Fire In The Hole

Let me just begin by saying that being a baseball fan ages a man.  You feel older than your birth certificate says you are.  You feel mistreated, hurt, and abused.  Right when your team has you feeling pretty good for donating so much fucking time to their work, they stab you in the back.   Case in point.  The past 6 games from my St. Louis Cardinals.  THIS ENTIRE BLOG will be about the Cards.  If you like Real Housewives or So You Think You Can Dance and Retarded, please delete now.  Alright ladies and gents…fire in the HOLE!

 
The Cards got swept today in the doubleheader at Pittsburgh and after getting off the bus on Monday with a 1.5 game lead over the Pirates, the team rests tonight with a 1.5 game deficit in the division.   Six straight losses.  6 runs scored in the 6 losses.  2 shutouts.  Pitching hasn’t been great.  Bullpen has been dented.  The lineup and bench has been a complete missing link.  No big hits.  No ambush of baserunners. No oxygen on the basepaths.  We are dead, shitty, rotten, fish in the water.  
 
The Cards picked a bad time to be bad.  This is the trade deadline and you are playing your main competition this entire week.  This is not the time to lay down.  After a weak 3 week in July, the Cards are finding out a harsh reality.  We aren’t good against good teams.  Make that record 14-22.  To put it mildly, which means minus a lot of blood, the Cards suck right now.  We have went from being 25 games over .500 and 2.5 games out in front of the Pirates to 20 games 19 games over .500 and 1.5 games back.  That just made me dirty saying that.  
 
What happened? The lineup stopped producing. I don’t need STATS genius thinkers to tell me that.  Starting in a 4-1 loss on Friday in Atlanta and ending tonight in a pitiful 6-0 defeat, the bats are colder than ice and a little unlucky.  When you aren’t scoring runs, you tend to not get the lucky bounces or gap extra base knocks.  Your line drives are caught.  You hit it down the line right to the first basemen.  You smoke deep warning track fly balls.  You hit very hard double play balls. If your name is David Freese or Matt Holliday, you hit several double play balls.  
 
I don’t mean to jump on The Face of IMOS Pizza and the Muscle head here but man these two guys hit into double plays like we drink water.  There has to be a line in Vegas on Holliday and Freese’s double play odds.  Give or take a one hop.  Hold the action on the 3 part putout.  I love Holliday’s hustle and Freese’s heroics but these guys need to stop dropping down suicide bunts or swing the bat like a damn golf club.  I nearly threw something through a window today when Holliday bounced into one late in Game 1.  I almost did.  I always wonder what stops me from doing that.  Probably the fact that I am not that handy and hate being a part of HANDY MAN WORK.
 
This team needs a jolt.  Unfortunately, Oscar Taveras is hurt and Kolten Wong can’t play CF.  The free agent market is thin for big RH bats that can make our bench a fearful area for opposing bullpens in late tight games.  The Cards need a Larry Walker or Will Clark like slap across the face.  Something to get us going.  We weren’t exactly lighting up Philly last week but we were winning games.  Faced against an equal or greater opponent, the Cards have folded big time.  Their bats aren’t giving the arms any support.  Adam Wainwright takes the mound tomorrow and we can only hope the bats give him some runs in the top of the 1st inning.  Or else he will carry that horrible 100 pound burden of keeping the game at 0-0 because dare he give up a run or two, the deficit may seem like 20-0 instead of 2-0.  Right now, that is how this team is playing.  Close, ugly, and excruciating to watch baseball.  
 
Jon Jay is regressing horribly.  He has gotten a few scratch singles lately, but he can afford to ride the bench more in favor of the slightly better at the moment Shane Robinson.  David Freese better start hitting because his defense does him few favors.  Allen Craig has come back down to earth at the wrong time(maybe some good old fashioned inside pitching).  Holliday needs to produce more with runners on base because his average there is slipping.  He had an RBI and 2 hits in game 1 but still fails to get that monstrous hit. Carlos Beltran is stuck in a horrible 3-30 slump.  Pete Kozma, unless he gets a scrappy hit, is an automatic out.  Daniel Descalso’s defense has gotten ugly in 2013.  Matt Adams played more games and pitchers figured him out a little.  Overall, the lineup needs a jolt from within or outside, but I don’t see a move coming.  
 
Worse news tonight is Yadi Molina going down with a right knee strain.  Apparently, the knee has gotten worse. You can see it in his decreasing average and lesser power strokes(remarkably he owns the Cards last 2 HR in the last 14 games played).   Yadi is going back to STL tomorrow to have it examined and it will keep him out at least 2 weeks.  Rough news.  This only makes the lineup weaker.  Puts more emphasis on poor light hitting Kozma and Jay.  This may actually force Mozelaik to pull off a trade and get the team a bat.  Since the team has regressed with a 6 games losing streak at the wrong time and lost Molina in the process, Cards GM John Mozelaik have may to make a move he didn’t want to on Thursday.  Mo’s hand has been forced.  
 
Well, that’s all I got.  I have a movie review to type(shit one, 2 Guns, shitty movie) and I better get to it before it suddenly becomes midnight and tomorrow starts running away on me.
 
Thanks for reading and goodnight,
 
DLB
 
PS-Bright spot today is the Cards no longer own Marc Rzepcynzski and Lance Lynn pitched well for a second time in a row.  Good news is good news.
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Buffa’s Daily Dose

Settle in because I have some explaining to do.  

 
What sucks?  Applying for jobs.  Online apps.  You try to put into words how much you could mean to a company and hopefully they get that.  In 2013, this is the way you can do it.  If you show up in person, all you do is hand over your resume and look desperate.  Applying online is the new game and its tough work.  You attach your resume yet they still want you to list out where you have worked.  It’s like they are testing your own knowledge and NO I don’t know the exact dates I started certain things.  It sucks.  Unemployment sucks because sooner or later I will get a call about a robotic warehouse job that I don’t want to do.  I will have to take it because I have a family and I can’t be choosy.  It’s amazing how hard it is to do what you love for a living and get paid for it.  
 
What’s even worse?  Weeding your baby off the pacifier.  It’s time for Vinny to lose his mouthpiece and this set off all kind of alarms last night.  Telling him he had to go to bed without it for the first time in months was about as mentally draining as it gets.  For being so short and small, the kid can hold a power over you unlike any other.  He likes to hurt himself by bashing his head into wooden doors and floors.  He dares you to yell at him while running and catching his propelling body at the same time.  Getting a kid off the bink is like getting an alcoholic off the sauce.  Withdrawals to follow.  Is there a rehab place for this yet?
 
Openers are over.  Let’s talk meaty topics and that starts and ends with the Cardinals.  I get random complaints about my overaggressive Cards discussion and I have a few words for you.   Go away.  Ask for this email to not be sent to you.  This is the heat of the summer and this is my team.  Movies, hockey and football are grand, but Baseball is king.  It always has been since my younger years.  My passion shocked and made my parents do a double take.  I watched and played so much baseball when I was young I could have went pro before the age of 8.  I am INTO IT.  It isn’t a game like it is to casual pussy whipped fans.  I run at this game head first and dare the consequences.  The Cards have an ability to mess up my nights and drive me crazy.  I let them do this.  I could turn the TV off at any time.  I could put the phone down.  However, it’s an addition and so I am hooked.  This is my blog and a place where I vent.  If 5 people get the email or 20 people get it, I really don’t care.  I crave exposure for my words but not the kind that will hinder the content for which I am suited to produce.   So when people whine about the lack of this passion when the Rams or Blues play, I have this to say.  I love those teams and feel a sense of anger when they lose(esp the Blues), but I don’t let them control my life the way the Cards do.  It’s just my team.  Everybody has one.  There it is.  
 
The Cards suffered their 4th loss in a row last night, and that is a season high streak.  They lost to the Pirates in ugly fashion.  9-1 being the final tally, but in my mind the game ended in the first inning when they Bucs scored 4 runs and started to pull the rug out from under us.  Jake Westbrook apparently can’t solve the riddle that is PNC Park and here is how his first few batters fared.  Walk, HBP, single, home run.   4-0 Pirates.   Cards killer Pedro Alvarez(Bud Norris with a bat in his hand) hammered home the nail right there.  Afterwards, Francisco Liriano shut down our bats to the tone of 1 run on 4 hits.  This a sudden disturbing trend developing here.  We won four straight at home and now have lost four straight on the road, where we were once very good.  How can the team with the best record in baseball play such contrasting brands of ball?  I will tell you why.  This offense can be shut down by good pitching and our pitching can be tromped by the right lineup.  We have collected 5 hits or less in 3 of our last 4 games.  After facing a soft July schedule up until this weekend, the Cards are running into very good teams.  The Pirates are nearly as good as them and dominated us last night.  Apparently having difficulty scoring runs didn’t appear to slow down the Bucs last night.  They pummeled our bullpen for an additional 5 runs.  Quick side note.
 
Name one reason why Fernando Salas pitches in close games.   He took over a 4-1 game with runners on base last night and gave up 3 runs.  Granted, Marc Rzepcynzski accounted for 2 runs and left guys on base but Salas poured gasoline on a burning fire.  He isn’t good anymore.  When he was gone, the bullpen stabilized and improved.  Whenever he pitched in meaningful games, the game instantly becomes hard to watch.  Everything about Salas freaks me out.  He climbs the rubber, gets the ball, rolls it out around into that split fingered grip and tries to do his job.  He is a wounded soldier.  I think his right arm is dead.  It was worn down in 2011 and never came back alive.  He is the victim of Kyle McClellan over usage.  His pitches are flat and straight and lack zip.  His breaking pitches hang.  He is hittable.  He turns winnable games into easy routes.  
 
Rzep isn’t much better.  He is good for one inning and one only.  He pitched into the 7th last night after a scoreless 6th and started to fall apart.  He didn’t spend 2 months in Memphis for nothing.  I’d dump him for a one way ticket to Branson right now.  
 
Today, the Birds play a crucial double header.   Look, my twitter feed was bombed with end of the world Cards tweets last night and I was one of them.   This team is on a big big road trip and falling behind in a bad way.  How do we expect to last into October playing baseball like this?  After getting to 25 games over .500 and embarking on a big 11 game road trip, the Cards were shut down in every way in Atlanta and sleepwalked into Pittsburgh last night.  This has to stop.  With this series ending in early August and the chance to surge ahead being now, the Cards can’t waste these games.  I won’t compare this to a 5 game series in Wrigley in 2003, but the significance is still there.  The team has to play better and win these games.  After the Pirates, we play 3 against the Reds in Cincy.  The time is now to reverse this losing trend.  The Cards are 14-20 currently against teams with a winning record.  We are facing some good teams now and ahead in the schedule.  They can be our ultimate demise or we can rediscover our winning ways.  
Quick update.  The Cards just made a series of roster moves.  They optioned previously named shitty veterans Rzep and Salas back to Memphis and recalled fresh righthanded arms in Michael Blazek, Keith Butler and Tyler Lyons, who is starting today’s nightcap.  Good moves.  Blazek and Butler are upgrades and are fresh and I am ready to see what Lyons learned down in AAA.  
 
Trade happening this week?  I think not but am open to certain deals. While a Jake Peavy deal seemed unfitting and bad for business, acquiring Cliff Lee wouldn’t be a bad idea.  Hear me out.  The Cardinals are unloading a decent amount of salary in 2014.  Carpenter, Furcal, Westbrook, Boggs, and Rzep for starters. Maybe Carlos Beltran. Even without Carlos, the four names mentioned equal Lee’s contract. The money isn’t the issue.  It’s what Philly wants in return.  Unlike in the Peavy deal, I would be willing to part with certain prospects for a pitcher of Lee’s caliber.  He is drowning with a bad team up east and deserves a shot and named the Cards as a place he’d love to play for.  Getting out of the sandbox that is Citizens Park and into Busch would sound good to most pitchers.  Cliff Lee is expensive and risky but I would be willing to buy into that because insert him into a rotation with Wainwright and this team is unbeatable in a 5 game set.  Lee is having a great year with a team that doesn’t hit.  Imagine what he could do here.  I would be willing to part with Carlos Martinez and/or Michael Wacha along with Joe Kelly and a hitting prospect like Brock Petersen to get him.  Phillies need pitching and that is who they would target.  While I love Martinez’s upside, I know that the Cardinals farm system is ranked #1 in the majors.  If it is as deep as regarded, we will be fine.  Cliff Lee isn’t ancient and is under contract for years to come.  Yes, it’s risky to assume so much money but being placed in a pitcher’s ballpark and good offense like we got, the Lee deal isn’t too bad.  At least it wouldn’t be a rental.  I am not saying we need to make this deal.  I am saying the Cards should really consider it if the two sides can meet.  Cliff Lee could make our rotation as dangerous as our lineup.  
 
Humanity strikes.  Allen Craig has reached earth.  He is being tamed by this pitching as well and swinging at stuff he hasn’t offered at since his first 2 months on the club 2 years ago.  After being on a tear for what seemed like 3 months, Craig is suddenly struggling.  He is 0-17 in his past 5 games, including 8 strikeouts.  The kid is finding trouble and its just part of the game.  Hopefully he starts to mash soon.  
 
The Cards RISP hitting is suddenly hitting a serious wall.  They are leaving hitters on and suddenly lack the big hit.  With 2 on and a chance to get back in the game last night, Pete Kozma came to the plate instead of a big righty bat off the bench.  If Mozelaik does anything I would love a RH power bat off the bench.  Someone who can strike fear in a pitcher’s heart.  This is why I wanted Brock Petersen to stay and Robb Johnson to go back to Memphis unless Yadi’s knee was still unstable.  
 
This team kills me daily and does it slowly.  It’s a long 162 game season and every day is a chance to realign your tolerance for heartbreak.   What happens next?  Will the Birds respond and take this doubleheader and take back control of the division?  Or will we continue to fall and wake up tomorrow in second place?  Only time will tell and I can’t wait.
 
TV Quick Dose-Newsroom remains a powerful hour of sophisticated brilliantly written and acted television.  Dexter remains in a stand still as it awaits its final hours of life.  True Blood just needs to die because its getting cartoonish.  Banshee DVD/Blu Ray is available today and I strongly suggest you kick some money at it and give it a shot.  
 
Song of the Day-“I See Monsters” by Ryan Adams.  Sweet, soulful bluesy track about the deadliest of inner demons.  
 
What else?  Not much.  Right now, I am done talking.  Feel free to respond.
 
Sincerely,
 
DLB

Morning Dose

Quick to the point and blunt as a knife, I bring to you a few things rattling around the cage.  Five Takes.

 
*The Cards failed to register a win in Atlanta and were simply out played all weekend.  The Braves starting pitching seems to be rising up after the sudden loss of Tim Hudson and blew cold air on our bats.  It’s a shame because you wanted momentum heading into Pittsburgh but this may just send us up east in a very shitty mood.  My close friend and writing colleague PJ Nolan pointed out that seeing your staff ace(Wainwright) beat on Friday didn’t bode well for the weekend and after being shut out Saturday, Sunday’s game was wrapped up in disappointment as the bullpen let one slip through.  Seth Maness and Kevin Siegrist plunged a leak in the pipe line and the Braves charged on our team.   Atlanta is a tough place to play.  When we scored the one game playoff with Atlanta last October, I was nervous because I hated playing there.  The tomahawk chop, the noise, the lineup, pitching staff and Craig Kimbrel waiting at the end.  Atlanta visits Busch in a week so we will get another shot then.  Without their ace pitcher, the Braves are a force that doesn’t forget what happened in October and they won’t go easy this time.
 
*HBO isn’t just an amazing premium cable network with fine programming, but they are also a bold risk taking documentary and original film producer.  The past month they have been firing out these documentaries every Monday.  Provocative pieces of work about a wide variety of subjects.  I wrote about Gideon’s Army two weeks ago in a post(the amazing HBO doc about public defenders) and this time I am writing about The Crash Reel, the story of snowboarding legend Kevin Pearce.  He was about ready to challenge Shawn White for supremacy back in 2009 and while training for the X-Games, Pearce had a bad accident on a half pipe strip and severely damaged his brain.  This documentary takes along for the ride of his comeback.  It also provides insight to the risks that come with snowboarding on 20 foot half pipes.  I am amazed at the level of talent, balance and skill that it takes White, Pearce and others to be able to pull off these death defying moves.  However, it is a dangerous game.  Sarah Burke was 29 years old in January of 2012 when she crashed on the exact same half pipe as Pearce and died.  Her passing and the work of these renegades is showcased here in very fine form.  The soundtrack is great and the level of commitment that the filmmakers show to Pearce, his family and his story is very personal and emotional.  I have said this before and will say it again.  It’s hard for some people to stop doing what they love even if it endangers their lives.  If you’ve walked a tightrope once and someone tells you that you can’t do it again because you may fall off, you are bound to try it anyway.  It’s the way we are wired and driven to succeed.  All Pearce wanted to do when he left the hospital was hit the slopes again.  Watching his family struggle with him and his push to give it another go is so emotionally compelling that you will question the risk or lack of risk you take in your own life.  Get HBO, watch their wonderful shows, movies, and catch these weekly documentaries.  This week, they follow a woman in her 30’s who gets pregnant without a husband and tries to raise the kid on her own.   A common tale but I’m sure it will be great.  The only thing missing in these things is the soothing powerful voice of Liev Schreiber.
 
*Here is a Film-Addict special dual review of Only God Forgives.  Landon Burris and I tackle the polarizing film.
 
*John Mozelaik is like a gunslinger walking around town deciding if he should draw his gun or not.  Make a deal or choose not to.  I still believe, even after the sweep, that this team is good to go if Mo decides to stand pat.  People can cry about Kozma at short but I think he and Descalso will do the job.  We almost made to a World Series with Kozma at shortstop last fall.  I think there is a higher likelihood of a shortstop deal being made on this team than a starting pitcher at this point but I am not sure.  Mo won’t show his cards and plays everything close to the chest.  He won’t put the future of his team in jeopardy.  No way.  I trust his thinking.
 
*Dexter is wrapping up and I can see the lead character dying, going to prison or faking his death.  In the case of his death, I can see his young son walking up to the kitchen counter, picking up a knife and looking at it as the screen fades to black.   Just a thought and quibble for you Dexter fans.  He can go to prison and that gives Showtime the ability to revisit him in a few years and show an older Dexter getting out of prison, weary and broken.   Set him up against a big bad and see if he kills again.   I am always fascinated with the way characters age and how their needs and passions live or die.  He can also die, which seems like the most fitting way since he has put plenty of people in the ground.   Good guy killer is still a killer.  Just my take.
 
Alright, I’m done.  Time to get out and run.  Day is too sweet to pass up.  Thanks for reading this.
 
-D. Buffa

The Buffa Blast

What’s ahead in this blog?

-Albert Pujols’ injury closing down his season is a good thing.
-Why Jake Peavy isn’t a good fit for Cards and how we can stand pat.
-The Cards player with biggest question mark?  David Freese.
-The bizarre absurd movie called Only God Forgives.
-And More..
 
Starting things up…bullet style.
 
  • Albert Pujols’ foot injury, caused by plantar faciitis, will put him out for the rest of the season.  We all know about AP’s miraculous healing efforts when he was in St. Louis but he is getting older now and may indeed be out until 2014.  For three months, the man cranked 17 HR, 64 RBI and hit .260 while standing on one leg.  It was painful to watch him take hacks and get overpowered by a fastball.  He was in pain but is one of the toughest bastards to play baseball and even took the dreaded DH spot to prove it.  However, he tore a muscle in his foot this past week, and that is exactly what is required for plantar fasciitis to heal.  Tear the muscle, alleviate pressure and REST.  I want nothing but the best for Pujols.  Love or hate his decision, but he gave our city 11 fantastic seasons that few STL athletes can claim and he went to a team that barely opposed the Cards.  I want him to dominate and be his old self.  In order for that to happen, he needs to sit.  
  • I don’t think the Cards need Jake Peavy.  Apparently, John Mozelaik agrees because Peavy cleaned out his locker today and is headed to Oakland(per reports).  Peavy is a nice talent and good addition for most teams but to give up Carlos Martinez or Kolton Wong(players that could be in Cardinal Red for a decade) would be foolish.  At this stage in his career, Peavy is a liability.  In 2008, this is a different conversation.  Now, he is an injury prone 15 million dollar arm that may not give a team more than 2 months of pitching before a body part breaks down.  He is a less tougher younger version of Chris Carpenter.  Alexei Ramirez isn’t worth the swap either, because he is an older player, can only hit better than Kozma but doesn’t play as good of defense.  Ramirez isn’t a horrible addition but only worth it for the right exchange.  
  • This is why I pride Mozelaik’s brain.  He doesn’t get fooled that often at the deadline.  He may bring in a shitty guy like Khalil Greene or Ty Wiggington in the offseason but he is aces at the deadline.  He brought in Edwin Jackson and Rzep, who helped us knock out the playoff opposition.  He got rid of Colby Rasmus.  He brought in Ryan Ludwick and traded him before his body gave up on him again.  He traded for the presumed nobody Edward Mujica last season, who is now 30-32 in saves in 2013.  Mozelaik knows that this team can stand pat on the young firepower that has got the team to this point and is capable of winning a World Series.  Young teams have done it before.  I have faith in Mo this week.
  • Chris Carpenter is as tough as they come.  Seriously, the man is made of many parts but his heart and soul is unbreakable.  He gave it a great shot.  He tried to come back.  If he shall decide to hang it up, nobody can fault his effort or drive.  He wants to be able to play with his kids in 10-20 years.  He wants to hoist his grandchildren one day.  This nerve issue could get a lot worse if he presses on and keeps throwing.  If that is the case medically, Carpenter needs to pay his dues and hang it up.  He had a helluva career, and one that was marked with improbability.  He came to St. Louis 10 years ago under a mystery label.  He won a Cy Young and won 2 rings.  The Cards may have given the Red Sox a fight in 2004 if Carpenter didn’t tear his triceps.  You never know with injuries.  I do know that Chris Carpenter is the best pitcher I’ve ever seen in person.  He is tough, efficient and the guy you always wanted on the mound.  What he did in the fall of 2006 and 2011 at the end of the season and in the postseason is the stuff of legend, especially 2 years ago when he outdueled Roy Halladay and gave everything he had against the Rangers.  Carpenter is true grit personified.  It may be time for him to hang it up.
  • Once again, David Freese needs to watch his back and play his best.  He is up for free agency and Kolten Wong needs a place to play soon.  Just saying.  IMOS may want to find a different face.
  • Only God Forgives was as brutal, disturbing, blunt, original and absurd as a movie can get.  It’s available on demand and on Itunes.  Japanese madness.  Ryan Gosling stars in it but even he looks misguided.  Definitely a DVD.
That’s it.  Short one this time.  Need to get out, grab the wife, get barbecue material and start grilling.  705 game time tonight on ESPN.  
 
Happy Sunday folks,
 
DLB

What I Have Heard and What I Think

Quick, blunt and straight to the point…otherwise what am I doing here?  Talking.  Here is what I have heard and what I know and believe.

 
The Cards lost last night to the Braves and here is why.  
-Adam Wainwright allowed a 2 out RBI single to the opposing pitcher.
-The Bats went silent with the exception of Yadi’s homer.  It was the first home run for the Cards since before the AS break and Yadi hit that one at Wrigley.  
-The defense threw the ball around in the 7th inning. 
-Mike Minor was in shutdown mode.  
 
Chalk it up and move on.   Here is the important part.  We are 62-38 and lead the Pirates by 2.5 games in the central.   Why?  
 
Let me run down a quick list.
 
-The Cards are getting tons of timely hits.  With RISP, the team is hitting .338.  Ridiculous and just as strong with 2 outs.  Yes, I do believe there is such a thing as clutch hitting.  Some hitters flunk in the big spotlight and others shine.  Allen Craig is hitting nearly .500 with guys in scoring position.  Put the stakes at the ceiling and Craig delivers.  
-With Ty Wiggington gone and the bench a little more young, they are producing.  Shane Robinson is pitching in with a platoon effort with Jon Jay.  Shane isn’t flashy and a 4th OF for his life but plays good defense and is speedy on the basepaths.  Brock Petersen was a brief power bench bat option.
-The rotation is sharp again.  Jake Westbrook has recaptured his efficiency and found a bat.  Lance Lynn set himself straight against the Phillies, as did Shelby Miller.  You don’t get anywhere without good pitching.  In our April-May surge, it was there.  In our June swoon, it wasn’t.  In our 13-6 July, it has returned for the most part.  Few leaks and bruises exist but better.
-The Bullpen is getting stronger.  Seth Maness and Kevin Siegrist are new talents.  Randy Choate is doing his job.  Trevor Rosenthal is a lights out setup guy.  Edward Mujica is the biggest surprise of the season(bigger than Matt Carpenter bc Matt hit very well last year all over the field).  The bullpen is so good Mike Matheny brought back over the hill vets Marc Rzepcynzski and Fernando Salas.  
-The offensive attack has been built on singles.  RBI single galore.  No home runs.  Just small ball killers minus the stolen base.
-Our pitching staff doesn’t give up home runs.  
-Matt Carpenter is a legit leadoff hitter.
-Edward Mujica is 30-32 in saves.   
-Allen Craig is a cyborg RBI producing bat ripping machine.  
 
Questions?   
Do we need a trade?  Take the NEED away and it’s more like John Mozelaik can walk through the grocery store at the deadline and just glance at the options.  Shortstop is a need but Kozma/Descalso combo works and there isn’t a good option on the market.  Starting pitching is a need but you have 5 guys in there now battling and Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha and Tyler Lyons(starting 1st game of the PITT doubleheader on Tuesday) await in the wings.  We don’t need Jake Peavy.  Bench bat?  Matt Adams and Brock Petersen say no but I wouldn’t mind a veteran presence who can hit better than .190.  
 
Can Lance Lynn improve and hold up…in the rotation?   No telling.  True toss up.  He is an enigma because this year he is in shape and has a full arsenal of pitches yet gets trapped in mind games.  He can at least be an effective 4th or 5th guy but that means Miller must rise up.  
 
Is Pete Kozma really good enough to play SS for a whole season?  First thing is, he will platoon with Daniel Descalso and that will prevent him from being over..over…over exposed at the plate.  He is a .230-.240 hitter but plays a very good shortstop.  He will make errors but not often and makes a lot of tough plays look easy with his little baby angel hands.  If there was an option that didn’t cost us an arm and a future leg and was a big upgrade over our current set, I’d say go for it but it doesn’t exist  Alexei Rameriz isn’t it!!!
 
Is Allen Craig an alien from Clutcheonton?  I know, bad planet name but this guy is insanely productive and the team couldn’t have a better cleanup guy right now.  He has an ability to work the count, not be fooled, and stretch out and poke singles in big spots.  He loves the pressure and thrives in it.  With Albert Pujols heading for surgery and Craig thriving, there should be dry eyes in Cardinal Nation at the 1B spot.
 
Can Edward Mujica keep this up? Yes, but I wouldn’t bet your mortgage on it.  Simply put, Mujica doesn’t have a devastating fastball and also has a splitter that isn’t impossible to hit. In other words, he pitches to contact.  This isn’t bad but we got a whiff of this nightmare with Ryan Franklin years ago.  Soon enough, hitters will get better hold of Mujica and that may cause dicier 9th innings, like we have seen lately.  On Wednesday, Mujica was very good, struck out 2 and slammed the door on the Phillies.  He does have 30 saves and that can’t be forgotten.  I am telling you he has never closed in August/September and his pitches will need more life to hold up.  
 
Let’s roll on with quick takes.
 
Fruitvale Station is the best movie I’ve seen in 2013 and it opened wide yesterday.  It’s a true story and worth watching because of the hole it leaves in your stomach and the lasting image. Forget Trayvon Martin and the comparisons.  The tale of Oscar Grant is more powerful and speaks to a whole range of topics that has nothing to do with a court or jury.  It bought up real estate in my soul and hasn’t left yet.  Remember the name Michael B. Jordan at Oscar time. My review.
 
Jake Allen signed a two year deal and that’s great news.  This guy rescued the team in February when Halak was hurt and Brian Elliot went into no man’s land.  Allen is the future and the #1 goalie my mind that the other two have to worry about.  Halak can do all the workouts he wants but still sits behind Allen.  The kid.  
 
The Rams opened minicamp and it doesn’t mean anything just like previous seasons but there is an obvious buzz this year.  Sam Bradford with the same offensive coordinator for a 2nd season.  Tavon Austin bringing new fire to the return game.  Jared Cook giving us a legit tight end.  The departure of Steven Jackson opening up a frenzy at the RB position.  Jake Long protecting Bradford.  The Jeff Fisher ball producing a 7-8-1 season in 2012.  The lighter schedule.  Explosive offensive capabilities.  Big things could happen this year.  For the first time, expectations could be set going into the preseason.  A lot happens in a year.
 
Joe Kelly with 6 productive innings today in Atlanta.  Starting pitching need?  Yes and as seen today, NO.  Kelly was vital in 2012 and received zero credit in 2013.  He is back in the rotation again and just froze Dan Uggla with a 96 mph fastball on his 76th pitch.  Book it.  Cliff Lee would be nice but the Phillies will want a boatload of prospects.  Do you make that move?  Lee’s contract is ridiculous.  I know he would make the rotation aces but I have hesitation there.
 
The Wolverine is a big improvement on Wolverine: Origins and adds spice to Marvel’s most badass character of Logan/Wolverine.  Hugh Jackman is the reason this film works.  I wrote about him for my site this week.  Check it out.
 
Albert Pujols is taking time off to get his left foot looked at.  Plantar fascitis is no joke and doesn’t get better until you rest it.  Pujols is a tough bastard.  The toughest.  But he needs to sit, get surgery and get well.  Again, he has 8 years to go on that contract.  A contract I still don’t think he will complete.
 
I’m wrapping this up early.  Kid is asleep and I need to get a couple things done before he awakes.  Thanks for reading.  
 
Until next time,
 
Dan L. Buffa

Chris Carpenter’s Fight

Today we got wind that Chris Carpenter’s comeback was being postponed due to the recurring numbness in the righthander’s pitching hand returning.   One of the toughest pitchers in baseball simply can’t outrun his own body’s breaking point.   Carpenter has had every surgery known to a baseball player.  He had a piece of his rib inserted into his shoulder and neck area to alleviate pain once.  Chris Carpenter once parallel parked a train.   I’m kidding.  That’s a Dos Equis Most Interesting Man in the world joke.   Anyway, Carpenter isn’t knocked out but he is on the canvas again while reality, his arm and the world is seemingly counting to 10 once again.   Sorry I sound overly dramatic here but baseball is a romantic game played by men in shiny uniforms.  I digress…

 
Carpetner’s 2013 season has been like a spaghetti western.   The old gunslinger getting knocked down and repeatedly getting up.   In February, he calls John Mozelaik and tells him his right hand is numb and he can’t throw anymore.  In a conversation transcription that probably sounded like John Wayne talking to his horse, Carp hung up his glove.  Then, suddenly, the season got a lot less fun.   I was going to miss the screaming, maniacal, emotional captain on the mound every 5 days letting it rip.  Good or bad, Carpenter always let it rip.  He is a pitcher to embody and a man to follow into hell on the field.   He pitched the greatest game I’ve ever watched, against his buddy Roy Halladay in the winner take all divisional series in 2011.  He made Hanley Rameriz piss his pants.  He challenged many other hitters to a duel.   He was a hockey player so they stayed away.  Chris Carpenter was bad ass.  Truly wicked.  If he pat you on the back, you could put it on your resume(sorry, another beer quote).  He is exactly what Lance Lynn needs to see when he walks into the clubhouse at Busch Stadium.  Brass balls toughness.  
 
Suddenly, near the end of May, there was a story that the pain and numbness in Carpenter’s neck, arm and hand had disappeared and he could throw again.  At first, he was going to come back as a reliever and he started throwing bullpen sessions.  Soon after, he started the workload of a starter and threw more bullpens.  It seemed to a fan like he threw about 47 bullpen sessions before finally going on a rehab assignment last week in Springfield.  He pitched less than 4 innings but looked pretty good for his first start in 2013.  On Saturday, he threw for Memphis and didn’t pitch well at all.  He got shelled.  He told STL Post Dispatch scribe Joe Strauss that this wasn’t a good sign.  Three days later, he shut it down due to the numbness.  He saw a doctor last night and a direction will be carved for his future.  It may involve rest that could consume the rest of his 2013 season.  It may be a few weeks.  He could be done.  The ammo in his comeback belt has to be dangerously low.   He could wake up tomorrow, lift up his car and do an oil change and decide to call it quits.  He can do that and retire as one of the best Cardinal pitchers to ever climb the hill.  Injuries may prevent him from the Hall of Fame or his brief greatness and overall solid stats may get him in.  That isn’t for me to judge.  I will tell you he is the best pitcher I have ever seen based on factors that won’t be tabulated into votes.  Frankly, I don’t give a shit and I have a feeling Carpenter doesn’t either.
 
Carpenter has started 332 games.  He has thrown 2,219 innings.  He has allowed 220 balls to leave his hand and end up on the other side of the outfield fence.  He has retired 1,697 hitters via the strikeout while walking only 627.  He owns 144 wins and 94 losses, with a 3.76 earned run average.  33 complete games and 15 shutouts.  2 World Series rings.  1 Cy Young award.  He is a 38 year old veteran in his 15th season, and 10 as a Cardinal.  His 6 years of mediocre injury plagued ball in Toronto may cost him the HOF.  Out of his 10 seasons as a Cardinal, he has failed to pitch in 5 games in 2 of them(2013 may make that list grow to 3 seasons).  
 
Carpenter was due to make 10 million this season but that could be covered by the insurance unless he pitches in a certain number of games for the mothership.  If he doesn’t pitch again this season, the Cards and him could revisit a plan for 2014.   Many would call them crazy to even think about bringing him back after 2 years of serious injury related troubles.  There’s something indelible about Carpenter and his connection with Cardinal baseball.  Mozelaik knows that and so does Mike Matheny.  That is why they signed off on this rehab mission and may push the train one more time this year or next.  It’s hard to let go of a guy like Carp.  He’s tough, resilient and everything you want your young ballplayers to emulate.  He’s as old school as it gets.  I wanted to see him climb that hill one more time.  If I buy another Cards jersey, it will be Chris Carpenter.  You can wear it forever.  Next year, and many seasons after.  I will tell Vinny about him often.  Before my son heads out for his first game.  CC won’t be associated with a lefthanded Yankees pitcher in my house(no offense, he’s pretty damn good in his own right).   If Carp got work on another team, you could still wear his jersey to Busch and feel good.  I still haven’t worn my Pujols jersey to the stadium(there’s nothing wrong with doing so).  Carpenter’s would be a proud thing to throw on.  I am rambling.  Forgive me.  It’s past 1am and I am just firing at will.  No filter at all.
 
As my good friend and trusted Cards ally PJ has pointed out, The Cards and Carpenter could hash out an incentive laden deal.  Start at a million, see where Carpenter’s workload goes and the number may approach 15 million if he reaches 200 innings.   Pitch to earn money and help your ballclub wager.   I am not sure if either side would go with it, taking into account the Cards abundant supply of young cheap cost controlled arms and Carpenter’s pride factor and need to hang it up or move elsewhere.  I would surely love to see him climb the mound in some capacity again and pitch.  As long as he isn’t in Cincinnati red or Chicago blue, I am good.  For that matter, Milwaukee blue or Pittsburgh gold/black.  I want Carpenter to end his career here obviously but seeing him throw somewhere would still be a delight.  
 
They don’t make them like him anymore so when he finally does call it quits, it will be a sad day in baseball.   When “retired” and “Chris Carpenter” appear in the same sentence together, shock will settle in.  A reality.  With all due respect to Adam Wainwright, Carpenter was something else.  I don’t want to see him stay too long and get shelled and become an embarrassment like Willie Mays or Muhammad Ali.  He needs to go out strong.  How will that happen and in what uniform is bound to be determined.   All we know for now is that Chris Carpenter is taking a step back from his comeback trek.  Reassessing and re-calibrating.  
 
I surely won’t count him out yet.  Would you?
 
In other news, the Cards won, Edward Mujica made it dramatic yet got 3 outs and his 29th save, Shelby Miller climbed back on the horse and the Cards are 60-37.  
 
Odd yet true note.  Hugh Jackman makes all men seem inferior when he steps on screen as the Wolverine.  He ate 7 chicken breasts a day to become that big.  Is it weird that I am typing this as I eat a chicken breast?   I know what you’re saying.  Stop it now.  Just know this.  When Hugh wants to raise money for a foundation, he climbs on a stage and puts on a one man show by singing and dancing and winning Tony Awards.  The man is ridiculously talented. 
 
Finished.
 
Sincerely,
 
Dan Buffa
One More Thing…If Chris Carpenter is told by the doctors that a limited amount of work, pitching, is attainable this season, I would strongly suggest bringing him back as a bullpen arm.   The guy obviously wants to pitch bad.  It’s a white hot pain burning through his immune system right now, sending signals throughout the chest, head and arms that it still can be done.  It’s amazing what your mind tells you can do without your body’s signoff.  The numbness that returned this past weekend wasn’t as bad as it was last year or in February.   Carpenter decided to shut it down before it got back to that level of discomfort.  Maybe 2-3 weeks of rest and a 10 day rehab assignment with Memphis can get him ready for a September assignment here.  He could be the Mujica of 2012.  The 7th inning shutdown arm.  His stuff was good for 1 inning in each rehab start.  If that is all he needs then I say shoot for that kind of return in 2013.  Leave 2014 for the rotation comeback trail.   This year, it could Carpenter-Rosenthal-Mujica.  What a triple threat to have at your disposal in the stretch run of the season.  The final 35-50 games where teams are getting worn down.  Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn and Jake Westbrook or Joe Kelly goes 6 innings and that’s fine.  Bring on the crew!  A reliever’s load wouldn’t be too hard if the pitch count was kept down.  That is what I think put the strain on Carp’s hand this time.  Throwing all those bullpen session, innings and pitches in such a short time frame.  It was too much.  A reliever return is Chris Carpenter’s best bet at kissing the sun of the mound in 2013.  We will have to wait and see if it becomes even a hint of a reality.
 
That’s all.  Have a good day friendo’s.

 

Firing Round

So often in life, justice isn’t served and never meets the proper setting.  In other words, bad men go unpunished and walk free.  No, I am not talking about George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin.  That case is soiled, overcooked, old news and quite simply needs to be locked away somewhere where a media rep can’t find it.  I am talking about something simple.   Baseball scum.  Let’s get right into it.

 
TOPIC OF THE DAY

 
Ryan Braun cheated.  He took performance enhancing drugs.  He did this to heighten his game, recover from injury quicker, hold on injury with a stronger body and well, get a step ahead of everybody else.  Baseball is no longer a pure game, but it does hold one of the freshest toughest drug testing programs in sports.   During the Biogenesis testing trial, over 100 ballplayers were found to be guilty of using illegal PED’s.  Braun was one of them.  This is the same guy who said in front of a million people that he was wrongfully suspected last year of testing positive for a PED and that the testing party, a regular man called Dino Laurenzi Jr., was the one at fault.  Braun was guilty as charged and walked away clean because the sample taken was held over the weekend instead of sent to the MLB headquarters right away.   Braun got behind his suits and blamed Dino for being the dirty one.  It’s too bad every baseball fan in the world knew Braun was dirty.   He cheated then and apparently, in a new study that will cost him the rest of the 2013 season, cheated a few times.   
 
Now, Braun will tell you he isn’t a perfect man and has made mistakes.  Wrong sir.  You are worse than a cheat.  You are cheating liar and a repeat offender.  Braun didn’t just cheat his teammates, bosses, league and many around him who trusted him since he was a little kid playing little league ball.   He cheated us, the fans.  He told us he was clean and took many Milwaukee fans for a ride with his high powered play.  He hit home runs, made great plays in left field and wowed anyone who saw him play.  Well, except me.  I looked at Braun and saw a jerk.   He untucked his jersey on the field after games and always had his mouth running.  He thought he was king of the world, and I knew he was the dirty scum of the baseball earth.  He may have ruined Laurenzi Jr.’s life for nearly a year.  I am sure if he walked into a bar for a drink, many Brewers fans gave him the meanest treatment because he tried to take away their Braun.  The only people in the world who thought Braun wasn’t guilty all this time were mostly Brewers fans.   How could they?  After Prince Fielder left, John Axford got Ankiel nerves in the 9th inning and their pitching staff went to shit, there was no way their star player could be as dirty as the ground at a biker bar.  
 
Braun will come back in 2014 and play.  He will hit less home runs, look a little weaker and won’t be the flash and dash event he once was.  The lying repeat offending cheater will get another chance.  They give those to killers coming out of prison, so Braun gets a few.  He won’t make it into the Hall of Fame because voters made an example out of cheaters when Mark McGwire was held out and fellow steroid bashers Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa may not get in as well.  Roger Clemens won’t get into the hall.   Braun will continue to play but won’t get the respect of a ballplayer back.  Like Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds(two ballplayers who cheated but got out of the game before they could be publicly ridiculed), Braun denied usage.  Rafael Palmerio denied it in court and was later found to be dirty.  McGwire didn’t say a word in court but we knew he did it so his admission wasn’t surprising.  Braun denied, denied and denied usage until he was caught and there was no technicality waiting to bail him out.  
 
Look, PED usage is hard to fully attack.  It’s not an easy fight.  Most players took them in a day and age where there were no rules or laws against it.  Big Mac, Sosa, Canseco, Palmerio, Jeff Bagwell, Ken Caminiti, and others took it because there wasn’t a suspension waiting for them nor was there a fine.  It was out there to be had.  While we can look down on them for doing it and breaking the purity of baseball, its hard to get too mad at them because what separates them from the thousands of other baseball players who took steroids yet didn’t improve on the field.  The reason I am fed up with and think of Braun as scum is because he didn’t own up to it.  He lied, cheated, and also repeatedly broke the rules.  If I did that at my place of employment, I would be fired and not be able to come back in a few months.  Braun knowingly broke the rules and lied about doing it.  He is scum.  I always knew he was and now that it is confirmed, I can just sit here with a smile on my face.  
 
A smile that won’t last because the game still isn’t clean.  Alex Rodriguez will be suspended soon.  He was also found to be guilty in that same biogenesis study.   This will be his 2nd or 3rd offense.  His legacy is ruined.  He won’t get into the hall.  The game is still full of cheaters.  However, baseball is getting cleaner and I applaud the sport for it.  They are suspending and dropping the ball on baseball superstar ballplayers and no longer protecting them.  That is a small light in a dark tunnel.  
 
The Real Question is-Who is next?  
 
Moving on….
 
Edward Mujica is starting to show signs of wear as a closer.  In his last 10 appearances, the outings have been getting more dicey and tension packed.   As Bernie Miklasz pointed out, Mujica is a pitcher who defies the sabermetrics crowd laws of being a great closer.  He doesn’t blow you away or strike out a bunch.  He pitches to contact and has a decent splitter.  However, contact pitchers are going to get sooner or later.  Time will tell if Mujica turns into Ryan Franklin 2.0, but while he is 28-30 in saves, Chief is getting more human by the outing.  Pitching to contact involves luck and some of the hit balls are finding holes.  This is nothing to get stressed out about.  Mujica saved the Cardinals in a number of ways.  After 4 blown saves in the first 12 games, the Cards have suffered 4 the rest of the season.   Mujica has blown two saves in his last 7 chances.  He blew both on the road.  He nearly blew Sunday’s finale against San Diego but got a lucky hop from a hit down the line and a leaping catch by Allen Craig to save the day.  Eddie is gambling and still winning.  If he starts to seriously falter, the Cards have options.  Not that Mike Matheny would pull him anytime soon.  I am just saying the man is still getting the job done but yes the crack are showing.  They always do in late July.  
 
Lance Lynn is starting to not be liked by his teammates and coaches because he acts like a big baby on the mound when a fielder commits an error or he doesn’t get a call.   Well, now they know how the fans feel watching Lance pitch.   I am sure the fielders hate it when they give the guy a lead and he blows it right away.  Lynn’s problem isn’t in his arm.  It’s in his head.  
 
Once again, calm down about Chris Carpenter.  He has made TWO starts in 2013.  He is still in spring training mode.  I second what pitching coach Derek Lilloquist said.  As long as he is throwing hard, feeling good and making some pitches click, good things are happening.  Carpenter will be back.  He threw a bullpen yesterday and throws against this weekend.  Give it time.  If we get him back in early August for a stretch run, that’s as good as a free agent signing. People are jumping ship too early on Carpenter and please don’t expect the world to shift when he returns.  He will provide whatever his right arm can handle and it will be nothing close to ace material.  This is his last stand.  Let him complete it.  
 
Shelby Miller starts tonight against the Phillies.  This is a big start for Shelby.  The guy has had nearly 2 weeks off since his last start and comes to the mound tonight fresh and without excuses.  If the Cards are going to be sharp in the second half, Shelby needs to contribute.  The 5th spot is a question mark and Lynn is in limbo so Shelby needs to put his foot down, collect innings and get back to the pitcher he was in May.  His biggest issue is his pitch count.  It gets extremely high and he can’t go more than 5-6 innings.  That’s fine if they are effective outings, but lately they haven’t been.  Getting 7 innings out of Miller hasn’t been easy for 2 months.  He can either keep trending downward or get back on the horse and eat innings and win some ball games.  Forget Rookie of The Year.  Just get out there and pitch.  
 
I met with a film critic friend today to begin the process of getting into the St. Louis Film Critics association.  This is a big step for me in becoming fully part of the film world.  The man I met today would sponsor me and help me get voted into the group and that would make me an official bad ass to the bone critic.  I would get tons of screeners, be a part of a special group and be taken a little more seriously.  It’s exciting and something this movie guy has been waiting for his entire life.  
 
Will Witherspoon coming back to the Rams to play outside linebacker is great news.  He was a fine player for years here, plays the position well and will complement James Lauranitis and newcomer Alex Ogletree perfectly.   The Rams D was tied for the lead in sacks in 2012 and played very well.  They kept up their end of the bargain and if the offense can put up some points and do it quickly, this team may be able to win quite a few games this season.  
 
Hopefully, you got a chance to read my tribute to the late yet great character actor Dennis Farina yesterday.  He passed away suddenly, so I went home and fired something out.  It’s a faithful piece.  Farina was a cop and then a pro at stealing scenes from stars.  
 
Ryan Gosling could play Bruce Wayne/Batman in his sleep in the 2015 sequel to Man of Steel. You heard it here first.  (also on my website)
 
What else?  Quick Firing Round Ending. 
*People don’t realize when they get into accidents that they are delaying a lot of people’s day.  I mean, the dumb asses who drive stupid and cause accidents.
 
*My parents will never let this boy go hungry or be without lawn furniture.  Every visit from the folks involves frozen pizzas and chairs for the backyard.  
 
*My son Vincent tests me everyday.  My soon to be 2 year old doesn’t act his age and seems to think he can do a lot of things on his own.  Work the TV remote.  Open and shut doors.  Hurt himself to get attention.  The kid is an adventure.  In a year or so, Rae and I may be adding to the family.  That’s a tentative plan.  TENTATIVE!!!  HA, kidding.  It will happen.  
 
*I want a little sister for Vinny.  A delicate, sweet little angel to oppose my brutish little man.  
 
*My family blood line is full of boys so I can forget about it.
 
*When will the Blues add the piece to the their puzzle that gets the fans seriously thinking about a Stanley Cup?  
 
*Going to the Zoo in the summer has its dangers.  You cook out in the open sun, look at poorly caged endangered animals like they are glassware at a store, ride a train and finally leave when the family smells like animals.   Its fun but only when you are ready for it.  Sometimes I think humans should be in the cages.
 
*The royal baby was born.  Who gives a shit?  Not this guy.  Tons of beautiful ambitious babies are born every day.  Not all of them are born kings, but I would like to think this big birth needs less attention.  My son Vinny is a lot cuter and tougher than that pampered little British baby.  Let’s see that baby struggled with heart and stomach issues and still come out looking like a million bucks and not even needing hair to be adorable.  DO that British royalty!  
 
*Seeing The Wolverine tonight.  Screening a film at home called BLOOD for my future interview with Mark Strong and catching Only God Forgives, the violent followup film from the Drive director starring Ryan Gosling.  Busy week for the movie guy.
 
*Doing a piece on Hugh Jackman this week.  How good is this guy?  He won a Tony award for playing The Boy From Oz, where he sang and danced on stage.  He was nominated for an Oscar this year for Best Actor for the musical Les Miserables.  He also happens to convincingly play one of the biggest bad asses in Marvel’s arsenal of heroes, Logan aka Wolverine.  Jackman is a true jack of all trades.  Read more on Friday on Film-Addict.
 
That’s it.  Thanks for reading and stay cool.
 
-DB