Month: April 2013

A Rant About My St. Louis Cardinals

Pay attention, I am going to make this quick.  As I light up Twitter and Facebook, I will speed up the latest launch of Buffa prose to your skulls.  As my kid tries desperately to hurt himself on hardwood floors, my time is here to unplug for a little bit and inform you on my take.  I’m letting the hands go now.  This will be random, brutal and quite well…direct.  

*The St. Louis Cardinals played an ugly weekend of baseball at Busch Stadium to wrap up an uneven week.  Last weekend, they lose 2 of 3 to Philly and ride into Washington to sweep the series.  They beat Steven Strasburg on Wednesday and after a day off, they destroy the Pirates on Friday night.   
Let’s go further into this series.
*The Friday win had weirdness to it.  Granted, the Pirates lost Jonathon Sanchez after four batters because the umpire Timmons thought he threw at Allen Craig after surrendering three bullets to start his game.  I say this because I don’t think he should have been tossed.  I have watched the replay seven times and don’t think it was intentional.  He let a fastball go and it went off Craig’s wrist, where he has enough padding to hold off a baseball made of steel and stone.  The benches didn’t clear, the Pirates lost a manager and the Cards packed on a few more runs to win 9-1.
-On Saturday, they let a 2-0 lead evaporate after Jake Westbrook leaves and lose 5-3.   A disappointing loss to be sure and one that had the bullpen’s finger prints all over it.  Joe Kelly came in and gave up two quick runs in the 7th.  Trevor Rosenthal poured more gasoline on in the 8th inning.  The Cards lost a game.
-Sunday, things got ugly.  The Cards bats were shut down by a pitcher named Locke.  Shelby Miller gave up 3 runs(2 earned) in 5.2 innings.  The bullpen came in and demolished things.  Fernando Salas, a pitcher who carries little worth in my mind these days, comes in with an inherited runner in the 6th and on the first pitch gives up an RBI double.  The next inning, he surrenders a home run.   Mitchell Boggs and Marc Rzepcynzski give up 5 more in the 9th and we lose 9-0 at home.  When this team goes bad, they rub it in our faces and get down on dirt level.   Opening day was a game where they just got ripped.  Today is more of the same.  It’s just ugly.
*The Cards lineup ripped through the Nationals and Pirates on Friday but then went completely cold for 2 games, scoring 2 runs in 18 innings.   This offense can be exposed and shut down for multiple games like any other team.  It happens.  The lineup scored tons of runs and then couldn’t buy a run versus Locke today.   The more disturbing news comes in the bullpen work this weekend.
*Mitchell Boggs needs a Memphis assignment badly.  Demote him.  Reset his clock.  His head is in the gutter and his arm is close.  This guy was ruined by Matheny when he was shoved into a closer role he was ill prepared for.  Save me your bullshit about being able to pitch any inning because he is in the major leagues.  That isn’t the way it works.  Boggs found a niche in the bullpen when he was a setup man.   He got it done in the 8th inning last year.  Why change that? Why  mess with that?  Now, his confidence is shot, his mechanics are way off, and every time he pitches, bad things happen.   Friday and Sunday featured Boggs performances and he didn’t finish an inning.   It’s at the point where you can just send him down.  Make a switch.  Shake things up.
*Send Fernando Salas to the desert or Memphis if necessary.   Salas is a shade of the reliever the Cards brought up three years ago.  He doesn’t get hitters out in clutch spots on a consistent basis anymore and his pitches have zero action.  He got raked today and let a close game go wide.  If Eduardo Sanchez’s forearm gets healthy, send him up and get rid of Salas.  Of course this will not happen.  Salas is one of Matheny’s boys.
*Mike Matheny just said in his post game Serious John Wayne speech that his team wasn’t expecting the results that occured today.   Count us in that boat Mike.  This team is a freak concoction of unpredictable madness.  They win big, win close, lose close and lose big.  Four weeks into the season, and the convoluted Redbird Blues  have begun.  Matheny must do something to shake this up.  Send a couple pitchers down, flip a table over, yell at somebody, punch a wall, and get a message sent to this team early.   24 games in, and the questions are piling up.  
Let me fire off some definitive statements.  
*Edward Mujica did a good job as the closer last week.  Don’t expect that to continue.  His history doesn’t support his current performance.  I am glad if I am wrong here.  
*Trevor Rosenthal is having issues, but not in the same capacity of error as Boggs, Salas and Rzep are having.  Rosenthal has learned to rebound from his faulty innings and blow guys away.  He had trouble in Wednesday against Wash and ended the inning by striking out 2 batters on six pitches.  Yesterday, he got a little wild and rung himself in with a couple ground balls and a flyout.  Rosenthal, unlike Boggs, isn’t flaming out and torching an inning.  He stays.  
*The bullpen needs work.   Plain and simple.  What happens before Monday’s game to shore up this area?
*The Rotation, ladies and gents, is the best part about the team.  After dominating Washington, the staff came home and did this against the Pirates.  If you judge games by the starting pitcher, the Cards could have swept this weekend series.  Lance Lynn threw 7 innings on Friday night, striking out 9 and giving up a run.  Westbrook threw 6 scoreless innings on Saturday and struck out six.   Shelby Miller struck out 7 on Sunday and allowed 2 earned runs in 5.2 innings.  Add it up and you have another solid weekend series from our starters.   
*Its a small sample size with the rotation but 24 games in and they are the support belt of this team.  A question mark heading in is shaping up to be a potential strength.  Adam Wainwright has settled in.  Jaime Garcia has pitched well minus one start.  Lynn showed consistency with his fine start on Friday.  Westbrook has done his job.  Miller has been amazing for a rookie.   With more innings, hazards will accompany answers but right now this team is powered by their starters.  Without them we have maybe 6 wins.  
*Ty Wiggington doesn’t deserve to be on this team.  His 2 million dollar contract looks like a charity case the team took this offseason.  ‘Support a dead weight aging hitter” fund.   The bad part is he has been this way for 3 years.  
*Pete Kozma is doing just fine.  He is hitting .255, collecting some hits, keeping the errors at a minimum and doing what was expected.  If he goes on a terror, good for us and him.  He can hit .260 all year, play solid defense, drive in 30 and hit 5 homers and with his salary look like a bargain.  If THE REST OF THE LINEUP HITS THE WAY THEY SHOULD, Koz doesn’t need to do anything extra special.  Just be yourself Pete.  
*Jason Motte is throwing from 65 feet and playing catch.  Two days in a row.  Great.  Don’t expect me to get excited until he is firing 99 mph heaters into a catcher’s mitt from a mound and feeling zero pain the next day.  I’m sorry but the history of the Cardinals with players and their elbows is about as iffy as a Brazilian kidney transplant department’s activity.  Chris Carpenter wasted most of 2007 before going under the knife in August and missed almost all of 2008.  Rafael Furcal avoided Tommy John Surgery all fall and winter and finally succumbed to it this spring and is gone for the season.   Unless you can tell me Motte’s elbow received some voodoo magic, he will probably need surgery.  It’s science people.  Elbow’s with torn pieces don’t heal with REST.  When he ramps up the velocity he will feel the twinges and pain.  Again, as with the Mujica Trials, I hope I am wrong and Motte sprinkled some of his beard trimmings on his elbow along with Lou Diamond Phillips ancient herb formula.  Motte’s departure set off the bullpen’s destruction and that will have to be corrected through trades or signings.  
*Mitchell Boggs is giving a little more attitude to the media as I write this.  That’s wonderful.   Too bad it doesn’t translate to IMPROVED performance.  Boggs is troubled.  Mitchell Boggs doesn’t look the same without a beard by the way.  First bout of prescription meds.  Grow a beard son.  Keep your mouth shut.  Head down.  Ask Mike for a road trip.  Boggs won’t improve here.  Why?  He walks out there with a mountain of adversity on his shoulder.  It doesn’t matter if Matheny has faith in him or is shooting arrows at his knees.  Think of Brian Elliot in February.  When Halak(Motte in this situation) went down, Elliot(Boggs) was thrown into the starting role and got rocked.  He was horrible.  What happened?  He didn’t start for two weeks.  He went to Peoria.  Found something.  Came back and currently leads the Blues into the first round with home ice advantage as the starting goaltender.  
That is as good as a point as I can make folks.  
Here’s something positive.  The Cards take the mound tomorrow night with Adam Wainwright on the mound.  Baseball is good because it reloads every day.  A team can recover the next night with a win after losing 2 in a row.  162 game season is still young.   As La Russa said two years ago famously, “It’s only the fourth week of the season.”   That is to myself as much as anyone else.  As a diehard, you find it hard at times to remember where you are in the season.   It’s early, and while this team is troubling and needs work, there is plenty of time.  
Wrap Up-
Cards offense is inconsistent that but’s expected.  Bullpen is horrible and that can be helped with a shakeup.  The rotation has been great but that won’t last.  The end.  
Side Notes-
*The Blues will get their own blog tonight or tomorrow but let me say this.  Their 29-18-2 season was fantastic because of their ability to bounce back at home.  After dropping several games in the early and middle going, the team finished on a 7-1 route on home ice.  That helped their collection of the 4th spot in the Western Conference and their home ice advantage.  The acquisitions of Jay Boumeester and Jordan Leopold helped the defense.  The Fourth Line play of Ryan Reaves, Chris Porter and Adam Cracknell helped the slumping goal scorers like David Perron and David Backes.  The goaltending was locked in by the resurgence of Brian Elliot, which surprised the hell out of me since I asked for his head in March.  The Kings are a good opponent because they will present the Blues with a stiff test early on.  Why mess around with the Sharks and win a round only to get smashed in the second round.   Last year’s team raised the bar for hockey in STL.  We expect more than a series win.  We want it all Blues.  Bring it.  The Blues went 0-3 against the Kings this season.  That’s a good thing.  They have lost 7 straight against them.  If we beat them, the Blackhawks don’t scare me at all.  Actually, no other hockey team would.  Beat the Kings and earn our enthusiasm.  
*I wrote a Buffa Quarterly Movie Report for Film-Addict.  Review of this paltry four month run of films.  Read it here. 
The band of the moment for me is The Fossil Collective and their debut album, Tell Me Where I Lie.  Great folk rock music that needs an open road and the window down to go with a dark sky.  
Tonight, I get over my rough baseball weekend by watching Mad Men and Game of Thrones.  All new episodes.   Tortured soul ad men from the 1960’s and warriors from the Westeros.  
I’ll take my whiskey and sword and settle right in.  Take care my friends and thanks for reading.
-D. Buffa

The Daily Dose of Buffa

Good morning ladies and gents,

The latest round of fresh material hits now.  With the archive footage of the 25 things back in 2010 when I wasn’t responsible for a 19 month old man beast landing last night, this fresh dose merges the two corners into a completely established centerpiece.  Allow me to open fire here.

1.) Canelo Alvarez takes center stage and DELIVERS!  On Saturday night in Texas, the fiery red headed Mexican champion stepped into the ring against seasoned veteran Austin Trout.  Both fighters were undefeated and both wanted to put their fist through each other’s head.  This is boxing at its finest and a reminder to the impatient bastards that call the sport dead that it is far from it.  These two got into a ring and engaged each other with meaningful hand to hand combat for 12 rounds with the intent of inflicting pain.  There’s something wonderfully old school about it.  Clearly, in my mind, that Canelo easily won the fight.  Several boxing pundits at ringside will tell you different but the match I saw from my couch saw a younger fighter taking apart an older won.   Canelo landed the bigger punches, never appeared hurt or rattled, slipped many of Trout’s shots and controlled the fight.  When Canelo lost a round, he was more than likely taking a breather and not getting beat up.  His power is what made the difference in this match.   Everybody heard about the power yet still doubted the kid coming in.  I partially agreed. He hadn’t fought a big time contender and was still waiting for the moment. In Texas on April 20th, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez found the moment and seized it.  He wanted the fight, took control and slowly yet surely beat up Trout.  Austin never made Canelo look afraid or threw a shot that laid a dent.  Canelo did and sealed the fight with a 7th round knockdown that was classic Alvarez.  13 seconds into the round, he walked in and fired a straight right hand that buckled Trout’s knees and sent him eating mat.   The biggest reason people will say Trout could have won(once again, ludicrous) comes from the fact that he is a nice guy.  Yes, he is gracious, cool, classy and genuine.  He gets all of those trait confirms from me.  However, Canelo beat him straight up, Teddy KGB style.  Canelo looked improved, slipping Trout’s desperate punches, bobbing and weaving like Ali but hitting like Frazier.  I felt the kid’s punches back here in the Midwest.  He’s got atom bombs for fists and uses them well.   He wasn’t getting tired either.  Canelo takes his time, charges up the guns and fires, then lays back, waits, charges back up and fires.  It’s his style and always has been.  If he gets a shot against an aging Floyd Mayweather Jr., Canelo is going to find him and bruise him.  If Floyd can get past the underrated Robert Guerrero, he will get a stiff test from Canelo.  If you don’t think so, watch the fight tonight.  Go ahead.  Make a date.  I had Canelo winning 116-111 because at no point in the fight did he seem hurt at all.  Save me the talk about the busier fighter rule.  Here is what I think wins a fight.  Control.  Power of the punches.  Who was hurt?  Who landed the thuds and made a dent?  Anybody can throw a punch.  Few can land cleanly with consistency.  Quality over quantity folks.  Read it up and ice your kidney later.

2.) The Cardinals bounce back from an ugly 8-2 defeat on Friday to beat Cliff Lee last night 5-0 behind one big inning and Lance Lynn’s strong outing.  Every time Lee faces the Cardinals, he gets wild.  After walking one guy during his first 23 innings of 2013, he walked 3 batters in 2 innings on Saturday night.  Cliff Lee was 2-0 with a very good ERA and one of the bright spots for Philly but he can’t seem to put back to back solid starts against our Cards.  They wait him out, let him throw outside the zone and take walks.  If we could do this against the rest of the league’s slop. we would be in first place in baseball.  Roy Halladay beat us on Friday handily.  We beat Lee on Saturday.  Jake Westbrook takes on Kyle Kendrick tomorrow night for the chance to take 3 of 4 from the Phillies.   A few things about the Cards.
*Winning Thursday was crucial.  Take the first game, find a temporary closer and regain a few testicle points when you start a long road trip.  The Cards won a game in Pittsburgh, got beat easily, and were getting beat before a storm knocked out Wednesday’s action.  You come into Philly, get the best of Cole Hamels and see your battered bullpen finish a 4-3 game. That’s setting the tone.
*Edward Mujica isn’t the long term closer answer but he will due.  Think of the question mark being taken away but the search will continue.  The best thing about Mujica is his calm demeanor on the mound and his sinker.  He had runners on the corners on Thursday and escaped with a save.  Boggs is soul searching, Rosenthal is regaining confidence so for now its Mujica’s job.  Kelly remains your long man.  In my eyes, the job is Rosenthal’s by early June.  His stuff is too good.
*Lance Lynn is an enigma.  He struggles in Arizona, shuts down the Reds, gets roughed up by the Pirates and shuts down the Phillies.  He is a puzzle even at 30 pounds less.  Lynn’s best weapon is his moving fastball and it has garnered him a spot in the top 10 in strikeouts.  He needs to harness his emotions and mix his pitches better.  Hitter seems to tee off on him more in the earlier frames or his last inning.   However, against two strong lineups, Lynn turned into Nolan Ryan.  Against inferior teams, he struggled.  No explanation.  He does need to be in the rotation.  Too much talent to mess with.  Trade it or start it.
*Jaime Garcia had his first meltdown Friday.  An error helped a quick 3 run rally but Garcia had two outs and let the inning slip away.  He ended up getting pounded for 8 runs and reminded us all that a Jaime breakdown can happen anytime and most likely happens on the road.  He deserves 2 more wins but frustrates enough to call it even.  Will he ever shed this soft exterior or is it just him letting a couple plays change the whole game? 
*Ty Wiggington is the worst free agent signing by Mozelaik since Khalil Greene.  He hasn’t hit well in four years, got paid too much money, and generally strikes out a ton without adding much.  Save me the clubhouse uplift he provides.  Makes no sense.  If you aren’t producing your worth diminishes a ton.  Ty is giving nothing.  He will be released when Oscar comes up or sooner.
*As I always advise, it’s a long season.  April doesn’t determine division winners but defines the race in the end.  The Cards just need to win as many series’ as they can and maintain momentum.  Domination comes later when the bullpen is figured out.  It is still in disarray.  Wrongly shifting Boggs may create a 2 month ripple effect.  Jason Motte has little chance of pitching in 2013.  Ligaments don’t get better with rest.  They require surgery.  
*After Carlos Beltran cranked 3 home runs in 3 games in Philly, the haters will back off again.  His detractors are as fool hardy as Matt Holliday’s naysayers.  The ones that want Oscar Taveras up here now and don’t like Beltran jogging to first base.  The ones who forget he was brought in to hit for average and power and not legging out infield hits.  Beltran will only play around 130 games tops but will produce.  He has done it his entire career.  Get off his back and get realistic about our young phenom.  Let Beltran earn that dough.  Oscar’s time will come.
3.) The Blues are starting to really play well.   After dropping the first game of the homestand against the Hawks on Sunday, the Note fired off 3 consecutive wins at home punctuated by 2 straight shootout wins.  Last season, we couldn’t win a shootout for our necks.  This season, the Blues are 5-1 in the final sudden death round.  The team isn’t scoring enough but playing with a physical imposing grit that you can’t teach.  David Backes and Ryan Reaves are hitting everything that moves, Brian Elliot is once again rejuvenating his career and the defense is mightily improved.  With 5 games left, the Blues are itching closer into the top four playoff spots in the west as opposed to the bottom four.  Is it just me or does the season feel 6 months old and not just three?  
4.) Oblivion is a letdown to say the least. Since my colleague Moore reviewed it for the site, I was able to catch it and just watch it like a normal movie lover. Going in I was hoping for a riveting science fiction blast of entertainment because I like Cruise and he doesn’t waste our time with his work. I left trying to understand what happened to a solid idea for a film? The biggest problem with the film is it carries ZERO payoff. Sure, we get an answer(somewhat) to Harper’s riddle and his struggle and find out what exactly happened to him before the earth was obliterated, but in the final moments a sweet little bowtie is placed on the film and it sinks the film deeper in muck. The climax is disappointing and the resolution is downright corny and second rate. When in doubt, Hollywood screenwriters resort to a failsafe tactic in their writing and here they did it again in a manner of speaking. Oblivion starts off hot, starts to die slowly and ends with a thud. Cruise is an underrated actor and usually nails his roles(you don’t have 12 straight 100 million dollar grossing films and 3 Oscar noms for no reason) but here he is miscast in the role and brings the movie down. Freeman just kind of shows up and spits out inspirational jargon. The women’s parts are very underwritten. Worst of all, the film has no soul. No emotional impact. If it had half the heart and soul of Derek Cianfrance’s A Place Beyond The Pines, the result may have been more worthy. As it is, Oblivion is a disappointing stinker which may deserve a look on DVD or a late night stop on cable. Next up….Pain and Gain.
5.) TV intrigue.  I have finished the first two seasons of Game of Thrones.  A riveting, bloody, brutal and truly fascinating medieval series with so many stories and angles to explore.  Next up for visiting are Southland and Hell on Wheels.  I don’t read many books these days. I love television too much and find more fun and insight there.  I am dying to get into Ray Donovan with Liev Schrieber(a criminally underrated talent), which is about a Hollywood fixer with deadly family ties and an existence that lays its cement around the disposal of moral integrity and bodies at the top of Mulholland Falls.  Schrieber is perfect for the role.  Dexter rightfully needs to conclude this summer and will.  8 seasons is enough.  After the plot reveal in Season 7, all signs pointed to closure.  Great groundbreaking series that paved road for Showtime’s brave original programming.  I miss Rescue me and Lights Out but understand their departures to an extent.  Always something juicy around the corner on premium cable.  Mad Men is back and after a bumpy two hour premiere righted itself in the second episode.  Jon Hamm is better than ever and I will be contacting his publicist(got the number) for an interview this next week.  Hoping my STL roots seal the deal there.  Onward…
6.) Final Bits.  A Place Beyond The Pines is the best movie I’ve seen in months and matters.  Check it out.  Latest musical crush in The Fossil Collective, a folk alternative rock band.  I really like their easy going sound and lead vocals.  Find The Intouchables at your local redbox.  It’s funny and has decent drama that doesn’t manipulate at all.  (Story time) I told my son before bed tonight that politics may be a better arena when he is older.  I can’t lend my life to it now but I can imagine a BUFFA powered campaign.  I told him to keep his soul behind his tie if he does indulge and to never let go of his intentions.  If then, cut and run.  He smiled briefly and then spit up.  I wish The Crow wouldn’t be remade but like Tom Hiddleston for the lead role.  I would be lying if I said the desire to be a cop has left my body for good.  Something I find fascinating and noble about that profession.   Go to bed knowing you are making a difference.   If I didn’t have a family, I’d run back into it.  That isn’t a “I wish I didn’t have what I have” by any means.   I love my family.  Just saying an open thought.  I’d be a good cop and could stay clean and fight the noble fight.  Watching the work of the Boston PD in Friday’s thrilling capture of the second bombing suspect set me in awe of their work.  It’s not all showy, ego driven or full of hollow care.  They had the weight of the city on their shoulders, followed leads, did the ground work, knocked on a thousand doors and made a clean arrest.    I hate the conspiracy queens and the religious nuts trying to grab headlines from a horrible event.  They always pop up here.  Look, sometimes people just want to watch the world burn.  It’s not complex or morally ambiguous.  It’s just bad men doing bad things.  It wasn’t a mass murder or suicide bomb related(takes away religious motive) and wasn’t far reaching enough to draw in corruption.   Anybody can make a fucking bomb and leave it somewhere and set it to go off.  The good guys still have the upper hand in this dirty war and you better be glad for that.  My mind centers on the innocent 8 year old boy who just wanted to congratulate his dad on finishing a 26 mile race and got killed instead.  For that, the bombing suspects deserve to be tortured like helpless mice.  The Boston PD kept it clean and got the job done.  That’s inspiring.
That’s all I got.  Stay classy folks and thanks for reading.
Dan L. Buffa

A Dose Of Buffa

Let’s cut the crap and get down to brass facts here on a warm Sunday from the Southern tip of St. Louis city.   I am a live wire and need to unload a few rounds so the head can be reset to neutral.  Let’s just call this a Cards heavy blog.

10 Things About My Cards-Quick and Painful as Usual
First, a little precusor to the list.  After 12 games, the biggest problem on this team is the bullpen finishing games.  Blowing them up by dropping live grenades on the mound after starting pitchers and the lineup put forth a ways to find a happy conclusion to a game.   This has happened three times in the first 2 weeks of play.   Bad for business and it may not end if certain things aren’t done to prevent heavy fire.
1. Jason Motte is done for the year.  An MRI showed a torn ligament in his elbow and if we put on history caps on, Rafael Furcal’s elbow didn’t improve with rest.  Expect an announcement in early May that Motte is going down for Tommy John surgery.  It’s a fact of every pitcher’s life to find that operation sooner or later.  Motte puts a lot of torque on that elbow when he fires gas and its caught up to him.  The 2013 Cards aren’t getting any favors when it comes to injuries.  They lost Chris Carpenter, Rafael Furcal and Jason Motte before either contributed anything this season.   A top starting pitcher, starting shortstop and closer.  That’s our deck right now.  One thing is clear after four series.
2. Mitchell Boggs isn’t the answer.   Look, I like him and admire his tenacity.  He was once a starter and failed here.  He didn’t get much of a chance to close two years ago.  However, he doesn’t have the mentality and pitch arsenal to get the ninth inning door slammed.  As Bruce Hornsby said, that’s just the way it is.  Boggs has already blown two saves and completely blew up the home opener on Monday.   He won’t get any better with time.  Closing doesn’t work that way.  You either do it good or you suck.  Scars show eventually.  You can charm his arm or give him a confidence boost but right now he isn’t getting it done.  On Friday, he put the tying run at the plate before shutting down Milwaukee.  Today, he had a 3-2 lead and gave up two hits to blow it before recording an out.  That’s unacceptable against a feeble Brewers offense that got shut out for 25 innings straight this weekend.  Boggs is a great setup man and did it very well at the end of 2011 and during 2012.  Put him back there. On Friday he allowed the tying Milwaukee hitter to come to the plate.  On Sunday, he allowed the game tying run to score before recording an out.  In a 10-6 game last night, he allowed two baserunners in Pittsburgh before deciding the fans sitting at home had enough and he got the game ending strikeout. Why Matheny gave him the assignment befuddles my mind at times?  If Motte goes down, why do you change multiple roles instead of just one?  Why not throw Rosenthal or Kelly into the closer role instead of switching around Boggs as well?  He isn’t cut out for it. Sure you could let him find his way and watch him blow a few more games, but no one wants a replay of 2008 when the team blew 20 ballgames.  The biggest loss to the team will be Motte if the people in white coats tell us his elbow is chopped liver on May 1st.  I  can’t sit here and tell you for sure what the right move is.  I can tell you MItchell Boggs isn’t the man for the job.
3. Trevor Rosenthal and his golden arm would be my pick to close but he hasn’t looked that effective so far this season either.  Every time Boggs has faltered, Rosenthal or “Rosie” as his new nickname goes, has also been hit the same day.  Rosenthal throws a moving fastball at 101 mph and breaks off a killer changeup but his pitch selection(aka when to throw what during a pressured moment) has been rough to say the least.  You can’t teach that and can attribute only a little of the blame to Yadi Molina, who only calls the pitch and can’t summon its location.  Rosenthal needs to inhabit the role Motte had in 2010 before he closed.  The strikeout arm who comes in and faces any batter for 1 or 2 outs late in the game.  He needs to float around the bullpen, take an inning here and there, and regain his confidence.  The closing role may be his still this season but right now isn’t the time.
4.  Edward Mujica isn’t the closing option.  He is an excellent 7th inning arm but is too much of a contact pitcher to deal the ninth frame.  He could work as an interim closer but what happens to the 7th inning, a place of trouble before he arrived last summer.   Joe Kelly is an interesting option because he closed in college and the minors and has a decent arsenal of pitches to mess with but I am not sold on that idea yet.  If it comes to that, I am ready to walk that bridge.   For all the minds wanting to throw it on the chat room floor, Keith Butler isn’t the option.   He was promoted to Memphis but needs work there.  He got lit up by MLB hitters in spring training and has been impressive in AA action.   Eduardo Sanchez still has to prove he has his control and and head in order, but that time comes when he leaves the DL for a forearm strain.  Memphis doesn’t have an option and that is why I put out an idea on Twitter and in the public that has gotten mixed feelings.  This looks like a game of charades.
5. Brian Wilson is coming off Tommy John Surgery(his 2nd round) and isn’t throwing at full strength yet, but if the Cards problems persist, lets be honest and say that certain perimeters have to be taken if not thought out.  Wilson is a proven closer, intense as it gets and yes carries a quirky personality that can only be hated if it exists on another team.   Wilson’s teammates loved him because he kept things light and competed when called upon.  Forget the personality quirks.  I enjoy his go for broke humor but crave his mound presence more.  If he checks out this month or in May when he throws hard, give him a one year incentive laden deal and make an effort to shore up your bullpen.  This team did next to nothing in the offseason except sign two over the hill talents(Ronny Cedeno, Ty Wiggington) and are now pressed to seek out bullpen salvation.  You can only give away so many games in April before they reflect on your letdown in October.  The NL Central will be won by 5 games or less and if you blow 5 games in April, that won’t be forgotten in your mind in months.
6.  The lineup and bats have done their job.   With the exception of the Kennedy game in Arizona and Zito game in San Francisco, the hitters on this team have spoken with force and put serious runs on the board.   They scored 9 runs on Matt Cain in one inning, bombed Bronson Arroyo’s proposed no hitter, and once again smacked around Yovani Gallardo over the weekend.  They don’t just put up 2-3 runs in an inning.  They are capable of scoring 7 runs in a frame and all with two outs, like last night in Pittsburgh when they turned a 1-1 game into a 8-1 in less than 10 minutes.   The averages up and down the lineup aren’t completely eye catching but so far the job is being done.  They have done enough to have this team start 10-3 instead of 8-5.  Matt Carpenter has a red hot week of hitting.  Jon Jay is getting on base on the road.  Pete Kozma has played a decent shortstop and also contributed with the bat.  Carlos Beltran is running better and is streaky at the plate as usual.  A special mention goes out to Matt Holliday and Matt Adams.  Holliday is suddenly a mighty bat with RISP.   So far in 2013, he is cranking baseballs all over the field.  He is doing it in clutch spots, a situation he hasn’t always been great at.   Adams has three home runs and 12 hits in limited duty, proving to the coaches and fans he may be taking over first base in 2014 and pushing Allen Craig to right field or forcing the issue.  The Big Husky can hit and doesn’t hurt himself at first base.  The team suddenly has some bench depth and it doesn’t include Wiggington, a pure waste of 2 million dollars and a man who hadn’t hit well in four years before 2013.  I don’t care if he is Richard Pryor in the clubhouse.  He is a waste at the plate.  When you’d rather seen Shane Robinson hit over Ty, something is wrong.  Pay scale wise.
7.  I like this team.  We smacked around the Reds after handing them a game.  We shut out the Brewers for 29 innings. We smacked around the SF Giants in their park.  The Cardinals are playing just fine for a team dealing with serious losses.  They aren’t letting adversity get them down.  The STL Cards aren’t built that way.  Their MO is put your head down, fill the weak spots, and soldier on.  We can hang with anyone in this division.  I can only imagine if we find reinforcements how strong we could be or if certain areas(BULLPEN) improve.  You never know.
8. It is no secret that the rotation has been super impressive so far.   They recorded three straight shutouts, including a dazzling display of pitching from Jake Westbrook and Shelby Miller.   Westbrook took the Reds series by shutting them down in a 10-0 domination.  Miller mixed fastballs and curves and surprised the Brewers with his ability.  He outdueled a very good Kyle Lohse on Friday night.  Adam Wainwright threw a complete game on Saturday.  Lance Lynn continued his inconsistency last night in allowing 4 runs on 7 hits in 5 innings after pitching well against the Reds last week.   Lynn is a question mark but overall the rotation is a high point on this team in 2013.
9. Mike Matheny is a good manager and fit for the terrain of tough choices and badge of honor tactics but he has to give up on this Mitchell Boggs project and also this inclination that when a man comes out of the bullpen it is his game to blow up.  If a battered around reliever doesn’t look to stay in the game, have someone ready.   Get someone ready before a pitch is thrown.  Sometimes pressure is bad on a pitcher on the mound.  Breathing behind him with another arm throwing also can spark an emotional recovery.  Matheny really rocked the boat when he upended the bullpen in March by selecting Boggs as the closer and throwing it into disarray.  Now three games have been given away and more will be unless he makes the tough choices.  Part of the job Mike.  You may walk and talk like John Wayne in a uniform but its time to give the words some boots during the game.  He has had to roll with some decent punches so far, but the ship needs to be moving ahead before too long.  Lots of offense and good starts(Garcia should be 3-0) will be wasted.
10. As I finish this up, the Cards just scored to make it 1-0.  Before I can send out a report, the offense has already fired off a run.  With or without a healthy Beltran or Freese, the bats get the job done.  Tonight, Shane Robinson is in for Jon Jay, who gets a day off after 13 games straight.  Robinson walked, Beltran singled and Mr. Clutch Matt Holliday knocked in Robinson.  Shuffled or consistent, the lineup scores runs.  The relief corps needs to follow suit.
That was a bullpen heavy assessment but they are the biggest problem I see right now.  The problems deserve more discussion than the successful operations.   Part of blogging is knowing where to lay your hammer on.  The focus is on the bullpen, a group of arms that is dangerously close to riding off the rails.  The rotation is delivering the innings.  The pen needs to back them up.  April games don’t win pennants but they sure do factor in a close division race.  The Cards could have swept the Reds and Brewers but gave it up.  Talking about the past has a way of sounding redundant but this is baseball and its a long summer so over-analyzing comes with the territory.
By the way, it’s 2-0 Cardinals now.  The bats work.
Small quibbles to finish up.  
  • The Boston Massacre is horrible and tragic.  As a parent and runner, seeing an 8 year old boy run up to his dad to congratulate him on finishing a 26 mile race in the biggest marathon of the year only to be killed in an explosion is absolutely horrifying.  Bad men are all over and terrorism is a beast with many heads.  9/11 taught us that the hard way.  In my mind, the security points prevented a bigger tragedy but still 3 dead and 154 hurt is a bad day for the city and a big day for runners and family.   It makes me sit back and think what I will tell Vinny when he starts to ask questions.  I will tell him this.  The world is full of bad men but is my belief that more good people exist than bad so the fight is ours to take.  Hearing about it is one thing and seeing pictures, videos and stories just lays its hooks into me.  I do hope the media coverage starts to lighten up.
  • The Place Beyond The Pines is the best film I have seen this year.   Powerful tale of fathers and sons.
  • The Blues need, need, need to win the final majority of games at home.  They sit in 7th place before tonight’s game.   Scoring a few goals would help an improved defense and goaltending situation.  The acquisition of Jay Bouumeester and Jordan Leopold has made the defensive structure in front of the net prevent excessive rebounds.  Now the boys need to score.  The 6 game winning streak was nice but its over and now we have a 2 game losing streak.  One more thing.   PLAY RYAN REAVES!
That’s it.  Thanks for reading friends.  Until next time….
Dan L. Buffa

Cardinals Opening Day Preview

Now that the wait is over and the cover on the 2013 season for the St. Louis Cardinals is being thrown off, let me throw out some things about the team.  I am going to put this out there and if you want to take it, great and if not, go ahead and throw it right back.  

First, an opening rant about the whining crowd.

I am tired of dealing with people who scream “Don’t give these overpaid players too much credit”, as if I were standing at their doors worshiping their lives and the way they do it all.  Let me get something straight.  Every baseball player is overpaid in the logical scheme of life.  Every old fart thinks they get paid too much to play a game but forget that in the first place OWNERS and AGENTS started this game of greed.  If you are told you can make millions over lesser amounts of money, you WILL take it.  Please don’t tell me you are any different.  If you think they are all overpaid, DON’T watch the games.  Don’t watch and continue to watch the crooked game of college sports where kids drive BMW’s and cheat on their tests so they can keep playing their GOD given talents.  I am telling you its a waste of time to whine about the salaries of athletes.  In any sport, they make too much money for their own good but why not tip the cap instead of grow angry.  They made it and are paid for their own services.  They don’t have to work in a warehouse and push the dollar.  They had a talent and didn’t waste it, and when the owners and agents opened the door to being millionaires they took it with ease.  Why not?  Complain about Wainwright’s deal all you want but remember 20 other arms in baseball make that much money.  Tony Romo just got 6 years to play catch with receivers.  Offensive lineman get paid millions to block.   Chris Carpenter gets paid 12 million to be a cheerleader from his house in 2013.  Furcal is a glorified surgery patient for 7 million.  Complain about it all and you will be exhausted within 5 minutes.  I don’t waste my time with it.  I just enjoy the game.  There is plenty of injustice in the world and athletes making millions isn’t a big worry.  Focus on the money hungry politicians sucking from the biggest tit in the world to do nothing for 4 years and you have borderline criminals.  Look everywhere around you and there is a man or woman making a lot of money to do a job with the occasional exception(police, firefighter, doctor, etc.).  I love the game of baseball and don’t dwell on the salaries because that is out of my control and doesn’t even fall on the players for blame.  Anyone who complains about it is the biggest hypocrite of all time and will still watch the games and bleed at the result.   There are things you can’t control in life and things you can and this is where I just let the world run its course and I get my enjoyment out of a game that hasn’t changed that much to me.  The way it is played is the same and the goal is still the same.  If people want to complain about millions, leave the Cards alone.  They have consistently competed without raising their payroll too much and avoided the retarded splashes that other teams are guilty of. I can tell you I am proud of MLB for dialing down on cheaters.  They will be testing blood this season and that is a huge step in the direction staying clean. If the thought of baseball players making too much money is so bad, then once again, stop watching.  You know what?  You won’t.  It’s too hard to look away.  Trust me, I know.
On with the action.  10 Things About This Team to Look for As Opening Day Lands.
1.)Walking Wounded.   Before a pitch is thrown, the Cards will be without Chris Carpenter and Rafael Furcal for the long term and David Freese and Jason Motte for the short to slightly longer term.  This team has taken fire.  Carlos Beltran has a broken toe.  Matt Holliday’s back is already barking.  Jaime Garcia may wake up in a bad mood in SF this weekend and blow up.  Lance Lynn is lifeguard ready in his weight but may still be susceptible to long balls.  Shelby Miller is being thrown(rightfully) to the wolves.  Jon Jay has to learn how to hit away from home and avoid the outfield wall.  This team’s ER is full.  Hopefully, the pain can stop for at least a series.
2.)Let’s be Clear.  While listening to 101.1 Fast Lane today, a question was raised.  Who is the Cards MVP this year?  The answer is easy.  Yadi Molina.   He is integral to a young pitching staff, a clutch hitter and the best catcher in baseball.  He extremely limits or takes away entirely the running game from the other team and is one of the smartest hitter in the game.  When I think of true value, I think of the one player this team couldn’t afford to lose.  Allen Craig isn’t the guy.  He may be your offensive player of the year but that’s not the same.  MVP is your heart and soul.  The heart line.  Molina is that vessel.  He is important to the offense and vital to the defense.  As Randy Karraker pointed out, take Craig away and you insert Matt Adams. Take Yadi out and you are in trouble.  
3.)Matt Holliday is a consistent solid offensive producer and an average outfielder.  He isn’t Chris Duncan but he isn’t Jon Jay.  He makes the plays, throws and does his part in left field but could be confused with a white Ron Gant at times.  However, he is the hardest worker on the field and plays the game like a football player.  He’s tougher than most think.  Marco Scutaro wasn’t the first player to be run over at second by Holliday.  He is built like a linebacker, swings like a lumberjack and plays the game old school.  At 17 million, compared to Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth, he is an above average dollars to performance ratio style of player.  However, I am still waiting on him to have that monstrous season.  When will he crank 35 HR, drive in 115 and hit .325 and steal 15-20?  He put together some big years in Colorado and hit well away from Denver.  Will he have one of those seasons or continue to bang out 25-100-.300 brand seasons? Just wondering.  An explosive Holliday makes this team extremely deadly.
4.)If I get 125 games from Carlos Beltran, I consider his contract and time here a success.  If he is at least 85 percent healthy, he will produce.  Keeping him on the field is a premium.  If not…
5.)The Oscar Taveras Watch gets rolling.  The kid isn’t just a Colby Rasmus like talent.  People from around the league and around this team think this kid is going to blast NL pitching and be a star for a long time.  I am joining this bus.  He has a unique talent and a hit it anywhere around the plate ability that reminds me of Vlad Guerrero.  He doesn’t strike out a lot and will grow in the field.  He will make the departure of Beltran easier to handle if Carlos performs decently in 2013.  The team is only getting younger and Oscar leads that pack.
6.)Jason Motte is talking about elbow surgery and I am a little worried.  All that torque and pressure he puts on his arm during his stride and follow through is showing now.  This always happens after the player signs an extension!  Surgery isn’t a real option yet but I am hearing whispers that I don’t fucking like.  At all.  Motte was a huge part of our World Series run in 2011 and our near WS appearance in 2012.  If he is down for a long time, I REALLY think the Cards need to insert Trevor Rosenthal into the closer role and return Mitchell Boggs to the 8th inning.  This is not a smack to Boggs.  He is a good setup man and my gut feeling tells me he will falter in a closing role.  Just a thought.  I am worried about Motte’s elbow.  Cards reports aren’t saying much which means he could be scheduling a stay at Barnes sooner than we think.  I hope I am wrong.
7.)The Cards are golden at first base.  Allen Craig is primed for a breakout MVP caliber season and Adams is the perfect lefthanded big bat foil for when Craig goes to right or takes a trip to the DL.  Sooner or later Craig’s 60 year old legs will speak up and knock him down.  Adams will be ready or Matt Carpenter slides from his 2B/3B platoon into the other corner.  Lots of options here.  Fuck you Pujols!  Sorry, that just slipped.
8.)The Bullpen is the talk of the sports writing house but I am not as worried.  Sure, the loss of Motte hurts the group but when you can slide in guys like Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal, the sting lessens.  Until we know the extent of Motte’s injury and how long he will be out, the need to panic is less.  Randy Choate and Scrabble hold down the left side.  Boggs, Edward Mujica, Rosenthal, Kelly, and Fernando Salas(help me!) round out the group.  As long as the rotation doesn’t make this group bend over backwards in April and May, the long term strength of the relief corps will be fine.  But then again…
9.)The main reason local scribes worry about the bullpen is the youth of the rotation.   Adam Wainwright and Jake Westbrook are horses to a certain extent, but what about Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller?   That is where the intrigue lies.  Will those three have a Kyle McClellan like quick start and fade fast and hard after hitting an innings wall or can they make it through 6 months?  That is the question.  There is no real way to tell here but let’s just say the rotation blows a gasket and the bullpen bends over backward to fix it and breaks leading to mass panic.  You have to think worst case scenario with the Cards in order to survive a whole season.  Trust me there.  Want to feel better?  Check out the opening day lineup.  
Jay, Carpenter, Holliday, Craig, Beltran, Molina, Descalso, Kozma, Waino.   
Sure it gets weaker toward the end but those little middle infielders may surprise you.  When Freese returns it gets a lot stronger.  
10.)Mike Matheny had a very strong freshman season.  He is a true tough guy and a leader.   Players look up to him, trust him and listen to him.   He is young only in manager years because of his years as a player and assistant to Mo.  He answers questions bluntly and doesn’t mess around.  He is the opposite of La Russa with some of the same idiosyncrasies.  I will take it.  His sophomore season will only be a bigger test due to the injuries but since 2012 was no picnic I am sure he will roll with the punches and keep moving forward.  
Bottom Line-I like this team and think they can easily hang with the Reds.   Look, if Aromis Chapman blows up and doesn’t work as a starter and they don’t make the change fast enough, the Reds will have to hit their way to another NL Central title and I think the Cards are deeper in the pitching department and can hang with them offensively.  The NL Central is essentially a two team race unless the Pirates and Brewers surprise everyone.  The Cards can easily challenge for a wild card spot but I think they are NL Central Division contenders.   If Mo makes a trade or two to balance the injuries and the rotation doesn’t suck it up, The Cards can go a long way in 2013.  Look at what happened in last fall when we all thought they were toast.  This team never fails to compete and remember the season is a long epic endurance testing 162 game journey.  Run, don’t sprint to conclusions my friends.  
The best part of sports is…you never know what may happen.  It’s the rock of the appeal of this madness.  We watch and hope at Halloween we are celebrating another World Championship or at least glad to be one of the final two teams.  That is the gamble we all play and the reward we seek.  A chance at winning it all.  
I won’t chant 12 in 13 just yet but I like our chances against the rest of the league. I don’t see one team that just wins it all in this league easily, even on paper.  It’s open and that is what makes this game great.  The kid kind of mellowed me last year with his presence and my upside down flipped world, but I am still a manic-obsessive Cards nut and always will be.  This team now owns me until November.  The marriage is complete.  Ring is on the finger.  Medicine is in reach.  Whiskey in the freezer.  Hands ready to fire.  
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s fucking showtime!  The St. Louis Cardinals are back!!!!
Settle in and prepare yourselves and have a good night,