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

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