A Few Words With Frank Grillo

“First movie I saw with my pop. Longest Yard with Burt Reynolds. I said “I wanna be that guy””-Frank Grillo

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On his twitter page, Frank Grillo plainly states, “I’ll fight any superhero with my bare hands.”  That’s the essence of the gifted actor and tells you all a movie loving soul needs to know about this underrated performer.   He is blunt, worthy of your attention and a lot more than “a face of film” in my opinion.  Grillo is a born and bred New Yorker just hitting the age of 50 this year and he hasn’t lost an ounce of will.  The statement could be blindly tied to his role as Crossbones in the next summer’s Marvel sequel, Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

However, when taken on its own, the Twitter bio can be placed on top of Grillo’s entire career.  He’s a fighter in this game of filmmaking and always will be.   Grillo takes on Jason Statham in this week’s Homefront and I had to chance to ask him some questions about his trade craft.

While his first role was a bit role in a 1993 film called Deadly Rivals, I remember him hitting my vision in 2002’s Minority Report playing an officer colliding with Tom Cruise’s runaway cop.  That is signature Grillo.   Bashing skulls with the pretty boy movie stars and leaving a dent in your mind long after the credits roll.   In 2011’s Warrior, Grillo played a MMA trainer who brought Joel Edgerton’s professor back to the land of hand to hand combat warriors.  You didn’t catch his face on the poster, but that isn’t the point.  The point is the performance Grillo turned in that caught critic’s and fan’s attention.  To an actor, it’s all about the work.

When I call him a character actor, Grillo respectfully disagrees and lays it out firmly but fair.  “I’m not a character actor. Who is really?  Ernest Borgnine, I guess. I’m an actor. I’ve been leading on TV and in film. You need to understand the business to understand who’s the guy and who supports. It’s not a meritocracy.  A Character actor is an old term for an actor who plays the same character.”  Again, this is blunt response and not an actor being rude.  I respect Grillo for bringing it straight with me and not phoning in the answer.

When I ask him how much time he gives to a script to hook him, he says it usually happens quickly. “First ten pages and I’m in or out. It’s a gut thing or a money thing.  If the script’s good, I’ll do anything.”  Too many actors languish on scripts until they force themselves to do it or do so at the request of their agent.  Grillo sounds like an actor who takes his career and puts it in his own hands.  There is an old school grace about him that flickers throughout his words.  He leaves the B.S. to other actors.

Grillo continues on the idea of the label of character actor being overused.  “It all has a lot to do w international value.  Those guys are brilliant. But don’t necessarily have a lot of drawing power. Not a meritocracy.”  He sounds like a guy who knows what he has to do and will just keep fighting his way through juicy roles.

I asked him who is the biggest badass he has ever faced on film and his answer is unequivocally quick.  “(Liam) Neeson.  Hands down.”  Grillo and Neeson shared the screen in the outstanding and underrated film The Grey, directed by Joe Carnahan.  There is hope that Carnahan and Grillo will remake a Charles Bronson film someday if funding comes through.

What is up next for Grillo?  A lot of versatile film fare.  In 2014 he has Demonic with Mario Bello.  Captain America: Winter Soldier.  Big Sky with Kyra Sedgewick and Bella Thorne.  A Conspiracy on Jekyll Island with Minnie Driver and John Lequizamo, Ed Westwick, Mary McCormack as well as a Direct TV series called Navy St., which Grillo compares to Warrior.

My favorite Grillo scene is clear cut.  He is magnetic in every role he takes but his role as Sarge in End of Watch involved a scene at a cop’s wedding where Grillo’s weary and wise cop tells this group of soldiers about this incident with a partner.  He tells these young men how this guy took a bullet for him and that the bullet “was mine and he took it.”  Grillo says it was “last minute” and it plays in parts during the wedding scene but it’s one of the lasting images I took from that film and I rated it my top movie of 2012.  Grillo was a big reason for that.  He was so good as Sarge you would have thought he wore that badge for years.

That’s why Grillo calls himself simply an actor.   That is what he does and he does it very well.  I implore you to check out this man’s work and get to know his name as well as his face.  He has big things ahead of him and while fighting superheroes may be involved, I personally think something a lot better awaits Grillo.

After answering these questions the day before Thanksgiving, Grillo says thank you and that my work here on him is much appreciated.   Trust me, Mr. Grillo, for this film-addict, the pleasure is all mine and it will stay that way as long as he keeps working.

Signature Frank Grillo FilmsThe Grey, End of Watch, Warrior, Homefront, Pride and Glory, Disconnect, Prison Break, and a brief stint on The Shield.

Connect with Grillo on Twitter at his handle, @FrankGrillo. 

 

Written By Dan Buffa

Film-Addict Co-Creator/Writer

@buffa82 on Twitter

Reach me at buffa82@gmail.com

(Getting to talk to Frank happened on a whim.  Truly, out of nowhere.  I praised his work in a tweet on Tuesday and he replied in gratitude and I asked him about a quick interview and he complied.  This interview was done over Twitter direct message.   A way that Twitter is powering my passionate career as well as many others.  The global ground of opportunity.)

Buffa Bullet Round

Live from KC, I am breaking out one of my favorite blog tactics.   Random fire stream of consciousness….here we go.

  • Being out in the country has it’s ups and downs but every once in a while is just what you need.   Out here in DeSoto, Kansas, there are times where I need to post a Film-Addict piece and I feel like screaming at meaningless air, but I remind myself that this is a time to relax and forget about internet service and cell phone bars.
  • Every day I look at my kid and think, “what the hell did I do to deserve such a prodigy?”  He is like me in more ways than one but also shows plenty of personality spice from his mother.   For instance, the pouty face comes from the wife.   His ability to beg.   Her too.  And the greatest thing of all.  Stopping at nothing in order to get what you want.  Vinny is a true breed of crazy and that is from the wife and I.   He is the kind of kid who gets second looks from strangers, legit smiles, friendly waves and a big chuckle when they hear his ITALIAN name.  Vincent Buffa!
  • The righteousness officers have came out in full force on the Jhonny Peralta trade with the Cardinals.   All of a sudden, any player who makes a mistake and uses PED’s doesn’t deserve a second chance or a good contract once he proves he can hit without the roids.   Peralta made a mistake in the spring of 2012 and was penalized for it.  He served his 50 games in the 2013 season and came back stronger than ever at the end of the season to help drive his team to the playoffs.   Peralta deserves as much of a chance as anybody to make a comeback.   Any Brewers fan who forgives Ryan Braun or Yankees fan who feels the need to call Andy Pettite a hall of famer can attest to the fact of second chances.   Any Braun fan will try to throw a connection between their player and Peralta, but let me clarify something.  Ryan lied when confronted about his usage and in the process ruined a man’s life(the tester who made the error with the urine sample).   Braun is a liar and a cheater.  Peralta admitted his mistake and did his time.  What’s wrong with a man coming back and earning a second chance with his ability?  Cards GM John Mozelaik wouldn’t have brought this guy into the fold for four years if he didn’t sit down with the man and look dead into his eye and make certain his misgivings were finished.  Mo and his team did their homework.  And by the way, when Peralta was on the PED’s, his production went down.   Off the enhancers, his numbers spiked this past fall.  So give up the fight moral chest beaters.  Peralta earned the right to get a big contract and his partnership with the Cards is based in logic and need and not cheat or greed.   Find a different tree to climb.
  • The Blues are more impressive this season than they have been in previous seasons.    This team is winning on the road and taking command on home ice.   David Backes is scoring goals regularly.  Jay Bouwmeester has turned into the latest genius signing of GM Doug Armstrong.   The goaltending tandem was thrown a wrench when Jaro Halak endured a beatdown in Washington, but the Slovak has bounced back and turned in three fine performances since then, including an absolute war in Boston Garden that saw our Note outlast the Stanley Cup Champion Bruins in a shootout.  Monday night was most impressive.   On home ice in their last game before the Thanksgiving break, The Blues shut out the Minnesota Wild 3-0.   They dominated the game and never let it get close to shaky.  After a Wild goal was taken back early, utility specialist Vlady Sobotka sank his 5th goal of the season and the Blues were off.   This Hitchcock built team thrives on taking away teams energy in the neutral zone and using an aggressive forecheck to control the puck in the offensive zone.   A strong defense of Bou, Jackman, Polak, Pietro and Shatty grounds the team while goal scorers like Alex Steen and playmakers like T.J. Oshie set the tables.   Veterans in Brendan Morrow and Derek Roy are doing their part but the best thing about the Blues is there isn’t a lone star on this squad.  Everybody contributes.  Every game.  Ken Hitchcock wants no passengers on this Stanley Cup train and in a conference with so many strong teams, The Blues will have to maintain this course.  For some reason I like their chances more this time around than previous seasons.   Call it game to game observation or homer syndrome.   I know what I am seeing.  Hold onto your pants as I say this.  This is a Blues team I can see contending for a Stanley Cup title.  Digest that with your turkey and gravy this week.
  • Frank Grillo is an actor you should investigate instead of basically recognize his face.   A genuinely gifted character actor known for roles in The Grey, Warrior, End of Watch, Disconnect and this week, Homefront, Grillo is true grit personified.  I will be writing about him this week along with spotlights on Woody Harrelson and the Cinemax returning series Banshee.  Look for those here and on Film-Addict.
  • The Cards aren’t done yet but they could be.   This is rare for any team but this year John Mozelaik didn’t mess around or wait on teams to dictate the pace.  Again, I praise Mozelaik for acting swiftly and getting the parts he needed for this well oiled baseball machine.   The last thing I would look for is Mo finding a bat who can play third base and second base.  Someone like Michael Young.  He can sit back now and pick from the best crops now that desperation is out of the picture.   Smart GM’s work at their own speeds.  This was the case with the Cardinals top suit here.
  • I have seen a lot of fine films the past few weeks.   Dallas Buyers Club, with two powerhouse performances from Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto.  Homefront promises a fine slice of Jason Statham action ass kicking pie.   Delivery Man is decent Vince Vaughn comedy with just enough nuance.  My personal pick for the crowd is Philomena, a heartfelt comedy starring two British pros in Judi Dench and Steve Coogan.   A true story about a former journalist helping an older woman get in touch with her long lost son touches the heart but never forgets to include a wicked sense of humor.   Dench is marvelous as usual but the actor  to watch and appreciate here is Coogan, who co-wrote and produced as well.  Playing an atheist who is helping a woman who believes in GOD even though nuns took away her child, Coogan isn’t just spilling one liners here.  He is playing an angry mad man and someone who encounters a dose of fresh grace when he helps this woman.   The film is perfect for the holidays.
  • Need a comedian to watch that will make you laugh your ass off and keep it clean so you can bring the DVD to your family holiday get together?   Rent or buy Jim Breuer’s latest standup show, And Laughter for All.    Dealing with the middle age metal head loving father/husband miseries known to many people, Breuer sprinkles in impersonations and stories about faking a bomb threat and taking his kids to a crazy safari.   It’s all money in the bag if you ask me.  Check it out.
  • When it comes to music lately, I am looking up bands with a great song and seeing what else they have to offer.   Here is a list of bands with a song you undoubtedly have heard and one I have discovered that isn’t played and deserves the airwaves.

The Lumineers-

Song You Know-“Ho Hey”

Song You Need to know-“Charlie Boy”

Mumford and Sons-Off their latest album, Babel

Song You Know-“I Will Wait”

Song You Need To Know-“Not With Haste”

The Heavy-

Song You Know-“How Do You Like Me Now”

Song You Need To Know-“Stuck”

Kings of Leon-off their latest album, Mechanical Bull

Song You Know-“Wait For Me”

Song You Need to Know-“Comeback Story”

The Black Keys-

Song You Know-“Howlin For You”

Song You Need To Know-“Sinister Kid”

I have no need to provide descriptions.  You will find out why when you find them on Youtube.   I will do future editions of this in Bullet Rounds and Music Spotlights.

  • Every time I happen to leave town, I end up firing weapons.  This time, I got to fire with my father in law, Ed.   He is basically a cool version of Lee Marvin.  We went to an outdoor range, which is my preferred setting to fire a weapon.   Indoor ranges are foggy and too shoved together to feel safe firing deadly weapons. Today I shot a 9mm Beretta and a Ruger along with a six shoot pistol.   There are few instant reliefs than firing a gun at a safe range.   Power, authority, coolness, needed skill and greatness all in one dose.
  • Suddenly, a live police chase right here in KC is breaking out.  As I write this, police are chasing a man through a rural neighborhood in Kansas City.  As we speak, he is trapped in a house and the police are closing in.   True story.
  • The Rams have made a turnaround and it started with a loss.   Yes, that’s right.  When the Rams welcomed the powerhouse NFC rival Seattle Seahawks into the Edward Jones Dome on October 28th.   They battled the current NFC best team to a 15-9 finish but had the ball near the goal line with seconds to go and with a chance to win the game.   This was Kellen Clemons first game as a starter.   This was the game where Robert Quinn and Chris Long helped the defense break out.  Now, at the time the Rams were 3-4 and not looking horrible and just lost Sam Bradford.  The Rams nearly beat the Seahawks and while they lost another close game to the Titans a week later, they have followed with their two best showings of the season against Indianapolis and Chicago.   They wrecked havoc on Andrew Luck and the playoff bound Colts 38-8 and after a bye week beat up the Jay Cutler-less Bears 42-21.  What triggered this turnaround?  An established reliance on the running game, which found footing where Zac Stacy was inserted into the starting role on October 6th against Jacksonville.  That is where the seed was planted.  Jeff Fisher and Brian Schottenheimer deciding to use this turnaround in the season to reset the emphasis on smashmouth football.  Clemens doesn’t feel the pressure to win games by himself and Tavon Austin has gotten unleashed lately.  Jared Cook is catching passes again.  Robert Quinn is turning into a young Reggie White on defense and suddenly the Rams are getting ahead in games and dictating the pace.   What lies ahead?  Matchups with The 49ers, Cards and Seahawks on the road with home matches against Tampa Bay and New Orleans.   Sure, there may be 1 win in there in foresight but this team has proved anything is possible.   Winning without their starting QB is a huge step forward for a franchise that couldn’t win with 5 different QB’s and 3 different head coaches and 6 different offensive coordinators.  The Rams could finish with 6 wins but take into account their losses and it’s a miraculous feat.  Rams football is truly exciting again and it doesn’t revolve or Bradford or Steven Jackson alone.

I end with this.   Remember Grillo, the actor I told you to follow but probably have already forgot.   Well, get his name in your head.   Today, I made contact with him on Twitter and will write an in depth Q & A session that I will post on my site here and Film-Addict.  This is why I soldier on with Film-Addict even though a profit hasn’t been made and isn’t in sight.  Getting the chance to interact with actors and filmmakers who make the magic happen.   That drives me every day.

That’s all I got.  Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for reading this.

-Dan L. Buffa

@buffa82 on Twitter

Reach me at buffa82@gmail.com 

 

Hello Jhonny Peralta

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Quick take reaction to the close to finalized signing by the Cardinals of free agent Jhonny Peralta.

First, let me commend John Mozeliak for showing urgency in resolving the needs of this team.  He tested the trade market and found a match for David Freese and improved his horribly 2013 ranked outfield defense with Peter Bourjos.  However, when it came to finding a shortstop, the requests of teams seemed to be too much for Mo to bear.   So he went to the free agent market and found a decent acquisition in Jhonny Peralta.   For money that will be 4 years for around 52 million, Peralta will take over at short until the 2018 season.   This is a quality acquisition.

Did Mo overpay for the guy?  In my opinion, he did not overpay and basically met the market demands while improving his team drastically.  Take away the .230 hitting combo of Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma and enter the .300 hitting Peralta who is capable of cranking 20 home runs.

Sometimes the price can’t be measured by the player you get but by the market he exists in.   On the market, you had overrated Scott Boras represented Stephen Drew and you had Peralta.   Mo wisely picked the latter who could provide his team with pop and a glove that provided a .988 fielding percentage as recently as 2012.  I do not love this deal but it has grown on me over the last 18 hours.   Let’s break it down.

Peralta isn’t young.  He is a 10 year MLB veteran with time split between Cleveland and Detroit who is 31 years old and will finish the proposed Cardinals deal at 35.   That presents concerns going forward but it’s what he has done with the bat that provides the biggest upside here.   Four times in his career, he has hit 20 or more home runs.   As recently as 2011, Peralta hit 21 home runs, drove in 86 runs, and hit .299.    He doesn’t score a lot of runs and strikes out a lot.  He has played 140 or more games in 8 of his 10 seasons.  At his best, his on base percentage is around .350.   At his best, he is around 4 wins above his replacement.   I see this guy and I see somewhat of enigma.   He didn’t have a good 2012 season when it came to batting average but he produced 13 HR and 63 RBI.  In 2013, he hit .303 with 11 HR and 55 RBI in only 107 games.  He gives you pop, a decent average and someone who can make plays in the field.   This isn’t an overwhelming player by any means but one who can thrive in the right surroundings.

Peralta helped his offseason cause by hitting .333 in the 2013 postseason with 10 hits while playing shortstop and left field.

For people who hate the money in the deal, would you rather us give up Shelby Miller, Matt Adams or Carlos Martinez in order to acquire J.J. Hardy?  Do you want to take on Andrus’ 120 million and give up 3-4 players in return?   This signing signifies how badly Mozeliak wanted to hang onto his young talent and not bend over backwards for other teams demands.  Mozeliak surveyed the market and made his choice.   You can tell he wasn’t going to give away a player like Adams, whom Mo coveted, to anyone and in the end the asking price for a shortstop under team control was too steep.

Peralta solves a problem at shortstop for the Cardinals.   He isn’t anyone’s first choice for the job but he will be a fine improvement and fill a need.   He gives you an offensive upgrade at a position left out in the cold by the Cards for too long.   No more Pete Kozma or Daniel Descalso.   Expect Peralta to get 155 starts if his body can hold up.   He is the shortstop for the next four years.

Inside 3 days, Mozeliak solved two needs.  Outfield defense and shortstop offense.   Those problems have been solved.    And guess what?   The Cards didn’t part with one single piece of their heavily equipped young arsenal of talent.    That is the best part about the Peralta deal.

I expect our GM to sit back  now and survey the trading/free agent landscape for a couple smaller deals or possible trades but he doesn’t HAVE to do anything.   His needs have been filled.  This team didn’t have many holes to begin with.  The Cards are ready to contend again.   This year The Birds will have Oscar Taveras.   The Cards could have Stephen Piscotty in the outfield as well.   They will have Bourjos and Wong in the same lineup giving pitchers problems.  Matt Adams and Allen Craig patrolling first base.  Matt Carpenter back at third base.   Holliday in left.  And a most valuable asset behind the plate in Yadi Molina.   A pitching staff including at least 7 starting candidates with a loaded bullpen.   Things are good in Cardinal Nation and it’s not even Thanksgiving.

Well done, Mo.   Peralta is a producer and somewhat with an element of surprise.   He comes here with the Cards not having to hand over a draft pick to the Indians and no players on their current roster.   Before you cry out about other players or the money, remember what Mozelaik didn’t give up.

That’s all for now.  Have a great Sunday!

Thanks for reading this,

Dan L. Buffa

@buffa82 on Twitter

buffa82@gmail.com

Pacquiao Aims For Redemption

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Boxing can be a brutal sport to watch because of the physical toll as well as the head game effect.   Some fans forget to notice the grinding sensation that fighting has on the mentality of fighters.   Sure, two guys step into a ring for a living and allow their fists to the be the judge, but for me it’s the action that goes on between the head before and after a fight that leaves me fascinated.  While a swollen eye or broken jaw can have a residual effect on a person’s life, how long does their psyche need to recover?  An example.   How do you come back from being knocked out cold with one punch during a fight you were seemingly winning on all cards?  This is the struggle that the former champion Manny Pacquiao faces when he steps into the ring tonight against the rugged straight forward brawler Brandon Rios.

Let me first point out to you that I am a huge Pac-Man fan.  He is the reason I got back into boxing 5 years ago.   As a kid, I was wooed by it when watching it with my dad.  I watched Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvin Hagler beat the crap out of each other.  I was one of the few people who predicted Evander Holyfield could take down Mike Tyson, literally and figuratively.   I wasn’t surprised when George Foreman, overweight and near the end, stopped Michael Moore with one punch and shocked the world.  I was a kid who grew up loving the Rocky movies and so I loved boxing in real life.    While the 6th Rocky movie helped reopen that invigorating aura of the fighting world, it was a short Filipino beast that got me back into the game.  The only way to understand Pac is to relive his story and rise to power.  Sometimes you have to unleash everything in someone’s tale in order to create something worth caring about.

Pacquiao helped pull me back into the sport when he began his remarkable run by destroying and ending the career of Oscar De La Hoya.   There was something about the way this guy fought that was ferocious.   A boxer that started out around 115 pounds and won titles in 8 different weight categories, Manny was dynamic.   He destroyed Ricky Hatton, a former champion who had only been stopped by Floyd Mayweather Jr..  While Floyd needed 10 rounds to finish Hatton, Manny took him down in the second round.   He loved to fight bigger guys.  He beat Antonio Margarito up and help the slow decline of his career.  He beat Miguel Cotto into submission in the 11th round.  He toyed with a defensive prone Joshua Clottey and won.    There was also a fight with Timothy Bradley that I will get to a little later.

However, if anyone knows Pacquiao deep enough, they know his career will forever be defined by his fights with the Mexican champion Juan Manuel Marquez.   Two guys who always stood in the middle of the ring and banged for the duration of the fight, Pac and JMM were made for each other.   Pac was the aggressive hunter and Marquez was the calm and collected counter puncher.  Manny knocked him down three times in the first fight before Marquez made a late charge but still lost.  The second time they fought, it was ruled a draw and I agree because both men got in their fair share of kill shots.   In the third fight(and most controversial) Marquez was beating Pacquiao on most cards before taking his foot off the gas in the final few rounds, thus allowing Manny to score a few shots and get closer to a victory himself.   Pacquiao won the fight and this angered many boxing fans who felt who Marquez was cheated.  The fourth fight, which took place last December, is now the only fight anyone remembers.

The most action packed of the fights, each fighter exchanged knockdowns in the first 4 rounds.  However, as the 5th and 6th round were unfolding, Pacquiao was starting to brutally pummel Marquez and opened up cuts around his eyes and busted his nose open.   As Marquez would later admit, he was having a hard time breathing with all the blood in his nasal department.   However, in the closing seconds of round 6, Pac went in for the big kill shot and when he did he left his feet and Marquez, crotched and ready to fire back, hit Manny with a legendary and magical counter hook to the middle of the face that knocked out the Filipino star cold.   As one Grantland writer at ringside said, it was like you were watching Manny and then suddenly, he was gone.   Watching it on my computer, I was shocked.  It woke my wife up.  Manny was on the canvas for at least 20 seconds or possibly 35 seconds.   Marquez raised his hands while Manny’s were at his sides.  Watching it, I remember comparing it to seeing a king fall from the throne.   I had never seen Manny knocked out much less knocked out cold.   I didn’t think it was possible.  However, there he was.  Pacquiao came to, and after getting checked out at a local hospital, was fine.  He took a year off, but couldn’t be farther from people’s minds when discussing where his fight game was.  This is where people get short sighted and miss something.

Manny is 34 years old, so he is getting up there and edging closer to the end of the line.  A man can only let his body take so much punishment.   However, saying he has lost it is premature and incorrect.   Take the fight before the 4th Marquez fight, a battle with Tim Bradley.   For 12 rounds, Manny dominated Bradley and rarely got into trouble.   He punched the undefeated fighter at will and appeared to be running away on the scorecards.  I watched every single second of this round on my television.  Manny beat up Bradley and I may have given Timothy 2-3 rounds at best.  When the scorecards were read, Bradley was the winner.   Duane Ford was the judge who scored it easily for Bradley and after the fight there wasn’t a single analyst who passed up the opportunity to rip this inept judge.  The dangers of boxing lie in the inability of the judges to get a decision right.   This was a the bad luck charm hitting Manny.   Add this to the single punch knockout from Marquez and this is what people describe as the downfall of the former champ.

It’s fair to question Pacquiao after his 3rd fight shaky win over Marquez.  He didn’t look right in that fight at all.  However, take away horrible judging in the Bradley fight and the one punch from Marquez and Manny could have easily stayed on his cruise control career.   That’s boxing.  It can be severely blunt and careers can be derailed.  With two bouts of misfortune, Manny is fighting for his career and his respect tonight against Rios.

This isn’t a cake walk by any means.  Sure, Rios is a childish filthy talking moronic street fighter, but he can hit hard and he likes being punched hard in return.   In his own words, he has to be punched in order to know he is in a fight.  He’s crazy in that particular way.  Rios had his own memorable clash in the ring, splitting two fights with Mike Alvarado this past year.  He nearly lost a decision to Richard Abril.   Rios isn’t a world class fighter because he hasn’t fought anybody worth a second glance outside of Alvarado and Abril.   He is a brawler with a 31-1 record who exists as a dangerous redemptive stepping stone for Pacquiao.   Top Rank CEO Bob Arum selected this fight with the help of Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach because this is a guy born and bred for Manny to take on.   That doesn’t make it easy but merely sets up a fighter with a fighter who will keep coming forward and theoretically play into his gameplan.  Pacquiao’s problem lies with deceptive counter punchers.  Rios is not that.  He is a head leaning forward little punk who wants to scrap and is set to get caught in Pac-Man’s trap.

Manny, in my opinion, has too much lateral head movement and can land combinations from so many angles that he should slowly take Rios apart.  However, this is boxing and no one knows where Pacquiao’s head is after the past 2 fights.   My guess is he is ready to put the recent history behind him and carve a new path by pounding on a kid who wants to take his spot one day near the top.  If I am Manny, I put my foot out and kick this kid back down the pile to the bottom of the heap.

Sure, there are fireworks between the two camps.   Roach doesn’t like Rios’ trainer Robert Garcia and that extends from the Pacquiao-Margarito fight where the Garcia trained Margarito and Rios put out a video mocking Roach’s Parkinson’s on camera.   It also extends from two trainers who think they are the best.   Alex Ariza, formerly the fitness trainer for Pacquiao, is now in Rios’ camp and shares a nasty disdain for Roach.    There was an altercation at the gym in Macoo, China this week where the two camps waged war over scheduled training time.   Ariza mocked Roach’s Parkinson’s and also made fun of another man’s sexual orientation.   In my mind, Ariza is the scum of the earth and should be thrown into the ring to face Pacquiao tonight.  These, however, are simply fireworks.

Tonight, around 1030pm, Pacquiao and Rios step into the ring and settle the dispute with their fists.  At the core of every boxing match lies a dispute or conflict of interests.  Two men standing toe to toe with each other, wanting what the other one has.  Can Pacquiao put aside his Congressional duties in the Philippines in order to deal with his obligation in the ring?   The only thing stopping Manny from becoming great again is himself and his overloaded schedule.    You can’t be half a boxer in this world.  Manny has to keep his entire focus on the opponent and put aside his worries for his country, which was rocked by a typhoon recently.  If he has to, see Rios as the typhoon that is attempting to destroy your own career.  See him as the man looking to demolish and take everything you have.  That has to be first and foremost on Pacquiao’s plate.

Tonight, on the other side of the world, Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios will put aside the outside noise and distractions and face off in the ring.  While the outcome is up in the air, there will be blood.   These two fighters will throw hard punches and rock each other.   They will not run away or dance in the ring.  They will let it all fly and whoever walks away with standing tall deserves the right to continue as a big name in boxing.  The other shall fall away from the sport rather quietly.

This is why I love boxing.   It’s a marriage between a person and the sport that is built on the craving for action but also the humanistic idea that these are two moral beings duking it out in the ring.  There’s an appreciation for the sweet science as well as the human emotion.  You never know what’s going to happen.   That is why I watch.

Thanks for reading this,

Dan L. Buffa

@buffa82 on Twitter

Reach me at buffa82@gmail.com.

 

Chris Carpenter Finally Steps Down

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For some players, the game of baseball requires a heightened sense of intensity.   While others merely play the game as well as they can and do it hard every day, they don’t come close to the ferocity of Chris Carpenter, who I have had the pleasure of watching drape his brooding figure in Cardinal Red since 2004.   His story is truly authentic and special because he was deemed damaged goods in Toronto after 6 seasons of disappointment and he quickly flipped the switch in his first year here.  A shoulder surgery tragedy walking into Busch Stadium, Carpenter leaves his career in the same place as one of the best pitchers in the history of the franchise.   That remarkable run came to an end on Wednesday, when Cardinals General Manager John Mozelaik officially announced that Carpenter was retiring.

A quiet dignified exit for one of the Cards greats is appropriate.   Like a gruff old cowboy, Carp prefers to just get on his old horse and quietly ride out of town without a clear cut goodbye.   His career is similar to another former Cardinal, Jim Edmonds, in that both players enjoyed dominant seasons in patches but probably lack the overall numbers to stand out to the stat monsters standing at the doors of the Hall of Fame.  However, as I’ve said many times, I will take the player who was dominant for a shorter period of time than players who were simply good over a longer period.  That’s just me.  Take 2004, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2011 of Carpenter and match them against other sure fire pitching Hall of Fame likely arms.  Go ahead and do it.  Two separate three year periods.

Carpenter’s greatness stretched farther than stats and goes into the intangibles and complexities of the game that many analysts miss.   He was a great teammate because he demanded his fellow players follow his work ethic and cut the shit.   He had no time for excuses and helped nurture Adam Wainwright into his successor.    He was blunt with the media and as tough as they come.  When he couldn’t contribute with his arm, he lent his mind and expertise to the manager and his teammates in 2007, 2008 and 2013.   When his body didn’t cooperate, Carpenter just hit the rehab highway even harder.  How many pitchers extend their career by having a piece of their rib inserted around their clavicle/neck area?   Carpenter did that.   He tore his triceps.  He had several shoulder surgeries.  He underwent Tommy John Surgery and missed nearly 2 seasons.  He just wouldn’t go away.

Take Carpenter away and The Cardinals probably don’t win the 2006 and 2011 World Series titles.   In 2006, he started 5 games, won 3 of them and compiled a 2.78 ERA.  In 2011, he was superhuman.  After dominating opposing hitters in September to literally carry his team to a last minute playoff berth, Carpenter went berserk in the playoffs.  He was 4-0 and while his ERA was higher(3.25), no one in baseball will ever forget his Game 5 clash in the NLDS with fellow ace and close friend, Roy Halladay.   Clinging to a 1-0 lead, Carpenter shut down the Phillies in their own park and when it was all said and done, he unleashed a primal scream that may have shaken the Rocky statue.  In the World Series, he made the famous dive for first base in Game 1 against the Rangers.  He went out on 3 days of rest to pitch Game 7 and delivered a quality start to help the Cards clinch their 11th title.  He was 10-4 with a 3.00 ERA  lifetime in the playoffs. Carpenter was all guts and glory in his prime.

He was ferocious on the mound.   He once made Starlin Castro and Hanley Rameriz cry a little during a game.   He screamed at opposing hitters from the mound, ripped himself apart at times and carried a general disdain for his right arm when it wasn’t throwing pitches where he intended them to go.  Carpenter was old school and truly one of a kind.  Whatever his body took away from him, he gave back in attitude, confidence and sheer menace.  His type of competitive intensity comes along maybe once a decade.

I watched him pitch for 2 seasons while I worked the final 2 years of the Manual Scoreboard at the original Busch Stadium.  He is still the best pitcher I have ever seen pitch live.  He wasn’t like the majority of pitchers who got the ball back from the catcher between pitches and seemed to look at it like a Rubik’s cube.  He got it and threw it.  I liked that about him.  Why wait an extra 5 seconds if you know what the heck you are doing?   Carpenter was all business and didn’t let feelings get involved.  I will miss watching him pitch.  I will miss his slow methodical walk from the mound after a decent if not great inning.  I will miss his double fist pump after a huge out.   I will miss him making hitters sweat because they weren’t sure if Carp was simply doing his job or holding a gladiator like grudge.    There aren’t many pitchers who finish with 144 wins and hold a place in so many people’s minds.

I hope Carp takes a little time off and resets his clock to prepare for a long coaching career.   I think he belongs in the dugout with the players more so than the office with the suits.  He needs to stay close to the stink of the game, the intensity streaming inside him, and become a full time mentor to younger players.   He will teach young pitchers how Cardinals are supposed to treat the game and themselves.  He will help weaker minds with the mental grind.  When someone gets hurt, he can tell them a lot of worthy stories about staying positive.  Chris Carpenter has a lot to offer and I don’t think he will be able to stay away for too long.  He is like Brett Farve.  He has little time for a broadcasting job.  He doesn’t want the bright lights flashed on him while sitting next to Pat Parris or Orel Hersisher.  He wants a half full bag of sunflower seeds to tuck in his back pocket and a shaved head to lurk under his tightly wound wool cap.   Chris Carpenter isn’t done with baseball yet.  He is simply done pitching.

This is truly the end of an era and a bittersweet moment in Cardinals history.  All good things do eventually come to an end.  Now is the time to revisit his greatest moments while he reloads the body and mind before his coaching career takes off.

Also, there are perks to knowing someone inside the organization.  On the day his retirement was announced, I got an email from the Cardinals about a request I made to my friend inside.  A signed Carpenter 2011 World Series baseball arrived today.   It will become my proudest Cardinal possession instantly.

Thanks for reading this,

Dan L. Buffa

@buffa82 on Twitter

Reach me at buffa82@gmail.com

The Bourjos-Freese Trade Instant Breakdown

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Quick reaction as the Cards complete a trade with The Angels that sends David Freese and Fernando Salas to the LA for Peter Bourjos and a minor league hitter by the name of Randal Grichuk.   Right as I finished 24/7 on HBO of the Pacquiao/Rios fight, I was bombarded with tweets, alerts and updates that had this trade was being sent down to print.  Here is my instant reaction.  Like it or not.  Take it or leave it.  It’s coming your way now.

I like the deal all around.   I like Bourjos and his defensive ability in center field and the fact that he brings an element of speed to this lineup.  Since the Cards may be out of the running on Elvis Andrus, Bourjos brings that speed factor we need.  This guy stole 22 bases 2 years ago  and can do it again.  In limited duty, he was 6-6 in thefts last year.   Sure, he won’t drive in as many runs as Jon Jay but he is a defensive upgrade over the previous Cards center field incumbent.  Peter Bourjos is a relatively young player at 26 years old and can boost our outfield.   With Carlos Beltran gone, the team needs a defensive minded player out there who can take control.   Bourjos has a better arm than Jay and a lot better range.   In 2011, he slapped 11 triples in 147 games and hit .271.   His first three seasons have been injury filled, and last year he only played 55 games  so there is a risk there.   However, Bourjos, when healthy, is a good player.  His 4.8 WAR(wins above replacement) in 2011 was among the league leaders and something to look at.   It’s shameful to think he can’t repeat what he did in 2011.

He isn’t going to light up the scoreboard or knock homers out of Busch but he is a player that will easily fit in the Cardinals mold and bring a different element to this team.  He isn’t perfect and did strike out 124 times in 2011 but he has an upside that can’t be ignored.   What does this do for Jon Jay?  That isn’t a really important question.  Jay could stay on as a bench player/backup OF or go elsewhere to start.  The bigger question is, what role do the Cards have prescribed for Bourjos?  Is he an everyday player or a supplemental player?  Does this mean Oscar Taveras is being targeted for RF or will he share CF with this new Cardinal?   Does the trade keep Allen Craig at lB if Oscar goes to right field?  And if so, where does Matt Adams go.  Surely, John Mozeliak said in September that he doesn’t want Adams blocked anymore.   Mo wants the big man to get 500-600 at bats.  The question is…does he want to see that in a Cards uniform or another uniform?  Is Adams in play for a shortstop?  The Bourjos acquisition opens things up.

Freese could rebound and replicate the 2012 season he had or he could sink further down the rabbit hole into a platoon position.   Getting out of his pressure packed hometown that can’t get Game 6 of the 2011 World Series out of its head will help.   Freese joins Albert Pujols out in LA and may carve a new name for himself that won’t affect us unless the teams meet in the World Series.   If he rebounds, good for him.  He was a great return investment on the Jim Edmonds trade and exceeded expectations.  Could the Cards have gotten more for Freese?  Yes and no.   It’s hard to tell.  The most important thing is that Freese needed a new spot and The Cards got a valuable piece in return.  Freese can now get a full serving of AL West pitching and see where he lands.  I truly do wish him well.

Salas was becoming a hard contact pitcher and may see a rebirth or demise in the dangerous American League grounds.  I couldn’t care less about him.  He was washed up.

More details and takes will come out.  I am sure they will involve more numbers than mine but what I am giving here is my instant analysis.   I like Bourjos and I like that the outfield gets a defensive boost and the lineup gets a little speed.  Freese departing is a little sad because of what he did here and how far I thought he could travel up in the ranks of third basemen but most sports feel good stories don’t end well.  Sometimes they wrap up bittersweet.

This also moves Matt Carpenter back to third base and hopefully moves the speedy defensive wizard Kolten Wong into second base.  Along with Bourjos and Oscar, Wong could help transform this Cards lineup into something fierce and quick.  I am excited about what this trade has brought the Cards and the minor leaguer we received is basically filler but promising nonetheless.  A 5 year pro who is only 22 who bashed 22 HR in AA ball last year.

As the least, the Bourjos acquisition is intriguing because of how it sets up the Cards moving forward and how it improved our center field defense.

Until the next bit of news drops, I am out of here.

-Dan Buffa

@buffa82 on Twitter

Reach me at buffa82@gmail.com

Peoria Fundraiser For Tornado Victims in Illinois

Readers,

As a result of the devastating tornadoes that struck down in Peoria, Illinois last week, the Cardinals Midwest League affiliate is having an auction to raise money for the victims.   These acts of mother nature can wipe a family’s house  away in mere seconds and destroy lives, so they need all they help they can get.  This is a way you can help and also collect some fine memorabilia for your baseball trophy room.

Here are some of the items being sold.  The auction currently includes great Cardinals items including baseballs autographed by Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Tony La Russa, Willie McGee, Lee Smith, David Freese and Joe Kelly; a hat signed by Matt Adams; Allen Craig and Yadier Molina jerseys; and a Chris Carpenter game-used bat.

More auction items will be added as they are received, including tickets for several 2014 games from the Cardinals plus items from the Cubs, Bears, Blackhawks and other Midwest League teams.

The auction is ongoing — and the holidays are coming. Great gift ideas for your favorite people and, more importantly, all proceeds support the victims of last Sunday’s tornadoes.

Check out the Chiefs online auction here and sign up to start bidding.   Help someone out while providing another with a great gift.

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Thanks for reading this,

Dan Buffa