The Latest

Hello ladies and gents,

A week of frenzied drama isn’t letting up.  Allow me to uncoil a few details before I run into the latest gauntlet of material.   On Sunday, my sweet grandmother, Meme, took a nasty fall down a flight of steps at party and hit her head hard enough to cause a bleed in her brain, requiring surgery and a bed at Mercy Hospital.   She had another bleed on Tuesday, which was caused by a stroke.   She hasn’t completely woken up or recognized anyone.   As the moment passes here, she is stable yet stuck in a stalemate.   She isn’t making progress and there is no telling when she will respond to commands.   Adding insult to injury, I got sick on Tuesday as well and was couch stricken all of last night.   While lying helplessly, I did throw some topics into the chamber.   Allow me to throw some topics at the wind.

The Pujols Camp Dragout-Just Go Already!

DeeDee Pujols, the wife of Albert Pujols, can’t seem to cut and run.  Instead of packing up her belongings and sending them to California and departing the city that has been her home for11 yrs, DeeDee felt the need to unload some frustration on a radio station over the weekend.  I don’t need to run over her comments for long here so let me sum it up.  She said the Cardinals didn’t commit enough personal attention to her husband and that there never was a 10 year offer.   This goes against every report out of Cardinals camp and the media.   My question is…what does she have to gain here?  What is she doing?   Albert Pujols did the same thing in his press conference on Saturday.  He started making claims and taking tiny shots at the Cardinals for making bad offers.   My plea to them is this.  Tell the wife to shut her mouth.   Take her and her diamond studded sandals and diamond cluttered baseball cap and get out of town.  Albert Pujols made a choice and so far he is having problems sticking with it.   Were the harsh words and reactions too much for him to take?  Did he expect fans here to simply shrug their shoulders and not care at all?   That would be a signal of our love being conditional.    Apparently, in the end, Albert Pujols’ love for the Cardinals was conditional.   Bill DeWitt didn’t cuddle Pujols camp and tell them sweet words of compassion as BUSINESS was being discussed.   That was the missing element in those tweets.   Now, Albert and his wife are making attempts to sway the fans back into their corner instead of moving to LA and staying quiet.   They are the ones who took 254 million over 210 million over 10 years with an additional 10 years of service on the backend.   If Albert was worried about finding a job in Busch Stadium after he retired, look around the place.   Mike Matheny managing,  Mark McGwire(steroids and all) as the hitting coach and many Ex-Cards hovering over the FSN desk.   On Friday, I came to a conclusion that each side did what they had to do and business was passed out and we could move on.   Now, Team Pujols is holding up the truck.   They want the last ounce of sympathy from Cardinal nation and we aren’t giving it up.   Joe Strauss of the Post Dispatch confirmed from a source at Busch that there was a 10 year offer on the table to Pujols from the Cards.   In the end, it simply was passed over.   Albert made a choice and moved on financially.   He can’t seem to move on emotionally.   At the press conference on Saturday, he seemed nervous and unsure, leaning on CJ Wilson for cover.   Was Albert second guessing himself for the first time in his life?  Was he thinking twice too late?   Did he send Dedre onto the radio station to fire one last round of ammo?   Who knows…all I know is this.    Albert Pujols had 3 offers on the table, including a generous respectable offer from the Cardinals, and he took the Angels bid.   He walked away from the chance to be THE ICON, not a icon, of the Cardinals.   He could have broke every record in franchise history, won another ring or two, a couple more MVP awards and finished in St.Louis.  It was there waiting for him.   The 5 year, 130 million dollar offer was the Cardinals attempt to give him a higher dollar.   That was a smack in the face to the 31 year old.   The 10 year 210 million clearly wasn’t enough or else Albert would be a Cardinal today.   The Cardinals didn’t kiss Albert’s ass enough in the end.  The 10 year STL offer didn’t include a pack of rainbows and shiny hearts.   Albert made a business decision.   Someone needs to remind him what a business decision means.

In the mean time, shut his wife up and allow me to toss a story in here.  A good friend of mine summed up the fan reaction by using a scene from Goodfellas.   Towards the end of Martin Scorsese’s classic, Henry Hill(Ray Liotta) comes to the boss of the family(Paul Sorvino) and asks for money because he is broke, drugged up and snitching to the feds.   The boss gives him some cash and says, disappointedly, “Take this, but now I have to turn my back on you.”   Henry looks on in disbelief.  Our comments and reaction last week was the “take this” part of the equation.   Now most fans have turned their back on Pujols.   He needs to do the respectful thing and head to LA.   His time here is done.  He pulled that trigger.   A page has been turned.  The Ship has sailed.   I wish him well in the AL land of California, but he is on the other side.   The one harboring the potential enemies.  Goodnight and good luck Alberto.  I respect him as a player but I lost respect for him as a man.

The Spagnuolo Investigation/Rams Recap

Look, the Rams suck.   Plain and simple.   There are various reasons for that but a 2-11 team doesn’t need a painful analysis.   A despicably poor offensive strategy, a worthless offensive line that accumulates more penalties than blocks, a running game that goes nowhere because of the lack of a passing game, and special teams coverage that ranks right up there with Safe Auto Insurance.    The biggest question is…who gets the blame?  In my opinion, the share gets spread around.

Sam Bradford is having a poor season, supported by a lagging injury in his ankle and a lack of talented receivers.    By now, we know that Bradford is talented yet brittle and requires good receivers to elevate his game.   Sam is the future(as least for now) and the Rams shouldn’t be in the running for a quarterback, unless that guy’s name is Peyton Manning.   Bradford is flawed and showed rust in his rookie season.   This season, the seams have torn.   Bradford holds onto the ball too long, can’t complete a pass, and gets zero help from his offensive line and when he throws a ball on the mark, its dropped.   Next year, Bradford faces a lot of tests as he tries to hold onto the job.

Steven Jackson has given this team 8 solid years in an era where a sound offensive line and quarterback haven’t existed.   He’s a leader and a bulldog, but sooner rather than later you have to explore the trade market for him before he hits free agency.   If the defense needs help, its in linebacking depth and secondary quality.   Big plays and a horrible run defense haunt an otherwise solid core of players on defense.

The coaches are another story.   By now, holding a 10-35 record in his time spent head coaching in St. Louis, one would assume Spagnuolo’s message has either gotten into these players heads or given some kind of surge.   As of now, it isn’t happening.  You then ask yourself, is it Spags himself or a lack of talent hurting him from outset?   Spags is a good coach but is he the right guy to pull this team out of a ditch?  His first season ended in 1-15, rebounded with 7-9 and now has collapsed into a dismal 2-11 shred of hope.   What does Stan Kroneke do?  Fire Spags or fire GM Billy Devaney and let Spags finish his contract in 2012.    Where do you start?

My gut feeling right now is Spags finishing his contract in 2012 and Devaney and Josh McDaniels losing their jobs.   Devaney brought the current talent depleted roster in and the GM needs to go first in order for the new leader to assess his troops.  McDaniels’ offense isn’t fit for Bradford’s skill set and its plain depressing, so he is gone.   Spags’ ability to push the players through four quarters of hell is impressive.  While he isn’t getting results, he is getting effort and will.   Kroneke may let him finish his deal and see if he can turn the ship around in 2012 as he nearly did in 2010.   The last three games the Rams can play spoilers.   Beat the Steelers and you mess up their head to head battle with Baltimore for the division seed.  Beat San Francisco and you mess up their chances at home field advantage, a big time need for John Harbaugh’s crew.   Beat Cincinnati and you screw with their playoff hopes in the wildcard.  There is something to gain and a ton to lose for Spagnuolo’s group of losers.   Bradford may have to sit out the rest of the season because he played hurt in Seattle, but isn’t playing hurt a part of a QB’s makeup?   Jackson could be playing for a trade, but it wouldn’t be his choice.  Say what you want about SJ39 but you better not question his leadership and drive on the field.   He will never quit.   How many sacks can Chris Long get?  In the middle of  turmoil, Long and James Lauranitis are having solid seasons.   The Rams need to get through the rest and finish up as well as they can and prepare for an active offseason and draft where wide receiver and cornerback are the priorities.

The Blues Roll Right Along

After beating the Rangers last night in front of the 24/7 HBO crew, The Blues are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games.   This team is slowly becoming a real threat in the Western Confernce and throughout the NHL.   Ken Hitchcock came in here and legitimately changed things.   The Blues are only third in their division because they stand behind the powerhouses Chicago and Detroit.   They are plowing through the rest of the division and placing themselves in prime position for a playoff run in 2012.   For the first time in years, I can say this run of action may not end until the Blues do reach the playoffs.   The effort on the ice right now is amazing.  The defense is stronger and allowing fewer opportunities for good hockey players.   The goaltending has been tremendous.  Brian Elliot has the numbers of a stellar starter but he is only splitting the starts with Jaroslav Halak, who is hanging around in the selection committtee with his revitilized play.   David Backes is a fucking freight train of physical firepower on the ice, netting the tough goals in front of the net or laying out players on a regular basis.  Backes leads the team in hits and collected 5 last night against NYR.   Every time he hits the ice there seems to be a chance of a collision that won’t put Backes on his ass but send a message to the other team instead that a beast is on the ice.   T.J. Oshie continues to improve and deliver on the promise of a one year contract.  His health is always the question but he is delivering on every end of the ice.   Alexander Steen has 10 goals.   Ryan Reaves is playing like he deserves to be in Chris Stewart’s spot, a big man capable of pummeling someone and becoming an asset on the ice.  The Blues are cycling the puck like a unit and not hoping for a connection to be made.  The power play is taking baby steps but the penalty kill is flawless.   You know a team is doing well when they have the best scoring chance on a penalty kill.   All one can say is to keep the madness at Scottrade moving forward.  As Rocky once said, its all about taking the hits and keeping the momentum going forward.   The Blues are beating very good teams in NY Rangers, Philly Flyers, Red Wings, and the Blackhawks.   They are winning 4-1 and 1-0.   They are grinding other teams out and smashing them.   How long can it last?  When will the Hitchcock formula wear off?  In Blues fans minds right now, the hope is never.   For the first time in a long wait, the Blues are playing like a legit threat and a team capable of breaking into Lord Stanley’s house.

NFL ACTION

*Tim Tebow takes the field against Tom Brady and the Patriots this weekend in another rendition of “Doubt Tebow, Watch him Run”.   Tebow will take a couple years to refine his throwing method, sharpen his accuracy and put the whole package together, but he is making good progress.  He has only thrown 2 interceptions against 12 touchdown passes and has added rushing scores as well.   He turns on his game at the exact time game changers are paid to show up.   He takes 3 quarters off, assessing the defense and considering his pouncing methods and the 4th quarter doesn’t seem to matter.   That’s Tebow’s game.  If Brady and the Patriots can find a way to handle the tough Denver pass rush, they better score early and often.   If this game gets into the third quarter with the lead holding at 10 points or less, my money is on Tebow.   Love it when the old know it all ex-players are wrong.  Bet against the guy.  Go ahead.  It feeds his energy.

*The Rams face the Bengals on the road and will likely get tromped but…..you never know.   Spoiling can happen at any time.

*Who chokes and puts their head coach up on the chopping block in the NFC?   Tony Romo or Eli Manning?  While Manning has had a very good season, Romo has been all over the place.   On one Sunday, he can throw 4 touchdowns and watch the game sealing catch fall through Miles Austin’s hands.  On another day of church, Romo can cough up the game like is 2008 all over again.   Look, I don’t particularly like either guy, but my money is on Manning pulling through, making the big play, and carrying his team into the playoffs.  Romo will bite it, suck it down and help hack off Jason Garett’s job or at least put the Cowboys on the outside looking in once again.  How many more years does Jerry Jones stick with Tony Romo? He isn’t the entire problem but come clutch time, he seems to pass the test or drop the ball entirely.   Interesting duel.   If the Giants find a way to lose it, Tom Coughlin is gone.  Furnace Face Sr. has been given the ultimatum.

CARDINALS MOVES

I like John Mozelaik’s style.   He has moved on from the departure of Albert Pujols by making key moves to formulate his roster for the coming season.   While Pujols and his wife are making waves trying to convince themselves they made the right choice, Mo is doing his thing and dealing.   Low key moves are all this team needs to do in order to compete but I wouldn’t rule out a high profile stab and no its not for Prince Fielder.  Let’s run over them and also add the ones that I would like to see happen next.

*Rafael Furcal signs up for 2 year and 14 million.  At first glance, its a lot of money but after the initial pause, this is a good deal.   Furcal’s option was 12 million, so Mo restructures it and gets him for 2 seasons at 2 million more than his one year extension called for.   For a veteran former All Star shortstop, 7 million is a fair price.   Furcal was crucial in this teams run to the playoffs last season.  His shortstop defense cleaned up the infield and made others better as well.  With a groundball pitching staff, Furcal is required.  His leadoff bat and speed will also help.  The injury scares worry me as it would any team, but the risk is worth the potential reward.

*Skip Schumaker signs for 2 years and 3 million.   A good signing that locks up one of the most versatile players on the roster.   Schu can play second base and any outfield position and can pitch in an emergency(threw 91 mph heat last year, come on).   He is the best defensive outfielder on the roster and has hit .285 or better in 3 of the past 4 seasons.   Skip can start at second and lead off or play right field and hit 8th and gives you the same tools day in and day out.  Solid fundamental ball player who gives until its gone.

*JC Romero isn’t what he used to be, but this crafty lefthander will complete the last piece in the bullpen.   He will team with Marc Rzepcynski and fortify the Cards lefthanded bullpen.   Romero nearly came to the Cards at midseason in 2011 but the deal never came around.   Now, he signs a one year deal and preps to give the Cards the lefthanded specialist.   We want the Romero from 2008, where he posted a 2.75 ERA in 81 games with the Phillies.  Romero isn’t a great pitcher and will need to improve on his last few years.  The worst thing are his walk totals.   He has 372 walks against 520 strikeouts in his career.   In 2011 in split time between the Phillies and the Rockies, he walked 15 guys in 24 innings.   He only struck out 19 batters.  Romero is clearly a contact pitcher, and while it worries at first, Romero will be another project for Dave Duncan.   This isn’t a quality sign but a fine low risk buy.

*What’s next?  Outfield help.   Mozelaik can go high with Carlos Beltran, an injury prone vet with gas in the tank yet a high price.   Beltran hit .300, with 22 home runs and 84 RBI in 2011 between the Mets and Giants.   He is still a quality player and like Lance Berkman, rips the Cards every time he faces them.   Beltran isn’t a crazy buy, but he is older and injury prone.   If he wants more than 3 years and higher than 10 million per season, you let him walk because that isn’t what you need.   Jon Jay is returning and Allen Craig will be back from knee surgery by late May/early June at the latest.  You need a platoon player or power bat with something to prove.   My high buy here is Beltran, but if you want to get crafty and bring back a fan favorite, sign Ryan Ludwick.  Ludwick will never produce a 30 hr, 100 rbi season again but he is capable of driving in 80 runs and is a plus outfielder.   Ludwick hit well and had his best seasons at Busch Stadium.  He can play right field until Craig gets back and split time with Jay when Craig returns.  Ludwick is the more reasonable contract here, because he will only cost you 3-5 million.   Ludwick has something left.  He hit a power outage in San Diego’s pitcher friendly Petco Park but rebounded and drove in 75 runs in Pittsburgh.

*The Cards can go low key this season because Adam Wainwright is returning you have a young firepower throwing bullpen, including the bargain buy of the season in Jason Motte.  The closer role was a problem child until Motte took it over in 2011.  Franklin blew 7 saves, Salas blew 5 and others combined to give up 5 more but Motte put a wrap on the position and turned it into a big plus in the playoffs.   The Cards beat teams with their bats in 2011 and were forced to do so.  In 2012, the feature will be pitching and manufacturing runs on offense.   Players like Jay, Furcal, Skip, and Greene will get on for guys like Holliday, Freese, Berkman and Craig.   The lineup has tons of potential and will go over the top with Beltran(makes for a perfect #2 hole hitter) or be fine with Ludwick.   With Pujols sailing away, the Cards have flexibility and that lies in their free agent market selection.  It would be foolish to lay back and do nothing but it would be even crazier to dive in too deep, like overpay Beltran or beg for Fielder.  Mozelaik doesn’t work that way.  He is a smart, calculated businessman.  Michael Cuddyer was an intriguing possibility until the Rockies overpaid him considerably at 3 years and 30 million.   Cuddyer hit .284 with 20 home runs and 70 runs batted in.   In the right place, Ludwick could do that for half the price.   Be smart, Mo, keep being smart.  He’s a chess player with plenty of moves left.

*The Cards gain 5-7 wins in the rotation and gain 10 more saves at least with the return of Wainwright and a whole season of Motte in the closer role.   Factor that into the equation of last season’s run and bank it against the loss of Pujols and we are looking good.

*The rest of the NL Central didn’t do much but trade players.   Aramis Rameriz went to the Brewers from the Cubsand Alex Gonzalez went to the Brewers from the Reds.   Prince Fielder remains an interest of the Cubs but Scott Boras’ 90 page booklet on Fielder will pull in bigger offers.   Or will Boras settle for a 5 year deal worth a higher annual value and let Prince cash in around Albert’s age with a career ending contract.   Fielder has 4 years on Pujols and teams are rightfully unsure about his growth potential with age and his effectiveness at first base.  He doesn’t want to go to Baltimore or Seattle, but if the Cubs or Rangers got into the game, something may happen.   The idea is the rest of the Central division looks the same.  Favors the Cardinals.

The Final Word on Albert Pujols-Read This Section Now

Allow me one more section(until spring training) on Albert Pujols.   The ultimate question.  Why did he really leave?
Albert Pujols didn’t just leave for the money.  It wasn’t ALL about the money.   That would too simple and clear for this ordeal.   Albert Pujols was emotionally fucked by the Cardinals and comforted by the Angels.  Perfect for the religious man that Albert is.   Albert let emotions get in the way of a business decision.   He signed with the Angels to get back at the Cardinals “cold” business tactics.   DeWitt and Mozelaik didn’t cuddle Albert enough.   They didn’t attach a lovely lullaby to the 210 million dollar offer that Pujols left on the table.  From the moment I heard about the decision, I knew it couldn’t just be about the money(saying the “just” part very slowly).   There had to be something else.  That didn’t just happen.   Sure, 254 million dollars is a lot of cash and enough green to convince a man to change sides.  However, so is 210 million dollars.   If it was all about the money, why is Pujols still looking back.  Today.  Tomorrow.   Why is his wife talking to radio stations?   Why?   The answer.  They are still convincing themselves they made the right decision.   Albert is suddenly full of doubt.  Shocked by the past.   He is carrying the normal burden of player expectations but now he carries a little of Lebron James weight as well.   He has to live with his decision.  That’s the hard part, Albert.   Easy to say yes to Arte Morenos smooth talk and easy to ignite the fires on a deal but so very hard to MOVE ON.  Just wait.  Spring training comes around and you see Musial, Gibson and Red.   They’ll look at you not in disgrace but in disappointment.  You could have been the greatest of them all.  Albert Pujols could have been #1.   Now, unfaithfully departed, he will be #2 in Cardinal history.   That’s what he lost on December 8th.  He lost the chance to be THE ICON and not just A Icon.    That, my friends, is why Albert Pujols is still looking back at St. Louis and asking the fans for justification. He knows what he lost and what he will never get back.  Pure unconditional adoration.  Goodbye Albert.  See you on the other side.

My thoughts on Ryan Braun-Dirty as a devil.   Rather it is confirmed or not through his appeal doesn’t affect the cloud of shit surrounding Braun’s name right now.  Right after winning the MVP, Braun tested positive for a steroid or performance enhancing substance.   Deny until you die you confident swagger carrying dirt bag,  but remember it will never go away.   To me, Braun’s entire career is in question.  Yes it is.   He gets the same treatment as Manny Rameriz.

Television Show to Watch at the Moment-Homeland on Showtime

If you haven’t made the dive for this terrorist conspiracy thriller, go ahead and do so.  I sank my teeth into three hours of this thrilling suspence story and I can’t get enough of it.   This is my kind of story.  One person in Washington telling everybody she smells rotten dirt on a so called hero and nobody giving her the time of day, so it takes 12 episodes for them to get the  drift.  Whether or not Corporal Brody(Damian Lewis, perfectly casted) is a terrorist or not, this show is worth the ride.   The simple story.   A CIA operative(Clarie Danes) instantly suspects Brody of carrying different plans when he is suddenly rescued in Iraq 7 years after going missing.    Is she right?  Is she crazy?  The minute he lands, a hero is crowned and all her agent can do is collect info, keep eyes on him and try to convince her closest associates and intelligience.  It’s a 24/7 mind game.  The writers and producers do a fabulous job of crafting an aura of suspicion around Brody yet cast doubt on her plans as well.   The aftershocks of 9/11 haven’t left her, and to her, this is her second chance.  Sunday, the finale airs.   This weekend, I will throw myself completely into this series.  Its worth a few hours of your time.

Random Thoughts-Things to Think About

*Tony La Russa wasn’t defending Albert Pujols in the interview.  He was giving his side of the story.  Take it like a view from a father.

*If you haven’t called your grandma or grandpa in awhile, do it now.  Please don’t hesitate.  As my grandmother lives the last hours of her life in the hospital for one tragic mistake, please don’t forget to keep in touch with your family.   Don’t fucking wait.  Just do it.  Trust me, in the end, it will worth the minutes that is taken away from television, friends and sleep.   I am reliving every lost chance I had a chance to grab with my grandmother Meme right now.   The end is near and I am full of regret, joy, guilt and inspiration from a life lived full and happy.  I just wish I would have seen her more before she chose to take a trip down a flight of stairs.

*The Black Keys new album, El Camino, is crafting itself into the Album of the Year.   Such a great Blues rock band.  These two guys are musical geniues.

*I am a fan of Adele.   The british goddess of heartbreak is a real joy to listen to because of the depth she brings to her songs.  The place she pulls her music from can’t be produced in a studio or requested.  Adele is a method singer.  She sings from experience and sadness and provides us with a real take on love lost and pursued.   She makes you want to know more of her story and thus makes you a fan of her tunes.  Florence Welch and Adele are the power house female musicians right now.

*Hospitals are a place of healing and death but overall they suck.   They remind you of your mortality and the fact that you are indeed slowly dying.   They are the end and in that respect scare the shit out of you.   Watching a healthy angel like my grandmother spend the last days of her life there have reinforced the notion that life is a gift but death is a painful reminder of the moments we take for granted.   The clock never stops at a hospital.  One of the few places on earth that isn’t closed.

*Curse doctors but they don’t get any days off in between saving lives and watching others leave.   They are always on call.  True fact.  Respect nurses.  They knock out 12 hour shifts and do all the dirty work.

*Sherlock Holmes 2 is a film to see because it promises fun and games.  Robert Downey Jr. is a genius and his chemistry and interplay with Jude Law as Sherlock and Watson is a thing to see.

That’s all for now.

Remember.  Please call your grandparents.  Don’t wait.  Just call.   Sooner or later, they will be gone and you will regret leaving the idea on the floor to see them or talk to them.   They are angels sent from above to keep your ass in line.  When they are gone, you are on your own.  Parents and siblings don’t count.   I am facing this task this weekend.  Losing my caretaker.

Sometimes it really is too damn late.

Okay, I’m done for now.  I will be back with more but I can’t promise a date.

Goodnight and good luck,

Dan 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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