The First Dose of Happiness(Extended)

Ladies and Gents,

We came, we fought and we conquered.  The Cardinals did the impossible and won their 11th World Series.   21 hours later, I am still in minor shock and awe dealing with the feeling that the team I hand my life to for 6 months a year won the prize.   A surreal and truly great feeling.   That’s 2 World Series in the last 5 years and 3 trips in the past 10.   Very solid.  Move over Phillies, the Cards carry the big stick now. 

While I will unveil a larger more compact blog later tonight or tomorrow, allow me a few thoughts as I digest dinner, play highly underrated indie band The National in the background and set up some french press coffee for an evening with a good friend.   10 Things to Point  Out and Look Forward to.

  • Chris Carpenter was my unsung hero for the entire postseason.  A strong armed general that provided the team with stability.  Carpenter deserved the World MVP for his three solid controlling starts but I have no problem with Freese getting it.  Carp rescued his career with the last 3 months of his season but his postseason performance and overall numbers prove his ultimate worth.  A true beast.  His Game 5 beating of Halladay and the Phillies will go down as legendary in it’s own right.
  • Freese makes for a good story.  Kid came a long way to from being an injury prone drunk to taking over the playoffs, driving in 21 runs and coming through with the clutchest hit in recent Cards history.  The fact he did in his hometown takes it to another level. 
  • Lance Berkman is also a guy I feel pretty happy for.   Before the season, he called the Astros about coming back for another season or 2 to wrap things up and that he had gotten healthier over the offseason.   The Astros told him to go fuck himself.  Told him he was done, broken and worthless.   Berk called the Cards next.  Rest is history.  He stuck the ultimate stick of “told you so” serum into the Astros by putting together a great season, proving he could play right field at his age and came through with big World series hits.  Good for him.  Glad he is back in 2012. 
  • While he only produced one good offensive game in the World Series, Rafael Furcal fortified the infield defense and hit very well on this team.  He came here to win a World Series, got one, and I have a strong feeling he will stay.  He means so much with a ground ball pitching staff. 
  • The clock ticks on Albert Pujols now.  Will he or won’t he?  My feelings are still the same.  He has no reason to leave now.  He is king of the city and will get a good deal.  It comes down to his choice.  He put together an overall strong postseason and I don’t think he is going anywhere.  He deserves the golden deal, so hopefully the Cards provide him with one.  He is simply too good to short change.  For the people who will only offer him 3 years, you are retarded.  He is worth so much more and has earned it.  At least 5 years will be given here.  In the end, Albert will stay because the Cards have kept their promise of competing and Albert’s life, family and future are set in stone here.  Sometimes, business gets pushed to the back burner.  
  • While Descalso and Jon Jay were big pieces, Allen Craig is a player who gives hope after Berkman retires after 2012.   Craig only got better with more playing time and had a great World Series.  He hits for power to all fields and also plays solid defense, as seen with his catch last night.  Like Jay, Freese and Descalso, he gives the Cards a cheap productive player. 
  • The good thing this team is set up strong for next season and doesn’t need many pieces to look for in free agency.  Pujols is the main need and after he is done, where do you look for fixing?  Skip had a solid comeback season and is cheap at second where Punto or Descalso can share time.   Furcal will come back for cheap.   Freese, Holliday, Jay, and Berkman are set.  Molina will get a deal and stay put.  Wainwright’s options are picked up and set.  Westbrook and Lohse are here for another year and barring a magical deal, can’t be traded.   The bullpen is strong.  Rzep is back.  Salas, Sanchez, Lynn, Dotel and Motte are all coming back.  I like this team’s chances to return to the playoffs in 2012 with or without Pujols, but I’d like the Mang’s services rendered and returned.
  • McClellan’s job has to be in jeapardy with Lynn and Dotel coming up big.  K-Mac was solid for 4 seasons yet started to wore off after his return to the pen in August.
  • Tony La Russa will be back because the Cards will be a veteran led team next year.  For one more year at least, we will be subject to La Russa’s brutal mind draining genius.  
  • Of all the returning young soldiers, Motte is the one I’m looking forward to the most.  He brings so much and has come a long way from his early propane fused arrival.   His secondary pitch is improved and the location of his fastball is nearly pinpoint.  He has the chance to be a lockdown closer for a long time if he strangles the job and continues to pitch lights out.   He pitched very well under the harsh lights of the postseason, which is a huge test for a kid like The Motte.  Motte can provide this team with the first old school heater based closer since Bruce Sutter and at a low price.  If we are to hand Pujols millions, we will need to get production from the cheap end in certain areas.   This team carries plenty of it. 

If there is one thing this team did in 2011, they redefined the idea of “out of the race”.   They recovered from 10.5 games out with a month to play and won it all.   An inspirational group of ballplayers who proved, it’s never over until the fighting is completely done.   I’ll never forget this season for everything that it was.  Frustrating, entertaining, exciting, awe inspiring, maddening and ultimately successful.   Game 6 is never leaving the memory.  The 2011 Cardinals provided the best 7 weeks of baseball I’ve ever seen.   If we learned anything here, it’s that giving on your team with a month to play is a useless activity because in sports, you never know what can happen with the right performance from every area of a team.   I’ll never look at this team the same again.  That’s my lesson.

*Fun Fact-In 1982, when I was born, The Cardinals won the World Series.   My son Vincent was born on September 14th, 2011 and the Cardinals won the World Series 45 days later.   Connections are real and intact.  Vinny gave this team a surge right when they needed something extra, or I am just being a proud dad bragging about his kid.

That’s all I have for now.  Out of time.  Digest and prep for more.  Tonight’s menu includes watching the Rock kick ass, beer intake and hanging with Vinny.  Dos Equis Amber included.

Goodnight,

Buffa
excited, mentally drained yet content to relax

Here is more on the season after a chat with friends-Sunday, 1230 pm

As I just wake up here after a semi wild night of drinking with friends and being up here and there with Vinny during the night, allow me to load up the gun and fire back.  
Drinking is possible with a newborn IF you have a great partner for a wife and two awesome friends who aren’t baby phobic.  Last night, I stayed thirsty with both Dos Equis Original and Amber. 

Pujols and Free Agents on the team
I don’t think I’m being over ambitious here.  If Skip wants more than 1-2 million a year for having a down year offensively from when he got his 2 year deal, I say cut him loose and insert Daniel Descalso who can do nearly as well for a lot less money.   Furcal had a horrible year offensively and can’t ask for more than 5-6 million a year, which the Cardinals can afford.  He is so important because of the way he changed the infield defense and he did improve the leadoff spot on this team.  If he commands a lot, you cancel his Visa and tell him to fuck off.  My feeling is he will stay here for not much money at all.   Dotel is a pitcher I like a lot, and loved when he came here in the Colby trade.  He shuts down righties(very good righty bats like Braun) and is a keeper.  His return has to cancel K-Mac’s and I am fine with that.  Pujols will be a good sign?  Jimmy, are we talking about the same player who has produced 11 magical seasons and stayed pretty damn healthy for those 11?  Why is he only a good sign?  He’s played 11 seasons for way under market value, less than your favorite player Holliday and he is only a good sign.  Once again, he deserves the golden deal and if he wants 5-7 years, I fucking hand him it on a silver platter with some salsa.  Who else deserves it?   The thing I have grown tiresome to me is Pujols’ age.  Why is he so suspected?  When 9/11 happened, every foreign baseball player was checked thoroughly and cleared.  Pujols goes back home to Dominican Republic every offseason and has the same VISA if he was older or not.  Why is this an issue?  Is it because Miguel Tejada was found to be a couple years older?  Well, guess what, his baseball ability is also 5 years older and done.  Pujols’ play hasn’t dropped and he stays in good shape.  It enrages me when people think he is 35 or 38 years old.  You know I say, prove it.  You know I question.  Russian hockey players like Ovechkin.  Where’s his passport at and his age?  Why is it that we only suspect Latin America players of age?  How old really was Ryan Franklin in spring training this year?  38 or 58 years old?   Albert Pujols is the age he says he is until….something can be proved in a court of law.   The Pujols rant had to be happen because I deal with people at work who suspect him of his age and it bothers me.   In the end, if the crowd seriously needs dirt on the man, no matter how old he is, as long as he stays productive(pretty nice “off” year in 2011), you pay him his money.   He is the face of the Cardinals and has done very well with his time in St. Louis.  A charity Robin Hood and a Ruth on the field.  Why is it hard to hand him the golden deal?  Skip, Dotel and Furcal are debatable.   Albert Pujols is not.   I have said this for years.  If Pujols wants to stay, he will stay.  He is the pilot of his own flight and control his own destiny.  No matter what he says, he calls the shots in his career, with or without an agent.  Hopefully, the Cards make it easy and offer him a deal that rivals Ryan Howard’s at the very least.  I have said this many times.  The Cards knew this day was coming and had to get themselves ready for it.   Come on now.  This is simple economics.  A smart team would have set him up with Holliday and lock down the future 3-4 spots of your lineup at once.  When asked last night about the Pujols situation and if he is staying I said this, “If you owned a piece of gold, would you let it walk away?”

I guarantee you that Holliday will come back with a fury in 2012.  For having missed 38 games, his 2011 stats were solid and he played on 2 sore legs for a month.  Ask any local sportswriter and no one is more respected in the Cards clubhouse than Holliday.  He plays the game hard and paid for it this year.   Before 2011, he never missed that much time to injury, averaging 155 games per season in his 6 year career.  Jimmy, you knock him and that’s your right, but I will say in stone that Holliday is a bargain in left after Crawford and Werth’s deals, and backs it up with his play.   However, Allen Craig provides a comfy backup plan if Holliday or Berk are hurt in 2012.

Also, Berkman has one more year left in him.   Unless he duplicates what he did last season, you can’t keep paying him 9 million a year.  He was great and I’m happy for him, but the best case scenario for this team is him in right field sharing time with Allen Craig.   Berk missed time this year to injury and doesn’t have 3-4 years left anywhere on the field.  He is an insurance body for Pujols but I’d rather see him playing 130 games in right field.  He proved he can play the outfield at his age in 2011.

Bullpen
Bring back Dotel and the group is solid.  Motte’s motion is dangerous, but he proved how effective he can be under the monsterous pressure of the postseason light.  This was his test and he passed it with flying colors.  He has the look, ability and age(how old is he behind that beard??).   His arm angle and motion are rough to say the least, but if he does miss time, Lance Lynn backs him up in the closer role.   The Cards, for the first time in years, have lots of great hard throwing arms in the bullpen in Sanchez, Lynn and Motte.  Salas is a key part and so is Rzep with ability to pitch more than a single inning.   Rhodes may come back for more dancing but I’m not thrilled about it.

La Russa will guide this ship until he decides to leave.  That’s been the rule since his arrival.   He stays until he wants to go.  You can’t argue with the results.   10 playoff appearances, 3 World Series trips, 2 titles, lots of great runs.   He can suck the ability out of a roster but also put it to good use.  While I wouldn’t cry over his departure, I’m fine with another dance as long as there are meds to take.

Game 6 was legendary.  The scoreboard would have made it bearable for everyone.  The best thing about those days were the surrounding support on the board.  We were shrinks for each other.   Those were the days.  I would have needed a horse to get home for all the alcohol and words sent in and out of my mouth.

Wrapping the head around a magical run will take time.   I am sitting here, talking about team without the true knowledge that THE ST LOUIS CARDINALS ARE WORLD SERIES CHAMPS.  You see, it still doesn’t sound right…yet.   To me, we are still complaining and explaining as usual.   A few days from now I’ll understand that our team went on a magical run that started around September 14th and ended on October 28th.   45 days of great baseball that I will never forget.  Vinny has stories for a long time.
“Vinny, this would be the night that La Russa failed to remember who was throwing in the bullpen”
“This is the night where Carpenter shut down the opposition”
“This is the night where a former drunk and dropout David Freese lit up St. Louis.”
“Albert Pujols is a God among men.”

Troy’s sister Bianca told me he was up there making things hard on us just like old times, but that he would bring out a happy ending.   He is truly missed today.   I would have loved to include him in the text-email chain gang.

Fuck anyone who attempts to take our title away in 2012.  I like our chances.   Kudos to Ron Washington and the Rangers.  I don’t have a bad word for that team.   Except for Nolan Ryan needs to lose weight and the camera needs to stay away from his face.

So long because it’s time for breakfast,

Buffa

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Author: D. Buffa

A regular guy who feels a journalistic hunger to tell the news. I blog because its wired into my brain to write what I think in print. I offer an opinion. A solo tour here. Take regular stories and offer my spin on them. Sports, film, television, music, fatherhood, culture, food, and so on. Commentary on everything. A St. Louis native and Little Rock resident who wants to write just to keep the hands fresh and ready.

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