Saturday Stream of Consciousness

Don’t take these words personal.  It’s just one man’s opinion.   The stream of consciousness begins now.  Anyone who prefers perfect structure in their blog reading may want to jump ship right now.  Bringing it via the bullet point.

Sports

  • The Cards haven’t scored a run in 18 innings of play and nearly 4 days.  Think of all the stuff you have done since the Cards last scored on Tuesday night.   Mind boggling. Let that one settle into your cerebellum.  After winning 5 of 6 from the Braves and Reds, the bats have gone silent and our pitching has been bruised.  Adam Wainwright sent fans into a saber-metrics investigation with his 9 earned runs allowed performance and Shelby Miller had a lot of issues with Garrett Jones last night in Pittsburgh.   Jones had been struggling this month before collecting 4 RBI against our young gun.   Francisco Liriano is making the Pirates look like lottery winners with his 3 shutdown performances against the Cards and overall record.  When he pitches, it looks like a golf ball is being thrown towards the plate.  There are times in the season where the ball resembles a beach sized water toy.   Against Liriano, the Cards bats are powerless.  It’s a good thing we faced the familiar A.J. Burnett tonight and a rookie on Sunday.   It’s hard to accept two brutal losses in a row but remember the important part.  Against every Pirates starter other than Liriano, the Cards have done well in their last three Bucs matchups.  There is hope.  In baseball, bad things come in pairs.
  • A fresh question is asking which Lance Lynn will show up today.   The troubled young mentally disturbed hurler hasn’t been that solid in his past 3 starts and needs to settle the score tonight.   If baserunners reach and an umpire doesn’t tie a bow around every pitch Lynn throws, a problem may surface.  How will Lynn handle it?  His biggest demon is himself on a mound in hot temperatures.  One thing people haven’t pointed out often enough is the effect of the temperature on Lynn’s pitching.  Sure he has lost weight this season but stats show that the big man doesn’t fare well in the heat of the summer.  Hot temperatures make certain athletes lose their edge a little, and the sophisticated practices of pitchers make them a prime candidate for mental instability.   How does Lynn finish the season?  It’s about time he takes command of his role on this team before it evaporates.  Don’t get too lost in his win total because it’s misleading.  Take away the 6.2 runs per start of support and his record would be a lot different.
  • Hottest Cardinal hitter?  NOT PETE KOZMA.   I won’t take shots at poor Pete.  He is the most picked on Cardinal since Tino Martinez flunked out at first base and popped up to third base more than any free agent acquisition ever.   Pete is being put into the lineup and doing his best.  He is a .215 hitter and won’t improve unless the minor league guy with the voodoo beads from Bull Durham pays him a visit.  What are the other options?  Ryan Jackson should be here this next week.   He has barely gotten an ounce of opportunity so he needs to see some time at short because he offers the same quality of defense and his bat can’t do any worse than Pete’s.   There’s the wild card in Greg Garcia, who has risen through the ranks of the Cards minor league system, can play shortstop and is hitting well at the moment.  If you are a playoff bound team, a manager can’t put Kozma into this lineup.  Daniel Descalso’s defense isn’t good enough and his bat is streaky so a new body is needed.  Put a new band aide at shortstop.
  • Where would the Cardinals be without Matt Carpenter, Edward Mujica, and Allen Craig’s newfound production this season?  No offense to the true MVP in Yadi, but without those three redefining unlikely results, the Cards are in 3rd place easily right now.  This is the Obvious But Still Credible Statement section.
  • Changing sports, Tim Tebow was released today by the New England Patriots.   Look, I am a Tebow supporter(minus the god worship) but at this point, he may consider changing positions if he wants to play in the NFL for a living.  Sure, he could catch on somewhere else and hold a clipboard in the hope that a starting QB’s knee would be trampled and his backup would get hit by a bus, but the realistic chances for the former Gator Wonder Boy is to consider tight end or fullback.  Why not?  Give it a shot.  I will never forget what he did in Denver.  He took a 1-4 Broncos team and took them to the playoffs and made 4 miraculous comebacks.   He made 3 precise and beautiful throws to upend the Super Bowl probable Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs.  Then, the Colts released Peyton Manning, John Elway got a stiffy, pulled in Manning, and Tebow was tossed to the curb.  The Jets, one of the team’s Tebow came back and beat in the 2011 season, traded for him.   Rex Ryan refused to play the guy even when Mark Sanchez forgot which jersey he was throwing to and got hurt.  Instead of entertaining your fanbase with an exciting player, Rex stuck with someone else and Tebow spent a whole season on the sidelines.   Ask me what should have been done and I will say once the Jets knew they were out of the playoffs, it was time to pack the house, rip up the playbook and hand the ball to Tebow.   Why not?  Anyway, The Patriots brought in Tebow this summer but he didn’t play well at all and got released today.   If he doesn’t want to switch positions, then Tim may want to understand that his dream of leading another team in this league could be over.  He isn’t getting any younger and when the Jacksonville Jaguars coach overruled the ownership(who spotted dollar signs in hometown kid Tebow) and refused to sign Tebow, things looked dim for the guy.  If he doesn’t want to switch, please become a coach and not a commentator.   Tebow is an inspirational story who never said a bad word about a coach or other player when he was refused the opportunity.   He is a winner with an emotional maniac intensity on the sideline.  Young players will look up to this guy and may run through a wall for him.  Sooner or later, if he wants to keep his pride and not switch positions, Tebow will be forced with a choice.  I hope he decides to become a coach.   I haven’t played football since high school and I would strap on pads right now and do drills under his command.   Sports is a business and a tough reality but there’s always opportunity if you are smart.  Tebow Rant over.
  • The Rams have a legit shot to win 8 games this year.   Decently soft schedule and an improved younger roster of talented skilled players.   If we can find a way to run the ball, Sam Bradford has a healthy array of WR targets to hit.   The defense is back and strong.  The coaching is only more knowledgeable of their staff and players.   I don’t think the Rams make the playoffs but I do think we reach 8 wins for the first time 2006.
  • Teemu Selanne is coming back to the NHL to his most expected location.   The Anaheim Ducks.   This was a given for any NHL fan.  Selanne likes the Ducks organization and its near his California base and is a team he hasn’t left in quite some time.   I’ve had a faint wish that Selanne would suddenly chose to come to St. Louis because he is exactly what the Blues need.  A feared experienced outsider who can SCORE.   Selanne can still light the lamp 25-30 times and give you a presence that benefits other players.  He has a shot at 700 goals with his comeback(25 needed) and it’s hard not to root for him.  He is one of the last action hero goal scorers in hockey who can still be efficient.  He refuses to get hurt and is one of the coolest cats off the ice.  A wicked accent to boot.  My heart longs for Teemu but he will spend one more season as a DUCK.
  • With all the injuries the NFL has seen this preseason, the Rams made it out okay.  Roger Saffold went down but there are bookies in Vegas who had bets and odds on that already happening.   A lot of NFL teams lost impact wide receivers, offensive lineman and tackles.   The Jets may have lost Sanchez but that is just a week or two early.  The preseason and 2 a day practice zones of July and August provides a lot of opportunity for dark days in training camp.    Luckily, the Rams made it out unscathed.

Movies-The Latest Crumbs from my site, film-addict.com

  • What to see this weekend?  Closed Circuit.  A sly, tightly paced, and well acted British thriller that focuses on government surveillance.  The movie is smart enough to know that this is a real problem and put on a fine exhibit here in this deadly courtroom story.   Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall star but Jim Broadbent has the juiciest scenes.
  • What not to see this weekend?  Getaway.   Alana Hammonds, a critic for my site and a soul I trust, called the movie a horrible experience.   She urges movie goers to leave this one in the “maybe” department.   A throwaway action film with little intrigue.  Her review is better than my setup.  I promise you.  It’s on the site.
  • Do you know the character actor, Adam Scott?  By face you do.  By name, you have no clue.  Read more about him in our character actor spotlight.
  • DVD pick of the week.  MUD, the latest bullet in Matthew McConaughey’s comeback train.   A beautiful film about two kids and their connection with a mysterious wanted man on an island.
  • Trailer of the Week.  McConaughey again in a true story about Ron Woodroff, a man who contracted the AIDS virus in 1986 and started an underground medicine supply since the hospital only gave him 30 days to live.   This trailer will get to you and may net M.M. an Oscar award.
  • DO NOT RENT G.I. JOE: RETALIATION.  This action vehicle with the Rock is plain stupid and a waste of your brain cells.  Have a few beers instead.  Experience will be better.

Music-5 songs to listen to if you want something different.

  • Alabama Shakes-“You Ain’t Alone”(their entire album, Boys and Girls, is worth checking out)
  • The National-“Hard To Find”
  • Of Monsters and Men-“Dirty Paws”
  • Phosphorescent-“Song For Zula”
  • The Civil Wars-“Disarm”

TV-A Few Notes on Shows I watch and A Couple Comments on Ones I don’t

  • The biggest problem with television shows is catching up to the ones you passed up back in the day.  I remember pounding through 3 seasons of Game of Thrones, 4 seasons of Sopranos, and 3 seasons of Entourage to catch up.  I also watched 3 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy.   I find myself getting tempted by quality sources to watch Breaking Bad and my resistance is waning.  It’s an AMC show and I really like Bryan Cranston.  It’s just I have to watch around 56 hours of it to catch up.  It’s ending in 2 months so I may just wait.  Still, this is what happens when you pass up on a cool little show about an aging cancer carrying science teacher who starts his own meth lab.
  • I also want to give Strikeback(Cinemax) and Hell on Wheels(AMC) a chance.  That’s a combined 40 more hours.  Who has the time to do this other than drug addicts?
  • I am a certified Banshee(Cinemax) fanatic.  I literally can’t get enough of this show and recommend it to anyone curious or needing a different kind of series.  Season 2 just wrapped and premieres in January.
  • Ray Donovan gets better and better every week.  Shocking, violent and full of heart.   The acting on this show is top notch.  Watch now.  8 hours in.
  • Low Winter Sun on AMC(follows Breaking Bad) is worth a look if anything for the fine talents of Film-Addict Character Actor Spotlight feature Mark Strong.  The British actor is all grim heart and brutal stone as a cop covering up a crime he committed out of pure revenge.  It’s not perfect and very slow but this show will only get more tense.
  • Dexter is suffering a from a bad final season.  There I said it.  I won’t spoil much here but I want more from these peeps.  It’s playing like a show that has 2 or 3 seasons to go instead of batting down the hatch and closing up lines of communication.   The heroic killer is always juggling four different things and looking over his shoulder.  I’m starting to think either he will die, his son will perish or the Miami metro department will be blown up and Dexter will accidentally help make it happen.   This show needs rocket fuel in its final weeks.

That’s it.  I’ll keep it slick and cool like that.   No random finishing crap that only takes away from the blunt package.   Sports, movies, music and television.  I am out of bullets.  Come back hungry next time because I will be coming guns hot.

Thanks for stopping by,

Dan Buffa

Cards Make A Move for Axford

Instant take on this move is the Cards are taking a chance on a former closer who once saved over 40 games in a row.   The Cardinals know all about the once dynamic right arm of John Axford because a few of those saves came against their team.  Axford was a dominant closer as recently as 2011, where he closed 46 of 48 games in taking over for retired saves leader Trevor Hoffman.   In 2010, he came up and helped an ailing Hoffman and closed 24 of 27.  In 2012, the wheels came off.  He blew 9 saves, walked 39 and gave up 10 home runs in less than 70 innings pitched.   He just couldn’t convert the way he used to.   It got so bad that Axford shaved off his trademark Wyatt Earp like mustache and adopted a new approach to the plate.  It wasn’t sad to see because the Brewers are in our division and are a constant foe.  Axford hasn’t improved much in 2013, losing the closer job and when he got the opportunity to shut the door, he has failed in all six attempts.  After plowing through the NL with 70 saves in 75 appearances in 2010-11, Axford has gone 35-50 in the last two seasons.

Guess what Cardinals fans?  He isn’t being brought here to close games or even pitch in high leverage situations.  He’s just another arm who can pitch.  This is John Mozelaik taking a bird with a broken wing off the scrap yard who is still young and durable and giving the tormented pitcher the greatest gift of all time.  Yadi Molina.   The catcher who has turned average aging arms and young raw rookie guns into seasoned vets in less than 5 months.  Mike Matheny and Molina knows how to handle troubled pitchers and will implement Axford into pitching coach Derek Lilloquist’s system.  This is a low liability move for the Cards with a potential upside.  The Cards will pay a little of Axford’s 5 million dollar contract and he is arbitration eligible next season which means the Cards don’t have to bring him back.  This is a good stretch for Mo and the team to make on a guy who was brilliant and confounded hitters only 2 seasons ago.  One wonders if the Brewers collapse in the 2011 postseason, which involved an Axford blown save, affected the right hander at all.

It’s easy to dismiss this deal and cry out for a bigger move.  There are parts of me that want the Cards to at least look at Dan Haren or Kyle Lohse.  However, let’s not doubt Mozelaik’s ability to pull dull diamonds from the woods and turn them into shiny clean cut jewels.   Remember last July when we made a deal for a nobody reliever called Edward Mujica and thought we were dumb to let go of Zach Cox.  Well, Mujica was a dynamic 7th inning bridge and this year has turned into the NL’s second best closer(yes, better than Chapman).  Cox is washing out in Double A for the Marlins.  Axford has a more credible resume than Mujica as he arrives in Pittsburgh today.  He has 106 saves in 4 seasons of work.  He was once a great reliever.  If there is anybody who can find that greatness again, it’s Molina, Lilloquist and Matheny.

Hopefully this means the Fernando Salas era has reached its conclusion.  The ineffective RH can’t seem to pitch an inning without allowing a run and save me his Memphis stats.  Those are minor league hitters and games that mean very little.  All that matters is what he does up here.  He has been crap for a long time.  He isn’t what he once was in 2009.  His fastball is flat and hittable.  His sinker doesn’t do much sinking.   Let’s call it a fair swap of RH talent here.  Axford in and Salas out.  This probably won’t happen but the best thing the Cards can do for Salas is designate him for assignment.

In other news-

*Michael Wacha going to Springfield and not Memphis means he is in line for a Tuesday start in Cincinnati.   Springfield ends play earlier and Wacha will be turned loose.   Tyler Lyons and Carlos Martinez are also candidates but in my mind they both lack the wow factor that we have seen from Wacha’s pitches lately.   The college star deserves a chance to earn that fifth spot because this rotation can use a little lightning.   As much as we don’t want to factor in Adam Wainwright’s season long pitch counts into the equation of the other night’s collapse, we have to be honest and say Waino has been a bit inconsistent in the second half of the season.   The rotation could use more insurance.

*The bigger issue with Wednesday’s 10-0 ass kicking may stem not from the lack of Yadi Molina in the lineup but the missing presence of talented backup Tony Cruz.  Cruz has caught Waino plenty of times and is a better hitter and defensive catcher than Rob Johnson.   The Memphis veteran isn’t a good player.  He can’t hit and his defense is average as best.  The wild pitch that skipped back to the brick the other night would have been smothered by Molina or Cruz and it led to a bigger inning.  Johnson’s ineffectiveness really makes me wonder what Mozelaik didn’t like about John Buck(recently dealt to the Pirates) or another catcher like Kelly Shoppach.  Both of those guys aren’t gold glove catchers or big monster hitters but they are each better than Johnson.  Once Cruz went down, it was time for Mo to find a catcher.  That’s a fact.  The bad thing is it can’t be done now.  The waiver deal expired two days ago.  We can only hope Cruz’s hairline fracture improves and Yadi’s knee doesn’t implode.

*Pete Kozma update.  3-44 in the month of August and rumor has it that his hair is falling out.  The mullet is going down.  His psycho analysis is edging closer to the breaking point.  I feel like Pete is that poor kid in the classroom that the teacher keeps calling on for answers knowing Pete doesn’t have a clue.  Maybe he is the player to be named later in the Axford deal.

*Really hoping Kolten Wong isn’t banished to the bench simply because David Freese had a couple of RBI hits.  Wong is still a threat with his speed and solid defense and in my belief, will hit with more at bats.

*Do we need Dan Haren?  He could boost the rotation but he isn’t required for us to win the division.   Playoffs could be a different story, especially if hitters figure out Joe Kelly with runners on base.  Haren would cost some prospects but offers experience, a hot hand and a guy you can count on in the playoffs.  Do we need Haren?  Does your car need a spare tire on the highway???  It wouldn’t hurt but isn’t a huge important factor right now.  The rotation has shown an ability to bend but not break.  Can we count on them holding it together for the next month and onward?  That’s a dicey question.

The Cards begin the night a game ahead of the Pirates in first place and have the next 9 games against the Reds and Pitt.   This isn’t the season but will definitely tell us which direction we are facing for the final three weeks.   Division crown or wild card probable.  Ask this blogger and I’d rather not deal with a one game playoff again.   The Cards are good enough to win the division.  After that, it’s too hard to tell.  Depends on their play going into the postseason, but even then, the crapshoot begins.  We went into the playoffs playing horrible in 2006 and won it all.  We played fantastic baseball going into the 2011 postseason and won it all.  Same for last year.

Baseball is like life in so many ways.  It’s relative and ongoing.

Thanks for reading,

DLB

The Dark Night at Busch Stadium Is Over

It’s amazing how fast things can go dark at a baseball game.   Less than 24 hours after winning their 5th series in a row, the Cards get blasted for 6 runs in the first inning and everybody steps onto the ledge at Busch and tries to jump off.  So many bandwagon fans get their name because they can’t understand the effect of one game.  The 10-0 loss tonight is one game and its over with.  The Cards are 22 games over .500 and still in first place.  Anyone expecting the Reds to roll over, play dead and cough up a sweep doesn’t know that team.  They came out tonight, dominated and did so against our best pitcher.  They made a statement, got back into the race and redefined why baseball is the toughest sport to follow.  Every night, things can change and momentum can be turned over to a different team.  Celebrations last less than 24 hours and one player’s actions can turn a team’s tempo and mood around.

I am talking about Brandon Phillips.  Sure, his pregame antics had the look of a spoiled child firing back venom at a harmless reporter doing his job.   After the first 2 innings, you saw how maybe his words set a fire under the Reds and had them winning this game handily before the Cards took an at bat.  I could be wrong but Phillips is well known for getting under the skin of Cardinals fans and acting as a true nemesis to our team.  Honestly, I like Phillips, think he is a helluva 2B and likes to stir the pot for the love of the game.  His attack on the scribe was uncalled for, but a week from now may be seen in Cincinnati as the breaking point the Reds needed to get out of that ghost mode they seemed to fall into for two days.  Making errors like the Cubs and sleepwalking through important games wasn’t on the agenda for the fiery defending NL Central champs.  They have a chip on their shoulder and want to contend.  Walt Jocketty had to leave St. Louis with a little pep in his step.  Beat our ace in vicious style, get the last word and hop on the bus out of town on a higher note than you were last night.   It’s one game in the standings but for the Reds may have been a jump start.

Adam Wainwright got shelled.  So what?  It happens.    Felix Hernandez gave up 8 runs today.   Waino gave up 9.  He hit the mound and never looked comfortable until he struck out his only two batters of the night with the bases empty and down 9-0.   He lasted 2 innings, didn’t throw 60 pitches and offered no excuses.  He is an ace and knows the drill.  He lost the game before it ever started.   Opposing pitcher Homer Bailey was sharp and took the cushion and turned it into a win.  What I don’t need to see is fans jumping on Waino’s last start as reasoning behind his bad outing.   It is so easy to say, “well, he threw 128 pitches on Friday, so maybe he is just tired and out of energy tonight”.   That’s not a crazy statement but a typical defense.  A more logical approach is noting his command was off, the Reds put together some hits, and jumped on the Ace early.  If the Padres jump you for 9 runs, be a little worried.  If the Reds do it, just accept defeat.  Waino got shelled at home in the first inning by the Cubs in July, giving up 4 in route to a loss.  Tonight was worse by far but teams know the time to get Waino is early if his command is off.  It wasn’t a result of Friday’s performance.  He routinely throws 110-115 pitches per start.  Tonight, his stuff wasn’t good enough and a good hitting team pounced.    Figuring out the mechanisms and recovery of pitchers even in this day and age is a tired task and shouldn’t get much attention.  Take it as it is and roll on.

Michael Wacha made a statement tonight for a start next week by pitching 4 innings and striking out 7, including 2 of Phillips.  Wacha was the fireman tonight, coming in and cooling off the red hot bats of Cincy and telling Cardinal nation how bright the future is with him in it.   Tyler Lyons was solid on Monday but Mike Matheny must take a hard look at Tuesday’s start.  Reds hitters hadn’t seen Wacha yet this year but sure looked fooled by his heat propelled fastball and decent dishes of breaking balls.  In my opinion, if Mo doesn’t want to hit the waiver wire for another starter, Wacha could provide you with impact starts down the stretch or at the very least, give you some action on Tuesday.  Lyons and Carlos Martinez will be here anyway but Wacha deserves a start.  He has looked very good in short and long duty in the bullpen.

The bats were silent.  Regulars were out of the game before the mid point.  Pete Kozma played left field.  Yadi Molina probably got into street clothes after the 7th inning.   David Freese ordered IMOS in the 8th inning.  Pete Kozma played left field.   Matt Holliday was chalking his hands for a workout in the 9th inning.  All of this is comedic speculation(it’s okay to laugh Cardinal nation) but it’s safe to say this was a weird chaotic night at Busch Stadium.  Rough for fans in attendance and easy for the ones sitting at home to turn off or mute.  Sure we were capable of a comeback but it became apparent that wasn’t in the cards(on a roll now).   Baseball gods don’t care what you did last night.  Every game is a challenge, even for the esteemed Cardinal franchise that has dominated at home during the second half.

Cardinals fans think we have to win every night.  Any blowout is just wrong and can’t be handled by 3/4 of the fanbase.   This is what happens when your organization is built on the expectation of excellence.   A night after proclaiming victory of the United Nations on August 27th, get on twitter tonight and you will hear from a heavy majority of the Best Fans in Baseball(not really) that this team in a freefall.   That is not true.  The Cards are fine.  They got beat up and dropped for a knockout.   They will get back up, get on a plane and head to Pittsburgh for another big series.  With a half game separating the division lead, every series is big.  Every game matters.  If you face a fellow contender, the challenge will be stiff.  If you face a bad team, all you have is a spoiler wrecking ball in your path.   Every night will bring no guarantee of a happy ending.   If you want a happy ending, watch An Officer and A Gentleman.  Watch When Harry Met Sally.  Don’t watch baseball too closely because it, and sports as a whole, will break your heart.  That’s part of the experience.

This is why I admire people like my dad who can watch and easily let a bad loss go by doing something else for the rest of the night.   I don’t have to explain in detail that tonight’s game made me grumpy and a slight bore.   My wife made a great homemade pulled pork pizza and I said it was good without further feedback.  She was in a good mood and I was in a flat one.   She talked proudly about our son, who played like a silent heroic ninja 23 month old with his train set for 2 hours, and I felt like going to the basement to do laundry and lose a staring contest with the wall.  When the Cards lose, I let it get personal but I don’t lose sight of logic.

Tonight’s loss was rough but only counts as one.  Adam Wainwright will take the hill again in Cincinnati next week for revenge and this team will let the big dog eat at the plate soon enough.   Mike Matheny will smile in a few days and September will take us into the final painful stretch of games.

I can tell you Fernando Salas doesn’t have to pitch another game in a Cardinals uniform but Matheny has a bond with him like he did with Boggs and will find a way to get him into games.  Remember that piece of corn stuck in your teeth for hours.  That’s Salas.  He threw 2 innings tonight and allowed a home run because what is a Salas appearance without an earned run allowed.  He has no business on this team(words of my fine Cards friend Carlin) but keeps coming back.  When I think of Fernando Salas, I think of the Cards in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series.  He.  Just.  Won’t.  Go.  Away.

What else?  The light will shine tomorrow morning.   Skies will be blue by noon.  The game of baseball will leave one black and blue for it shall always know what is best for you.  Now you see what lopsided losses do to me.

Keep in mind the Pirates play tomorrow and if they win, the series starting on Friday will begin with a tie for first place.   What other way could we have it?  All I can say is the Cards owe the Pirates a beatdown in their own park so Pittsburgh better go pick up its shoe shine box.

This was more of an old fashioned rant than a thoroughly thought out game wrap up.   Exactly what a BLOG is for.  Thanks for reading and enjoy the day free of Cardinals baseball fueled pain tomorrow because it is one of the last idle days of the summer for the Rogues in Red.

Sincerely,

Your United Cardinal Bloggers correspondent,

Dan Buffa

“They never said it was going to be easy.”-Mike Shannon

Read my interview with fellow U.C.B. writer Bill Ivie and other Q & A sessions right here for different representations of Cardinal love.

www.unitedcardinalbloggers.com

 

 

 

Q & A with Bill Ivie For United Cardinal Bloggers

This week, I had the chance to send some questions to a veteran Cardinal writer and passionate fan Bill Ivie.   I asked him about his love for the game and the details that make him feel the need to write about the team in his free time.   Here is what we came up with.   Ivie’s answers are in BOLD.

1.) When did you fall in love or become addicted to this Cardinals team?
I was a military brat when I was young and my dad, who was in the army, moved us around quite a bit.  He was born and spent his youth in Southeast Missouri so that’s where we settled.  My first Cardinal game was during the 1985 season in September.  The vibe around the stadium was amazing.  Later that year, “Go Crazy, Folks” happened and I was hooked.  I grew up in the bleachers of Busch II over countless summer days.
2.) What drove you to want/need to write about this team?  With me it was a long time hunger and need to inform.  What was your initial push to blog on the Cards?
I have always loved to write and, at one point in my youth, thought I would go to school for journalism/broadcasting.  Life led me a different direction but in 2007 I decided to give writing a shot for another blog, CardsDiaspora.com.  I contact Hooks and did some work there before moving on to Baseball Digest and eventually starting my own site over at i70.
3.) Favorite Cardinal of all time and why?  I won’t question you if its Rene Arocha or Bud Smith, haha.
I always feel like this is one of the hardest questions out there.  To make it sound completely corny, I love the name on the front of the jersey.  When players are here, I will support them and wish them the best.  When they leave, they will always be remembered for wearing the birds-on-the-bat, but they no longer hold high distinction.  I can say this: I was raised on defense, so players that are known for their defensive abilities draw my attention more than others.  Over my life, I have enjoyed Ozzie Smith, Tom Pagnozzi, Mike Matheny, Yadier Molina, Jim Edmonds, and Scott Rolen, just to name a few.
4.) What do you feel the Cardinals biggest need is for 2014?
To value their prospects correctly.  If a guy is going to be “untouchable” when you are discussing trading for established, productive major leaguers, then he better be a sure thing.  It’s frustrating seeing guys come to the team that are a product of a great farm system but are not star-quality players.  I’m excited to see Kolten Wong and Oscar Taveras on this team, but I sincerely hope they are all they are built up to be if we have refused to trade them for other, established players.
5.) Who is a bigger threat not this year but in 2014?  Pirates or the Reds?
The Pirates, hands-down.  They are a young team that improves with each year.  They continue to gain experience going deeper into the playoff race and that makes them more and more dangerous.  The Reds are getting older and show no sign of replenishing that with a very weak farm system.  Pittsburgh may be here for years to come.
6.) Go Albert Pujols or Rot Away in LA?  Which side are you on?
Can I shoot right down the middle?  I feel the way he departed St. Louis leaves me with a lot less respect for him.  I don’t wish him ill-will and hate to see him injured and struggling, but I’m not pulling for him to continue to be great, either.  I would say i am fairly ambivalent to Mr. Pujols going forward.
7.) What is your full time occupation and how do you manage to mix that career with your writing?
I work for a major software company in the Kansas City area.  My job keeps me busy but I find time to write during down-times, breaks, and at night when I get home.  I stay fairly busy most of the time I’m awake, it seems, but I’m learning that it is okay to say “no” to some opportunities.
8.) Last but not least, what was your most memorable live moment at the ballpark?
Now I can get obscure with you.  I was at a game in the early 90’s, sitting in the RF bleachers with my parents when Felix Jose launched a home run that hit the scoreboard that hung above our heads.  The loud noise that the ball made when it ricocheted off the metal, the dent that it left behind, and the acknowledgement the next day that he was only the second player in the history of the ball park to do that was pretty amazing.  There are a lot of memories like that from my childhood that I will never forget.
*You can read more of Bill Ivie’s work at http://www.unitedcardinalbloggers.com.
*Here’s additional information on Ivie-
Bill Ivie
Founder | I-70 Baseball
Freelance Writer | i70baseball | Yahoo Contributor Network
President | Baseball Bloggers Alliance

“Man, I did love this game. I’d have played for food money. It was the game… The sounds, the smells. Did you ever hold a ball or a glove to your face?…I used to love traveling on the trains from town to town. The hotels, brass spittoons in the lobbies, brass beds in the rooms. It was the crowd, rising to their feet when the ball was hit deep. Shoot, I’d play for nothing.”

 

Quick Takes on the Cards

As the afternoon burns through my Italian skin and reminds me that STL brings the heat more than any Cardinal reliever in August, I throw out some quick thoughts on my first place team via the bullet.

  • Last night’s win was a clear cut example of this team’s new found dogfight attitude in August.   After going 4 months without a comeback late in a game, the Cards have scored 3 huge miraculous comebacks against their tougher competition in the NL Central.   We got down 4-0 last night and things looked dismal.   Tyler Lyons was pitching well but getting bad luck before you knew it, the game was starting to fade away.  Suddenly, Matt Holliday hits a baseball halfway towards Asia and it’s a one run game.   In the 7th, with the bases and down by a run, Allen Craig stepped to the plate.   This guy thrives with the pleasure on his shoulders.  With RISP, he is hitting .433 or other words destroys pitchers in clutch spots.   He didn’t slap a base hit to score 2 or beat out an infield hit.  He cranked an opposite field first pitch grand slam that sent a jolt through Busch Stadium.  The Cards won 8-6 on the heels of solid bullpen work, Lyons’ recovering from a rough start, Mujica closing it down for save #35 and the lineup’s ability to keep pushing.  The Cards are dominating at home in the second half of the season and that’s a key factor because we play a lot of games at Busch in the last month.
  • I didn’t give Lyons much positive spin for his start because he seemed to be figured out by major league hitters in his last 4 starts.   Last night, he got better as he went and struck out 7 Reds batters.   He fooled Joey Votto twice on a breaking ball that had the MVP twitching back to the dugout.   He limited the damage after the early assault.   In my mind, he hushed a few critics and earned another start.  Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez are holding down the long inning roles in the pen so the team has options, but Lyons earned another start with his gutsy performance.
  • Let me just say this.  I don’t think Ryan Jackson is the genuine article.   He won’t be a long term option for the team.  He will probably burn out after a certain number of at-bats.  However, if he doesn’t get called up on September 1st and doesn’t get a little playing time, I really want to get an idea of where John Mozelaik’s head is at.   Pete Kozma is exposed folks and while his defense is solid, it’s not gold glove worthy at shortstop and he is an automatic out in the lineup.    Kozma is 3-42 in the month of August with 10 strikeouts.   He has 4 total bases this month.   Kozma is a liability now so more than ever and when you look at a lineup with him in it, the opposing pitcher has two soft spots in the 8-9 positions in our lineup.    Daniel Descalso is fine but his defense(as seen last night in the 1st inning) is average and error prone.  Jackson is noted as having stellar defense and can at least provide a fresh bat in the lineup.  He has earned the right to prove his mettle at this level.   Or we can watch Kozma trip his way towards the Mendoza line.
  • The Pirates made a big move today, acquiring two cheap productive bats in Marlon Byrd and John Buck to bolster their lineup.   Their once weak looking offense is looking mighty bulky and explosive these days.   Byrd was hitting .285 with 21 HR and 70 RBI for the Mets and Buck had 15 HR and 60 RBI at the time of the trade.   The Mets are cutting major pieces after they found out ace pitcher Matt Harvey is out for the season and may require Tommy John surgery.   The Pirates jumped on this whole sale and improved their team.  Will Mo and the Cards react or stand pat?   We do lead the league in a number of offensive categories but can use some help up the middle and on the bench.  With Tony Cruz out for another week or so, finding a backup catcher may have been wise.  Buck would have been a great find but the Bucs beat everybody to him and nabbed Byrd as well.   As the final month of the season gets underway, the Pirates have positioned themselves for the drive.   Will the Reds beef up?  Will the Cards make a move?  Don’t ask Mozelaik because at…the….end…of…the….day……who knows?
  • If David Freese can find a way to explode, our offense isn’t that vulnerable.   If he can hit more and produce on a more consistent basis, the need to replace Kozma weakens a bit.   Freese is an X-Factor.  He was a huge factor when we made those late season pushes in 2011 and 2012.   If he remains stagnant this year, the lineup looks weaker because Kolten Wong isn’t ready for extended duty and doesn’t offer that game changing bat that Freese can when he is on.   We need that 2011 October Freese to step up, knock hits into RF and improve his defense.   If he can heat up, the lineup is stronger than ever.  Without him hitting, our boys look a little weak towards the bottom of the order.  When Freese is down the 7-8-9 spots of himself, Kozma and the pitcher look very easy for a decent opposing pitcher.
  • Carlos Beltran is getting hot again, stroking a double in that pivotal 7th inning last night.  He is hitting .366 in his last 10 games.
  • The Cards have 5 hitters in their everyday lineup hitting .280 or better in Molina, Craig, Carpenter, Beltran and Holliday.
  • I find myself watching Holliday HR over and over again because they are so majestic.   The one he hit last night traveled 442 feet and was simply obliterated off the bat.  Later, in the 7th inning, he drew an important walk that set up Craig’s slam.   A 3-2 pitch right off the outside corner takes guts to let sail by and Holliday did it.  His numbers are slowly perking up.   With his two 3 run bombs in the past week, Matt now has 18 HR, 70 RBI and 85 Runs and 25 doubles.
  • With 31 games remaining after last night, the Cards are in prime position to stay right in the thick of the race.   The next 12 are against the Reds and Pirates with the final 19 coming against sub .500 teams.  Things are working themselves into our advantage to secure a division title if we can split the next 12 games at least.
  • Tonight the Cards face their true 2013 nemesis(not named Francisco Liriano or Mike Minor) in Matt Latos.  He has shut us down twice this year and is 13-4 and easily the Reds strongest starter this year.   Speaking of Liriano, we face him Friday in Pittsburgh.
  • If the Cards win tonight and the Brewers can wreck the Pirates’ part, we could be 2 full games ahead of Pitt and push the Reds 4.5 games back.  These games against Cincinnati are nearly as important as the Pirates showdowns because with every win we push them further into that wild card game one off.   To tell it simple, every game matters.   Baseball is a test of endurance and not streaky skill.   You do the best with the 162 games and get into the playoffs and then go for the gold.   Where will the Cards end up?  Apparently, a lot better than the many Cards fans on twitter who were ready to bury the team on August 10th.  Fans often forget there are so many games in a baseball season.  So much time left to turn things around.  Once again, the Cards did.

That’s all from the pregame desk.   Go Cards!

-Dan Buffa

 

The NEWSROOM is Grand Television

First, let me get a few worthy tid bits out of the way before I talk about Newsroom, Aaron Sorkin’s juicy masterpiece.

The Cards lost today.   Hard to be mad when I asked for 2 and they gave me 3.   We won an important series and are still tied for the division lead with the Reds 2.5 games back and coming into town.  13 games against the Reds and Pirates won’t define our season because we have 19 games afterwards against below .500 teams.  That’s like saying a fight with a martial arts expert will end fatal when you forget you know a few movies yourself and face a group of fat bullies on the way home.  Keep your chin up Cards fans.  The fight is only beginning.  Brandon Phillips knows his team is down again and will ignite the fan base with a tweet tomorrow.   I actually like the guy, think he’s a helluva player who likes setting fires before a series.  Good for him.  When we bury him, Ludwick, and Walt under a pile of shit in 2 weeks, the only smiles will belong to the Birds.

Lance Lynn wasn’t great today.  He also wasn’t bad.   He just wasn’t good.  He gave up 4 earned runs but didn’t get the 6.2 of average run support that he usually gets and that is a stat that leads the NL.   Lynn depends on help.  He’s like a lone soldier waiting on the helicopter to drop a bomb on the bad guys he can’t kill.   Lynn can strike guys out but he has a two cent head that renders him useless.  You can’t fix that with drugs, an ice pack and a story.  You just wait and see if he grows out of it.  He doesn’t deserve wrath.  The Cards were shut down today by Mike Minor and Craig Kimbrel doesn’t give up 3 runs in an inning.

The VMA’s are a show I will never watch.  I don’t care if DMB, BRMC and The Black Keys were playing.  They are a tromped up, glossy, shitty tasting exercise in what 2013 wants music to look like.  I’ll just get my car and listen to a Buffa mix for what I need to hear.

Peyton Manning treated the Rams first team secondary like scorched earth but could only get field goals and threw an interception on Saturday night.   I call that a win for the Rams defense, which always sees the most game time in preseason game #3.  Alec Ogletree picked off Manning and also created another turnover by striping a running back of the leather in the same half.  He is another risky college player with a big upside and an off the field danger that Jeff Fisher took a chance with.   This Rams team could be dangerous.

As much as I try I can’t get a job that I would be happy with so I apply mostly to robotic warehouse jobs.   As much as I try to convince him, my son doesn’t like sleeping in his bed alone so he wants me to come lie with him.   As much as I try to get to the gym, it takes effort after 12 hours with a 2 year old to muster the energy required to get a decent workout.   As much as I try to admit it just tastes good, I am a severe coffee addict but as long as I put little to no sugar in it I am okay.

Alright, Newsroom time.

If you haven’t watched the show yet, guess what I have good news.  You only have around 18 hours to catch up with.   Season 2 takes a break next Sunday because premium cable networks think America takes Labor Day seriously and can’t watch their Sunday shows.   If you still don’t care, read anyway because I make this as compelling as a juicy steak.

Aaron Sorkin takes real news stories from the past two years, sprinkles in his views with a little nuance and provides a fictional tale to gloss over the entire season.   People either hate him or love him.  I love the guy because he is a helluva writer and treats these news stories like an investigator.  It’s almost like he is going back over the dates and events like a detective looking for clues and ways to solve a case that didn’t get justice the first time.  Sorkin isn’t like Michael Moore.  He doesn’t ram his view down your throat.   He just presents his take but presents various characters with separate and equally strong personalities that differ the more you look.   Jeff Daniels is amazingly authentic as Will McAvoy, the Republican news anchor who takes a stand against his own party and is still paying the consequences for calling America not the greatest country in the world.  He is a man who is so sure of everything but gets into trouble when it comes to the women in his life and a conscience he can’t clear.   Charlie Skinner(Sam Waterson, who should own a lot of Emmy’s when he quits) produces this news show that attacks the gritty truth that most mainstream news shows hop scotch around for the better purpose of high ratings.   Mackenzie McCale(Emily Mortimer, trading places between strong and bitchy) is a woman driven by what she has done to Will in the past and how she can repair it in the future.   Don Keefer(Thomas Sadorski) is a young producer who knows Will too well, is a good guy with a smart intellect but can’t get himself past the sexy smarts of Sloan Sabbath(the lovely and game Olivia Munn).   There’s Alison Pill as Maggie and John Gallagher Jr. as Jim Harper, two characters who in a lesser show would have already gotten together but instead find themselves stretched apart by circumstance and a willingness to be a good person instead of strive for what they really want.   Sorkin writes that tommy gun dialogue so you can get lost in it but that is what rewind is for.  Go back and take in every line of this show because it plays like an hour long debate club every Sunday night.   The second season has bee wrapped around a central story line involving a wrongful termination suit which stems from a big government cover up story called Genoa.   A news producer gets a tip about US soldiers using chemical weapons on innocent villagers when trying to extract two kidnapped soldiers and the last 8 hours have been spent chasing this lead into corners, interviews and revelations that bring the entire ACN news team to its knees.   The story is told in flashback with present day stories as well.  A team of lawyers interviewing the main players about Genoa and going back to the weeks leading up to the night that Skinner gave the go for the broadcast and the dominoes that fell during tonight’s episode.  At the heart of the tale is old fashioned news and getting it right while taking chances and throwing hail mary’s to go with it.   What if MSNBC and Fox News weren’t tepid bitches and actually interrogated people in interviews, demanded the truth and chased a story instead of reading edited news clips in order to keep their jobs.  What if is what Sorkin is asking.  What if we became the greater fool and fought the good fight?  Sorkin aims for the heart and adds a heavy measure of emotional compassion and soul to it.    He aims for the heart but doesn’t forget to stop by the brain first.  His cast is aces and his timing is never better.  The Presidential Election and Sandy Hook is coming up which presents the team with a few challenges.   If you aren’t watching this show, start now.  You have 2 weeks.

I wrote a piece about Elmore Leonard today.   Go to Film-Addict and read up.  He was the kind of writer Hollywood waited outside a door in the cold for.   Too bad he is gone.

Once again, it’s time for me to go off the air and get off this chair.  Come back next time for a Dose of Buffa and if you like the material, spread the word.  There’s 2 websites you can tell them to find me at.

So long until the next story comes along,

D.L.B.

 

 

Key to The Cardinals Turnaround

It takes a lot for a team to climb out of the depths of late summer dog day dread, but the Cardinals have pulled it off.   They have done so by doing things that have propelled them the entire season and also incorporating some new weapons and tactics.  Let’s roll over it.

Since losing to the Cubs on Saturday at home on August 10th to lose the series and reach their worst point in 2 months, the Cardinals have gone 10-3 and won series’ against the Pirates, Cubs, Brewers and Braves.   Today, we go for the sweep of an Atlanta team that swept us in their home park 3 weeks ago.   A lot of things can change when your team gets the little things done.   Today we start the game tied with the Pirates for first place in the division after the Giants shut down the Bucs on Saturday night to help us pull even.   It’s a brand new game in the division and the Reds aren’t out of it yet.  

The Cards got this far and turned things around by introducing a few new abilities.

-They came from behind twice against the Pirates at home to win the series and show that they had a few lives after the 8th inning.  Before that first extra inning win in 13 innings, the Cards had lost every game they trailed heading into the 9th inning.   They were 24 out victims for about 4 months.  Without that series win against the Pirates, I’m not sure any of this is possible.  

-The Birds bounced back from a 7-0 defeat against the Cubs on August 16th where Jake Westbrook walked the first three batters and our bats were shut down by a rookie.  We took the next two games on starting pitching and outscoring the opponent 10-1.  

-We scored another late inning come from behind win against the Brewers only to watch Lance Lynn blow a 3-0 lead the following night and nearly saw Westbrook give back a 7-0 lead on Wednesday afternoon.   The series win against the Brewers brought us back to 20 games over .500 and into a crucial 17 game stretch against premium teams the likes of Atlanta, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh.  

In taking the first three games of the series, the Cards have established their home dominance by taking advantage of the injury plagued Braves and taking away their much beloved long ball.  In three games, the Braves have 2 home runs that have only accounted for 3 runs.  A home run hungry team has been befuddled by Joe Kelly, Adam Wainwright and Shelby Miller to the tune of 22 innings pitched with only 2 runs allowed.   We have received timely hitting from Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday and find ourselves starting today tied for the lead in the Central.  It took every ounce of effort to pull it back in after seeing everything spiral out of control.  

The Cards have indeed relocated their starting pitching dominance at Busch this weekend.  Look at Miller’s big game start last night in a swing contest.   He allowed a first inning home run to Freddie Freeman but proceeded to allow 2 hits over the final 6.1 innings with 6 strikeouts.  Miller was more economical with his pitches.  He didn’t try to strike everyone out.   He had around 55 pitches in the 5th inning, a plateau usually reached in the 3rd or 4th inning.   The best part of Miller’s start was the fact he didn’t allow a single walk.  It was only his second start where he allowed zero walks and the first since a win over the Phillies on July 23rd.  The rest and caution over the rookie righthander may have been worth the stress levels because if he is starting to figure out how to shut down HR happy heavy hitting MLB lineups like the Braves, the next two months could be the young man’s best moments.   

-I could tell you how brilliant Wainwright was on Friday but I am afraid a lot of people beat me to it and its something that is a given.  After struggling on the vital road trip against the Braves and Pirates, Wainwright has reestablished his dominance with two big starts.  He won the series at Wrigley a week ago with a 7 inning performance and threw his best game of the year against the Braves on Friday.   Using 128 pitches yet looking stronger and sharper than ever in the 9th inning, Wainwright threw a complete game.  He struck out 9 and walked no one.   It was the kind of big game performance you need from your ace in a crucial stretch of play.   He raised around 100,000 dollars for local charities in the morning with his fantasy football tournament and went out and threw a gem that night.   Wainwright is becoming Chris Carpenter in every way and its a great thing.   He wears his heart on his sleeve, donates plenty of time to charity, doesn’t bullshit in interviews, and happens to be a commanding presence on the mound and a hilariously loose teammate in the dugout.  If there is a leader on the team not named Molina, it’s Waino.   7 years ago those team collided at the mound for a World Series celebration.  Friday night, they did a more subtle celebration after Waino’s complete game and it reminded me how sharp and alert this franchise is.   The Cardinals don’t put out phonies and players that lack the gall to lead others.  We craft veteran minded young men ready to lead.   In Matt Carpenter and Allen Craig, you see the youth movement.  In Holliday and Beltran, there is the guided direction from proven players.   This team is one of the most well rounded teams I’ve watched in years.

-Speaking of Matt Holliday, he’s turned it on again in this series, collecting 4 hits in 11 at bats but making those hits count.   A big RBI double on Thursday.  A mammoth HR to break a tie in Friday’s game.  A big 2 run double last night.   In the #3 hole where hitters go to live or die, Holliday is doing just fine.  His work in left field isn’t that bad either.  Keep in mind he has only made 1 error there all season.   

-Per one of my radio buddies, Aaron Russell, when Edward Mujica threw those 6 innings last week before his temporary shutdown, all he needed was 42 pitches to do it.   Last night, he had to close down a game that two other relievers failed to convert and needed 3 pitches to do it.   With every appearance, Mujica is getting sharper and sharper.   I’ll say it again.  After a slight dip in July, Chief has reasserted himself as a shutdown closer in August.   His four out save to preserve a much needed series win in Milwaukee was impressive because he was doing it with considerable back pain.   Last night, he quieted fears of an extended injury with a quick blunt performance.   In 12 appearances in August, Mujica has 5 strikeouts with 1 walk and has allowed 1 earned run with 4 saves.  For the season, even for a closer, his numbers are ridiculous.   34-36 in saves, 43 K-3 BB, opponents are hitting .203 against him and his WHIP is 0.80.   Absolutely ridiculous.  Go Eddie!

Quickies before I set up for game time-

*Daniel Descalso is looking better and better the more he plays shortstop.   Made two very nice plays last night.   Pete Kozma gets the start today with his 3 hits in the month of August.  Being a light hitting defensive player is fine.  Being a non-existent hitter on a playoff team isn’t acceptable.   His days are numbered.

*I want Tony Cruz back,   No offense to Rob Johnson but he isn’t a suitable backup.  His defense is average and his bat is worse.  Cruz is a decent backup and I like him in there to give Yadi the occasional day off.

*Sorry to all the Wainwright lovers(and I am one, so this is weird) but Yadi Molina is the team’s MVP.  Waino does his work every 5th day and if he happens not to, the impact only gets lessened.   Yadi takes that spot 4 out of 5 games and delivers night in and night out.   He completely takes away the running game, even from base stealing happy foes.  He’s the best.  He also swings a big bat.  He is 14-30 in his last 7 games with 8 runs scored.  He leads the league in hitting with a .336 average.  Best catcher.  Best batting average.  Add it up.  BEST.

*The weight falls on Lance Lynn to deliver a decent start and keep the streak going.  He loves his four seam fastball and his ability to mix it in with breaking pitches against a homer happy team will be the key.  Save me his defense because the man’s 13 wins have come via good pitching but better run support.   In his last 2 starts, Lynn hasn’t been sharp.  We have a liability on this roster and its called Jake Westbrook. Lance Lynn needs to earn his keep.  Go out there today and complete sweep.  Earn the victory on the merit of your own arm.  

*With Westbrook hitting the DL, Tyler Lyons gets the start tomorrow against the Reds.   This guy is a puzzle.  He shut down the Padres and Royals but ran into better teams with better bats who had a knowledge of his pitchers in July and he was clubbed for 3 starts in a row.   He made another start weeks later and was clubbed at Pittsburgh.  He was solid in relief in Milwaukee but faces a mighty lineup on Monday.   Will he be beaten up for a 5th consecutive start or will Tyler Lyons be something else.  We’ll see.  My bets are in front of me because I see no good cards in my hand.  

That’s all I got today.  Go Cards and keep the streak going.  We beat the Braves today and we will be tied for the best record in MLB baseball again.   That’s two weeks after looking dead in the water.  That’s how fast things can change in this game.  You play every day. You can change things every single game.  The Cardinals are going to get their chance.  Let’s not settle for a series win.  Let’s go for the jugular.  I wonder what all the fans who thought we were done 2 weeks ago think now.  Hmmmm….remember the game they play and what happened in 2011 and 2012.  

Thanks for reading,

Dan Buffa