringing the kid out if he can’t be visited by others? Next up for Vincent. Negotiating his deal with Bill at Busch and getting his playing career started. I’m scheduling side sessions for March. Main idea here. Daddy duty is treating me well.
That’s all I have to say. I’m pulling this Buffa Train of Thought into the station. Shutting it down. Thanks for reading and come back for more later.
Dan L. Buffa