The Eve of the Written Word

Before we get into making Christmas wishes come true or attempt a New Year’s resolution, allow me to throw a few logs of firewood into the pit here.  Making conversation is easy.  Sustaining it over a period of time and working it into an extended debate is top of the line grade A human persistence.  That’s what I do here.  Introduce topics.  Discuss events.  Run over the required data of the 24 hr cycles that sound alarms in my head.  Here we more time before Christmas strikes.  Santa may not be real kids, but the Buffa train of thought stops for no one. 

Mission Impossible 4 Review

Typical Tom Cruise mayhem goes on here.  2 hours of action packed suspenseful drama done right by director Brad Bird(who crafted the Incredibles, a legendary animated film that gave us the idea he could do a live feature with ease and skill).  Here, he centers the action around Cruise and lets the little guy run wild.   Cruise returns in the fourth installment of the spy franchise as Ethan Hunt, who we last saw walking into love filled bliss with his wife(Michelle Monaghan).   At the beginning of this story, he is in a Russian prison with friends on the outside setting to break him out.  The reason is unknown at first, but its the start of a thrill ride that truly never lets up until the final momnets of the film.  If there is a film that will razzle and dazzle your senses, this is it.  Hunt and his crew get involved in a job at the Kremlin, and when it explodes into a thousand pieces, the attack is pinned on his team.  That initiates ghost protocol, which then sets Hunt on a mission to clear him and his crew members names from the rigged gig.   That’s all you need to know.  Jeremy Renner plays a mysterious agent named Brandt, Simon Pegg and Paula Patton show up as members of his team and Cruiser takes care of the rest.   Knock Tom all you want, but respect his hard work and dedication to getting a fine product out there.   He is the hardest working actor in Hollywood and respect him for doing all his own stunts.  Most actors in Hollywood require stunt doubles to do the ugly work of their acting duties, but that’s Crusie hanging from the side of the largest building in the world in Dubai.   Mission Impossible films always promise death defying stunts and plenty of explosions but Bird adds his own measure of class and humor to the equation.  The film has the makings of an old school noir tale mixed with new age action and well worn suspence.  I approve of MI4.

Carlos Beltran Comes to St. Louis

Here is the way I look at it.   Carlos Beltran signed a 2 year, 26 million dollar contract to play outfield for the Cardinals.  Albert Pujols will make 26 million in 2012 to play first base for the Angels.   A fair trade by the numbers.  The Cardinals get the likes of Beltran and Berkman, two legendary Cards killers, for the price of Pujols in 2012.  This is an exciting deal for many reasons but the biggest comes in the fact that Beltran is a known threat.  Pitchers have to respect his switch hitting power to all fields and the likelihood that his bat will do damage.   In what many considered a down year in 2011, Beltran hit .300, compiled a .385 on base percentage, hit 22 home runs and drove in 84 in 142 games.  Beltran isn’t coming to the Cardinals to be the main man, replace Albert or be the heart and soul of the offense.  He is merely a member of the killing squad.  The finishing touch to the puzzle.   Beltran is a party member, a #2 hitter who will do damage with his legs, bat speed and ability.  He is a plus outfielder and an all fields hitter.   This deal carries the risk of Beltran’s questionable health over the past 4 seasons.  He had knee troubles in 2011 and has had shoulder and knee surgery, but once he made it to the Giants at the trading deadline in 2011, he played out the rest of the season and finished well.   The crowd who rip the Cards for not spending will come here and rip them for giving 26 million to a 34 year player with health concerns.  That’s a predictable statement.  However, in order to acquire his services, the Cards had to give him years or a higher annual salary.  They wisely chose the latter.  GM John Mozelaik is making a lot of bold risky moves during this offseason, starting with hiring a manager with zero MLB coaching experience, letting Pujols walk to LA, signing Furcal to a 2 year deal and now giving Beltran 2 years at 13 million per.  This is a young general manager setting himself out from the pack.   Mo knows exactly what he is doing and the consequences awaiting him if this method fails.  Carlos Beltran is an impact player.   Someone who will do damage.  I like the Beltran deal because of what he does to lineup and in the field.   Impact signs for 2 yrs are very important and well done.  Mozelaik came, attacked and conquered here.  If Beltran can stay healthy, the deal looks like a sprinkle of genius power playing by Mo.  If he falters and spends time on the DL, the move will be lamented.  Its important to remember all deals come with a risk.  Signing Berkman to a one year 9 million dollar deal before 2011 was risky.  It paid off.  Beltran will add an explosive element to this team.  He has mileage left in the tank and could pay huge dividends.  I like this move, sink or swim.

The lineup is set now and it will look something like this. 

Furcal, Beltran, Holliday, Berkman, Freese, Molina, Jay, Skip, pitcher spot

The needs have been filled and now Mo can look to find a bench bat or let the kids run the roost.   Daniel Descalso and Tyler Greene will serve as defensive depth players and a power bat can be added through free agency.   I hope and expect Tony Cruz makes the team as the backup roster because he showed true potential in his games played in 2011.  Brian Anderson simply can’t hit at this level.   The bullpen is run by closer Jason Motte, and assembled with power parts like Lance Lynn, Eduardo Sanchez, Kyle McClellan, Fernando Salas, Marc Rzepcynski and JC Romero.   K-Mac has expired and I wished he would be packaged in a deal for a bench bat.   Young arms have taken over the pen and McClellan has be worn out by 100 innings in the rotation.  Dead arm awareness comes into play here.  As long as Motte doesn’t blow 6 games in April, the stopper slot is fine.  What other need exists on this team?  Right now, I see no real need.  Mo has done fine work.   Now the wait and see process happens.

The Cardinals would do well to lock up Yadi Molina for the foreseeable future.   His 7 million option for 2012 was picked up, but they need to extend him now before letting him reach free agency and run off to Anaheim.  Molina means so much to this team in every facet of the game.  He handles the pitching staff, is the best defensive catcher in the game, can hit .300 and showed a stroke of power in 2011 previously untapped.  Molina is an essential tool for Dave Duncan and needs to be taken care of.   Mozelaik would save himself a potentially major headache by locking Molina up.  If any catcher deserves 10 million a year, its Molina.  Looking at the many things he does, its hard to dispute it.   Give him a 4 year, 40 million dollar deal.

Let’s do “remember this before you look and sound stupid” class again.  Please stop shitting on Albert Pujols.  Look, its done, he made a move, left for Anaheim, made a mistake in letting emotion get in the door and made excuses, but there is no reason to tarnish his legacy or accomplishments here.   Many want to give his number away to Beltran or Holliday and that’s absurd.   Albert Pujols’ #5 will be retired in the future.  This is no time to tarnish what he did here.  He won 3 MVPs and brought the city 2 World Series titles along with a hall of fame caliber 11 year career.   Why do we light a fire on that once he left?  Pulling a Lebron slam game here is unwarranted.  It’s perfectly cool to be mad at him and wonder about his true character and honesty.  It’s quite another to dismiss his accomplishments in St. Louis.   Short sighted and unfortunate come to mind.  While he will never be the #1 Cardinal of all time, Pujols put together a 11 year career that few Cardinals if any can top.   Remember that the next time you settle into a Pujols rip rant.   His exit was unfortunate and ill-advised and wrongly played by Team Pujols, but his time here was brilliant.

The Blues Learn to React To Adversity

On Wednesday, the Blues came out and got caught in an early 2-0 deficit in Colorado.   They fought back to tie the game at 2, but lost on a late goal and dropped only the third regulation loss under Ken Hitchcock.  On Friday night, the Blues reversed the result and beat Phoenix 3-2 to bounce right back.   The Blues are learning to deal with adversity and avoid losing streaks.  They haven’t lost two regulation games in a row under Hitchcock and have only failed to pick up a point in those 3 losses.  They are 14-2-4 since Hitch took over.   They refuse to lose on the road and fare well on the road.   Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to a complete team capable of beating teams in many ways.  The Blues can fall in an early hole and fight back, as they showed against Columbus and Colorado.  They can also win by assaulting teams early and often, as seen against the New York Rangers and Phoenix.    When was the last time you felt this comfortable with this team’s chances on any given night?  There are 3 players with 11 goals or more and 6 with at least 7 goals.  This is all happening without Andy Mcdonald and only a small contribution from forward Chris Stewart.   Captain David Backes is a human freight train on the ice, handing out justice in the form of clean open ice hits and tallying 11 goals to go with it.  Alex Steen has 12 goals.  TJ Oshie has never looked faster or sharper.   The kid line of Oshie-Perron-Berglund is back together.   Things are going in the right place and it could only get better.  The Blues are the best home team in the NHL and 11 of the next 14 games come on home ice for this team.  Here is a chance to separate themselves from the 7th, 8th and 9th spots in the Western Conference.  Chasing Detroit and Chicago will be an all season chore but the next month and a half will determine how much staying power and consistency this team provides.

The Rams Playing Spoiler

Heading into Heinz Field against one of the best defenses in football in the Steelers Curtain, one can predict sudden death for the Rams.    Call it now.   That is the easy move.  I wish to see if this team can pull off the unthinkable and truly damage Pittsburgh’s playoff spot landing.   Once your chances of making the playoffs run out, its time to play spoiler.  The Rams can do damage today.   Kellen Clemons will play quarterback again and attempt to do the unthinkable.  The Steelers are without their starting quarterback as well and will install veteran Charlie Batch into the equation.  More important, Marcus Pouncey will miss the game and without him at center, The Steelers will be susceptible to a pass rush.  The Rams have a decent pass rushing team in Chris Long, James Hall and Robert Quinn.   The key to the game is applying pressure to Batch and finding a way to slow down running back Rasheed Mendenhall.  If Mendenhall runs wild, the game is over.   Batch can plug away at a prevent defense and bury us.   That’s what many(smart people included) expect to happen.   There’s a fair chance Clemens gets rocked by James Harrison or Troy Polamalu.   There’s a small chance the Rams find a way to win.  Forget about losing for Luck.  The Rams will likely trade away their top three pick for several lower picks and for good reason.  This team needs  lot of work so why try to solve it in one area?  The Rams can ruin playoff hopes today.   Will they show any sign of life?

I agree with Bernie Miklasz in saying Spags and GM Billy Devaney don’t get an extra few inches of string in their efforts here.   Where else would a head coach with a record of 10-36 be allowed to continue after 3 seasons of misguided misery,   Why would Devaney be allowed to put forth another down year?   The time to clean house doesn’t come out of nowhere folks.  For those saying the Rams have dealt with injuries and Spags hasn’t gotten a fair shake, let me run down the list of injuries for the rest of the NFL, including division rivals Seattle and Arizona.   Arizona is winning with a third string quarterback in John Skeleton.   Seattle is winning without Sidney Rice and with Taveris Jackson throwing.    Every NFL team deals with injuries and I have always wondered why the Rams get a longer reach in failure.   The Cards get slammed every year if they fall short.  The Blues get a leeway as well but its starting to shorten.   The Rams are allowed to lose and that’s bad for a franchise.   Unless things turn around, owner Stan Kroneke will have no choice but to move this team to LA or elsewhere.  If he isn’t making money, consider it done.  If we lose in 2012, this franchise will not recover.   The causes don’t start and end with the head coach, but remember why the coach goes first.  It’s not for anything personal he did around here.   It will be because the results of his team isn’t meeting standards.   When you fire the head coach, you send a message to the rest of the players to get their shit together.   It’s a message and not personal.   Spags has a year left on his contract but my feeling is he will be canned.   That’s what has to happen because when you don’t fulfill the job requirements set forth in the beginning.   Several people rush to Spags defense because he is a good guy and I understand the position.  However, do your home work and see what the effects are of an instant decision and having to get training from a new mind(Hitchcock/Blues).   Remember the NFL is a business like any other and if wins aren’t happening, a change needs to be made.  Good guys need to be held accountable for their actions.

The Random Bits

  • The NBA season begins on Christmas and for fans of the sport, that’s great but for me, it’s just another day where basketball takes place.  I will admit the sport getting a half season in is important for the overall image of sports.    Nobody wants a sport laying down in the dumps for too long.
  • Hate Kobe Bryant all you want but respect his toughness and will to play with injuries.  The man is playing on a bad set of wheels and suffers other injuries like wrist soreness and shoulder pain, and hates to sit down.  Kobe has the killer instinct and drive to succeed that Lebron James lost when he left Cleveland.   He knows its him against the world and the expectations are high.  People pay to see him play and he doesn’t wish to disappoint.   Bryant is the closest thing to Jordan we have in the game today.   He plays with one idea in mind.  Win now, win it all and don’t worry about anybody else until you have handed the championship trophy back to your owner in the post game ceremony.
  • The Boston Bruins aren’t one time wonders.  Last week, they destroyed the Philidephia Flyers 6-0 and last night beat the Florida Panthers 8-0.   Granted, The Panthers aren’t that good, but shutting a team out and scoring 8 goals doesn’t happen often in the NHL.   Zdeno Chara, Tim Thomas, Brian Marchand and the boys will be on the doorstep to defend the trophy this spring and the road to the Stanley Cup will go through Beantown.
  • Homeland is getting better and better as I roll through the first season on Showtime On Demand.  I’m 5 episodes in and completely digging this show.   Homeland’s amazing first season seems to be making up for lackluster been there/done that season of Dexter.   Damian Lewis and Claire Danes are locking horns in a beautiful devil dance between two tortured souls, one suspecting the other of a crime far worse than simply treason.   Danes is reinventing herself as an actress here, playing an unstable CIA analyst hellbound on convincing her superiors and herself that Lewis’ POW is a terrorist putting together a mission.   You can pick one side here but its never certain.  The writers and directors keep you off balance with subtle hints and twists.   The finale has to be explosive powerful and send a politically charged message that cuts deeper than protest.
  • Fun Blues notes from Insider/Beat writer Lou Korac.  Brian Elliot has played 1,044 minutes in goal this season and only allowed 27 goals.  After notching the win over the Coyotes on Friday night, Elliot is 14-3 with a 1.55 GAA and .943 save percentage.  A supreme comeback season for Elliot that is easing the burden on Jaro Halak’s mixed season and the goaltending foundation.   Its going to get hard to not give Elliot more starts as the season presses on unless Halak establishes himself as the leader.
  • Looking forward to seeing Waino freeze Beltran with another curve in intra squad games.   Protect the knees and prep for the buckle Carlos.
  • For all the people who felt the need to trample and nearly kill last night over a pair of Jordan sneakers, please tune in now.   It’s only a pair of shoes.    If outsiders need a clue to why our civilization is a cloud covered muddy ditch, look no further than this crowd of insane fucksticks.
  • The Black Keys are the best band working in music today.   Write it down.  Look them up.  Start listening to this band.  Start with their finest album, Brothers(2009).
  • Mel Gibson is officially single.  Who wants a piece of this mad Australian lit fuse of talent and fiery vengeance?  The man needs to make more movies.   He can’t let a little PR trouble get in the way of great acting.
  • The Town on HBO is the most rewatchable film on cable right now.  A truly brilliant Boston crime saga about cops and robbers based on true stories.
  • Warrior on DVD is the movie to seek out on the low scale film front.   Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton’s raw edged performances make this film about two brothers riding a collision course through a MMA tournament speak volumes about heartbreak and violent promises do significant damage to the psyche.
  • The question isn’t whether or not Barack Obama is a good president or not.  It is whether any worthy candidate will come forward and have enough favor and money to beat him.
  • Hanging out with good people never gets old.  Find and assemble your own entourage of trusted souls.  It will become a required life line during rough times.
  • A wonderful wife and beautiful son don’t hurt either.

The Final Word-An Update on my grandmother, Meme.  My sweet grandmother has landed in the hospice floor at Mercy West.   She is breathing on her own, but at this time it’s only a matter of making her exit a comfortable departure.  She is alive but slowly slipping away.  If there is one thing I will learn from her life, it is this.  Don’t take it for granted, live life to the fullest, and do things instead of waiting.   Rachel and I wouldn’t be where we are without the help of Meme.  She gave until it was gone and now all we can do is dedicate the rest of our lives to the style she lived her own.   I will miss her dearly and I feel like a piece of my heart is being stolen.  Now I must take care of my mother, who will take this blow the hardest.  Every death leaves a crop of thorns in its wake but the one thing that needs to be realized is a life that was lived to the most complete level of fulfillment.   Losing Meme will be hard on all of us.   Remembering her and the effect she had on people who had a chance to meet her has a lasting power and responsibility.  I am not guilty of what happened to her, but I told her sorry on Wednesday because I felt I should have been by her side that fateful night.   I called her home phone just to hear her voice again last week.   Her last words to me were wildly ironic.   It was a voicemail from a call I missed 5 hours before she fell down the stairs.  She told me that she loved me, that she enjoyed going to the movies with Rachel and I the previous Wednesday and that The Cardinals would be fine without Albert Pujols.  My grandma worrying about Pujols is my lasting memory of her now.   My grandmother was a giver and a provider.  Whether heaven exists or not, a true angel will show up when Meme passes on from this rock.

That’s all for now.  This stream of consciousness is finished.   Come again for more insightful thoughts from this Southern St. Louis city corner of cyber space.

Goodnight and good luck,

Dan L. Buffa

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