The Usual Suspects

Hello folks,

A quick stream of consciousness as I tend to Vinny here in the hospital.    Saying its been a long couple days is like saying the Bay of Pigs went smoothly 40 years ago.  It’s been hard and tough.    Look, the biggest anxiety and stress test for a parent is to see their kid in a state of pain, shock, or general “go fuck yourself” work state of mind.   It’s just not good.  There’s no pain meds or drink for this.  All one can do is trust the doctors and nurses around to curb the attitude, restore the mood and present a better future.    Vinny had his surgery today to fix his case of plyoric stenosis, a condition that causes the hole in his stomach that collects food to be so tiny that he wasn’t getting any food down or digested and instead vomiting it up like a sick kid.   Imagine eating and having no way of transformation below to break it down.   The muscle in the stomach is so strong when he tightened it the food came flying out of his mouth.   This is a common problem with new borns, as it affects 3 in every 1000 kids born and surgeries are done here at Childrens 3 to 4 times a week.   Still, this being the second visit for Vinny to the hospital in his young 2 month old life is too much for him or us to handle.    Every time my kid knocks down an obstacle in the ring, another problem steps in and wants to fight.   Watching nurses trying to put an IV in the kid’s arm qualifies as the worst experience a parent can go through.   He’s sitting there, looking at you like you just destroyed every bottle of formula in the world and now two nurses are poking his arm and stealing his go go juice.  NOT FAIR, DAD!  He leaves this incident with a decent incision on his chest, 2 cm wide, that will only score him instant cred at daycares.   Picturing Vinny walking up to a couple girls and saying, “Hey, lookee here ladies, my diapers full and(raising shirt) I got this as well.   Thats right, give me your daycare hours.”   The only true meds in life that don’t come in pill or liquid form is a good sense of humor.   Keep that healthy and you can survive anything.

Let’s rip into some topics today as the day slowly winds down into the evening.

Manny Pacquiao and Juan Marquez try to kill each other in Vegas

Right after sending you the Frazier-Ali Manila article, here are two more guys looking to seriously hurt one another.   This was the third fight in this epic series of welterweight pros, and Manny got the decision on a close majority decision.  While I didn’t watch this fight, I received texts from a good friend and followed it on ESPN mobile.   The conscensus was that each fighter could have left with the decision, but since Pac Man is champ and it takes a one sided beating to dethrone a champ, he left with the nod.   Every fight has been close between these two.  The reasons for that are left to be determined, but I chalk it up as two fiercely competitive old school fighters standing toe to toe in a ring and dishing out punishment.  Unlike most current boxers, Pacquiao and Marquez like to actually FIGHT in a ring and not dance, hold onto each other or continously butt heads while imitating combat.   These two love to hit each other because each is confident they are the better boxer.   The first fight in 2004 ended in a draw.  Both men beaten and bruised like soldiers of fortune left in a box to play.   The second fight, in 2008, went to Pacquiao in a decision Marquez thought was tilted in his direction.   The third fight last night, surprised me and convinced me that these two simply know how to fight each other.   No one has given this monster from the Phillipines as much trouble as Marquez.   Manny has dished aside bigger and stronger opponents with ease, coming out of the fight with a few bruises and a sense of humor and ready to play his afterparty concert.   Last night, he looked a little beaten up, slurred speech and hesitant.   Once again, Marquez had pushed him to the depths of defeat and Manny barely escaped with a win and a clean record in his last 15 fights.   The idea of the fight was simple.  Pacquiao kept coming with shots and pushing the action, while Marquez stood his ground and fired counter punches at will that landed flush on Manny’s face.   Deciding a winner depends on what you see as most important in a fight.   Energy, punches landed and pace or accuracy of punches.    Manny landed more and pushed the action while Marquez decided to sit back, return fire but give off the notion of a man deciding to not attack excessively.  A decisive 12th round where Pac Man challenged and landed big shots while Marquez laid back and let it go to the cards may have led to the close decision.    One judge had it a draw while one gave it to Manny 115-113 and another scored it 116-112.   The unofficial judge, HBO’s Howard Lederman, scored it 116-112 in favor of Pacquaio.  My friend had it scored at a draw but said either earned the decision and that it took a lot of unseat a champion.   There’s a secret layer of politics here as well.   All promoters, judges and fans need to know that the next fight in this town with Manny has to be with Floyd Mayweather Jr. and that only works with Manny getting a decision.  This isn’t me saying Manny unrightfully stole the decision.  The fight was so close you may have blinked and missed a tide turning blow but the two hit each other so frequently all night a decision came down to personal perspective and appeal.   I can’t wait to dive in and watch it this weekend when it encores on HBO.   Did Manny deserve to win or was his victory a finacial step towards Floyd’s epic battle?  I side initially with the former because reading the descriptions and recaps, Manny pressed the action, landed plenty and closed better.  Floyd fight or not, Pacquiao and Marquez will fight again because all commercial appeal aside, boxing needs more fights like this.   Brutal, bloody, close quartered slugfests that remind old school fans that it is still possible for a pair of men to stand in a ring and deal punishment.   Boxing is being defeated by Mixed Martial Arts because of skill sets but more importantly because the sport gives back revenue to its practice and delivers exciting if fleeting matches.  Fights like Pac Man and Marquez remind us that good boxing matches still exist.   Fierce reminders that boxing is a land of warriors and not a land of wimpy clutching dancing muscle bound athletes.   There’s science and command, but a healthy dose of “I need to beat you bad so I survive this night” mentality in there.  That’s Manny’s MO these days.   Get into the ring and deal because we didn’t train for 3 months to dance around in a ring and tap each other.   The intent in boxing has to be punishment and pain.   That produces real fights and pure entertainment.   The Pacquiao-Marquez trilogy of wars is the medicine that boxing needs.

Quick Takes on Cardinal Offseason Questions

*Mike Matheny will be named the new manager tonight or tomorrow.  I’m a big fan of this hiring because it makes sense for this franchise.  Matheny is a perfect choice for the new era and brings a true grit to the dugout.  Experience isn’t everything folks.  Respect counts. As Al Pacino said in Any Given Sunday, when those guys look into your eyes, they have to believe.  Matheny is a risk and a good choice for this team.  Now is the time to be risky.   Matheny represents a bold and risky choice for general manager John Mozelaik and owner Bill DeWitt III.   This is their first official hire and instead of going the safe and assured route with Francona, they may be looking towards putting their own stamp on the bench with a 41 year old ex catcher in Matheny.  This is Mo’s way of putting his own foot on franchise. The hiring of Matheny means brass balls on Mozelaik’s part, bringing a rookie manager to handle the baseball cathedral in St. Louis.   This team needed some new blood.   Risky blood.  Matheny doesn’t have 3 World Series but he played with Molina, Pujols and Carp and really connects with Duncan and Mozelaik.  Mozelaik didn’t make a crazy wild move here.  He made a measured one. Since La Russa called it in late August, Mo has been talking to Matheny for 3 months.   Matheny played for the Cards from 2000-2004, providing the Cards with a general behind the plate and the man who personally trained Yadi Molina to be a great young catcher.   Matheny was a leader of men on the field and is imminently respected inside the Cards clubhouse.   He has worked as an adviser to Mozelaik for a few years and waited for his chance to climb into the dugout.   He has zero experience as a coach or manager but I invite the unpredictable outlook as the suits here.  Matheny is a good, risky, cheaper yet easy choice.   You have to choose where you want to go after La Russa stepped down.   Stay with the assured vet or go with the risky rookie?  If sources hold up, the Cards are getting dirty and digging their feet into the future in hiring a veteran player to handle his first coaching job as manager of the Cardinals.   I like the choice because it’s bold and it also makes sense.  This team has won 2 championships in the past 10 years and will compete.  This is a team that doesn’t depend on its manager to win games each night.   Expect fireworks tomorrow.

*Thoughts on Albert and his choices.  My biggest case for Albert is I think he’s earned a long term deal to finish in STL. As my good friend Pj points out, every long term deal presents risk to a team.   The Cards or any other team will be overpaying Albert in the future to keep him here now.   It’s part of the deal and current frame work of MLB contracts.   With Albert, the idea of consistency should tromp plenty of the doubt.   It’s not hard to believe in a few years he will still be cranking 30 HR, 100 RBI and hitting .300.    If not, the Cards jump on the sword like any other team in signing Albert.  If any player has earned the right to name his price and home, it’s Albert.   I’ve always said it’s his choice but the Cards must present him with an offer that is respectable.   They can’t give him the bank but they can pay him handsomely for his service.  Anybody who whines I will sing the Bruce Hornsby classic to your ears.  “That’s just the way it is/some things just never change/that’s just the way it is.”   He’s played for 11 yrs at 16 or less and earned the security blanket. As far as where he lands, its his choice.  Does he want to become part of rebuilding mode in Florida?  He knows The Cards contend every year for a championship.  Which does he want?   Wins, cash or a challenge.  He gets all three here. I rest my case.

*If The Florida Marlins are smart, they will give their new cash to Jose Reyes and a starting pitcher.   It’s impossible to think expanding a budget by 23 million nets you 3 great players.   Instead of handing 23-28 million to Albert, the Marlins take a leap of faith with Reyes and sign a starting pitcher.  They need to correct several areas and first base isn’t one of them.   While Albert is a great marketing tool and fits in well in the Latin America packed Florida area, the Marlins can be smart here.   If only Reyes could stay healthy, he would be an unbeatable free agent.   Reyes gives you five tools in a big time star.   A starting shortstop with gold gloves to back up his reputation, a leadoff hitter with pop and the ability to hit .340 and a base stealing threat to get into scoring position.  He covers 2 vital positions on a team.   Shortstop and leadoff hitter.   All bias put aside, Florida would be smarter to lock down Reyes and sign a starting pitcher like C.J. Wilson to a long term deal.   Don’t throw big bucks at Mark Buerele, who is getting older and can’t win 15 games anymore.  Bring in C.J. Wilson and rework your rotation.  If the Marlins have 25-30 million to spare, use it on those two players.  They give you two strong players who are both younger than Pujols and suited for the rebuilding project down south.

*John Mozelaik told Joe Strauss that he likes a middle infield of Tyler Greene and Daniel Descalso.   While DD is dependable and gives you a small pop at the plate, Greene isn’t a major league shortstop.   Tyler Greene isn’t sharp enough defensively and can’t hit major league pitchers.   He is a career minor leaguer.  Greene gives you a late inning baserunning sub and nothing more in the majors.   Descalso is a more useable commodity as a utility player who can play third base, shortstop and second.   If Furcal can be brought back for 4-6 million, I’d think about bringing back Skip Schumacher for 1 to 2 million.  Why?  Skip is a hard working versatile player who has hit .280 or higher 3 out of the last 4 seasons.   A cheap weapon.   Keep Greene in the Memphis truck keeping the engine warm.

Blues Talk-The Hitchcock Era Unfolding??

Three games into the Blues run under new coach Ken Hitchcock, I am seeing the imprints of his style of play being injected into the Blues play.   The energy is higher and the player seem to be playing without a watchful fatherly eye.   Hitch is allowing his players to let it go and roll into their own rhythm.   T.J. Oshie is on fire in his past 5 games.  Barrett Jackman played one of his best games on Saturday.   David Backes is bringing it every night.   You don’t see Hitch shouting at players or looking stressed out like a 2008 placed accoutant looking at a ticker tape.   Hitch seems to be relaxed, laid back and enjoying himself.  He said he invited the return to coaching because he had found a calmer way of life in his time in the Columbus Blue Jackets office.  It shows behind the Blues bench.  Beating the Tampa Bay Lightning was a huge step towards showing consistency.   A very impressive win by Blues.   60 mins, 200 ft of play.   Shut down a very good offensive team in TB.  Team is full of energy.  Three strong games in front of Hitchcock represents a change.  See viable imprints of hard nosed high energy hockey.  2 shutouts and a shootout loss are signs of improvement for this team is zig zagging rogues.  Brian Elliot notched his second shutout and third for the team last night in the 3-0 win over the Lightning.  The Blues shut down a high scoring team last night, a favorably sign for their defense.  The penalty killing and power play unit, with exception of the first period on Thursday against the Maple Leafs, are looking very good.   Is this a coincidence or evident improvement under Hitchcock?   I’m withholding judgement until a few more games but I’ll say the new skipper is showing signs of turning this ship around.

The Rams Score An Ugly Win In Cleveland

Once again, this team makes an attempt to hand the game back to the opposing team.   The Rams led the Browns 10-9 for 20 minutes today before holding on for a 13-12 win that won’t be something to write home about.   Wins are wins in the NFL, but the Rams barely won and only escaped with a win because their defense played very well.  It would have been downright wrong for a team with a defense holding the opposing offense to a touchdown in 2 games to lose both contests.   Bradford looked rough all afternoon, showing an inefficiency to make passes in the red zone.   Steven Jackson went over 130 yards rushing and had his 3rd quality game in a row.   The Rams can’t play 4 quarters without losing a couple players.   Tight end Michael Houmaniiwaui hurt his knee and left in the 3rd quarter and the defense also lost a cornerback.   Injuries affect this team more than any other recent season and is a small clue to the reason we are 2-7 on the season.   Overall, this team isn’t a good team and doesn’t score enough.   We scored 1 touchdown against a defense which has been shredded by every other team.   Hard to win with this style of play but we managed to do it today.

Small NFL Tidbits-

*The Eagles and Ravens can’t be serious playoff threats.   The Eagles are 3-6 today after losing to the Arizona Cardinals, who are 3-6 as well.  The preseason Eagles, picked to win the Super Bowl before games were played, produced another downer of a game.   In part to DeSean Jackson missing the game due to missing a team meeting and being benched.  No discipline leads to losses.   The Ravens lost to the Taveras Jackson led Seahawks today, which has to end the talk of them being the AFC threats.   Joe Flacco will have a hard time leading this team anywhere if he can’t beat the Seahawks a week after beating Pittsburgh for the second time.   Which Ravens team shows up next week?

*The Patriots and Jets face off tonight and one has to like the Jets based on past history.   While Sanchez continues to think the other team is wearing a Jets jersey when he passes, the Jets play strong defense and finish well and always seem to surprise the Pats.  Tom Brady’s suddenly crumbling kingdom needs a win with a 5-3 record, so look for smashmouth football in Foxboro tonight.   Can Shawn Greene run over the Pats?  Can the Pats stop the running game?  Will Brady see another consistent pass rush?  All clues.  Having said this, the Pats will go on a tear and win by 36 points.

*The Saints beat the Falcons again by 7 points or less in game ending fashion.  Every season, Drew Brees figures out a way to beat Matt Ryan in the closing minutes.   One day, The Boston College product breaks through for a win.   Love the way these two teams battle each other.  I have always thought these two could play a helluva NFC title game.

*My dream match for the Super Bowl is The Patriots and Packers.   Tons of points put up on the board with two weak secondaries and two great QB’s firing on every cylinder.   I want an entertaining Super Bowl and it would inviting to see Brady, king of the old, face off against the new kid on the block in Rodgers.   I am not a fan of Brady but love to see him on high stakes matchups.   This would be a good game.

*The Steelers will go as far as their defense takes them.   Ben Roethlisberger is a great fourth quarter player and the running game is strong with Rasheed, but the defense carries this team.   I’d like to see a Patriots-Steelers AFC title game, which could also set up a Packers-Steelers rematch in a juicy Super Bowl.  This is the story of a Rams fan.   Predicting championship games without your home team.

*The Rams have the core pieces in place but need a new coach, a big receiver and more discipline play.   Red zone efficiency.   Bradford is the type of Super Bowl arm that is capable of playing at that level, but right now he can’t make the big throws that separate regular season QB’s from playoff heroes.   Steven Jackson is a quality running back and gaining great yards without a good passing game to back him up.   The receivers are anchored in B-types, which doesn’t produce big plays.  The Defense lacks a true secondary warrior but James Lauranitas and Chris Long anchor the front staff of the unit and have played well against big teams like Philly and Baltimore.  The Running game still gashes the Rams and their overall offensive attack doesn’t lack creativity(McDaniels calling good plays), but receivers aren’t catching and Bradford isn’t throwing great.   There are too many problems with this team for them to be playoff bound and that’s the exact opposite from earlier this season.   Expect a big offseason coming up for this team as Owner Stan Kroneke decides who stays and who goes.

The Random Bits

*If I could save the world, I would.   I would give my son Vincent a bottle right now that he isn’t supposed to have.   I would solve world peace.  I would provide water to all the deprived regions.  I would cancel interest rates on credit cards and hire henchmen to collect payments.   I would put a laundry mat inside bars so people could be productive and have fun.  “Hold that shot of Jack while I change over a load” is a phrase that would be fired at will.  I’d create more jobs by breaking more things.   I’d have people do more cardio and get in better shape.   I’d open a gym with their own isolated cardio rooms for people to concentrate and not get nervous around a packed room of machines.   I’d open more diners with healthier food.   Mix a courtesy diner with bread company?   I’d buy more albums and DVD’s for collections.    In a nutshell, I’d produce more original scripts in Hollywood instead of remakes.  I’d make the world a better place by having drivers retest every 20 years.   I’d create different energy sources so we could stop depending on oil loaded countries and electric car nonsense.   With time and money, I’d fix things. (Sorry, I had to include the political hunk ending)

*I respect Jeremy Renner because he has earned his status as a desired actor in Hollywood.  10 years ago, he was eating on 5 dollars a week in a tiny apartment with no electricity because he wanted to be an actor.  I appreciate actors who work hard for a craft and don’t give up on a dream.  Renner ate ramon noodles, doughnut holes and Mcdonalds cheeseburgers while living in LA with his bulldog.   There are harsher circumstances but Renner’s perserverance is impressive.   Now he is starring Mission Impossible 4, Hurt Locker, Avengers and more.

*One more thing on Matheny.  This moves was in the wings for a while and only slowed down when Francona and Sandberg entered the picture in late September.  La Russa informed Mo of his decision in late August, meaning there were talks between Mo and Matheny for 3 months.   Experience counts, but there are tons of managers out there with experience that are doing badly.   Sometimes, a dose of fresh blood is good for a franchise.   I like the Matheny deal for several reasons but mainly I like the boldness of the pick.   Proves Mo’s got balls of steel.

*Now that Robert Irvine has been eliminated off the Next Iron Chef, I am losing interest.   With cooking competitions(tougher than you think, how well can you cook under pressure and with judges and timers?), I have one favorite and when he dies off, I kind of stop watching.   Irvine is a British cook with real skill, but made a hummus too thick and lost a close 1 on 1 battle in Kitchen Stadium.   That’s how tough those competitions are.   Make the tiny error and lose it all.   That’s the challenge of skill on display on the Food Network.   Check it out before you knock it.

*While things are in dire straits with Vin this weekend, I do get to find comfort in my lullaby being a combo of HBO shows so potent that anyone can get a mood boost out of them.   Starting with Boardwalk Empire, continuing with Hung and ending with How to Make it in America.  2 hours of television that’s better than most movies.

Ending Thought-Vinny’s predicament should inspire all of us to redefine our thoughts of bad times.  In essence, don’t sweat the small stuff.   When you are done about something, remember what my kid has gone through before he was 2 months old.   Vinny was born a small baby, coming into this world undersized and ranking in the 2 percent range of newborns.   He was diagnosed with WPW, Wolf Parkinson White, an ailment causing SVT, and causing his heart rate to skyrocket.  Vinny’s been poked, prodded and given 2 throat tubes.   He was dealt a hand this week of plyoric stenosis, a condition that doesn’t allow food to be digested and has restricted him from gaining weight and getting a bottle for 48 hours.  My kid has had it rough very early so the next time you feel like life is closing in on you, remember Vinny.

That’s it.  Thanks for reading and goodnight.   My work here is done.


D. Buffa

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