Let me begin my saying that yes I am sitting here on a Friday night at my desk in front of my 47 inch plasma getting ready to write. You see, I revel in my need to not HAVE to party when I have the chance. A big night for the Buffa’s is Rachel going next door to have wine with friends or me going to my dad’s cigar lounge to shoot the shit. Most nights, I am sitting a room away from my kid as he sleeps or at least tries to. When you are a parent, you don’t get to have a life. I don’t mind it. I was never a body for the party scene. A big waste of cash, mind and time. I’d rather have friends over here, drink a little, watch some TV, play some games, make a fire in the backyard, kick a soccer ball around and do little else. So many parents I know like to still convince themselves that they have a life outside being a parent. I say that theory is stupid. Once you bring a little one in, you must get smarter for your own good as well as his or her’s future. So here I am, rambling with a four shot aided cup of joe sitting next to my laptop. Sherlock Holmes 2: Game of Shadows is on the television and if you are a fan of old school detective action adventure magic, give it a look. Guy Ritchie, Robert Downey Jr., and Jude Law have brought back the famous British investigator with a will to flash, dazzle and present to us a thinking man’s action hero. Sorry Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch, but Downey Jr. is my preferred Holmes. That is playing again as we speak. I have probably watched it 88 times on cable. I know every scene. Most of the dialogue. Still say Law and RDJ have some of the best chemistry between co-stars anywhere in the time capsule of film and Jared Harris was an excellent choice to play Professor Moriarty. Anyway…
The Cards lost today. 7-0 in vicious embarrassment to the Cubs at Wrigley. I hate playing there. The odds always seem against the Cards. Wind blowing out, bounces going the other way. So easy to bunch runs together. Today, our troubled veteran starter, Jake Westbrook, walked the first three hitters he faced. It’s hard watching him pitch on the road, or anywhere these days. He kind of has this weird little leg kick and throws from a sidearm angle towards the plate that involves more desperation than skill or craft. He’s hard to watch. Like putting a bowl full of spaghetti in the microwave with no paper towel over it. You watch it, hoping for no explosion or mess. He was lost today. Sure, he recovered. By the time he did it was 4-0. By the time his last earned run crossed, it was 7-0 and the game was over. The Cubs pitcher, a nobody named Jake Arrieta, shut down the Cards on 2 hits through 7 innings. Only Carlos Beltran mustered a pair of hits and one of them was on the infield. The Cards, one day after coming from behind and taking a huge and dramatic step forward by defeating the Pirates at Busch, looked lifeless and brought the frustration of day to day ball right back to our heads. It’s impossible to char this team. What happens tomorrow? Will we lose another series to a pitiful team? Save me the spoiler tactic here with the Cubs. I know it. Breathe it. Digested it. The theory is strong but understand something. I want the Cards to start dominating. Beating the spit out of teams spirits. Do what you did in April and May. The first part of July. KILL! Instead, we are up and down. Like a head cold breaking sweats and building back up. I won’t predict this team. I am still stitching up the wound from that back stabbing today. It takes time to heal. By game time tomorrow with FOX 2 bringing the action, I will be ready and wondering if the lefthanded Travis Wood will quiet our bats or can Joe Kelly be a hero again. Give us those gritty 5.1 innings of young Westbrook ball with an edge. Then we face Edwin Jackson again, an Ex-Card that seems to never leave our sight lately. He either shuts us down or we club him. He is slightly better at home and the last time we faced him, we beat him up for 5 runs in 5 innings. The start before that he allowed 7 runs in 5 innings. If we can’t beat a bad Edwin Jackson, we don’t deserve a damn thing. Serve the food cold on the plane.
It’s not MUST WIN mode but we are getting close. Facing the bad teams is a time to gain confidence and gear up for the better teams like the Pirates, Reds or Braves. We have been beating on the Reds all year so it’s only a matter of time before Brandon Phillips hits a walkoff off Rosenthal or Mujica and does that little crow hop afterwards. Losing to the Cubs isn’t just bad baseball. It’s pathetic. About Jake Westbrook….
Let’s look at those stats. I won’t throw you WAR or advanced sabermetrics here. I will just stick to basics because with certain players, the details don’t hide. Westbrook remarkably has a complete game this season, way back in June. He has 42 strikeouts to 48 walks. In his last 10 starts, he is 4-6 with a 4.46 ERA. He has lost his last 4 starts in pivotal matchups. Sure, the last two have been mop up duty. Last Wednesday, he had to take over for a bruised Shelby Miller at the crooked logic of Mike Matheny. Today, he had to save a taxed bullpen and get battered around. He looks dreadful and lost. He walks a lot of batters. He is bad on the road. He needs an hour of prep before a start. He needs a perfectly made martini of hand treatment to get ready to pitch. The real question is…how much does Jake have left? Is it time to insert Michael Wacha, baby sat all year long by the coaches, into the rotation for the push. Remember 2006 when Izzy broke down? The closer spot was left vacant and looking downhill were the Cards. Suddenly, Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan inserted Adam Wainwright there and the rest is history. Is it time to shore up that one weak spot in your pitching arsenal? Wacha isn’t polished or completely ready but he can handle a 5th spot. He is more seasoned and ready than Carlos Martinez, who has been mishandled all season long. Wacha looked razor sharp against the Pirates in relief on Wednesday. He can give you 5-6 innings and keep you in the game. Teams don’t have a full sheet on him yet. He can throw a 96 mph heater and then drop off a 82 mph changeup at the pool afterwards. He’s kind of nasty. When will Mike Matheny and John Mozelaik confer with Derek Lilloquist and decide its time to send Westbrook out to the bullpen for mopup duty action. They did it with Lance Lynn last season. He did a few weeks in the pen and got his shit together. It’s time for Jake Westbrook to take a walk. To the bullpen. Work on his craft. For a while.
Allen Craig legitimately struggling. It seems the big slugger is pale and weak without runners in scoring position. He steps to the plate, looks out there and sees nobody to drive in and kind of blinks. This superman like producer needs guys to drive in. In his last 10 games, he is hitting .216 with as many strikeouts(8) as hits(8). He’s not losing it. He’s a little off. He’s taking strike three calls. He’s confused at the plate. He can still strike out a big RISP spot but for the most part, is coming up short. He doesn’t have the power he had last year. That doesn’t have much to do with smacking base hits or doubles around without runners on. Just a small hint in a big stack of RBI.
The Cards are power deprived. Sure, they are leading the NL in runs scored and batting average. A lot of those runs are scored in bunches and are misleading. This lineup can be shut down a lot more than other teams lately. When they lose, they don’t come up short. They look dead. Home runs are quick run collectors. Hitting one can send a message. Pitchers don’t like giving them up and they can zap a man’s confidence(just ask Lance Lynn about yesterday’s bomb to Clint Barmes). They are rally killers but can put you ahead quickly on the board. The Cards aren’t a base stealing team and can’t bunt that well. It’s either stringing singles together or nothing at all. That’s a dangerous cat walk especially if the RISP efficiency dips. The rotation and bullpen don’t need any more pressure to perform.
Yes, I heard Charlie Manuel got canned in Philly. Ryne Sandberg took his spot and while it’s isn’t surprising, I feel like Manuel got pushed out too early. They had winning seasons under his belt every year, went to 2 WS and won one. The team lost Roy Halladay and Ryan Howard this season and took hits. They sunk but canning Manuel was a bold move and a sign they could be going younger. That being said, I wouldn’t mind the Cards looking at Jimmy Rollins for a waiver deal/trade. Don’t stomp me for wanting Rollins. He isn’t having a good year. He has been having a little problem with injuries. He is hitting .252 with 5 HR and 36 RBI. Still, bringing him here, to a team with a legitimate fighting chance to make the playoffs, could re-energize him. We have seen it with Larry Walker and Will Clark. Rollins just needs a change of scenery. He was great when the Phillies were winning. Older bodies need a young winning environment to keep moving. Bringing Rollins to STL would cost the team and I am not sure if Mozelaik would reach out for this deal. I think it’s worth trying. Rollins could give this lineup another dimension.
Kolten Wong got a rough deal today. He was overanxious and swung early in the counts. He was 0-3 with a double play. He showed speed and quickness. He’s young and ready to contribute. He turns double plays like a ghost at second base. He’s going to stay here and make a difference. Tough first day. Hopefully he starts Sunday against Jackson.
Sorry IMOS. David Freese won’t be playing every day. The veteran St. Louis hero is struggling to put good starts together. He’s pressing. He’s behind on fastballs. He’s lost. His defense will soon crumble. Having Wong up here will help Freese relax. He’ll get less at bats but feel a little pressure taken off. Matheny won’t outright bench him. He’s too loyal to his players. I can only imagine this skipper with his dogs at home. Freese isn’t dead yet.
You have to respect Jason Motte. He hangs around the team, keeps his spirits up, stays hungry and support his teammates while deemed useless. And he donates a lot of his time and money to charities. I own one of the 108 Stitches made Strikeout cancer shirts and that is only one of his drives. He also gives money to Cardinal Glennon, donating 30 dollars for every Cardinal pitcher strikeout this season. He doesn’t have to do any of this. He chooses to. Man makes the most of his time off the field. I can’t wait to see him climb the rubber in 2014.
Until Jaime Garcia throws legitimately off the mound and can inch closer back than Chris Carpenter, let’s not talk about his 2013 comeback.
Chris Carpenter is also a chief. Man is making 10 million dollars in 2013 to be a cheerleader but you can feel his presence in the dugout. I am sure the young guys do every day. The big tall veteran general walking around, shaved head, beard, sunglasses, commanding voice. His leadership and presence in the dugout is a big boost to a searching team. Only if he could take the mound and just scream and stare down the hitter. I am hopeful for his 2014 season. I still want him here.
Finally…other topics. 2,065 words later.
See Kick-Ass 2 if you want the anti-superhero action flick. Check out the first one. It’s a wildly fresh take on regular people taking the crime fight to the bad guys while suffering the consequences of their heroic actions. Seems stupid but it’s quite fun and refreshing.
Skip the Butler. Grab a book on the civil rights movement and move on. It’s a 2 hour 12 minute bore.
My interview with director D.J. Caruso is posted on my website. He’s a good guy and a man who cares. Sent me a couple kind messages. His new movie, Standing UP, is a welcome change of pace for the veteran action director.
Prince Avalanche, with Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch, has an idea of what it wants to be. A quirky mood driven character piece about being lost internally while working on a road for an entire summer. Too bad the connection with the viewer is never fully made. DVD worthy.
Writing a piece tomorrow on the versatile and memorable veteran character actor Bobby Cannavale. You may know him his bit roles in film or from his recent Emmy nominated turn as Gyp Rosetti on Boardwalk Empire. By the time you read my piece on Sunday morning, you will know exactly who he is.
New crush is Alabama Shakes. A funky rock group with a ferocious lead vocal by Brittany Howard and an alternative finish. Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings are a fine comparison but this band is electric. They only have one official album(Boys and Girls) and an Itunes session release. That one album I bought yesterday and it’s incredible. Short, potent and not one song I want to skip. I have listened to it three times inside a 24 hour period. Check them out.
The Civil Wars album is also very good and apparently, very real in its making. The two lead singers aren’t currently on speaking terms and won’t tour. They got together and made an album that is as good as their first, Barton Hollow, and then split. The music is as real as it gets. And pretty damn good.
Dexter isn’t out of gas just yet. 5 episodes to go. The question remains. Does he live or die? I would be happy either way but a man like Dexter who does good deeds the dirty way needs to stick around and keeps a movie possible years down the road with the right script and director.
Boardwalk Empire returns next month. Season 3 was better than 2, which was better than 1. See where I am going here. The Steve Buscemi led prohibition drama gets better every season.
Rookie Blue isn’t a bad cop show for a network television production, but I am still dying for a premium cable network to produce a show in the vein of The Wire.
I may have to watch Breaking Bad. Twitter and personal friends are urging me to try it. I really like Bryan Cranston and AMC.
Speaking of AMC, Mark Strong’s new show, Low Winter Sun, premiered this past weekend. Adapted from the British show starring Strong, this seedy detective drama centers on two cops who kill a fellow officer and must fight off the events that follow in the aftermath. The cast is great and Strong is the heart and soul. The man’s voice is powerful enough.
Final Argument-I am getting tired of hockey nuts telling me its harder to play than baseball. Let me make this simple. I played ice hockey in high school with no experience and acquitted myself well. I scored a couple goals, learned to skate well and served as a good 4th line bruiser. Baseball isn’t something you can just pick up. Especially in the pro level. Start an experiment. Take an NHL player and start to teach him the game of baseball. Catch, hitting, fielding. The fundamentals. Take a baseball player, put him on skates and do the same with hockey. Who becomes adequate first? I am betting all my money on the baseball player learning to skate, shoot and hold his own before a hockey player can hit a moving fastball, throw a breaking ball, hit a target from a long distance or connect a round bat with a round ball. End of argument. Baseball is the hardest sport to learn at a baseball skill level.
Dan L. Buffa