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.