Month: June 2013

A Dose of Buffa

Hello folks,

As I watch a food show involving the making of chocolate donut stout and a sweet treat combination of donuts and potatoes.  In other words, I am typing hungry so this will be quick as I can possibly make it.  I write about whatever gets into my head and sounds like something that needs to be spread around.  I’m a news desk and crew in one.  Here we go.
Attention Lance Armstrong.  Shut up and go away.  Unlike Pete Rose, you have no candle to burn or hope in the world.  It doesn’t matter if everybody cheated when you won 7 Tour De France titles.  YOU CHEATED and LIED about cheating.  Cheating is one thing Lance(weak ass name for a man with only one testicle) but lying about is another.  Tell the truth.  Stay clean.  Don’t become Rafael Palmerio.  For now, Lance can just go away.  He is as annoying as Lebron James’ legacy right now.  
Again, the NBA Finals are over.  Stop talking about James and the finals.  Let me sum it up.  He turned on the mojo train against The Thunder last year and did the same thing against San Antonio this year.  When Lebron turns it on, the game and series is over.  The end.
The Philadelphia Flyers want Jaro Halak.  Am I an idiot for not wanting to just give him away?  I am as big of a Halak critic as anybody but something about his playoff experience makes me want to pull him back into the train instead of dangling him out onto the trade block.  Halak has proven playoff stout and can turn it on at the biggest time.  Brian Elliot in two series against the Kings, has wilted and went bad at the wrong time.  If we are going to trade Halak, get a very good player in return and be prepared to either push Jake Allen to take over the #1 goalie spot or make a small play for Ryan Miller.  We need big time goal keepers.  Elliot, as good as he was the past two years, isn’t that guy.  
I agree wholeheartedly when Bernie Miklasz says the easy cozy rock star Blues locker room needs to be rocked by a veteran and eventually dismantled.  Backes is only as strong as the respect he has from his fellow linemates.  They have all skated and come up with Backes, so he is limited in his shouting reach.   That means an outside personality needs to come in and change the face of that locker room.  You can’t expect the same group of guys to make a difference after a certain amount of years.  In short, Patrik Berglund isn’t going become a different personality or player at this point.  He is who he is and if that’s not a good thing, the 2013-2014 season needs to be a one off for some of these “aging” youngsters.  Just an idea.
The Cards send Shelby Miller to the mound tonight against Bartolo Colon and the Oakland A’s, who are surprisingly 46-34, hitting well and pitching strong.  They have a great closer as well who has been as sharp as Cards’ Edward Mujica in the ninth inning.  In other words, this will be a test.  Colon, still as thick as pan pizza, is 10-2 with a 2.90 ERA in the AL.  Another Billy Beane magic trick find.  He likes to throw the heat and mix in his curve. Miller will try and not throw 100 pitches inside 6 innings and mix and match his pitches to stretch himself out.  I like this series right now for the Birds.  They need this test.  On the road and at the end of a month where they have played .500 baseball.   The Pirates have closed the gap in the division and the Reds are right behind them.  We have to prove ourselves this weekend.  They need to jump on Colon’s first pitch fastball and get a lead and finish things tonight.  Get ahead and land a punch first.   The AL league is the beastly presence area.  Use the bat and do something productive with it.  
My Cards insiders(you know who you are) and I decided on something pretty logical.  Matt Adams needs to get 4 at bats a night when the Cards play in an AL park.  Put him at the DH spot or move Craig to RF, Beltran to DH and put Big City at first base.   Whatever the mix, get Adams some playing time while it affords you the chance.  Mike Matheny has no reason to put Shane Robinson or Ty Wiggington ahead of Adams here unless he wants to be compared to an idiot.  
Mike Matheny also needs to stop taking out big hitters late in games.  Stop pulling David Freese, Matt Holliday and Yadi Molina out in the 8th inning of a close game for baserunning.  I don’t mind it in certain spots(down by 1 run in the 8th and you badly need speed) but overall I’m not a fan.  Keep in mind extra innings can always happen and wasting your bench is a bad idea and your bench has a guy named Ty sitting on it who gets a hit every 10 at bats.  
We play Albert Pujols and the Angels next week.  For the first time, the Cards will oppose Jose Alberto Pujols in a regular season game.  It will be weird but interesting and a thrill.  He is finding his stroke and the Cards pitchers know him very well.   The Angels can hit for days but have ZERO reliable pitching.  Instead of signing a pitcher in the offseason, they handed Josh Hamilton Pujols money and went insane.  Jerry Dipoto’s big idea is now looking like a big crock of shit.  He is in trouble and the fans aren’t backing him up.  Pujols is there, though and the series will be interesting.  
Speaking of AP, we can’t get through this week without him opening his large trap about his Cards past.   In an interview with Fox Sports, he was mostly respectful but still found a way to be a bitter ass.  He still blames the front office of the Cards for disrespecting him and treating him badly.  This is where I find trouble.   How did they do that,Albert?  They offered you a smart 5 year deal worth 30 million a year and eventually offered you a stupid(I even backed this crazy deal up in desperation) 10 year, 200 million dollar contract that didn’t include a 10 year service fee after and gave you an opportunity to retire with one team and retire as the #1 Cardinal record holder of all time.  Instead, you bolt to the West Coast like a whiny baby who just shit his pants and continue to whine about it.  First, you sent your wife Didi to go all Brenda Warner on a STL radio station before you left in December of 2011, and today you still find a chance to whine about it.   I love what Pujols did here over 11 years and still say we got the best of him.  He won’t do in LA what he did in STL.  No way.  Health or not.  However, Pujols wanted to be cuddled like a little child by the DeWitt and Mozelaik team and that didn’t happen.  Baseball is a business and if I know one thing, dollars and feelings don’t play on the school yard together.  As I told Lance earlier, Albert, shut up and play.  Keep your feelings to yourself.  You made the choice and left.  Shame on you for still looking back a year and a half later.
White House Down is a solid form of summer entertainment and legitimizes Channing Tatum as a leading man star to reckon with.  Tatum is a versatile talent and in my column posted on Film-Addict, I go into detail about the early roles that showed an abundance of talent.  In this summer White House take down flick, Tatum teams up with Foxx(spinning a comic take on Obama) and saves the day against one of my favorite character actors Jason Clarke(Brotherhood, Zero Dark Thirty).   It’s an easy smooth film that is the polar opposite of the heavy and starting to tire in my mind MAN OF STEEL.   WHD is downright cool.  Go see it and spare your mind for 2 hours.
If not, check out World War Z, which is not the loud stupid CGI zombie fest that the trailer makes it out to be.  It is a smart taut tension building thriller.  Hoorah for Brad Pitt for stepping up and sharpening the almighty blade of editing here.
For DVD, rent Snitch because its a reliable true story that shows a different side of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.   In this film, he doesn’t throw a punch or dive off a moving plan shooting bad guys.  He is a desperate father going undercover in a drug cartel to free his son from prison.  Susan Sarandon and Barry Pepper co-star in this solid little drama.  
For all the people who were dying for Arnold and Sly to team up in a real movie, check out the Escape Plan trailer.  For the real movie lovers, check out this Buffa Trailer of the Week , a film called Prisoners.   It stars Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal and Terrence Howard and details the lengths a father goes in order to find the man who kidnapped his daughter.  Maria Bello plays Jackman’s wife and tells him something that will break any dad in half, “You told us you could protect us from everything!”  What a line and what a trailer.  Check it out.
Drinking a Bolus and Infusion from Shaw’s Coffee on The Hill in St. Louis.  Iced bold coffee with two extra shots in it.  This tastes like pure gasoline and it’s fantastic.  Shaw’s is the place for good reliable coffee when Starbucks gets too predictable.  I’ve been going to Marconi and Shaw since I was 6 years old because I grew up on Kingshighway and Tholozan.  I live right next to where I grew up and that is one of the proudest parts of my life.  Raising my son right where I grew up.   Every time I run around this neighborhood, I feel proud to still call it my own backyard.   Shaw’s is good stuff.  If you love strong coffee and live near the Hill, go get a cup.  They use raw pasta spaghetti strings for stirring and used to be a bank.  You can have a cup of coffee in their old vault.  Speaking of the Hill, the delicious Zia’s could be the Buffa’s dinner choice tonight.  
I will be watching Ray Donovan when it premieres tomorrow night after Dexter because Donovan is so damn good.  It’s a pilot that can be appreciated over and over because there are so many stories being introduced in that opening hour.   Liev’s main fixer is the heart and soul but there is an array of cast members who will play a defining role in the opening season.  This show feels like Brotherhood, an old Showtime original series gem that ran a perfect three seasons.  Yes, I will keep talking about Ray Donovan.  Writing a piece for my website this next week.  
Conducting another phone interview soon for Film-Addict.  This time with a female star of another independent movie.  I will be talking to either Daryl Hannah or Virginia Madsen.   If it’s the latter, I will be asking about her brother, Michael.  I may ask Hannah about the wonderful experience of Kill Bill 1 & 2.  Things are looking up for my website.  We have a new writer, Alana Hammonds on our staff and she is very sharp, witty and a good writer.  Its amazing what the 6 full time workers do with this website.  We just find the time.  One day, FA will be our main job.  That’s the dream.  That’s the goal.  Every day.  
Ladies and gents, that’s all I got.  Goodnight.  Thanks for reading.  The job search continues but I do get to stretch my blogging hours a little more and spend more time with my little Italian prodigy, Vincent.  

Stream of Consciousness

Here we go, blunt and quick with bullets.

  • Lance Lynn is overrated.  He bumps a lot of four seam fastballs in for strikeouts and collects a lot of wins but does so because he receives a ton of run support.  Honestly, he is a 4th rotation slot guy looking like an ace with his flaky record.  He is 10-1 but is starting to break again in June.  He got whipped by the Marlins and was saved by the bats.  He blew a 3-0 lead tonight against the AAA Houston team and that is not acceptable.  Losing to the Marlins is one thing.  They have Jose Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton to deal with.  The Astros have Erik Bedard to put you to sleep on the mound and Brett Wallace to look disappointing.  They don’t beat very good teams ever.  At least not this week.  Lynn pitched horrible tonight and except for coaxing the Cubs into looking like idiots, has struggled in June.  What happens when the offense doesn’t spot him 6 runs?
  • Speaking of losing to the Astros, if the Cards follow through and lose this game, they can find their own damn way to Oakland.  An ass whopping will be waiting for them there.  No excuse to lose to Houston when you are the Cardinals.  They are pick me up games.  Schedule makers giving you a night to rest your starters.
  • The Blues can sign Patrik Berglund to a one year deal and Kevin Shattenkirk to a 4 year deal and I won’t bark.  I just want to know what this team is going to do to put themselves over the hump for next season.  Will the returning corps of Perron, Oshie and Berglund net us a deeper playoff plunge or offer more disappointment?  We took a step back last season so what happens now.   There isn’t a lot of money but hopefully Armstrong can be crafty and net us a difference maker.  We can’t look at men on our roster to grow up anymore.  They are who they are.  They won’t get better.  Alex Pietrangelo won’t turn into Al Maclinnis all of a sudden.  The three potential all star kids won’t become Jarmoir Jagr next season.  Chris Stewart will always be a streaky talent.  What will be done?  I know Hitch took over in midseason two years ago and had a lockout last year but this next season carries what kind of prediction?  It can’t just be a playoff appearance.  We expect more.  We know Brian Elliot can’t find a way to stop LA in a playoff series.  We know there isn’t a big time get the hell out of my way goal scorer on this roster.  I do know Halak has playoff juice to spare but can he stay healthy or is he trade bait?  So many questions and not one bit of certainty.  That’s the Blues.  There is a reason we haven’t won the cup since…well ever.  Several coaches have left our team and went on to win Cups.  Scotty Bowman.  Joel Quennville now has two after being fired.  It’s a sign of bad times.  What happens next year?  Please don’t let the Blues become the pitiful Chicago Cubs and have us keep punching out the painful proclamation, “Maybe next year”.  We Deserve Better Than That.  
  • My kid got sick again today.  A 104 degree fever and a high heart rate.  My kid had major heart rate problems early in his life so when that spikes, he has our attention. Whenever the kid gets sick, he gets our attention.   For the most part, he is a brute savage who is fiercely independent.  However, he has spent a few rounds in the ring boxing at the tender young age of 21 months, so he has our attention.   Damn kid.
  • White House Down is genuine summer entertainment.  More to come Friday. 
  • I was going to see Despicable Me 2 tonight(first one was aces) but well…see the post above about my kid.  Shit happens.  So do kids and fevers.
  • The Cards just had problems pushing across Matt Holliday after a 1 out double and a steal.  He was there with 1 out and Freese struck out and Shane Robinson(we know why he is playing) grounded out.  You don’t waste scoring opportunities against the Astros.  That’s like being handed a winning lottery ticket and dropping it in a sewer drain.  It’s just stupid.  If they lose, this one will frustrate the shit out of me.  Very good teams don’t lose to awful teams after having a 3-0 lead early on.  Lynn is to BLAME.  He blew it.
  • Ray Donovan is on Showtime On Demand right now and if you like hard boiled LA crime stories that mix in rough Boston accented tough guy family history and great character actor filled casts, check it out.  Liev Schreiber, one of the most underrated actors in the business, anchors a fine cast as the title character, a “fixer” with serious daddy issues(who doesn’t when they were created by Jon Voight) and has an array of trouble to deal with when that particular dad gets out of jail too early.  Bloody fists ensue and hot strong willed women stand by waiting to cuddle our hardened street warriors.  This show is one to look forward to.  
  • Mowing the lawn sucks.  Trying to figure out a lock cap on a gas can is in the brutal heat is worse.  I pulled a deadly trick today.  I let Vinny roam the backyard while I mowed the back strip.   I got it done before the rain but poor Vinny got sick.   Bad daddy move but life goes on.  Kid is tough.  Best thing about mowing is being done with it.
  • I have three different coffees in my house right now and I trading off between them. I don’t drink a lot of beer or soda so I stick to coffee, sugar/aspartame free energy drinks and water.   Mostly coffee and water.  I like it, as you know, bold and black.  As sophisticated as Helen Mirren and black as Viola Davis’ skin that makes this man sing like Buddy Guy.  It’s almost iced coffee time and that(thanks to the brilliant Pj Nolan) can be made right at home.
  • I am starting to put one foot off the Pete Kozma train.  His average is dipping and his defense isn’t enough to let him hit .230.   He has been steady and lasted just about as long as I hoped he would.  Either let the red hot hitting Ryan Jackson come back up or take a look around the league for trade deadline options.   Kozma is starting to trend down.  He still gets big hits but they are getting fewer by the week. I don’t need him to hit .290 and bang in 60 but his offense is feeble at best right now.
  • The Cards do have areas of need.  Don’t let the nice record fool you.  They have been steady in June but are failing to break out and get a bigger lead in the division.  I won’t whine too much about being 18-21 games over .500 but when the team stays around that water mark for three weeks, there is a problem.  The Cards starting pitching had frayed in June and their lineup is painfully eruptive yet still can’t solve lefties.  The remedy.  Get a power right handed bat off the bench and find a way to drop Ty Wiggington, who is slowly decaying in the dugout.  Get rid of Shane Robinson(average player at best) and get a righthanded bat who can play some outfield and you can keep Kozma on the bench or bring up a kid from Memphis.  I like our bullpen the way it is but there are so many moving parts its hard to put a finger on it, especially with a month to go before the deadline.  
  • Film-Addict Items posting this week.   Channing Tatum piece.  July Staff Picks.  White House Down review.  James Remar Charactor Actor spotlight.  
  • Lance Lynn went 7 innings and retired the last 8 he faced.  Nice work but still doesn’t make up for the one horrible inning where you give up 4 runs to the Astros.  Nope.
  • The NBA Finals are done.  Stop talking about them ESPN.  Talk about football camps. BASEBALL.  Tennis.  Hockey.  Lebron James is a big boy now and has 2 rings and more coming.  Get with it and stand against it.  The Spurs blew it big time.  They let the hungry dog back in the cage and lost everything.
  • The last 25 minutes of Dark Knight Rises is pure greatness.  Christopher Nolan’s finale couldn’t live up to the Dark Knight but it was still a fabulous wrapup with a good bad guy and a sharp way of tying up the entire story.  The chase scene at the end and the big reveal of the mysterious string pulling villain worked so well with the Gotham under nuclear attack mode and Nolan kept it all grounded.  The final 7 minutes that includes a fine excerpt from the great American novel a Tale of Two Cities with Hans Zimmer and James Newton-Howard’s beautiful score is so fitting and poignant.  Makes me wonder how much better Man Of Steel would have been if Nolan had produced and directed.  
  • My Man of Steel review may be toned back from a 4/5 to a 3/5.   Just thinking about it more and more and putting it up against other summer and 2013 films.  Snyder and Cavill made a good film but I don’t think it was a great one.  That’s the blues of being a critic.  You have a deadline and sometimes your mind changes days afterwards.  I’d give it a B+.  I don’t have a problem with Superman doing what he did in the end if you know what I mean.  Sometimes bad men have to be STOPPED.  
  • Matt Holliday just struck out with Carlos Beltran on base.  3 more outs and this team loses to the Astros.  This may release the hounds on the flaws on this team being camouflaged by a good record.
That’s all I got.  Listen to The Lone Bellow, a folky new alternative band that’s perfect for a warm summer night.  
Stay classy St. Louis,

World War Z Review

*Since I didn’t publish my review for this movie on my website, I will come here and dish it out blunt and straight.  A Buffa Film-Addict special.  Enjoy.  I won’t bore you with cast listing, director spots, running times or anything else.  Just a dose of my thoughts on the film.  Straight, like black coffee or whiskey.  Also no official rating.  That is hard enough when I need to publish my review.  Here, all words.  No thumbs, number count or rating.  I will include a brief plot description.**

Plot-Gerry Lane(Pitt) is a former UN investigator who is called in by the government when a virus is unleashed and zombies take over North America.   With his family held safely on a  US Navy ship only if he helps find a cure, Lane must travel the globe and find an end to the madness before the world is completely under siege.  He has 90 days.

World War Z works because its brain is larger than its gore count.  Brad Pitt rightfully intervened in the editing process and brought in Lost Creator Damon Lindelof to do a rewrite of the script and added a pulse pounding 40 minute suspense filled finale that wraps the film up perfectly.  Pitt plays the lead character very well, spinning an everyman vibe on this leading character and making him one of us.  A man with a family trying desperately to figure out an end to the madness. The Zombies aren’t your normal undead foes here.  They sprint instead of walk and take just 10 seconds to turn into a monster. The best parts of this film are the tension filled moments. When Pitt and a few soldiers are riding bikes across a downpour of rain in the dark trying to board an airplane. Pitt aboard an airplane where a zombie has gotten on board and there is only one way to smoke him out. A finale that includes a chase for a cure and a puzzle house full of deadly turns and moments where nobody is safe. The end works because the twist in the story isn’t revealed too early and the script, direction and cast all work well together.  What I thought was going to be a CGI inflated mess of a film plagued by re-shoots is instead a very well done thriller.  In every sense of the word, this movie shakes, rattles and shocks you. It’s a highly entertaining summer treat.  I think Pitt needs to keep his hand in the producing chair as well as the acting gig because I can only imagine what that dreadful first cut looked like before he took the gloves off and cut it into this 115 minute adrenaline blast. I also really like the casting of True Blood and The Killing TV alum Mireille Enos as Pitt’s wife and mother of two daughters. They make a very believable couple and instead of hiring a hot bland actress, the filmmakers hired a woman with poignancy, depth and beauty.  Nice one make believers!

Here is the trailer-

For my colleague Chris McHugh’s take, visit and feed your fix on all things movies.

A Killer Week

What a week it has been for this guy.  A whirlwind experience that has included parts that felt like a Pink Floyd concert and others that felt like a long walk down the dirt road.  A reminder to me that anything can happen at any time and most of the time, that thing isn’t that kind.  As Rocky Balboa famously told his arrogant son in Rocky 6, nobody punches harder than life.  Sly Stallone saved that series with the sixth film, a poignant tribute to the pugilist that never leaves the memory.  It’s that blunt speech that he gives his kid outside of his restaurant that provides it with the magic.   Rocky Jr. is mad because his life revolves around his dad’s legacy.   When Rocky wants to do an exhibition with a young champion and get in the ring one last time, his son is afraid of the negative not on his dad’s life but on his own life and legacy.  That’s when Stallone goes to work.  He puts the kid in his place and reminds him of how you get things done in America in this day and age. 

“Nobody hits harder than life.  It will beat you to your knees if you let it.  It’s about how many punches you can take and keep moving forward.  That’s how winning is done. It’s not how hard you hit.  It’s how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.  If you know what you’re worth, go out and get what you’re worth, but you gotta take the hits and pointing fingers.  Cowards do that and that ain’t you. You’re better than that. I’m always going to love you no matter what.  You’re my son and my blood.  You’re the best thing in my life.  But until you start believing in yourself, you ain’t gonna have a life.”
I’m not waxing Rocky poetry on you for no reason.  My life and the life of my family was rocked this week.   It started on Monday when I was handed my ass by a stomach bug and headache/fever combination that laid me up until the end of Wednesday.   My son Vinny got pink eye on Thursday.   On Wednesday around 4pm, I returned a call to my employer that I had missed earlier.  I won’t name the employer or the person who called me out of personal class but if you had paid attention to previous blogs or know me the company isn’t too hard to fathom.   I was told on the phone by the person that hired me that I was being let go because it wasn’t a good fit.  This didn’t immediately register.  Maybe it was the sickness clogging my mental digestion area, but I just couldn’t believe it.  I just left a previous employer for this job thinking it was stable and long term.   I would be lying if I said I didn’t have my struggles adapting to this picking environment.  Any warehouse operation is a delicate precise arrangement.  It’s not a piece of cake as some would assume.   However, I did nothing to warrant a suspension nor a discharge.  This rocked me because I didn’t expect it.  It did because I had NO WARNING.  
This was a mom and pop operation, a family owned company with class and dignity.  This wasn’t McDonalds or Fed Ex.  It’s amazing that certain employers don’t give a lick of shit about the employee they are letting go once he is gone.  They forget he has a family to support and a way of life.  Once I stop working for them, I could be building bombs in Iraq for all they know.  It’s a cutthroat business ANYWHERE you go in this 2013 moving world.  The people that hired me three months ago and fired me Wednesday aren’t evil people.  It just isn’t that simple.  These are business oriented folks who just made a cut and a reload of their roster.  That’s fine.  It just deserved a fucking warning.  I am still flaming.
There is a particularly distinct anger that comes with getting let go.  Hopefully most of you don’t know this pain.  Hopefully you never do.  I found out how that feels this week.  You have a life in a certain arena of success and forward moving mobility and then you have half of that.  None of it.  I had a job and my family was slowly climbing out of debt and coming back to the even point.  A point where we don’t have to go paycheck to paycheck.  Now we are back up shit creek with one paddle.   Thankfully my wife is a kickass saleswoman and could sell silverware to gold diggers.  We have some money in certain places.  We will be alright.  We have only been taking the punches and moving forward for two years now.  Since Vinny was born, nothing has been easy.   Him in the hospital twice in his first 2 months.  Both of us out of work for months.  Losses in the family.  Changing situations.  Typical situations for these typical times with painfully few choices.  Life still throws the hardest punches and always will.   I am in the ring and on my feet.  
That was my week.  How was yours?  While you rummage together your thoughts, let me unload mine in a little unplugged random roving here.  
*The Cards lost to the Rangers Friday night because Mike Matheny showed that fatherly side with young pitcher Tyler Lyons again.  Instead of sending him down to work on his pitching after losing to the Marlins, he let him take on the Rangers.  After the offense spotted him a 3-0 lead, he handed it back and got only 5 outs before leaving.   This was a bad call.  Lyons has been sent down.  It’s a week late.  Never mind me.  Matheny is a genius.(Yep, that just happened).
*Joe Kelly deserves the 5th spot for a little while.   It seems like the whole team and fan base forgot what Kelly did in 2012.  Started admirably for 3 months while Lance Lynn worked through baby issues and Waino was fighting through his first season back after TJS.  Kelly did great work in the rotation and pen but is a forgotten man in 2013.   That is due to some great new pitching talent but still a bad thing.  On June 5th, he made a brilliant 5.2 IP spot start against Arizona.  Last night he pitched 5 innings, rescued the rest of the bullpen and gave the team a chance to win.  If the team wants Michael Wacha to stay in Memphis and needs more work from Carlos Martinez, let JOE assume the role.  He has done it before and done it well.  Logical, right?
*Allen Craig is a freakish RBI machine and only makes the mind wander how many he can drive in this year if he stays upright.   Every time runners are in scoring position, Craig is a lethal weapon.  As lethal as Yadi Molina.   He has a way of getting a big hit and driving the ball to all fields.  This guy came up 3 years ago with a very long swing and looked to be Joe Mather like.  In 2011, he got some playing time and started cranking.   In 2012, he backed up the talk with more performance.  This year, he is becoming a freak.  He is hitting .313 with 6 HR and 57 RBI and 87 hits.   He will strike out 100 times, but what run producing bat won’t?   This is the stat that drives me insane.   Craig is hitting .486 with runners in scoring position and 2 outs, going 18-37 and driving in 27 runners.  That’s just freakish.  
*Remember when Yadi Molina was hitting .219 in the regular season in 2006 and a weak hitting defensive genius behind the plate?   7 years later and he is hitting .364 and driving in runners all over the field and smacking the ball to all fields.   I forgot how long his road was at the plate until I realized he wasn’t always a wizard at the plate.  He used to struggle.  Joe Strauss wrote about this in Thursday’s paper.  It’s a fascinating subject to dive into.  The evolution of Yadi’s plate approach and I will add this.  He does look a lot more relaxed up there, especially in 2 strike counts.  It’s like he knows in his mind there are no strikes and the pitcher has nothing on him.  
*Eventually, he may falter, but let’s enjoy the wonderfully surprising Edward Mujica train as far as it goes.  He is 21-21 in save opportunities/conversions and turning heads.  He goes out there, throws strikes, throws the nasty splitter and gets outs.   He is like Ryan Franklin in a way, but I think he is more nasty than Franklin.   Mujica has better movement on all of his pitches and not just one.   He’s the unsung hero of this 2013 season.  
*I don’t care how great Boggs, Rzep, and Salas pitch in the minors.  They have no spot on this club.  There’s no way you send down anybody on the MLB roster(outside of Keith Butler) for either one of those lost causes.  Let them go.  
*Steve Austin is on twitter and quite frankly sounds as badass as he looks.  He is associated with some program called Redneck Island and recommends it after telling us, “I am taking my sorry ass to the gym.  Delts, Traps, Bis.”  In other words, watch the fuck out gym rats!  Stone Cold is coming to kick some hairy barbecue spiced ass soon.  I propose a Twitter Contest between The Rock and Austin where they trade badass one shot tweets and see who falls.
*I love and use Twitter as much as anybody these days but so many people on there get obsessed with self-analysis.  I tweet about the random thing that might have to do with me but I mostly put out tweets that I know people following me will like.  I call that keeping it real.   Keep it relative.  These sad ass attention hogs that overdo it give Twitter a bad name.
*My colleague Chris McHugh says World War Z is worth checking out.  I guess all the ball sweat put into it by Brad “A semester short of a Journalism degree at MU” Pitt was kind of worth it.  I may have to check it out and add my analysis.  Kind of like a doc needing to see a patient for the final checkoff.  That’s film critic work.  My eyes only.  The Buffa stamp awaits.
*For your money’s worth, go rent The Bourne Legacy on DVD.  Without Damon, Jeremy Renner still makes a hell of a hero and the movie is a kinetic thrill box.  It never stops and provides you with just enough story and action.   There wasn’t just one fucked up scarred nice guy killer in that program.  Renner’s Aaron Cross had the same bunk bed as Bourne, and his story is told here.  Check it out.  Like…NOW!
*I did my first phone interview on Monday with a director and I must say it was a small thrill to talk with a filmmaker.  Antoni Stutz is an indie director who directed Aidan Quinn and Beau Bridges in a little thriller called Rushlights(it wasn’t that great but was easy to digest and had some thrills) but hearing him talk, I got the feeling he is capable of much more.  Antoni is a regular guy trying to pay his rent and make movies.  A good story.  It is posted on my site under Daily Dose.  Check it out.  Next week I am interviewing Virginia Madsen or Darryl Hannah for their new film.  One perk of being a film critic is getting screeners in the mail.  Semi important.  
*Listening to the National right now.  Moody melodic rock with the soulful baritone heavy voice of Matt Beringer providing the moral compass and vocals.  Their new album has a wonderful song called “I Need My Girl” that hits home right now for me.
*Adrian Broner will destroy Paulie Malignaggi in their Showtime fight tonight.  Broner is all power.  Paulie is all flash and dance.  This will end in a TKO.  Stoppage by the 9th round.  Broner is an undefeated young Floyd replica who can hit hard and came up in weight to pound Paulie, a NYC vet who just can’t match the power and speed of his opponent.  He needs to stay in a suit and continue his observing.  Leave the fighting to the real pros. 
*The next movie I will see is White House Down, a thriller with Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx which could be a bowl full of summer popcorn fun.   The next movie I look forward to is Wolverine.  Yes, it’s another comic book movie Hugh Jackman’s work as Wolverine, the man afflicted with eternal life as a bad ass avenger with blades coming out of his knuckles, makes the role so easy to love and watch.  In this film he flirts with the chance of having that power taken away and being mortal.  That doesn’t work when bad guys wants to tear him up so conflicting thoughts follow. I am not a diehard lover of the X-Men series but I do love the Wolverine character.  It’s got a credible director(James Mangold) attached and the trailer looks very good.  The last solo Wolverine mission film was no good so this one must improve.  Also, Jackman ate 7 chicken breats a day to get into monstrous shape as the heroic outsider.
*What else?  It’s very warm in St. Louis right now.  Mowing the grass is still only gratifying at the end.  Cars still require gas.  I still love to run outside and not inside.  I have lost more weight just by knowing when to eat and what to eat when I do. It’s simple and doesn’t need to involve counting calories.  Life is just going by.
*The Heat won the NBA championship and I watched the last two games.  I did that because I am a Lebron James fan.  I have liked him since his early Cleveland days because he is exciting to watch.   He turned things around in Game 6 and dominated Game 7.  His haters will hate to understand that he is the biggest reason the Heat pried the championship from San Antonio.  He is the only player to win the Regular Season MVP, Finals MVP and championship TWO seasons in a row.   Ladies and gentlemen, get off his back.  He is legit and will drag the one legged Dwayne Wade and overrated Chris Bosh to at least 1 or 2 more championships.  Miami didn’t buy a championship.  They have play and earn and win every damn game.  Get over it.  
That’s all.  Goodnight.  Thanks for reading.

My Take on The Cardinals

I think it is fantastic that my Cardinals are 44-25.   Being 19 games over .500 is an astounding achievement for dealing with the injuries that have fell upon this team inside three months of action.   I don’t need to go over the list of injured starters to allow you to understand the impact that our farm system has had on the big league club.   It’s great and only hints at the success that awaits us when we get fully healthy.  What happens when a healthy Jaime Garcia rejoins the rotation in 2014?  Jason Motte joining a highly formidable late game bullpen cycle of power arms.   It’s cool and long lasting.  However, today’s game against the Marlins just can’t happen.   The best team in baseball, long road and woes to deal with or not, can’t cough up a series to a 21-50 team.   The pitiful Miami Marlins took 2 of 3 from us this weekend and it’s kind of disgusting to think about.  

Hold off on telling me these things happen in a 162 game season and I should take it in stride.  I won’t do such a thing.  We needed to take this series and stomp the Marlins.  Forget sending a message.  Just put some distance between you and the two very hungry team behind you in the division in the Reds and Pirates.  Win as many damn games as you can.   Kill teams and reflect when you are driving off in the team bus.  The Cardinals let a very bad team get past them this weekend.  Why?  Allow me to explain rather quickly with blunt force.  
Mike Matheny and his staff made a decision on Friday to send Michael Wacha back down to Memphis and keep the lefthanded Tyler Lyons on the club in the big boy rotation.  In explaining the move, Matheny wanted the kid to work on his curve and the location of his fastball.  There is also a factor in play here when it comes to stopping his big league clock so he isn’t available for free agency sooner.  
I didn’t like the decision.  I wanted Wacha to stay and Lyons to go down because you have two solid lefties in the bullpen and you need to keep both of these guys stretched out as starters.   Wacha has shown more consistency here than Lyons.   Tyler(shitty weak boy name) had two very good starts against soft hitting teams and has given up 4 earned runs in his last two starts before today’s debacle.   The clue being that teams were figuring out Lyons while Wacha had gotten punched hard against Arizona but rebounded with an impressive start against the Mets.  Lyons and Wacha’s wins came against inferior teams but Wacha was a guy that you didn’t want to send up and down from Memphis.   Nobody knew who Lyons was a month ago.  Wacha is the next great pitcher in this organization.   Unless he kept getting hammered in NY, you keep him here.  Forget the need to have a lefty in the rotation.  Keep the right pitcher in the rotation.  I think Matheny listened to his coaches too much here.   Watch Wacha’s pitch count.  Keep an eye on his durability.  He was in college a year ago, but so what?  Make sure his facial hair isn’t growing at an alarming rate.  Come on.  Lyons should have went down because he was getting hammered more and more.  Today, he gave up 6 earned runs in 5.1 innings, which is nearly as bad as Lance Lynn on Saturday but Lynn has 9 wins on his record.  
In short, Lyons was trending downward and Wacha was trending up.  All I can look at is the performance and the stats.   
The Cards lost to Jose Fernandez on Friday, a very talented righthander who pitches very well at home.  A suspect hit by pitch call where umpire Angel Fernandez awarded a Marlin first base after another umpire saw a little bruise on his hand.  The extremely deadly hitter Giancarlo Stanton(why in the world did he ever call himself MIKE) lined a game deciding 2 run double off a tiring Jake Westbrook.  Game over.  5-4.  
Saturday, the bats ripped apart the Marlins pitching staff for a 13-7 assault that bailed out a struggling hot and tired Lynn.  
Sunday, Lyons got bombed by the Marlins lineup and Ricky Nolasco shut down the Cards lineup on 5 hits.  7-2.  Unacceptable.  It doesn’t matter if you walk into Marlins park as the best team in baseball in the middle of June.  This team needs to pound Nolasco.  Beat him into the ground like a rogue journeyman soul that he is.  Instead, he shuts us down and Lyons gets beat hard.  Three bad starts in a row for the other kid named Tyler.  I don’t care if he is going through growing pains.  He can do those in the minors.  If Wacha gets hit hard by the Marlins, it’s a step in the process of a future top of the rotation arm.   You see my point?  Wacha is an arm that shouldn’t be messed with and Lyons is a potential innings eater.  I think their locations need to be switched.  Just me.
As noted earlier, the Cards can’t afford to lose to the Marlins.  It’s a smack in the face and gives the Birds their first series loss since the end of April.  They rarely get beat so soundly.  Look at their last 5 losses and all have come in fairly close fashion.  Today’s loss was a one sided beatdown.  I just don’t like it.  
The bottom of the rotation is looking thin.  Jake Westbrook may have been rushed back to the rotation but looked halfway normal on Friday.   He is a guy that lives and dies by his sinker.  He was getting ground balls and unfortunately a few found the holes and not the gloves.  Stanton’s big blow pushed the knife through but Westbrook looked alright.   That doesn’t spell good things for the future.   Let me describe my cautious outlook.
Shelby Miller will run into an inning roadblock.  He won’t be shut down but will show signs of wear and tear.  He has thrown a ton of pitches, leading the league for rookies in strikeouts and has three more months left to go.  He is someone to watch.  I don’t warrant a Nationals/Strasburg kind of overlooking analysis but he may start to drop off.  Lance Lynn has held up better than 2012 but still relies on a lot of run support.  Adam Wainwright is a Cy Young candidate at 10-3 and pitching at the top of his game with 2 complete game shutouts under his belt.  Lyons’ future is uncertain and I am not sure if he will be here in a few weeks.  His stuff is decent but could use more polish at the AAA level.  Kevin Siegrist has turned into a K machine in the bullpen with Randy Choate turning in fine work as the specialist.  Lyons, for now, is a rotation arm.  I think he needs to go down to Memphis but I am not sure the team will make that quick turnaround after sending Wacha down on Friday.  
The X-Factor here is Chris Carpenter’s miraculous comeback.  After what seems to be about 40 bullpen sessions, one hopes he is heading down to Springfield or Memphis for a start.  How many simulated games and bullpens can the guy throw?  Is there something we are missing here?  Carpenter is being brought back in a starter mode, throwing 80 pitches per session.  Any talk of a bullpen role is illogical and rather stupid.  No bullpen arm trains with that many pitches.  He is a starter and always will be.  Where does he fit in the bullpen with the crowded arena as we currently see it?  Carpenter needs to go on a rehab and see if he has what it takes to come back or is it time to call this miracle journey a wrap.  This started at the beginning of May and now its June 16th and he still hasn’t thrown in a real game.   His potential impact affects guys like Lyons, Wacha, Carlos Martinez and the need for a starter at the deadline.   Also, this team isn’t going after Cliff Lee and his aging expensive lefthanded arm.  There’s no way that’s happening with this team’s young crop of arms.   When you have Martinez, Lyons, Wacha, and a mending John Gast at your disposal, pulling in Lee for a half season is no way to improve your club.  
What else?  Bright spots.  
*David Freese has turned his season around and I am not surprised.  The hometown aging kid has always been a clutch bat and was pressing for a couple months after getting a short spring.  He is a quality and relatively cheap third baseman who has also improved his defense this season.  His range to his right is a lot better than previous campaigns.  That could be a result of healthier ankles.  I don’t think we need to shop Freese anytime soon.  Matt Carpenter is a great leadoff hitter and decent 2nd baseman.  That may put Kolten Wong in a slower climb to the major league club or it may not.  Wong is playing other positions at Memphis and has only been in the system for 2 years.  Freese is a proven late inning and postseason hitter.   Carp can also play a number of positions.  I don’t like the notion of shopping Freese.  Another ridiculous and naive topic brought up by Ken Rosenthal.  
*Yadi Molina is the most valuable player on the Cards and quite possibly the National League.  Buster Posey isn’t a better player than Yadi.  His catching is average and while his bat is quality, Yadi changes the way opponents play against him.  He brings offensive firepower and a defensive game that can’t be matched.   He deserves the gold glove every season and Posey will always be 2nd in value.  He also happens to be leading the NL in hitting with a .351 average.  Molina is so underrated after becoming a true force in the last three seasons.  
*Carlos Beltran has served as a quality pickup and eclipsed the Lance Berkman warnings.  Berk fared well for a season here but dropped off in 2012 due to serious injury.  Beltran is getting more rest and becoming more consistent with his bat and glove.  His legs are improving by the week because he gets at least 2 days off a week and still has 16 home runs and 40+ RBI.  He is worth thinking about when it comes to 2014 but I think he will depart to be a DH in the AL.  Let’s enjoy him while he is here.  He was a superb pickup and wouldn’t have been here without Pujols departing.  
*Pujols has managed to help the Cardinals without being a member of the team.  With his services heading west to LA for the next 10 years, the Cards were able to lock up Molina, Waino, and bring in Beltran while maintaining a flexibility for additions at the trade deadline. With Albert staying put, the Cards wouldn’t be able to keep Molina AND Waino.  No way.  Also, Pujols departing allowed the team to get a better look at Allen Craig, who is turning into an RBI machine and a perfect cleanup bat behind Matt Holliday.  Craig won’t slow down any time soon.  He’s a steady .300 hitter with lots of upside and pop.  Pitchers aren’t going to figure anything else out when facing him.  They are at his mercy now.  
*Holliday will be alright.  He is a streaky hitter but is still an above average all around player.  He will knock in 100 and crank 25-30 HR and hit .300.  His defense in left field has also improved.  The deep fly ball that went off his glove against Arizona at Busch was his first error of the season.  He is tracking down more balls and is an average fielder.  His bat is explosive at its best.  He hits into so many DP because he hits the ball so damn hard.  Only Stanton hits a ball harder than Holliday.  Smashing a grand slam off the Reds rookie pitcher last Sunday was a very satisfying moment for the former QB from Oklahoma.  Give him time because he is fine.  The haters will hate and still spit out stupid jargon like we should have signed Jayson Werth or Carl Crawford(both making 22 milllion as leadoff hitters).   Holliday and Craig make this lineup dangerous.   Take them away and Beltran and Yadi aren’t as productive.  
*Trevor Rosenthal’s upside is ridiculous.  “Rosie” is a big time talent with a right arm that could anchor the Cardinals bullpen for years.  His future as a starter doesn’t seem as strong since his work in the 8th inning has produced such dynamic results.   Rosenthal is starting to spot his propane fastball and use his breaking pitch effectively.  He is a closer type pitching in a setup role. 
*Edward Mujica is also turning heads and deserves an All Star look.  He took over the closer role in late April and has 19 saves in 19 opportunities.  He is throwing his split-finger for an out pitch and mixing in his fastball and slider.  The guy has been nicked for 2 harmless home runs and rarely gotten into serious trouble.  He is turning his career around in his 2nd pivotal role on this team.  He came here for Zach Cox, who is playing at the AA level for the worst team in the National League.  Fair swap if you ask me.
The Cubs come into town and have played well of late but still a team that a 1st place squad like the Cards should easily beat up.  Don’t waste these opportunities against soft competition to rack up your lead.  Take care of business.  Losing to bad teams isn’t acceptable for a team of this Redbird’s caliber.  
I’m done.  Time to catch 30 minutes of Chris Nolan’s superb Dark Knight Rises on HBO before it’s Mad Men time.  

The Latest Dose of Material

Sunday is where all the thoughts from the head fire out in random order and I just let it rip here.  No order, no restriction and all unplugged prose.   Let’s jump right in. 

*The Cards have the best record in baseball and are regarded as the strongest club.  That is without 3 members of their rotation, their 2012 closer, and shortstop.  It never gets old to remind the non followers that our team’s pitching depth is something to be reckoned with not just at the moment but for years to come.   We are 40-22 with rookie pitchers accounting for a third of the wins and a former journeyman reliever(Mujica) collecting 19 saves.  We lead the Reds by 3 games after Saturday’s loss, which I will talk about in a minute because it is cutting into my nerves at the moment.   The Cards are getting production from unexpected spots in the lineup.  David Freese is having a resurgence with a 18 game hitting streak.   Matt Carpenter is among the best leadoff men in baseball and playing a new flawless second base.  Mujica and his saves.  The most ridiculous feat the team has pulled off is hitting with runners in scoring position. They are hitting .405 in those situations and are killer when it happens with 2 outs.  This club is breaking through in areas that previous Cardinals teams could not.  They hit into a lot of double plays but get a lot more big hits.  They own the best fielding percentage in baseball and have made the fewest errors at 19.  Just a few of the things that make my team stronger than ever at the moment.  
*Saturday’s loss was digestible.  Matt Latos has beat us three times this season, shutting down our bats and being the Cards only route to getting the best of us.  On Saturday he did it again and handed Aromis Chapman a 4-2 lead in the 9th.  Pete Kozma doubled and Chapman hit Matt Carpenter with two outs to bring up Carlos Beltran.  The ideal Cardinal fan said to himself, “here they go again”.   Beltran grounded sharply to third base and a wild throw seemed to pull Joey Votto off the bag at first base.  To the naked eye, the foot was OFF the bag.  Umpire Phil Cozzi called him out.  Cardinal nation called bullshit.  Votto was off the bag, Beltran was safe and the bases should have been loaded for Matt Holliday.  Instead, the Reds won and evened the series.  This just can’t happen.  Let me elaborate.  
*Balls and strikes calls are debatable because its pure judgement.  Each team is given their fair share of breaks in a game.  However, a bad call that decides the game just can’t happen.  Something needs to be done to rectify this.  Earlier in the season, a home run wasn’t ruled correctly and a game was turned over.  Last night, The Cards weren’t guaranteed a tie game but deserved the chance to take their best shot.  Cuzzi’s main problem was staring at the throw going into Votto’s glove instead of his foot.  Why didn’t he at least ask the other umpires for their thoughts?  Chris Maloney, Beltran and Mike Matheny all went nuts because they saw the foot was clearly off the bag.   All this means is the umpires get defended for human error and their flawed abilities again.  What needs to happen is an expansion of instant replay.  Something needs to stop this injustice.  It would have taken 10 seconds on a reply television to see the foot was off the bag and play needed to continue.  I don’t particularly like instant replay and all its hassle, but this has to be stopped.  The NFL and NHL incorporate it.  The NBA doesn’t share too much of a need for it.  MLB needs it.  Home run calls are fine but plays at first are getting worse.  Does the name Jim Joyce ring a bell?  His horrible call at first base robbed a pitcher of a perfect game.  Last night the Cards were robbed of the chance to come back.   Bad news for the human element.  It’s not a machine takeover.  It’s common sense and technological expansion.
*Who’s ready for the Game of Thrones finale tonight?  After last week’s Red Wedding Stark massacre, who dies this time and how does the wickedly compelling third season draw itself to a close?  Can it all be fit into an hour?  In reality, no way but that’s all HBO dishes out.   I can only hope some Lannister is mistreated, killed, or left in painful regard by a competing rival.  Except for Jaime Lannister, my favorite anti-hero on TV and my personal fave on the show, the rest of that family can be destroyed.  Well, save Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion as well.   Non Thrones fans won’t understand a bit of this nonsense so bare with me.  
*The Internship is a dull unfunny film that ranks as another dud in the recent arsenal of Vince Vaughn.  Two old salesmen gunning for jobs at Google isn’t a horrible idea but dealt with in the most cliche boring fashion.   Pass it up.  
*Watching Man of Steel on Tuesday and excited for the next reincarnation of Superman.  Superman Returns was a bland take on the character and ultimately forgettable.  The X-Factor this time.  The close involvement of Christopher Nolan, who reinvented the Batman mythology and put his hand on the shoulder of visual wizard filmmaker Zach Snyder here.  With a game cast and a deeper look at the alien turned superhero, a thinking man’s blockbuster is in order.   This film could take over 2013 with its follow through.  
*Listening to few covers this week.   Johnny Cash covering U2’s “One” in what must have been a busy last year of life for the man in black.  He seemed to cover every well known song in his later years.   It’s a strong cover.  Cash treats it like a mechanic.  Strips it down for rebuilding and slowly trudges through it for unknown sparks until it’s his own machine.  Also taking in “500 Miles” by a young band called Sleeping at Last.  Here, a fast rock ballad is slowed down to a crawl and for good reason.  The hidden gem lyrics are finally exposed.  Good tune.  Look them up.  
*Adonis Stevenson, a light middleweight heavy puncher, collected the most stunning and convincing victories last night.  With one punch in the first round, he knocked out champ Chad Dawson and won a title.   That is still the most brutal and blunt win in sports.  A one punch KO.  Apparently, he put his straight left fist through his head.  Easy to watch.  Not that long.  Check it out on ESPN.  
*Tonight my fellow film-addicts are shooting a video for the site that will hopefully play in front of a handful of theaters in St. Louis.   This could be a big batch of exposure for our young yet strong site.  Videos are so easy to watch and enjoy that the attention is easy to hook.   It’s a 15 second dose so hopefully it comes out complete and fun to watch.  A first for me.  
*Twitter gets better and better.  If you use it, you love it.  If you don’t, you loathe it.  For others it just exists.  It’s a lot more than simply posting what you’re doing.  It’s the new form of journalism where you can get on, pound out a thought in 140 characters and connect with people you never met.  I find it to be incredibly invigorating.  Facebook is fine but dying slowly by the day.   Twitter is more private, precise and hands on.   I have connected with actors, sports fans, long lost family and even fellow Buffa’s that I have no relation to but tracked down anyway.  It’s a fun area to play with.  
*Manny Pacquiao needs to brutally defeat Brandon Rios in October and avenge his loss to Juan Marquez in order to have any shot at Floyd Mayweather Jr. or in a more simpler case, full redemption.   The loss to Tim Bradley was unjust but set up Pac Man’s one punch loss to Marquez.   The Filipino puncher needs to collect a couple wins before he is considered dangerous again.  
*Canelo may not beat Floyd in September, but he will hit him and hurt him.  Bet on that.  Alvarez isn’t just a puncher anymore.  In his win over Austin Trout, he proved that he could box as well.  
*All politicians are full of shit and lies, but I think Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, is trying to clean up a violent city and doing his best.  He is cutthroat and brutal in some aspects, but is sincerely trying to change things.  It’s never easy.  Hence the bullshit and lying. 
*Here’s a quick response to my main correspondence adviser “Chicago Mang” about the Cardinals surge that perfectly sums up their flight. 
**That’s the greatest thing about the Cards and something I expand on in my blog(being composed right now).   The team is doing this without Carp, Garcia, Motte, Furcal and Westbrook.   A batch of young talent is carrying this team through an important part of the season and I believe Chris Carpenter will be that X-Factor in July.  He will be able to pitch the 7th, start a game of even close.  The most important thing is seeing how far Carp Jr. and Mujica can run.  Their contributions so far are ridiculous.  A pure bred lead off hitter with some pop and a step in closer who is perfect so far.   The games the team have lost lately are close battles.   Take last night.  Chapman was having troubles and with one swing Holliday ties the game or gives us the lead.  The Boggs demolition marathon game was ours to take.  
The gap will be expanded with our inner division record which is strong.  We have taken care of the Reds and Pirates head to head.  I also want a dominant end but will be content following this team week by week.  I would love to see a 20 games + over .500 finish.   You don’t have to pull the starters in August when 2/5 of your current slate are on the mend in Carp and Westbrook.   Lyons and Wacha are providing valuable balance right now and even Siegrist and Maness are proving to be difference makers.   Proof that we don’t need broken arms like Boggs, Salas, Rzep in the coming years.  The next 5-10 years of this Cardinals team is full of bright young talent that is contributing already at the MLB level.  Taveras and Wong aren’t even here yet.”
We could be witnessing something profound, folks.  
*Mad Men isn’t as showy or flashy with the blood as Thrones or other shows but there’s a quiet intoxicating factor that hooks me to that program.   1960’s dreamer ad salesmen with a death wish and an urge to be blunt about everything.   Jon Hamm and John Slattery are superb but the rest of the cast is also top rate.  Matthew Weiner is spinning a tale that will have a compelling and complete resolution.   Trust me.  
I can’t think of anything else worthy to add and time is running out before my evening kicks in.  Thanks for reading and feel free to tell me I suck, need to discuss a certain topic or just plain go away.  The last one I can promise won’t happen but the next dose may bring a bigger bang.  Until then…
Goodnight and good luck,
D. Buffa

Game of Thrones and The Red Wedding

Oh boy how do I start this one off.  This is for Game of Thrones fanatics, watchers, purists and enthusiasts.  Sunday’s episode featured the most brutal sequence on television in a long time and maybe forever.  This is worse than Noah Wyle and the intern getting stabbed by the patient in ER.  This is worse than Ned Stark losing his head.  It was far worse than anything on Sopranos or The Wire.   Game of Thrones and its creators, original novel writer and actors pulled off a wicked finish to the second to last episode of the third season.  Let me step back a little.

Two months ago I wasn’t even watching the show.  I knew about it, heard the wicked claims and didn’t find time to watch it.  I don’t have time to sit down and read all the books and what fun would that be in following it up by watching the series on TV.   Book readers are a crowd that I respect and admire.  They find time to do that and I just can’t.  I love to write and adore my television.  Suddenly sometime near the end of March, I dove into season 1 and didn’t reappear to normal living conditions until I was 3 episodes into season 3.  You stop your normal evening schedule when you load up on a TV series.  You forget to do certain things, like shower, eat properly or tend to your young son.   You might as well grab a sword, a stick, a horse and ride to Westeros.  I got engulfed in this series and loved every bit.  There are stories I care less about but the general scheme is magnificent and hugely addicting.  There is a tasty complexity to the show that other series’ fail to bring to the table.  All the kingdoms fighting for supremacy in a cutthroat time is cool to watch and the nudity, blood and excess add to the pleasure.  Back to Sunday night.

I am a Twitter bitch and Facebook wanderer.  I knew something was coming.  When Banshee’s lovely leading lady Ivana Milicevic tweets, “OH. MY. GOD” with the hashtag #GOT, something has got to be cooking.   I knew a wallop was hitting the crowd who hadn’t read the story where SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER The Stark family is slaughtered at a wedding held by the Frey Kingdom.  Robb Stark(wonderfully understated actor Richard Maddon) and the woman of the house Catelyn(Michelle Fairley) are sliced up and in the process, Robb’s wife, Talisa, is stabbed in the stomach a few times(5 to be exact).   The only catch is Talisa is pregnant and stabbed several times.  This part isn’t in the book and is instead cooked up by David Benioff and Dan Weiss, the showrunners.  In the books, Talisa doesn’t exist and Robb’s wife isn’t pregnant and stays at home.   In a way, this feverish ambush by King Frey, an old pervert who flirted creepily with Talisa scenes before ordering her demise.  The entire scene was just brutal, bloody, and appetite quenching.  The entire hour you could smell it coming.   Book lovers knew it was coming.   Non Book show addicts could smell it, just like I did.   Once Talisa was telling Robb about naming the unborn child Eddark, you heard a match get lit in the room and the fire started.  The bride and groom were carried off and the door was shut and then the music started. The Lannister music.  “Rains of Castamere”(probably not spelled right but suck it faithful souls) filled the room(with Coldplay’s Will Champion holding the drum).   Catelyn knew the jig was up and when she saw the chainmail under Rouse’s clothing, she tried to stop it.  What was she going to do?  The Stark’s were dead in the water.  Sitting ducks.   They were the gambler way in over his head at the tables at 1am with the real players looking at him with pity.   It was sad.  Robb looked like a serious threat to bring down the Lannisters and then he pulls a fast one on the Freys and pays DEARLY for it.  Not only is his entire army killed and his own life is ended and the life of his mother is stopped, but his pregnant lovely wife is stabbed maliciously.

The toughest moment was Robb crawling up to the dying body of his bride, grabbing the severely bleeding stomach and looking broken.  Once he watched her soul depart, I don’t think he cared one bit about his fate.  His mother tried to reason with the Frey elder, but to no avail.    The turncoat Rouse walked up, grabbed Stark, whispered a greeting from the Lannisters and stuck a knife in his heart.   Catelyn sliced open the neck of the youngest bride of the Frey Elder before her own throat was cut.  End of story.   Poor young Arya, riding with the Hound to the wedding in hopes of being reunited with her Stark family for the first time since her dad’s head was cut off, is knocked out by her unlikely protector and carried away.  A horrible ending for the Stark family for what seems like the duration of the show.

When will this family catch a break?  It reminds you of George Martin’s writing and his ability to go against the grain of natural storytelling.   I thought Robb was going to sack the kingdom of Tyrin Lannister and take over and avenge his father’s death.  Instead, he is dead and so is his army and mother.  The Stark’s jhopes rest in children and the bastard son, Jon Snow.  I believe they will be quiet for a while.

This sets up the finale quite well but I have a hard time seeing the last episode top the Red Wedding.   No way.  How much more brutal can you get?  They could have shown the penis being cut off in the previous hour and I wouldn’t rate it higher than seeing a pregnant woman stabbed repeatedly.   That, I believe, was the show runners pushing the brutal pedal forward into our digestive system and making sure we remembered this episode all week and possibly all year.  Whenever Game of Thrones is mentioned, the Red Wedding will come to mind.  Without the relentless murder of Talisa, the impact isn’t as severe.

The intent of Frey was as direct as a blade itself.  Take away everything Robb Stark has and will ever have after his demise.  No son(or daughter). No wife.  No parents.  No Rule. No kingdom.  Goodnight Stark Avenger(not named Tony).  If you see a Stark this week, buy them a drink or two and tell them its okay.  You may be lying but at least you won’t be carrying a knife or wearing chainmail.

Season 4 can’t be talked about until the season concludes next week.  I may write something then or I may not.   Only certain times do I feel the need to unload a TV solo blog.   My favorite character is still Jaime Lannister because his history is so juicy and complex and his character arc is so interesting to watch and prepare for.   His hand getting chopped off is the next thing on the shock list of Season 3.  From that point on, the Kingslayer changed in more ways than one.

Take this as you will.   It’s a dose of mental extraction from a guy who had the Thrones on the mind all day.   Just a brutally brilliant episode.

That’s it.  Thanks for reading and goodnight.


Time to Rant About The Cardinals

There’s no better way to start off a Saturday than to let the hands go and fire up a blog.  Unload the noise in the head and simply give your take.  It’s what I do.  Hopefully you approve or at least respect me in the morning.  

First thing up to dish on.  STORMS.  What a stressful task to deal with when you have a sleeping 20 month old and a tornado capable storm brewing outside your house.  I am not the guy that runs to the basement every time he hears a watch or warning.  The best radar I have are my own two eyes.   I go outside and take a look while checking the news channels.  I just can’t run downstairs and do some laundry and wait.  I have a kid, two dogs, and two cats.   After putting Vinny to bed, the storm wanted to mess with my part of town.  After a few looks outside and several sirens, I looked at the sky and it was whipping dangerously sharp winds, turning red and starting to point a dirty finger towards my street.  So I scooped up the kid around 8pm and went downstairs for an hour.  What a load of crap?  Unless you live in Oklahoma, the chances of you getting rocked is small.  Joplin got hit hard last year but most of the time, my area gets rain, winds, some hail and a lot of worrying.  Pisses me off…every time.  This is why I’ll take snow or sleet over tornadoes.  One can be defensed easily and one will just take you away no matter what.  That’s life.  It’s not all fun and games.  
Busch Stadium and the Cards cancelled the game before the storms hit and fans went home.  Good thing for safety but a bad thing for the die hards wishing to wash the nasty taste of Thursday’s brutal defeat from their mouth.   It was so bad and so wrong for a team that was playing the best baseball in MLB the past two weeks.  The Cards are 35-18 as they open action today with the Giants in a doubleheader.   What happened Thursday night?  Let me spin it for you quick because a lot of good things happened and some very bad things happened.  Let’s review.  
1.  Why did the Cards lose 4-2 after leading 2-1 going into the 9th inning?   Well, Mike Matheny completely screwed up the inning by putting the world’s least likely to exceed with a close lead late in the game pitcher on the mound.  That’s Mitchell Boggs, who currently calls Memphis his home again.   With Edward Mujica having worked four days in a row(I’m fine with him sitting) and Trevor Rosenthal having thrown 42 pitches in 2 outings on Sunday and Tuesday(less okay with that one), the bullpen was sparse for closing talent.  Enter Boggs, as petrified and scared as a man fighting Bane in a dark alley.  Boggs didn’t deserve to be promoted from Memphis 2 weeks ago because he sported a 5.32 ERA in his few outings down there.  He came up and pitched in San Diego and gave up a 2nd pitch home run to Will Venerable.  He had consistently been bad in close and tight games since his return and well since the beginning of the 2013 season.   Matheny calls on his long lost son Boggs to close a 2-1 game that belonged to rookie starter Michael Wacha, who exceeded the hype on Thursday and pitched a dominant brilliant precise 7 innings and left with a lead.  When you see Boggs warming in the pen breathing heavy and looking distressed(he didn’t just watch the LOST finale, trust me), Wacha should have known.  He saw Boggs in AAA earlier this month.  Ouch!  Boggs comes into the game to face Jeff Francoeur, who would swing at a pitch if you threw it into the Cards dugout.  Boggs throws a fastball in and Jeff lines it down the left field line foul.  Boggs got away with one.  The next pitch drops right in the middle of the plate and Francoeur launches it into the damp, rainy and muggy night for a game tying two run homer.   Boggs walks another batter, and then Victor Marte comes in and allows a go ahead two run single after a hit batter and single.  In about 10 minutes, the game was turned over to the worst relievers in the bullpen because Matheny thought this was the best way to manage a 2-1 lead.   You are 18 games over .500 and you give one to a pathetic Royals team. Bad move Mike.  
Where does the problem lie?  Right with Mike Matheny.  I really like Matheny as a manager.  He is tough, loyal to his players and shoots the media straight every night.  As I said in the winter of 2011, he was the right choice for this team after Tony La Russa left.  The players love playing for him and he has gotten results.  However, he has a weakness that extends to his loyalty with his players.  He sticks with damaged goods way too long and the biggest case is Boggs.  In April during his struggles Matheny continued to push him out there.   What started as brave and noble turned into risky and dangerous.  When he came back from Memphis, Boggs looked more like Elvis but still couldn’t get outs.  He was the absolute wrong choice for the 9th inning on Thursday because there was no precedent this season that gave two cents to the fact that his ability was right for that night.  Mike Matheny has shown a newly developed dangerous allegiance to wounded players.   He kept putting Fernando Salas into high leverage situations when it wasn’t working.  He did it with Boggs far too many times.   
Matheny does this because he knows he is partially responsible for breaking the mental wall of Boggs.  I’ve said it 3,000 times but how about one more time.   Why pull Mitchell Boggs from an area where he clearly thrived in during 2012 to put him in an unknown suspect arena that is known as closing?  It was a bad move from the start and yes Boggs didn’t pitch well and made the pitches that gave way to danger.  Any time a pitcher steps on the mound they may be told to leave sooner rather than later.  However, this could have been avoided if Matheny kept Boggs in the setup role from the start and especially if he didn’t force him back into high leverage appearances so soon.   Boggs showed no improvement in close games in order to be counted on Thursday night.  NO WAY.  Chris Duncan can talk all he wants about what he did last year on The Turn on 101.1 ESPN on Friday and I will laugh at him and hit him a pop fly to prove my point. Mitchell Boggs is a liability and may always be one for this team.   Matheny broke his psyche by placing him in an area where he couldn’t succeed and doing it multiple times.  The team should have waived or released Boggs on Friday but they demoted him again in hopes of the young man reclaiming his previous form.  Unless you build a new stadium, find new fans and relinquish the pressure from his shoulders, that will never happen.  The Cards have too many young capable arms to give innings to damaged goods like Boggs.  Things happen quick in this league.  Players are up and then far down.  It’s life.  It’s tough.  Deal with it.  Move on.  Hopefully Mike Matheny learned a lesson.  Loyalty should never be crossed with insanity.   
Bright spots.  Wacha pitched great and should get another turn.   Tell Jake Westbrook to keep throwing bullpen sessions.   Michael Wacha and Tyler Lyons are turning in serious work.  A year removed from throwing baseballs at aluminum bats, Wacha dazzled our senses on Thursday.   93 pitches, 1 run, 2 hits, 6 K’s and 1 walk.   Lights out pitching.  His fastball routinely touched 95 and his changeup was as good as advertised.   Yadi Molina continues to sting the ball and is hitting over .340 and exists as a batting title and MVP threat.  If the league wanted to seriously identify the most valuable player on a Cards team, it would be Molina.  He means so much to the pitching staff and his defense changes another team’s game plan.  He does so much before he even picks up a bat and hits .340 through a third of the season.   There is a good reason why the young pitchers come up here and do so well.  They listen to Yadi and make pitches.   David Freese has found his bat and his clutch hitting touch.  He is driving the ball all over the field and getting timely hits again.  It was only a matter of time before the hometown kid got it going.  Allen Craig has only 4 HR but is ripping the cover off the ball, driving in runners and hitting for a high average.   The 4-5-6 spots in the order are downright deadly.  
Reasons why the Cards are 35-18.
1.)The rotation is the best in baseball and that’s with an ever changing cast.  Lance Lynn is holding up well, Waino is aces and Shelby Miller doesn’t give up that many runs.  
2.)The bats hit well with 2 outs and RISP.   The trend hasn’t died yet.
3.)Edward Mujica is 17-17 in saves.  Amazing.   Still puzzled by the Zach Cox trade?  No.
4.)Matheny trusts his players and that’s(mostly) a good thing.  
5.)Our inner division record is fantastic and that will help in a tight race.  The Reds aren’t going anywhere.  
There are more reasons but not enough time to list every one of them.  I will say this.  The Cardinals have the best problems right now.  Who should we play here?  Who pitches?  What if this guy gets healthy?  They have an insane amount of depth at the moment and it’s glorious.  If Westbrook and Carpenter come back, you have 7 credible worthy arms to play with in the rotation.  If Kolten Wong and Oscar Taveras really heat up, you have to find a spot for them.  Matt Adams is your power stroke off the bench.  This team has the best farm system in the major’s but also the best translation rate of minor league to major league results.  It’s a fresh issue to see in Cardinal Nation and makes the future bright.  When Westbrook, Carp, Furcal, Beltran and others fall off the payroll in 2013, you don’t have to rush out and sign big names, hand out cash and hope to remain competitive.  The Cards have all the talent in their own house.  
Thursday’s loss stung because there was a very clear reason why the ball was dropped.  I get resting young pitchers and closer’s with over 100 games to go in the season but not doing it at the risk of losing a winnable baseball game.  
End of story.  Thanks for reading.