After a long week of work, stress, a lack of sleep and overall zombie like activity, here are the things to talk about. If I sound quick, cocky, and a bit rash, it’s because I just polished off my second straight 60 hour week of warehouse duty and carry a weary arrogance about my free time. There comes a time when you cut all the bullshit away and start being bare boned honest. Here we go. Feel free to cover your eyes to avoid being struck with white hot Italian grease.
1.)Albert Pujols really needs to shut up and play baseball. When I met my wife in 2002 at MU, I must have said “I just want to play baseball” at least 15 times on our first few dates. I was nervous, and didn’t know how to start conversation with a woman who gave me the creeps of being the one lady who could stand me for the bulk of our lives. I just kept saying it. I want to play baseball. Like Dustin Hoffman from Rain Man. Sean Penn from I Am Sam. Baseball, baseball, me, baby, that’s all I want to do. Eventually I stopped and we made out, but I almost blew it. Once again, I did that because I was nervous. I think Albert Pujols is extremely nervous on the West Coast. Speaking to his love buddy USA Today sports writer Bob Nightengale about his new team, the Angels, Albert couldn’t escape a paragraph without tossing a grenade over his shoulder into St. Louis. He whined about the Cardinals making a less than substantial offer and wished they would have ponied up and “wanted” him more. Wanted, as in giving him 35 more million dollars to align themselves with a franchise in LA that was about to blow up a new TV deal that scored the team millions of dollars in cash revenue. Albert wanted more from the Cards, and still cries about it. Look, let me get this out there first before I pick that grenade back up and fling it back towards Albert. I don’t harbor any real resentment towards Albert Pujols. He did a lot of good in STL. 3 MVP, 2 rings, lots of “moments”. He made a decision and left town. No need for hate. Cardinals baseball is larger than one man. Wait and see. However, the man won’t move on. The Cardinals have packed up the Pujols Nostalgia Shop and prepared for 2012 and beyond. You don’t hear John Mozelaik drowning himself in his lattes or reading self help books. He is getting his team set for another run at the title. As he should be, but Albert can’t avoid a chance to fire a bullet at his team. He doesn’t want his number to be retired. He doesn’t want his World Series ring to show up anytime soon. He could have compared his feelings for his old town to his feelings for a used piece of toilet paper for all we know. Here’s what I said in December. Albert didn’t make this decision solely on money. He did this because Bill DeWitt Jr. and John Mozelaik didn’t swaddle him up in a blanket and feed him a bottle of future fortune like Arte Moreno and Jerry Dipoto did in Angels land. However, that is how the incident is perceived by the St. Louis residential area, that Albert simply chased more money. I think he made a rash self promoting decision that at this moment, still harbors a fair amount of regret for. Think of it as the new girl who walks into the room and you go crazy for her. You flirt, plead, go back extra, and go all in for this new thing. When you finally win her over, you realize the tale isn’t as sweet as the cover. You regret what you once had. Albert Pujols regrets his decision folks. He is a rich man, will put together monster seasons in LA, rule the world(less than Kobe though), but he wishes he were back in St. Louis. Just listen to him talk. Look at the tape from his press conference. He looks a bit lost. This isn’t a fan who can’t cut and let go. I have taken the high road and go on with the Cardinals obsession. Albert Pujols needs to realize business is a tough game to play and one that he isn’t quite as good at as he is at baseball. He should have known that when he left town, the feelings weren’t going to be as kind and friendly as they were before. The new attitudes were going to be shocked and sad. Full of regret and a loss of trust. That’s life, Jose Alberto Pujols. I can almost picture the Pujols household the night he made the decision. He sits there, distraught and pissed at the Cards embarrassing(haha) offer of 9 years and 215 million dollars and gets up and shouts, “Fuck it, Im going to LA!” Didi Pujols responds with, “Do it Albert. Show them what kind of Latin American God you are.” The Pujols family made this decision and at least person in the party still isn’t settled with it. Albert is wondering if he made the right move. He still can’t shut up, show some respect to the Cardinals who paid him 116 million to play baseball, turned him into a hero, gave him a chance when no team would and also funded all his offseason trips to the Dominican Republic. Tip your cap, Alberto. What’s done is done. Get on with it and we will see you in the series.
2.)The little franchise from St. Louis wins their season opener with good pitching, timely hitting and a real closer. The Cardinals kicked the tires on 2012 by beating the Miami Marlins in their own house, 4-1. A commanding performance by Kyle Lohse(7IP, 2 H, 3K), another clutch David Freese moment and a Motte door slam locked down the first win in Marlins Stadium history and the Cardinals new season. Baseball is back baby, and it’s not waiting for seconds. Lohse is once again being called on to be more than he has to be in 2012, and cover up the hole left by Chris Carpenter. Lohse is a 3rd-4th starter in most rotations but this year he climbs back into the top 2-3 in Carp’s absence. Lohse did lead the team in wins and ERA last season. He took a no hitter into the 6th inning on Wednesday. He looked commanding on opening night and we can only hope it continues. David Freese, the eternal game face hitter, cranked another 2 strike, 2 out pitch to left field for 2 runs in the first inning. Freese appears to have lost weight, and has healthy legs for the first time in 3 years. He can take the ball to all fields and stands as a guy fit to drive in 100 runs easily in 2012 if he stays on the field. The man can produce in big moments. Similiar to a porn star in bomb shelled Baghdad. Jason Motte rose to the occasion in the 9th inning, allowing a hit but striking out 2 to finish the game. Since his landing in St. Louis as a closer turned strikeout pitcher turned strikeout closer, Motte has developed a second pitch. He showcased it last night. He has the propane fastball at 99 mph. He has the cutter/slider at 89 mph. Now he seems to have a changeup that fooled Mike Stanton to end the game. The more fine and refined the secondary pitch gets, the more lethal Motte can be. Unlike the 2011 season opener(where Ryan Franklin blew the game), Motte closed this one down and kept the good times going from the end of 2011 to the start of 2012.
3.)People are hypocrites. Take the Saints bounty hunting accusations for example. A tape of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams giving deadly instructions to his players was released today and people freaked out. Oh, it’s so terrible. Please, never let him back into football! Come on people, lighten the fuck up. Football is a bone crunching violent sport and every player needs to know the fine balance between RISK and REWARD. A cop knows when he starts his shift that he could die, even after his captain tells him to get out there and catch some bad guys. A race car driver knows the dangers of going that fast on a circle track. A hockey player knows the boards don’t give that much and physicality and unfortunate yet deadly hits are a way of life out there. Read between the lines people. Gregg Williams isn’t an evil man. He was telling his players to hurt other players just like several other coaches do in the NFL. This isn’t a criminal act. A team paying its players extra if they lay out the opponent. Dick Butkiss once said that the quarterback walked off the field, his job wasn’t finished. Mike Singletaire hit guys so hard their brains jiggled. Jack Lambert destroyed players’ lives out there. What else do you expect Williams to say? Boys, hit them, but don’t hurt them. That is the way football players are wired. They are wired to find, destroy and hit as hard as they can. There isn’t anything dirty about it because the sport is covered in it. Fine or suspend Williams and you better take a look around. Once again, I know why Roger Goodell did this. I simply don’t agree with it. Why does he act now? Why react instead of being proactive? Make better helmets, warn about bigger fines and possible suspensions for excessive hits or lay down new ground rules. Do something before the big thing happens and you HAVE to do something. Here’s the reason why we are hypocrites. When we see a big hit, we jump up, go “OHHHH”, and pump out chests. We watch it twice. We tweet about it. We have others watch it. We talk about it like it’s a requirement of football. Kurt Warner was knocked out cold by a Saints player in 2009 at the end of his career. He got blind sided by a Saints player after an interception, a play many know is dangerous for quarterbacks to participate in. The Warner hit on Youtube has collected 62, 000 views. Willing to bet me how many times people watched it twice. We crave it, love it and wait for it. The big hit. The extra special slam. However, when a report comes out that head hunting happened, we grow our hypocritical horns and stand against it. This is where the weakness in our culture really shows itself. The fact that we don’t have a back bone as a country. There was nothing wrong with Williams behavior. He was motivating his players to be the best. Players want to hear that. They know the game they are playing is a violent risk taking endeavor. If the player doesn’t do that, he gets benched or released. He loses his job. Remember, this is a business. There are far worse crimes in sports than bounty hunting programs. Cheating is a bigger crime. Knowing a team cheated in a Super Bowl and only taking away draft picks and fining them is kind of shitty. Suspending two coaches for the entire season for a bounty hunting program is laughable. What’s the biggest crime? A boring game. A fan comes to the game looking for blood. Whenever a brutal truth slips out, the ethics are presented as if a fan stood for them the entire time. A clean game without injury isn’t practical when men put on pads and helmets to brutally collide with other men on a field. Kurt Warner was clobbered because he tried to get involved in a play. Did Gregg Williams tell his players to go after and hurt Warner? Sure he did, and he had every reason to. Football fans are being overly sensitive here to a reality check. Football is a painful living. Roger Goodell pulled the trigger too late for my interest to convince us he really cares about player safety. It’s just a game. A painful one.
4.)The Blues have lost 3 games in a row and watched their stranglehold over the NHL points total slip away. In a week, the Blues dropped from 1st to 4th and aren’t playing a particularly strong brand of hockey. They lost in shootouts to Chicago and Detroit and got their asses handed to them by the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday. Three division opponents and three losses…in a row. This isn’t how you want to enter playoff hockey. Remember the Cards in 2009 when they sleepwalked through the final month, nearly lost their spot and ended up getting swept by the Dodgers. The Blues have to clean up their act against the Phoenix Coyotes this weekend. Head Coach Ken Hitchcock is the coach of the year but it won’t matter much if his team loses control now. The injury bug can’t be blamed because the team is completely healthy. Alex Steen, Matt D’Agostini, Andy McDonald, David Perron, and Roman Polak are all back. Is that the problem? Do the Blues fail to realize how healthy teams work? Without any adversity and underdog status to wear on their shoulder, the Blues are dysfunctional. They need to remember the chip on their shoulder hasn’t disappeared. This team hasn’t won a playoff game in 8 years and really needs to immerse themselves back in playoff activity. Reaching the playoffs is one thing. Doing something upon your entrance is another level. Please observe. The Blues need a Cardinals 2011 type run where they didn’t stop winning and every facet of their game clicked at once. I also don’t think you need to carry one main goaltender in the playoffs. Why change what has worked for you the past 5 months? Keep Halak and Elliot in rotation unless one of of them looks unstoppable. Halak and Elliot both rank in the top 5 in goals against average and save percentage and while Halak has been unbeatable in regulation in 2012 Brian Elliot didn’t allow a goal for 240 minutes before last night’s loss to Detroit. The Red Wings shootout win did reveal one thing. Until the Blues can handily defeat the Wings and Hawks, they will be the little guy in this fight.
5.)Justified Season Finale is delivered on Tuesday. The third season has been absolutely riveting and brilliantly done. The Raylan Givens saga chronicling the criminal and deadly dealings in Harlan, Kentucky hit a high notch this season, mixing in Detroit gangster Robert Quarles(the Emmy award deserving Neal Mcdonough), Holler showrunner Limehouse(Mykelti Williamson) to go with Walter Goggins’ Boyd Crowder. Quarles arriving in Harlan wanting to continue the business that was cut away from him in Detroit right here in the country. Limehouse being the internal source of criminal activity while also working his own angle on every player. Crowder’s usual double dealing nature, working with Raylan ex and Harlan known tough goddess Eva(Joelle Carter) and Givens’ dad Arlo(Raymond Barry). The juice in this show comes in the acting, directing, pacing but mostly, the scripts containing the best dialogue on television. The standoffs between Givens and the many bad man he must contain while also keeping a stranglehold on his own daily devil dances within his own world. Timothy Olyphant is the rock of the show, the pivotal piece being stretched and kicked in every direction. His performance anchors the series and supplies the supporting cast with every bit of a chance to shine. After a wonderfully slow developing spider web plot this season, the characters collide in Tuesday’s powerful hour. Television shows run a usual course of danger that leads straight into a predictable finale every viewer sees coming. Graham Yost, creator and head writer on the show, keeps his audience off balance with unexpected thrills, brilliantly staged standoffs and plotting that lights a match from miles away set to blow up only in the final hour. Tuesday’s finale is what great television is all about. A quick paced season coming to a blunt end. Everything works on this show and proves the strengthened theory that FX is the go to network for smart engaging entertainment.
6.)Signs that Mike Matheny knows what he is doing. Letting Kyle Lohse start the 8th inning while knowing his best stuff was behind him. Lohse was well under 100 pitches, but one of the many pet peeves with Tony La Russa was watching him pull a pitcher before he was ready. Lohse didn’t finish the 8th inning but he was effective and while the project failed in him not finishing the inning, I like Matheny’s mindset here. Let the starter earn it and don’t pull him too quick. Mike Matheny is new but he is fresh with ideas. A rookie is dangerous because they carry zero history to reference their decisions to. Matheny can do things and come right at teams without sprinkling hints of his direction. His inexperience is a symbol of the team’s new found freedom without Pujols on the team. It’s a brand new game in St. Louis and Matheny’s faith in his starters, the running game and taking gambles is something I like a lot.
7.)The Cardinals are pounding Milwaukee 8-2 as I write. This team is hitting early and doing it off of good pitching. Josh Johnson, the Marlins young phenom, is one of the best pitchers in the NL and the Cards ripped him for 4 runs on Wednesday in route to a 4-1 win. Today, they rip Yovani Gallardo once again for 4 home runs and 6 runs in 3.2 innings, backing Jaime Garcia’s 6 solid innings. David Freese has 2 more RBI, giving him 5 on the season. Yadi Molina, Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran and Freese all hit home runs. Beltran gets on base three times. As the 7th inning unfolds, this team is hurting the Brewers, struggling themselves without Prince Fielder in the lineup and an old Richie Weeks holding serve at second base. The Milwaukee bunch was bruised severely when the left for dead Cards stormed back and made the playoffs in 2011. After taking down Roy Halladay in his own house, the Cards surprised the Brewers in the NLCS and took them down in 6 games. The aftershock appears to be living today during this Redbird killing. The Cardinals are taking the crowd out of the game early with their early inning assaults. Before the third inning started, it was 5-2 Cards. The Cards are premature road warriors. I have no idea if this will continue but I like what I see.
8.)This Will Destroy You is the kind of band that fights its way into your soul with their guitar driven instrumental music that inspires you to get out and do something with your life. Seriously, the music lights a small fire under your ass and pushes you in more ways than one. This is a type of music that you either laugh off or bring inside. Look them up and get connected. Music doesn’t require words to reach you. In contrast to their loud sound, This will Destroy You has a way of recharging your batteries.
9.)I hate Floyd Mayweather Jr. and all his antics. Listen, the guy is a great fighter, undefeated, and will go down as one of the best. However, he bugs me to my inner core with his childish antics, criminal activity, bogus intent for clean boxing and his outlandish attitude. The man makes a lot of money but I don’t need to hear about it. Stop taking money from the sport Floyd and instead give some back. Start with shutting your mouth. During a sitdown with Miguel Cotto, a proud Puerto Rican champion who Floyd will probably beat, the undefeated bastard wouldn’t be serious. He checked his Ipad for NCAA scores and kept interrupting Max Kellerman and Cotto. Sure, this is Mayweather’s strategy and the way he conducts himself in pre fight hype. He does this to enrage people like me and I say fuck him. He is great in record, but someone I hope gets pounded soon and deep into the ground. When Floyd takes a very tough fight with either Pacquiao or a young gunner like Canelo Alvarez and puts himself in real danger, we may see an ass kicking. Floyd puts out a front that he wants clean boxing so he requests Olympic style drug testing, even though no previous boxer has done this nor was it needed. Can we check your gloves and the gloves of others, Floyd? Forget the blood testing. This man likes to get into trouble with the law, beating up his girlfriends and shoving security guards. Floyd thinks he is bigger than life. I don’t care about his charity givings. The man outweighs any good deeds with his shitty attitude. Its hard to watch him without feeling like punching him in his face. Here’s to Miguel, a family man and owner of a solid record including tough fights, finding an inch and landing a few punches on the quick footed and defensively gifted loud mouth Floyd. I’ve hoped for it every fight, but I won’t get it until he takes on Manny or a young power puncher. For now, I’ll settle for Floyd catching a beating.
10.)The Cards rip the Brewers 11-5 only because worthless reliever Kyle McClellan gives up a late three run home run in the ninth inning. McClellan is the kind of pitcher who has been ruined by the Cardinals and likes to hang breaking balls. He has went from a reliever to a starter candidate to a reliever and back to a starter in 2011 and quickly back to a reliever in late 2011. He doesn’t know what he will be doing, makes mistakes and is worn down. His 2 million dollar contract is a laughing stock and needs to be axed. Solid win by the Cards. Two commanding wins by a team expected to contend in their division yet look weaker without Pujols. So far, the team is doing what I said. Thriving with their versatile offense, strong pitching and score first nature. If the health can stay relatively intact, watch out. If the injuries start piling up, cover your eyes. General views this early in the season.
*While the Rams prepare for a draft that needs to be effective, please know that Stan Kroneke isn’t moving the team anywhere. He has invested years and money in this city and if improvements are made to the Dome, Rams football will stay here beyond 2014. Kroneke didn’t get the Dodgers and LA has shipped out the Rams twice so why would they go back there a third time? The Rams need to get a pulse on the field and that starts with a good draft.
*The MU Tigers and Blues share a similar trait and that’s choking on the big stage. I love the Blues but they need to get their act together tonight against Phoenix or else a chokefest is in their future. For all the Blues know it all diehards to ward off every other fan, that’s a legit shot at this team. Check the history books and come back to the table. The biggest problem with the Blues right now is their defense showing signs of breaking down. What was once a strength 2 weeks ago has shown a leak the last 3 games and so far tonight against Phoenix. Shot flurries and pressure from opposing teams is bringing to light scary reminders of the past 2 years. This has to stop or bad things will keep happening. If the Blues don’t win at least 1 of their final 2 games, they carry zero chance of finishing ahead of Vancouver and securing home ice advantage in the playoffs.
*David Perron is a special talent finally coming into his own. The Frenchman can make plays, destroy defenders, carries game changing speed and can score 30 plus goals with a full season of play. Out of the Blues young core group of forwards(Oshie, Berglund, Perron), DP is the player capable of taking over a game. It’s great to see him recover from his concussion last season. Kid’s future is full of bright light.
*I just like the way David Backes plays the game. That’s all. Overall effectiveness makes him a great captain and player.
On tap for the weekend. Sleep. For the first time in a long time, I am sharing the house without the wife and kid and its weird. Coming home to a home with no wife and kid waiting to greet me is something I don’t want to get used to. Rachel and Vinny are visiting her sister in Kentucky, so its me and Irish this weekend before I start a new shift at work on Sunday. A slow moving weekend will include some good food, beer, parents visit, music, sleep, and some shopping. Also good times with Irish McHugh. Here’s to the longest 48 hours of all time. After this pay period, my bank likes the result but my body is worn out.
It’s time to release this one into the wild. Have fun this weekend and thanks for reading.
Goodnight and good luck,
Dan L. Buffa