As I roll into one of the best films of the year, Moneyball, I will unload the latest firing squad of material. Cut the shit, avoid the glaze and get to the material. That’s what people come here for. The goods. Let’s get to it.
Spags Is Fired
Seen coming from a mile away, The Rams Head Coach was fired mere hours after I wrote about it in a blog early Monday morning. This wasn’t a surprise. He compiled a record of 10-38 in his three seasons, taking a huge step back this season in a 2-14 season marred by bad penalties, injury, underachieving quarterback play and a downright ugly brand of football. The Rams were horrible, and sports rules call for a coach to fall on the sword. The real reason Spags lost his job was he lost the guts and determination to try new things and go outside the box. The Rams had zero energy and looked flat every Sunday. Spags was gun shy and shell shocked from extreme failure, and like a scarred quarterback in the slot with fear of throwing an interception, Spagnuolo was eaten away by his own demons. Change was needed and he was executed. GM Billy Devaney was sent packing along with him, a required move for the simple reason that he put the failing squad together.
Jeff Fisher Enters the Picture
The main reason I like Fisher is because he has head coaching experience, and unlike the Cardinals, the Rams need a coach with legit experience and a history of winning with small payrolls. Fisher took the Titans to the Super Bowl in 1999 with an underrated team and nearly(by a yard) beat the Rams. 12 years later, he will chose between the Rams and Miami this week. Fisher is a hard nosed tough attitude producing football mind who has taken the time off to reset his engines and prepare for another battle on the sidelines. Fisher is hungry and dealt with a childish quarterback in Tennessee near his end in Vince Young. He forced Fisher out and since then, Fisher’s been a free agent. Pull the record away and the STL Rams are set up with fine pieces to rebuild with. The main problem with the Rams is they were rebuilding still in 2011 and they had the third oldest team in football. Rebuilding and old age don’t go together. The Rams need to get younger and build from their youth. Scrap the old shitty parts and look at the young. If I am Fisher, that is my main goal. Look at Sam Bradford and the potential. Steven Jackson is old, so think about drafting a young RB in the later rounds. Look at the defense with Chris Long, Robert Quinn, Quentin Mikkel and James Lauranitis. There are pieces here. In my opinion, the Rams carry more futuristic flair than the Dolphins even though Miami had a more successful 2011 season. Fisher makes a choice this week and if the Rams can snag him, the first step taken in rebuilding a dead franchise is a solid one. You have to start with the head coach, get a general manager who can evaluate talent, then the draft, and move into free agency and assemble a good team.
Tim Tebow Defies the Odds…..Again
On Sunday, Tebow went into Mile High Stadium with few experts expecting him to take down the #1 ranked defense in the Steelers in the wild card playoff round. After losing the last 3 games of the season and turning the ball over 7 times, Tebow was once again left for dead. It’s been a trend in his NFL career. The college hero with a knack for fourth quarter comebacks who has trouble throwing is now going to New England to play Tom Brady and the Patriots next Sunday in the second round of the playoffs. How did this happen? Tebow threw for 316 yards, including touchdown passes of 30 and 80 yards and also a 51 yard completion. He also ran for a touchdown. Tebow completed an 80 yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime, which qualifies as the longest passing play in overtime in playoff history. The Tebow critics will come out and shoot this down, calling it a 2012 Mayan apocalypse fluke or a lucky shot. I am here to tell you the kid has real talent and isn’t going anywhere. He carries little chance of beating Brady next week, but he will make the Super Champ earn the right to play for the conference. Tebow is a winner. He is committed to winning and will do ANYTHING to win. He is all you want in an athlete coming out of college. Tebow is Michael Vick without the shitty brain and criminal desire. A quarterback who can run and throw. Tebow did it all and then some on Sunday. Seeing what he does next weekend is something EVERYBODY, critics and supporters, will be dying to see. For the first time in his career, Tebow won a game with his arm and not just his legs. It helped that Ben Roethlisberger played the game on one leg and the Steelers didn’t have safety Ryan Clark or running back Rasheed Mendenhall. It helped that Pittsburgh was playing on the road with a hurt quarterback. It helped that Denver had a 10 point lead most of the game. Tebow takes the surrounding factors and correctly plugs them into his own agenda. No matter how ugly it is, win the game. He won on Sunday without the ugliness. One thing is for sure. Tebow has shocked the world. If I told you Tebow would be playing Tom Brady in the AFC Divisional Playoff Game back in September, you would have laughed me out of the room. Expect the unexpected with Tebow.
Dave Duncan Steps Down
Dave Duncan will not be the pitching coach for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2012, marking the first time The Cardinals will employ a new manager and pitching coach since 1995. Duncan is stepping down to be with his wife, Jeannine, who is recovering from brain cancer. In November, Duncan thought he could stack the duties of a pitching coach on top of looking after his wife. Last week, Duncan decided he couldn’t do it. The news began as a leave of absence but developed into a permanent move. Derek Lilloquist, who stepped into Dunc’s role near the end of 2011, will become the new pitching coach. The loss of Duncan is a big one for a team suddenly rebuilding the identity of their team after winning a World Series. Tony La Russa retired, Matheny came aboard, got rid of La Russa’s coaches, Pujols signed elsewhere and now Duncan isn’t coming back. Say hello to a new friend. The Cardinals will get by without them in 2012. In 2011, they defied the ultimate odds and won the championship. 2012 seems like a piece of cake. Look, you can sit here and cry over Duncan’s exit or take comfort in the fact he is doing it for the right reason and the Cards get his longtime protege in return.
The Blues Rebound, Put Together A Strong Streak
On Monday, I told you the Blues had 3 winnable games this past week. Phoenix, Edmonton and Colorado. They won all three games and sit atop the Central Division with 53 points and are 2nd in the Western Conference. The Blues are playing 60 minutes of hockey, are 5-13 on their power play during the home stand, and seeing renewed production from Chris Stewart. This team relies on all hands being on deck instead of a single scoring line or one man goaltending show. Brian Elliot grabbed another shutout on Saturday when the Blues dominated and destroyed the streaking Avs but goals from Berglund, Shatty, Arnott and Backes sealed the win and Elliot saw less than 20 shots. A team game is developing and that is why the Blues are atop the division. In October, we had a good team and a chance to win. Davis Payne was a respected man and coach. However, he wasn’t pulling results from this team and he was replaced. Ken Hitchcock came in here with 540 plus wins, sitting at a desk in Columbus, and hungry to coach again. He has reinvented this team with the same players. Amazing feat. What else is there to say? I am no expert and can only enjoy watching this team that I have waited to see contend seriously again suddenly become a legit force in the NHL. It would be fool hardy to not recognize a night/day difference with the team under Payne/Hitchcock. How long can it last?
Billy Beane’s idea was simple. Take a 41 million dollar team and turn them into a playoff team after losing three key players in Damon, Izzy and Giambi in 2002. Billy Beane made one decision early in his life based on money and swore he would never do it again. Beane wanted to change the game. He didn’t want the money, fame or glamour. He wanted to do something no team had done before. Take a small market team and beat the big market team. It was more than that. His method of changing the game meant relying on stats, computer analysis and on base percentage instead of old school scouting, big salaries and home runs. His change of thought threatened the livelihood of several GMs, scouts,ballplayers and represented what people fear most in life. CHANGE IN METHODS OF SUCCESS SEEKING. The A’s won more games in 2002 than they did in 2001, won 20 games in a row, yet lost in the playoffs to the Twins. His season was enough to make teams change the way they evaluate talent. Moneyball is a great film that relies heavily on Brad Pitt’s brilliant portrayal of Beane. Instead of mimicking Beane directly, Pitt created his own wisecracking version of Beane and delivered one of the better performances of his career. Bennett Miller unleashed Pitt and in the end created a new sports film classic. See this film on Tuesday when it arrives on DVD/Blu Ray.
Edwin Jackson isn’t worth 17 million dollar a season.
The 60-60 pitcher doesn’t deserve that money. His agent, Scott Boras, is demanding that much and comparing him to past chokers like John Lackey and Aj Burnett, both whose employers are dying to shred now that they are scrubs. Recalculate Scotty. Jackson isn’t worth the dough and barely deserves Kyle Lohse money in 11 million per season. Jackson hasn’t proven he could win consistently at this level and he isn’t a good bet even to a team needing starting pitching. He will be picked up for a 1 or 2 year deal in February at 12 million per season by an American League team looking to dump money on a landfill. Jackson is a MLB whore and has slept around the league.
Attention Packers and Saints.
You score a lot of points but you shall face a New York Giants team that has won 3 in a row and made Matt Ryan and The Falcons look like immature oversized pee wee opponents on Sunday. The Giants beat the Falcons 24-2 and the only reason Atlanta saw points came via a penalty on Eli Manning in the end zone. For the second week in a row, Manning threw for 300 plus yards, 65 percent completion rate and 3 touchdowns without any interceptions. I’m not a fan of the Giants. I’m simply warning the favored teams.
Albert Pujols still isn’t sure he made the right decision.
His 10 year 250 million dollar deal was completed this week and it comes with many perks. Pujols gets a hotel suite on the road, a chance to buy season tickets at an Angels suite, and gets tons of incentives when he breaks records. It proves that every small detail must be punched out before a player contract is finalized. The deal includes a 10 year personal services clause that according to my inside sources, the Cards came up with first and the Angels adapted. That’s right. The Cards team that Team Pujols said didn’t treat them with respect and comfort first offered him a personal services contract. There was comfort and 210 million from St. Louis, but Pujols fled. This exit still doesn’t sit completely easy with me mainly in part to Pujols’ stupidity. In my eyes, he had no reason to leave and the ones he pointed out don’t make a bit of sense. Im glad the big guy gets his own suite on the road, Mike Piazza style, and that he is happy out west. The real proof starts in less than 90 days.
Roy Oswalt to the Cardinals only works if the dollars, years and role perimeters are set up right. If the Cards could trade Westbrook or Lohse, Oswalt could fit in perfectly in St. Louis, a place where he really wants to pitch. Oswalt could come here for 5 million and have his salary rise with wins, innings pitched and strikeouts. If it is possible, I am for it.
Prince Fielder needs to make a decision.
Shut off the cell phone and tell Boras to leave you alone. Nearly a month after Pujols signed, Fielder sits without a contract and its peculiar yet not surprising. Fielder wants 10 years and Pujols money, and teams don’t want to give him the comfort. They want to give him 5 years and high dollar. If I were Fielder, I would take the 5 year deal and keep on hitting. What if a better offer doesn’t come in? What if the phantom bidder in Boras talks never arrives? The best fit for Prince is Washington. They seem primed to give him 5-7 years and 23-25 million per season and the two sides fit each other. Washington is one piece away from seriously contending. They have Steven Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, Gio Gonzalez and John Lannan in the rotation. They have Drew Storen in the bullpen. They have Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond and Michael Morse in the lineup and only need a big piece to get in line with the Braves and Phillies. Fielder will know the team is set up to win for a long time, especially if Bryce Harper makes an appearance in 2012. If I am Fielder, I tell Boras to make the Washington deal work. Soon.
For years, I swore Floyd Mayweather Jr. was the person to blame for the mega fight between Floyd and Manny Pacquiao not happening.
At first, Floyd played the mind games and demanded olympic drug testing. Manny balked and said no. The second time, Manny agreed to the testing yet Floyd didn’t come to the table. The two have fought 3 opponents since the chance for a fight arose. Floyd seemed to be afraid to harm his unbeaten record, avoid a real challenge for the first time in his career and seemed to run from this fight or make up bullshit to delay it. Now, the tables have turned. Floyd got 90 days in jail for domestic abuse this month, but on Friday a judge delayed the sentence until June so Floyd could keep a commitment to fight in Las Vegas on May 5th. Floyd is available and when asked who he wants to fight, a name wasn’t needed. He wants Manny for a mega fight. The only problem now is Manny’s promoter, Bob Arum seems to NOT want to make the fight happen. Floyd’s promoter, Richard Schfareth is placing the blame on Arum and I am starting to believe him. Arum took a 4 opponent portfolio to Manny this weekend and it didn’t include Floyd. When news came around that Floyd had a chance to fight, Arum still dismissed a fight. WHY? Nobody wants to see any other fight right now. Boxing fans and casual boxing fans want to see Floyd and Manny brawl. Why is Arum holding this up? Is he afraid a Pac Man loss will kill his cash cow’s future chances? That doesn’t make sense. Manny has lost 4 times and if he puts up a decent fight at the very least against Mayweather Jr., a rematch will be in order and redemption will be set up. Arum has zero reason to deny this fight. His unwillingness to work with Golden Boy Promotions makes me sick and may stop the biggest fight in 30 years from happening.
We Bought A Zoo Review
Cameron Crowe’s first full fledged family film is a true story centering on Benjamin Mee, a writer who decides to take over a zoo in California after his wife dies in order to rehabilitate his grieving family . Matt Damon stars as Mee, and he makes another leading role seem effortless. The role represents another layer of Damon few film fans have gotten a chance to see. Damon’s gift is being one of the most versatile actors on the planet. His skills serve him well in this holiday delight. Crowe’s gift in filmmaking is injecting an emotional experience into a recycled story that seems familiar. This film is an emotionally engaging experience that will get the tearducks working by the final frame. A simple concept taken and rolled into a family film worth seeing. Mee takes over a closed Zoo and along with his two kids and a staff including every cliched stereotype in film, resurrects not only the zoo but his own life. The supporting cast features Scarlett Johannson as the zoo keeper and woman who enters Ben’s life at the right time yet finds a cement cover on the soul. The key to this film is the grace that Crowe delivers it. Every Crowe film is a version of his own life and every lead character is an alternate personality. He is a director you immediately get a feel for when watching a film. The easy going pace, the rich soundtrack and relaxed acting. Thomas Haden Church co-stars as Ben’s brother and brings a healthy dose of humor to the proceedings.
The Black Keys Come to St. Louis
If you spend any time here lately, you have come to find out that this band has grown to be one of my favorites. Their music is pure and old school rock n’ roll electricity. It’s perk up, get in a good mood, wake the fuck up music. Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney put together the greatest 2 man band in history and keep things simple. From their first album, The Big Come Up, to their latest batch of tunes, El Camino, the boys haven’t changed a bit. They will grace the Chaifetz Arena on April 27th, finally getting the required space to surround their monstrously cool music. It’s easy to like the Black Keys if you like old school blues rock. Here’s yet another sample of their work, a cover of Richard Berry’s “Have Love, Will Travel”. You wouldn’t know the song didn’t belong to them by the way they invest the song with soul and original wit. These guys are freakishly good and only get better on repeated listens. One of the most inventive bands out there at the moment. To me, while DMB take a break, Black Keys share the musical earth with Mumford and Sons and Florence + The Machine.
Memorial for Meme
On Sunday, there was a memorial downtown in St. Louis for my late grandmother, Henrieta aka “Meme”. A somber day that was put together to celebrate her life. There was a mass at St. Raymonds and a lunch at her condo. Meme is the one and only reason I ever entered a church in my life and for her, I reentered my Catholic upbringing this weekend to honor her memory. As you know, I believe in GOD on earth as much as Santa Claus or clean honest politicians, so I did this for her. She loved going there and was a Saint there. It was a nice ceremony and the place was packed. I sat between my mom and dad and served as the tough bunker dividing tears and strength. Afterwards, friends and family flooded the condo for a lunch and memorial. My good friend, Bill DeWitt III made an appearance and paid his respects. My grandmother lived next door to DeWitt and his family when they moved here in 1996 and immediately treated them like family. It was a nice event and a fine sendoff to Meme. It’s still a fresh wound to think of Meme as deceased but seeing the vast array of people who she collided with in her life made me feel better about letting her go sooner rather than later. She lived a full and vibrantly aware 81 years and served as a fine example of “living” for a living.
2011 Look Back Preview
In the next week or so, I will be putting together a look back at the year that was 2011, a period that marked my life with happiness and sadness. A bittersweet campaign that won’t be forgotten. Here is a preview at the opening and things that happened and will be delved into.
Life is a give and take process with a fair measure of get. You give, they take and you get something in return. In 2011, things happened that will I will never forget. A year of pain and joy that only strengthens the fact that life can’t be taken for granted.
Meme Passes-The loss of my grandmother on Christmas eve was the equivalent to a bullet ripping into my back at the end of a parade. She died on the eve of Christmas and on the eve of her wedding anniversary. Meme would tell me every time I saw her that she would be dead soon and I better come see her more often. She knew she wasn’t going to be around forever, and that is something my family and I never wanted to buy into or believe. Now, we are figuring out how to live without Meme’s presence and grace. It’s a tough walk.
Life is full of promises, so here is a quick rundown of 2011 just in case I don’t come back to write an official end of year mission statement. What happened in 2011? A quick plunge. My Wife Rachel Quits smoking. We get pregnant(yes, there is a “we” being used here). The following9 months are an adventurous blend of excitement, tiredness and new found joy. Vinny goes into the hospital due to a heart condition named WPW. He leaves the hospital. The Cards win 22 games in September and rip into the playoffs on the final day as Atlanta falters like an injured horse. They outlast the Phillies, smoke the Brewers in six and outrun the Rangers in the World Series to produce the most improbable run in 20 years and win their 11th championship title. David Freese becomes a national sports hero in 48 hrs with a pair of huge hits to propel the Cards to the title. The team quickly encounters change with La Russa retiring 2 days after Game 7 and The Pujols Talks encure a week of drama. Albert Pujols signs with the Angels and immediately regrets his decision, calling the Cardinals to blame for not cuddling him during negotiations. The Blues crash in the House of Payne yet reinvent themselves under a new veteran coach in Hitchcock. The Rams completely collapse, igniting a bomb that blows up the front office and sideline. They finish 2-14, and Spags and Devaney are fired. The NBA and NFL build a greedy wall around their egos and go through a lockout, the NBA losing a portion of the season. Vinny goes back into the hospital for a stomach ailment that keeps him for 4 more days in ICU. He exits and starts to gain weight and grow chubby cheeks. John Mozelaik carves himself into the Cardinals leadership role by hiring Mike Matheny, who carried no previous coaching experience. Rescue Me departs FX on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, ending the series with a powerful bang. The Black Keys, Mumford and Sons and Adele blow the music world away with real rhythm and blues. A film directly attacks the financial crisis in2008 in Margin Call, my contender for Best Picture. Entourage ends its 8 year run 2 years too late. Hung closes down after 3 underrated seasons at HBO. House on Fox grows tired very quick without the House-Cuddy story arc. Justified, Sons Of Anarchy, and Boardwalk Empire take bold steps in their season. The Changeup and Horrible Blues produce some of the biggest laughs of the year. The Killer Elite is smart action entertainment and Moneyball is a quiet contender for a sports classic and Best Picture candidate. Osama Bin Laden is finally killed, supposedly in the heat of a US ambush in his own home. A double tap is the final killshot. The country remembers and salutes the heroes and victims of 9/11 on the 10 year anniversary. The Cardinals prove that no deficit is impossible to overcome. Right as my year seems to wrap up quite nicely, my grandmother, Meme, falls, suffers a brain injury and dies at the wise old age of 81. 2012 begins with a memorial.
The Random Bits-
*The secret ingredient of Tebow power is his size. Unlike the brittle Michael Vick, when Tebow shoots the gap for a red zone rushing score, defensive players have to take down a 245 pound beast instead of a skinny aching athlete. Tebow punishes tacklers and doesn’t make it easy. If he improves his throwing, the sky is the limit.
*Ken Hitchcock has a 18-5-5 record since taking over the Blues.
*Spring training begins in less than 40 days. The tinkling has begun.
*The NBA action is a moot point and that includes the Miami Heat’s fast 9-1 start.
*I can’t stop thinking about Drive so much that I am diving into youtube clips and soundtrack picking. I am a sucker for stylish brutally violent noir thrillers. The movie looks very good. Report to come at the end of the month.
*My son Vincent is cute beyond words. Literally, I could talk about him all day here and might soon. A Vinny action blog special.
*Someone forgot to tell Falcons QB Matt Ryan the playoffs started. The Boston College talent is 0-3 in playoff action in his young career. Talented guy who can’t do it on the big stage. Another Tebow comparison here.
*Sam Bradford’s 2012 season is crucial for one reason. THERE ARE NO EXCUSES THIS TIME KID. A new coach, GM, and players will enter this team’s picture. Bradford will have his 3rd offensive coordinator and must make plays and learn to get rid of the ball in the pocket and become mobile.
*Solid move by the Blues to extend Ryan Reaves 2 years. He is a hard working 4th line grinder who can fight and skate and make plays. The Blues have done things right and built their core from the ground up with young players. The Rams must follow suit.
*Barry Larkin rightfully entered the Hall of Fame today on his third try. Larkin, a long time Reds shortstop, was a slick fielding versatile hitting player for many seasons. This was a no brainer, as he received 86 percent of the vote. 75 percent is required to enter and you are eligible 5 years after you retire. If Jeff Bagwell improves upon the 56 percent he received this year and enters soon, how many other steroid users will follow him in? Bonds, Mac, Clemens? Things could get very interesting next season if Bagwell gets in. Where is the threshold set at once one abuser gets in?
*IF Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State is available and the Rams have a decent setup to select him, they can’t hesitate. The tall muscular playmaking wide receiver could save Bradford’s career the way Calvin Johnson rescued Matthew Stafford’s life and the Rams can’t pass him up.
*Stupid Internet Blogger gripe here real quick. Jeff Fisher came and went from Rams Park on Sunday. That’s all there is. Stop making up rumors Twitter and sports forum nibblers.
IF THERE IS NO NEWS TO REPORT, DON’T REPORT IT. THE NEXT TIME I HEAR ABOUT KOBE BRYANT’S STATUS OR THAT HE “MIGHT PLAY”, I AM GOING TO SHOOT AN OLD PERSON IN THE ANKLE.
*When it is all said and done, religion taken aside, Tim Tebow will leave his mark on this game. BUT…he has to consistently throw the ball well. This is a passing dominated league. If he can’t, he won’t last at QB. You can’t be afraid to throw the ball.
That’s it, folks. All there is to tell for now. I’ll put the guns down, get some rest and load the chamber again later this week.
Thanks for reading,
Dan L. Buffa