30 Minutes to Speak

While the idea of a nap here on my break sounds sexy enough to consider, I am going to plug in here and fire away on a few topics.   30 minute rant starting now. 

Cards-Phillies At Busch Factors

*Jaime Garcia’s head.   He has a ton of talent and is pitching in only his 2nd full season in the majors, but Garcia gives you reason to worry tonight.   Will Garcia keep his head or lose it after a bad umpire call or a misplay behind him?  Garcia is known to combust easily in 2011 and if he loses his cool, the edge follows right along with it and this game could be lost.  If Garcia can keep it together and provide the team with 6-7 profitable innings, the Cards have a decent chance to win this game.  Garcia needs to do his own part, keep the pace with Cole Hamels and give his team a chance or I would consider his 2011 season an overall disappointment.   That’s how one bad start in the playoffs can swing a season around.   Garcia failed the team last week in Houston.  Which Jaime shows up tonight?  He has held Philly to 0.96 ERA in four starts and pitches well at home, but nobody knows which Garcia arrives tonight.  If you know, tell somebody.

*I am not afraid of Cole Hamels.  While his 2011 campaign was impressive, I believe this crafty lefty can be beat on  his mistakes.  Hamels changeup is devastating but his fastball is flat and was pummeled for 9 home runs in September, including a key 2 run blast handed over to Dan Uggla on Wednesday in a tie game.  Hamels picks the wrong time to dish out the heater, and hitters are jumping all over it.   Allen Craig cranked 2 Hamels fastballs out for home runs in the September series in Philidephia.  Hamels is a tough pitcher and has the ability to shut a team down but a good lineup can beat him if they attack his first pitch fastball.  

*Did Sunday’s comeback shake the foundation of the Phillies?  Yes.   I believe after 3 innings on Sunday, with Cliff Lee guiding a 4-0 game into the middle portion of the game, that Phillies fans were setting up for the NLCS and the team was already setting their sights on the next round.   NLDS champ shirts were being made and scouts were being dispatched to Milwaukee, and then the Cards came back.   When handed a lead of 4-0 or better, Cliff Lee was 97-1 before Sunday’s meltdown.  The Cards comeback wasn’t built on a blast but on small ball warfare.   Leadoff singles, walks, a double, and key 2 out hits.   Ryan Theriot cranking a RBI hit down the line.  Albert Pujols hitting an RBI single to put the Cards on top.  When the entire baseball world was forgetting about the Cardinals, they roared back and stole the game.  The same goes for the regular season.  Many pundits wrote off the Cards at the end of August, and we came back.   Story of the season.  Comeback Cards.

*If we can find a way to beat Philly and the Tigers can put the Yankees down, the East Powerhouse franchises would be out of the playoffs.  Television reps and sponsors would go nuts because their favorite teams to put on national television would be out.   Phillies, New York and Boston.   I’m not saying it will happen, but it would be great to see it happen.  Good for baseball to have an unexpected matchup in the pennant and World Series. 

*I’ve said it a few times and I’ll say it again.  With Matt Holliday out, its vital to this team that Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman come up big in this series.   They have to be the foundation of assault.   If they go 0-8, there’s a good chance The Cardinals lose that game. 

*Another thing about Holliday.  If he isn’t healthy enough to throw a baseball or swing a bat with his usual force, sit him down.   The Cards are lucky to have a hot hitting backup in Craig, so feel nothing about sitting Holliday for the rest of this round.   Holliday hurt a tendon in his right hand and can’t do anything without pain.  Instead of risking a rough night in left field, sit Holliday and get him rested.  It’s been an unfortunate season for Matt, but now isn’t the time to push a hurt player.

*What will La Russa do tonight to sink his teeth into the outcome of this game?  Pitching Carpenter on 3 days rest nearly lost the series, so I’m wondering how many pitches Jaime gets before La Russa inserts Arthur Rhodes into the game or starts rolling down his list of masturbation matchups.   TLR is a great manager but a master of disaster as well.  Seek shelter.

That’s all on the Cards. 

A Few Words on the Rams(trust me, only a few)

*Free Agent Productivity-The Rams made small low key moves in the offseason and after a fourth of their schedule, there is little impact.   Guard Harvey Dahl isn’t blocking anyone, after being named a beast in preseason.   Outside linebacker Ben Leber is being dragged 5 yards by running backs.  Cadillac Williams has had modest success but hasn’t did anything spectacular.   Jerius Norwood is missing so far.  Michael Sims Walker is a non factor at wide receiver.  He has accumulated 5 fantasy points so far, which comes out to 100 yards and zero touchdowns.   This team went small and it isn’t paying off at the moment.  I still wonder why this team wasn’t in line to spend money on a cornerback in the offseason.  Stan Kroneke has the cash, so why not spill.   A big miss so far.

*After their bye week on Sunday, the Rams play the Packers, Cowboys and Saints.   A tough stretch that may see the Rams end up at 1-7 at best before the first half concludes.  The Rams can possibly sneak out a win in Dallas, but stand little chance against Green Bay and New Orleans.  After, the Rams face a stretch of 9 games where they have a considerable chance to bring home at least 6-7 wins.   I’m saying there is a chance.   The way they have played in the first four games, I can’t tell you anything for certain with this team.   After the Saints, the Rams face the Cardinals on November 6 and follow with 5 games against their division, The Browns, Bengals and finish with the Steelers.  That 8 game stretch will decide if we finish with a playoff hope or with any ounce of dignity.  As I told you in July, the Rams chances come down to divisional play. 

*Sam Bradford is suffering from Marc Bulger syndrome right now. Unless the Rams find him some help or protect him better, he will be looking over his shoulder all the time.  A talented young kid will be damaged.  At the very least, the Rams need to protect Bradford for the future of their franchise.  Damage control is important here.

A Quick round of bits-

  • I’d kill someone right now, but I am not a fan of tight spaces, like a jail cell.   If I had to do, I’d take the shank over the rape.
  • Key Traits of Being A Dad-Mastering the feeding.   When feeding a newborn, you have to keep a firm hold on their drunk neck, tilt their body up, and jam the bottle into their mouth.  Yes, I said jam.  Whether he likes it or not, there’s a schedule and the kid needs to eat.  Normally, he gets 2-3 ounces every 3 hours but since my son wants to eat like Sinbad, he is taking in around 4 and still sucking on thumbs like there is no tomorrow.   After they are done there, the idea is holding them for 20 minutes so they don’t spit up the greatness all over your face.   After, the hard part begins.  Getting them to relax and go to sleep.   Vincent likes to stay awake and just stare at you.  Babies are masters of the stare.  He’s too cute to get mad at but you get restless when he has been done feeding for 30 minutes and he won’t go down.   Being a parent is an endurance test.  
  • The Cards early start today means I am going home straight after work.  That’s good news here.  I honestly hate going to the gym after work.  I definitely feel anger towards other people at the gym after work.  I don’t like people who stare, hog a machine or walk in my space or attempt to share a locker next to mine and talk on their phone for 20 minutes while their cock flies around my head.  It’s not cool.     Call me lazy but after grinding out 8 hours(its always a grind), I just want to go home, see my kid, pop a drink and relax.   If I could get my body to agree with me, I would work out in the morning and run at lunch.  The gym is a ghost town in the morning, and that’s the way I like it.  However, I am still sleeping in too much.  I need to link up my head with my body.  It’s a work in progress. 

That’s all I have for now.  A quick burst of attitude and ideas before I run at lunch.   3 easy miles around Kirkwood.  Until the next time I need to discuss what’s in my head, I’m lowering the curtain.

Thanks for reading,

DLB

 

 

 

Advertisements

Monday Blues Therapy Session

Pardon my french, ladies and gents, but its fucking Monday.   Nobody likes Monday.   It’s the stinky bitch in the flower shop.  The slow clerk on drinking night.  The person at the laundry mat who doesn’t understand personal space, breath mints or believe in body soap.  Monday’s suck.   The adjustment period is longer than usual, the nerves are raw and the mood swings like a gazelle.  My words aren’t going to turn your day around, but they may work faster than coffee.  I dish it one way here.  Brutal and coldly honest.  There are no lies here.  While I’m not always right, I’m firm.  This is the gunslinger nerve center of news production.   I don’t pull any punches, especially when I see blood dripping.  Lets get started, shall we?

News of the Moment…

-Cards Win

-Rams Lose

-Obama changes his suit

-Martha Stewart’s daughter bitches about a strict childhood

Goodnight, right?  No fucking way.  I must investigate and explain everything, and find an answer to everything.  It’s a condition Bill Simmons likes to call “what I do”.  Lets roll down the list.

Cards Steal A Win in Philly

Something tells me people will double check the box score for evidence that this team came back from a 4-0 deficit to beat Cliff Lee.   Lee established a hittable strike zone early, and the Cards pounced after Chris Carpenter’s ill fated 3 day rest experiment failed and produced a 4-0 Phillies lead.  Ryan Theriot got a key hit, the bullpen acted like the red cross and Albert Pujols put the Cards on top for good for a 5-4 win.  Allow me fire off the details.

*Carpenter’s 3 day rest start didn’t work out well.  From the first signs of fatigue(three hitters reaching before an out), Carp didn’t look sharp.   Sunday’s start was the first on 3 days rest, and historically, starters going on 3 days of rest don’t fare too well.   The previous 6 starters who pitched on 3 days of rest for Tony La Russa carried an 18.00 ERA(thank you Bj Rains).  Carpenter lasted 3 innings, threw 60 plus pitches and looked a shade of the man who dominated the Astros days earlier.   While I supported the move on Friday when it was announced, I second guessed myself last night.   Why upset a working machine that produced quality starts for the past 2 weeks?  Throwing Carp out there told us La Russa had zero confidence in Edwin Jackson making a solid start.  Jackson has been just as consistent as Carp since late July, so it makes zero sense.  If anyone could go on 3 days rest here, it was Carp, but why here?  Carpenter threw 106 pitches on Wednesday and was tired.  Bad idea, genius Tony.

*After stranding 3 key runners in the first part of the game, the Cards bang out clutch hit after clutch hit.  A Yady Molina single, Ryan Theriot’s double and Jon Jay’s single pull the score even before Albert Pujols cranks an RBI single to put the Cards up 5-4.  After failing to get a key hit, the Cards break through on Lee in the 6th and 7th innings.   Charlie Manuel will second guess leaving Lee in to face Albert before the big hit.

*The Bullpen rescued Carp and La Russa.   6 scoreless innings with only one hit allowed.  Fernando Salas pitched 2 quick solid innings, Octavio Dotel followed with an inning and a third, Marc Rzepcynski pitched 1.2 innings, Arthur Rhodes got 2 outs and Jason Motte recorded 4 outs on 9 pitches for the save.  Motte threw 9 strikes, including a 3 pitch blowout of Raul Ibanez in the 9th.  Rhodes threw a nasty curve to put down Ryan Howard in the 8th as well.   A suspect bunch early in the season has become a valuable weapon for weak starter work late in the season.  After blowing a 6-3 game wide open on Saturday, the Cards bullpen recovers to give the bats a chance to get back into the game.

*Lance Berkman put it best.  Anyone who is surprised by the comeback belongs to the same group who counted us out on September 1st while we were 8.5 games back of the wild card.

*Sunday’s win sends us home for a Tuesday and Wednesday game.  Jaime Garcia faces Cole Hamels on Tuesday in a vital game that decides the swing of the series before Edwin Jackson takes the mound for Game 4, leaving Game 5 up to Kyle Lohse if it is needed.  That’s the real problem with throwing Carp on 3 days rest.  He doesn’t get to start at home on normal rest in a game that could’ve knocked out the Phillies in Game 4.   Now, Lohse gets that game.

*What happened to Kyle Lohse and the Cards in Game 1 on Saturday?  After Berkman’s three run homer and Skip’s leadoff single in the 2nd, the Cards didn’t hit a single ball out of the infield until the 8th inning and Roy Halladay retired 21 straight hitters.   Lohse blew up in the 6th inning, his third time through the order, which I predicted.  He threw a horrible 3-2 changeup that Ryan Howard blasted for a 3 run homer.  2 hitters later Raul Ibanez blasted a 2 run homer to make it 6-3 Phillies.  Mitchell Boggs, Rzep and Rhodes made it 11-3 before the Cards tacked on 3 runs in the ninth.   Lohse proved an old point of mine.   More times than not, decision making and not nasty pitching gets you killed in the major leagues.  Lohse threw close to 80 pitches and only really made 2 horrible mistakes.

*The Cardinals control their fate now and need to use these next 2 home games to turn the tables on the NL favorite Phillies.  Remember, nobody expects the Cardinals to win more than 1 game in this series.  This team has been defying expectations since day 1 in April, so don’t expect them to go quietly.

*Big factor in Tuesday’s game.  Will Allen Craig see one fastball from Hamels after he took Cole deep twice 2 weeks ago in Philly on two plate hugging fastballs?  Craig is a dangerously unknown power bat who has eased the absence of Matt Holliday, so it will be interesting to see Hamels treat him with a heavy dose of changeups.  Craig is still adjusting to changeups so good luck to the kid because Hamels made a name for himself in this league off that pitch.

Tuesday’s Lineup has to look like this-

Furcal, Craig, Pujols, Berkman, Freese, Molina, Theriot or Punto, Jay, Garcia

Every time I look at what this team has done it amazes me.  Their September comeback.  Their comeback against Lee in Philly.   The Cards backs are against the wall constantly and they respond by pushing off and throwing more punches.   They are a resilient pack of rogues and won’t die easy.  Red October is alive and well.

P.S.-Fuck you Cubs fans.

The Rams Drop to 0-4

Folks, there is nothing encouraging about this team’s play.    The Rams are playing pathetic, careless, reckless and straight up lousy football in 2011.   Forget the 4-0 preseason.   Think about the 0-4 regular season.  On Sunday, the Washington Redskins did just enough to stop us, scoring 17 early points and hanging on to beat us 17-10.  The Rams score one offensive touchdown again and still haven’t taken a snap from center with the lead.   Lets roll down the quick list of casualties.

*Sam Bradford didn’t play well or ruin his team’s chances.  Bradford threw for 164 yards on 20-43 passing.  However, he was sacked 6 times and hurried at least 10 other times.   His offensive line and receivers give him zero help.  Bradford also fumbled a ball that turned the tide of a huge drive.  For the fourth game in a row, Bradford has committed a horrible turnover.  He has been good but not great, and isn’t seeing any help.

*The receivers can’t catch.   Lance Kendricks, Austin Pettis and Brandon Gibson all dropped big passes that were put on the money by Bradford.  If you can’t catch, you can’t play professional football.   Kendricks is also busy getting 2 false start penalties.  The kid is talented yet stupid.  5 key passes were dropped and killed drives.

*The Offensive Line couldn’t block a defensive line made up of nuns right now.  Jason Smith committed 3 penalties, can’t pass block, and looked lethargic.  The entire line looks average and can’t keep Bradford on his legs or give him time.  This is their one job.  Create room for their quarterback and keep him clean.  The Redskins got pressure on every single defensive play, making Bradford uncomfortable and effective in the pocket.  Unless this line shapes up and earns the 90 million spread around it, Bradford will turn into Bulger 2.0.   Looking over his shoulder at restaurants, ducking and diving in traffic and wincing at the highlights.

*Penalties kill teams.    The Rams lead the NFL in penalty yardage.  They committed 10 penalties on Sunday for 69 yards, and can’t seem to stay away from the improper play.   Penalties show signs of undisciplined football, like we aren’t doing anything correctly.  This is hard to watch football because we shoot ourselves in the foot so many times.

*The outlook is bleak.   After an early bye week next Sunday, the Rams go to work against Dallas, Green Bay and New Orleans.   Blame the schedule makers all you want but rest your eyes on a team that can’t score points, stop the run or play sound football.

*The dropped passes make you wonder how Bradford longs for the Holt-Bruce days of easy catching and running.   If you asked Bradford if he would trade a testicle for the services of Calvin Johnson, what do you think he would say?

*Sam Bradford is an elite quarterback playing on an average team.  That’s what it looks like right now.

*Steven Jackson rushed for 50 yards and scored a touchdown.  Decent if a soft running day for SJ39.   Maybe he isn’t healthy or maybe The Redskins contained him.

*Steve Spagnuolo is on the hot seat.   If the Rams continue to lose with increased expectations this season, Spags will be in jeopardy.  Is that fair?  I think Spags is doing a good job, but if his players can’t adjust, the coach is the easiest person to cut loose.  Spags means well with his 4 pillars, his slow approach, easy whip, but he needs to send a charge into this team or risk losing his job.   A tough schedule gets you only so far.  He knows this as much as we do.   The issue isn’t the record but the manner in which the Rams are losing.  The effort is lacking and the lifeless play is throwing dirt on this season where the Rams had the grasp on the division crown.   Look at the standings folks.  The Rams are the only team without a win.

*Ugly stat.  The Rams have allowed 113 points and only scored 46.  A league worst point differential of minus 67.   How can you tell this will improve?

*That’s the disgusting part about this team.   How do we turn it around with the tough schedule?  Who is the easy game now?  We may walk into the Arizona game 0-7 on November 13th.   This season is slipping away from this team very quick.   Home town media pundits can splash kool aide freshner on this bonfire but the real fans see through the happy smoke.  The Rams can’t catch passes, can’t protect the quarterback, can’t avoid costly penalties or get out of the way of incoming gunfire.   The defense is the lone bright spot this week.  They intercepted Rex Grossman twice and kept the Skins in check after a rough first half.  Now James Lauranitis has to ask the tough questions from his defense about leadership and skill.

Get ready for sudden death with the Rams.  They may turn it around or they may finish 3-13 again.   I can tell you right now I am not surprised at the record but disgusted by the details.  How does that change?  A Spags vocal assault that makes every news strip on the world circuit pause and take a look.  He needs to light a fire under this team and point fingers.   Tell Smith if there is one more false start, there will be no food after the game.  Tell Kendricks to catch the ball or lose a finger.  Tell the penatly loves to cool it.  The Rams must play smarter football or they will die.

Blues Bit-

When the regular season starts in a week, this team gets a real section.  For now, it’s quick bits and observations.  If that’s not enough, write me your thoughts and I’ll respond.   Here’s what I know after the last preseason game on Saturday.   Jaroslav Halak is still giving up soft goals and had a bad preseason.   That doesn’t mean he’ll become an easy target this month, but it does sound off warnings about his weaknesses becoming a factor.   He is the anchor this season.  To quote Backdraft, if he goes, this team goes down with him. Young big body forward Evgeni Grachev made the team after B.J. Crombeen broke his shoulder on Saturday.    Grachev is a big forward who is physical and can move the puck and make plays.  Hold onto players like him.   His age is his biggest weapon.   Brian Elliot won the backup goalie spot and Ben Bishop whined like a little bitch.  Cut the oversized freak.   Elliot is decent and has experience but remember what I said earlier.  We won’t win a Stanley Cup with Elliot in net.  He is an insurance policy.  Love the 1-2 big vet tandem of Stewart and Backes and the 1-2 young defensive combo of Pietrangelo and Shattenkirk.   This team is built with so many weapons that it makes this season highly anticipated.   With the Rams reeling and the Cards finishing in a month or less, this city will lean on the Blues for awhile.  Are they up to the task?  We will all find out on Saturday when the Blues open up the season at home against Nashville.

NFL Bits-

*The 49ers upset the Eagles, beating them 24-23 after the Philly kicker missed two easy field goals.   Michael Vick threw fro 416 yards yet still lost and pouted about it.  The 49ers are 3-1 and leading the NFC West.  I think I threw up a little in my mouth.

*Tony Romo returned to chokeville and coughed up the game against the Lions yesterday.  Leading the game by 14 points and heading into cruise control, Romo threw a pair of pick 6 returned interceptions for a score.  After 2 weeks of “tough play”, Romo returned to his roots and sucked it up.  This puts a smile on my face after the Rams washed it off.

*Which record surprises you more?   Vikings or Rams going 0-4?  My bet is on The Vikings, who came stacked with better players and an easier schedule.   Donovan McNabb is having a dismal season and the defense is sinking quickly.

*The Baltimore Raven carve up the Jets and the Steelers lose to the Texans.  The Ravens own the NFL’s best point differential at plus 62 and are putting up points on both sides of the ball.   The Ravens more consistent play puts the Steelers season in jeopardy and makes their next matchup so important.  The Steelers can’t afford to lose any more right now.

Random Bits-

*Martha Stewart’s daughter is saying she was under strict expectations growing up.   What did you think was going to happen in the household built out of a fucking catalogue, kid?   Sweet loving days.   Get this kid some good meds.

*Barack Obama changes his suit and gets back to work.  I had nothing and wanted to see the political hard on crowd bite here and do some scrolling.  Suckers!  There’s nothing new with politics.  It’s the same old game, played the same way every day.   Lies, lies, lies.  I’d rather go watch Clooney play an Obama type who’s carrying a secret that top aide Ryan Gosling is trying to figure out rather to spread or not in the new film, The Ides of March.  This is Clooney back in triple threat mode.  Writing, directing, producing and acting.  Watching politics on screen is far more entertaining and worth my time than watching the same bullshit unfold in real life.

*Hugh Jackman’s new action film, Real Steel, looks retarded on first glance, but if you grew up on rock em sock em robots and crave a father-son story at the heart of a robot tale, go check this one out.   A film about a future without human boxers and full of robot fights. Jackman’s an ex boxer turned trainer who puts new life into a washed up robot with his son in order to win the title.   Same old story, coated in a new paint and with new stars.  Jackman gives this film hope with his screen presence.

TV Recaps-

*Hung on HBO-I like this show for a few reasons.   First, Thomas Jane’s lead performance as Ray Drecker is perfectly low key, confident and anchors the show in the roughneck job chasing soul of Detroit.  This show is about fighting the recession with your own fiery persona and will.   The opening credits show Ray dressing down out of a suit while walking across town and jumping naked into a lake.   Ray is fighting fire with fire and thats the pulse here.  Jane Adams, Rebecca Crestkoff and Anne Heche are all good as the women in Ray’s life, but Jane owns the show and sells the lead role of a man using his big cock as income.   It shows that at the final wit end of America’s economic turmoil, you rely on what you were born with.  Good looks, charm and a long up to the task friend down below.   This isn’t a full blown comedy.  It’s a dark comedic satire with hints of drama.   Check it out.  It’s underrated and features plenty of erotic nudity.

*HBO also came back with How to Make it In America, the guilty pleasure of cable television.   Bryan Greenburg and Victor Rasuk are back as Ben and Cam, the fashion designers trying to make it on their own in the hard charging clothing world in New York.   This show moves quick and carries an Entourage like feel because of the familiar setup.  Young friends from NY try to make a name for themselves in a busy and tough profession.  I dig it because of the authenticity of the script and the camraderie between the friends.   Also, co-stars like Luis Guzman, Lake Bell, and Kid Cudi don’t hurt, and neither does a 26 minute running time.  Fast paced guilty pleasured fun on HBO.

*Checking out Dexter and Boardwalk tonight.

What else???

*Song of the Day-A slow boiler from Greys Anatomy alternative loving soundtrack.  Here’s Ben Francis Leftwich’s slow moving yet sweet “Atlas hands”.  Appreciate the sincerity and pain in the words.

http://youtu.be/zMHLiHg8fD4

*Showtime’s underrated yet powerful ode on the deadly collateral damage of cancer, The Big C, pulled zero punches in its second season finale.  Laura Linney’s triumphantly free performance is the mint here but the cool quality is the way this series doesn’t manipulate you into watching it with sappy melodramatic scenes of cancer drama.  The blows are dealt at unexpected times in this world, and I appreciate that.  Here’s to a third season.

*Cancer sucks because it takes people you know when you least expect it.   A co-worker of mine passed away last week to lung cancer and while we weren’t close friends, I knew her well, got along with her and will remember her very finely.  She always smiled when I came around and I won’t forget it.  A disease like this doesn’t care about memories or feelings.  It’s a deadly deal that stacks the deck in its favor every time.   Cancer truly sucks because the fight isn’t fair and the selection process isn’t kind at all.  How many 6 year old fall victim and how many mothers and brothers are taken too early?  I’ve lost friends and co-workers and it’s never a fair shake.

*Daddy Blog Bit-Dealing with your kid getting sick is heavy duty for the first few months.   Stomach aches, fevers and ear infections will happen, and how I deal with them will shape me as a parent.   Vincent is getting put through the ringer and is a strong kid and will plow through any sickness.   That is for sure.  How Rachel and I handle it is the real challenge?  Do you act quick and take him to the doctor every time he shows signs of abnormal disgust?  The answer is easier said than done.  Parenting 101 includes a heavy dose of versatility in reaction.

That’s all folks.  Thanks for playing.   Come back for more.  Goodnight.

-D.L.B.

Moneyball Review/Cards Glimpse/More

Ladies and gents,

Start your engines and allow me to dish a few ideas around the room here.  One of the challenging things about this new role of being a dad is finding time to do the things that were routine before you had a kid.  For me, it’s writing, movies and sports.  Working out and running falls around the work schedule, but those three things are what keep me moving and sane.  Something to chase after.  Many around me are surprised I have kept up the writing since his arrival, and all I can say is I do it because it’s a theraputic experience and serves as a way I can get passionate about something but also move past it the next instant.   Let’s get moving here.  Postcards from Buffa, the Rogue Edition, begins now.  Kicking things off with a movie review.

Moneyball Review

One of the scariest things in the world is change.  Risk and reward circle change and cause people to redefine their goals in life.  Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane went to his owner after the 2001 playoffs saw his team get kicked out in the first round of the playoffs after carrying a 2-0 lead in the series.  Beane asked his owner for more money.  The owner said no.  After that season, Johnny Damon, Jason Isringhausen and Jason Giambi left for free agency.  Beane then discovered a new way to build a baseball team, with the help of Peter Brand, an assistant to the GM in Cleveland, whom Beane meets when Brand shoots down when of Billy’s trade proposals.   Soon after, Beane and Brand are working together on fixing the A’s , who carried a payroll around 39 million dollars.   Moneyball focuses on one idea, a strategy from Bill James, who wrote a book that mixed economics with baseball and changed the blue print for building a roster.  Beane’s wild idea was hated by his scouts, fans and any baseball historian who thinks relying on stats and computers instead of advanced scouting is ridiculous power playing.   Billy Beane is played by Brad Pitt, who slips easily into the skin of this renegade and gives one of his best performances in years.  An important reminder that before Pitt became a face, he was a good actor and live wire who could blow people away.   If you know baseball history from the past 10 years, you know what happens with the 2002 Athletics team.

Part of Brand’s advice and strategy given to Beane is building a roster of players who provide you wins and don’t cost you millions.   In one great sequence, Brand explains the true reason the Boston Red Sox threw 8 million at Damon.   Damon was a potential star and decent leadoff guy, but he wasn’t worth 8 million based on the wins he gave his team.   If any theory proves the overpaid scheme of baseball, James is the front runner.  Brand’s idea is to build a roster of players who bring you wins, which means you need runs, and players who can get on base.  Big sluggers like Giambi and A-Rod are great, but they cost too much money if you’re payroll is 40 million.  Beane tells one of his oldest scouts in a great sequence that in order to survive,  you have to “adapt or die”.  It’s here where the movie takes off.   Beane and Brand visiting Scott Hatteberg, and telling him they want to turn him into a first basemen because he gets on base.  Hatteberg never played first base before 2002.  Beane recruits older players like David Justice and Jeremy Giambi, cheap players who are old and broken or young and stupid but get on base.  On base percentage is Beane’s key idea here and it sticks because it’s an often overlooked stat in the game.  Every hitter’s goal is to get on base, via hit, walk, hit by pitch and hustling through an error.  Beane and Brand’s idea is finding those types of hitters.

Does it all work out?  Do the A’s reach the promise land with their new found ideal?  I’m not telling, but it’s no secret what is on Director Bennett Miller’s mind.   One man trying to change the way the game is played.  Played off the field.  The front office tiny dancers who work the magic behind the players on the field.  Billy Beane turned down a 12.5 million dollar offer to become GM of the Red Sox in 2003, and we are never told why he did it.   Here is what I think.  Beane was a former MLB player who got drafted out of high school by scouts who told him his time was now to make it to the show.  Beane wasn’t ready, but carried all five tools and joined the Mets.  He flopped and soon found himself out of the game.   Beane made a decision based on money, and he swore he’d never do it again.  He didn’t take the job in Boston because that offer was everything he had built himself up against.  Once he couldn’t get a bigger payroll, he changed the entire way he viewed collecting wins.  He couldn’t go back to star chasing.  The Red Sox could win a World Series and that would have been nice for him to be at the helm of it.  Beane’s goal was to change the game.  He wanted to win the World Series with the 39 million dollar A’s team that no one thought could win with a particular strategy.   He wanted to upset a perceived idea.   It wasn’t about wins, rings and glory.  He wanted to prove people wrong and find a different way for a team to win a championship than possessing the biggest bank account.  From 1996 to 2001, the Yankees won the World Series 4 times with a payroll exceeding 150 million.  A year after Beane’s moneyball team made from an “island of misfit toys” won 20 games in a row yet failed to reach the World Series, the Marlins upset the Yankees with a payroll of 53 million.  A small sample size, but Beane started something.  He didn’t have 12 million reasons to stay in Oakland, but he had a few solid ones.

Brad Pitt is the heart and soul of the film, installing Beane with a crafty rebel with a cause attitude that spread throughout the entire franchise.   Pitt is one of those underrated actors who gets lost in movie star land and much of his talent is shaded by his box office pictures.   He is the perfect guy to play Beane because of his live wire ability to get into character and entertain at the same time.  Jonah Hill plays Brand with a capable geek smart whip and does his job of playing off Pitt.   Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Art Howe, the biggest opposition Beane faced in his new ways.  Smaller roles with Chris Pratt as Scott Hatteberg and Robin Wright Penn as Beane’s ex are fine but the keys to the puzzle are Pitt and Hill.

Moneyball works because it is a 5 tool player in it’s own right.  The moral of the story is strong, the acting is versatile, Miller’s direction doesn’t get in the way, the timeliness of the story is worth it, and the cool and cocky script takes the biggest piece of the pie here.   Aaron Sorkin(Social Network, West Wing) and Steve Zaillian contributed to the script and it’s an intelligient mix of baseball jargon and integrity that creates a brand of sports symphony.  It is true some of the facts are stretched and there is a missing element in certain scenes and players are mixed around, but the best part about Moneyball is that the heart of the story stays true in Beane’s vision.  He wanted to change the game and while he didn’t quite reach his goal, the journey he took is worth watching.

Moving on…

Things to Consider in Philly this afternoon-

*Kyle Lohse faces the biggest test of his career.   Taking on The Phillies lineup in Game 1.   A rematch for the Phils against a pitcher who has shut them down twice in the second half and most notably, beat Roy Halladay two weeks ago in a pivotal series for the Cards.  Lohse finished 14-8 with a 3.39 ERA and is trying to make up time here in St. Louis.  After two years of being invisible in value due to bad pitching and injury, Lohse is starting to mean something here.  His start today is huge in order to secure momentum.

*The loss of Adam Wainwright hurts the most in the postseason.   Without him, the Cards lack a potent 1-2 punch in their rotation.   With him, The Cards win this series.  The absence of a 20 game winner pits the Cards as underdogs because that’s where the Phillies have the biggest advantage.   Cliff Lee, Halladay, Cole Hamels are threats.  Chris Carpenter is our only true weapon in the rotation.

*Something to consider.  The pressure factor.  Who faces more pressure to win in this series?  A clue.  They reside in the city of brotherly love.  Also, the place of massive expectations.   After the World Series in 2008, the Phillies faced similiar expectations the past few years but this year after acquiring Cliff Lee to complete the ultimate power rotation, the expectations are even higher.  They won 103 games in the season, and see only one result.  A World Series.  The Cardinals are the underdogs here and that helps them.  They weren’t expected to win anything this season and now reached the playoffs on an amazing streak that many baseball pundits don’t know what to make of them.  If the Cards win this series, the world will be shocked.  If the Phillies lose, they will be called chokers.  Hence the expression called the Upset.   The one thing the Cards dont face is pressure here.

*Roster moves thoughts.   Leaving Kyle McClellan off the roster is smart because he has nothing right now in the shape or form of a threat to a hitter.  He has a dead arm.  Don’t risk the chance of him blowing a game with a hanger.  If Jake Westbrook doesn’t start a game, there is a need to leave him on the roster to serve as a long arm in the bullpen.  Motte, Boggs, Salas and Sanchez are required roster spots and they all made it.  Sanchez for McClellan is key.

*Rotation moves.   Lohse is the right person to start Game 1, with his rest and history against the Phillies.  La Russa decided to start Chris Carpenter in Game 2 on 3 days rest, and while it’s dangerous I understand and approve the move.  Carpenter has never started on 3 days rest, but the Cardinals must take 1 game in Philly and if Lohse doesn’t get it done, you must throw the best at Philly and Carp is it.   Jaime Garcia starts Game 3 at Busch and La Russa declined to name the Game 4 starter.  This isn’t a complex question.  Edwin Jackson needs to start Game 4.   The Cards traded for him to fill a key rotation spot, and he delivered one of the most consistent arms on the team.  Jackson is a young force and can deliver 6-7 innings and keep the team in the game.  He deserves it more than Garcia at this point and unlike Jaime, Edwin doesn’t fall apart so easily.  You don’t need two starters in the pen.  Another unreal La Russa mind game.

*What else is there to say?  Go Cards.  Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman need to continue to dominate and carry the offense.  Rafael Furcal and Matt Holliday will be on the roster, so that’s good news.  Allen Craig needs to find his way into this lineup.  Craig is too hot of a hitter at the moment to keep on the bench.  Bench players like DD and Punto will also play key roles in our depth.

Rams Notes for Sunday

*The Red Zone factor.  Who wins between the Rams and Redskins comes down to which team scores touchdowns once they enter the red zone.  A matchup perceived as a field goal battle can be changed if Sam Bradford and the Rams find their way into the end zone and execute.  Same for Rex Grossman and the Redskins.  Two teams built up in similiar fashion come down to which team gets 7 points instead of 3.

*The Rams have to run the ball all day against the Skins.  Steven Jackson’s durability will be tested here because if the Rams establish the run and push the Redskins back, Sam Bradford can unleash an assault on their secondary.  The Redskins carry London Fletcher at linebacker and Oshimigo Atogwe at safety, but Bradford can find holes if Jackson and Cadillac poke holes up front.  The Rams can’t be one dimensional but they must establish the run.

*My biggest worry in this game.  The big turnover by the Rams.   Sam Bradford has only allowed 3 turnovers, but all of them have been returned for touchdowns and switched the momentum of the game.

*Get the ball in Rex Grossman’s hands and make plays.  The Rams defense must keep Tim Hightower container so Grossman goes to the air and makes mistakes.  If the old Rex shows up(the one that lost the Super Bowl for the Bears in 2006), the Skins will have no chance.  The Rams secondary is the weakest link on this team, but Sunday it will be the biggest x-factor.

*This is a must win game in Rams Park.  Lose this one and we are 0-4 heading into a bye week and following that with Dallas, Green Bay and New Orleans.   Does that scare you?  If Ravens QB Joe Flacco can throw for 338 yards against our secondary, how many will be put up by Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and even Tony Romo?  The Redskins game is the one game where we carry a sliver of a chance to win and we must take advantage of it.  We saw how fast the Rams fans came back to the Ed Dome, but do you want to see how fast they can go away.  I’ll always watch, but I’m talking about the blackout attack on television if sellouts don’t happen.   Lose fans and you put the team in jeopardy and Steve Spagnuolo on the hot seat for the rest of the season.  Makes for an uneasy environment.  It would be truly ugly to see the Rams take a step back after last year’s near playoff spot.  Win tomorrow or carry a poisonous 0-4 record.

My prediction-A field goal game takes over in the second half and the Rams inch forward with a minute to go and take the contest, 20-17.

Blues Notes-

*In a tough decision, I have to take Brian Elliot over Ben Bishop unless Bishop plays unbelievable hockey in the preseason.  Elliot is a veteran and Bishop is the kid who could never put it together.  Bishop didn’t impress last year and may of lost it when him and Conklin changed places during games 2 times in March.

*Evgeni Grachev has been a goal scoring machine in the preseason but if a spot doesn’t exist, the kid is only 21 years and can start the season in Peoria.  He just puts pressure on the players to produce.

*Jason Arnott’s surgery on his eye is standard procedure and won’t deter him from taking over the third line. Arnott is important and embues the team with the veteran leadership they lacked last season.

*The Blues feature three strong lines for the first time in years and all three can produce goals and not just effort.  They will be more versatile in 2011-2012.

*Why is B.J. Crombeen on this team?  Grachev will challenge for his spot first and foremost.  Here’s to hoping Ryan Reaves makes the game lineup and gets his chance to solidify himself as the enforcer of this team.  An important spot on a team.

Random Thoughts-

*Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close trailer is going to be an emotional journey but one worth taking.  Mixing together 9/11, a son’s pursuit of his father’s legacy, Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock and director Stephen Daltry.   Get ready for an emotional and original journey.   Different elements playing together on film is hard to pull off, but take a look here.   We need one of these intensely passionate stories every once in awhile.  How many son’s lost their fathers that day and wonder what got left behind?  A movie about the collision of good people and tough reality which gives way to a healing process.   The son finds a key left behind by his dad, who died in the 9/11 attacks, that unlocks all kinds of memories and sends him on a journey.  Sounds interesting to me.

*Terry Francona’s departure from the Red Sox is an expected move after the monsterous collapse of the team this year in the face of enormous expectations.  I don’t agree that Francona is to blame for the Red Sox rotation suffering injuries and simply not being good enough, the loss of Kevin Youklis in August, the loss of Papelbon during the season and the underperformance of Carl Crawford.  Francona brought two World Series here in his 8 seasons in Boston after they spent decades without one.   That’s what I’ll remember.  We also can’t forget that Francona wanted this as well.

*Upon second viewing, X-Men: First Class is one of the best superhero tales in the past 10 years becauser it is perfectly casted, lays down an origin story thick and also mixes in the Cold War with its plot.  Director Matthew Vaughn and producer Bryan Singer combine here to make a smart comic book film with a real story.  How would mutants fit in and would they take sides if we didn’t accept them into society?  A poignant question.

*Late Update on Cards Roster-Kyle McClellan is left off the roster as expected.   Eduardo Sanchez is also left off the roster due to the choice of keeping only 11 pitchers on the roster, leaving Jake Westbrook on the roster.  Carpenter, Lohse, Garcia, Jackson, Westbrook, Motte, Salas, Boggs, Rzep, Rhodes, Dotel are the pitchers.   I’d like to have Sanchez on there and not Rhodes but Tony’s group doesn’t surprise me.

*Music of the Day-“Who Made Who” by AC/DC, an easy going rock tune perfect for the opening day of the playoffs.

http://youtu.be/j2TADt0y5h8

That’s all for now.  It’s time to pull this latest train of Buffa Thought into the station and stop pinching off prose here on this beautiful Saturday afternoon.  Daddy duty is kicking in and so is the pregame festivities for Cardinal Red October action here at the Buffa Household.  There is more to say, but I have run out of time.

One more thing.  Many around the league and some around the city are saying the Cardinals didn’t earn their playoff spot and the Braves handed it to them.   That’s not accurate.  The Cardinals had to win the games they played and hope the Braves failed on the other end.  The Cards are deserving because they saved their best baseball for last.  If they don’t capitalize on the errors of others, there is no playoffs.  Same case as 2006.  If we don’t take advantage of the Tigers misplays, we don’t win the World Series so easily.  If you do nothing, there is no happy ending.  There it is.  Cut and dry folks.

Thanks for reading and goodnight,

DLB

 

The Comeback

Deep breath in….and exhale.  Okay, here we go.

Elliot Ness once said, never stop fighting until the fight is done.  The 2011 St. Louis Cardinals did just that.   Faced with unmistakably tortureous odds, the Cards bared down and outlasted the Atlanta Braves with a 90-72 record to win the NL Wild Card.  On September 5th, The Cardinals were 8.5 games out of first place.  On September 29th, we are a playoff team.   Ask anyone in baseball or in St. Louis, myself included, if this team had a shot of making the playoffs in late August and you would have been laughed at.  However, once the Cards swept the Braves in September and cut the deficit to 4.5 games, everything changed.   There were many nights of comebacks and second chances, but on September 9th, the Cards proved they were in it for real.   Facing one of the best closers in the game, young gunner Craig Kimbrel, down 3-1 in the 9th and facing two outs with runners on second and third, Albert Pujols stepped to the plate.  Pujols worked the count to 1-1 and then bounced a base hit inside the first base line to tie the score and keep the Cardinals breathing.  A loss could have knocked us out.  Instead, an extra inning win that night kept us alive, gave way to a sweep and started the improbable run.  After that game, Albert Pujols went on a terror.  Kimbrel blew 3 more saves, including a huge one last night to set up the Phillies for their extra inning win.  The Cards rotation went into lockdown mode and the bullpen proved reliable.    How did the Cards really make the playoffs?  They finished the season 23-8, including 8 wins against the Brewers, Braves and Phillies.  The Braves finished 9-18 and collapsed, blowing a 10.5 game lead they held on August 25th.   Once again, the fight isn’t over until the fighting is done.  While I grew despondent at times with the team, I never quit watching them and never lost hope.  While their comeback was amazing, it’s surreal and hasn’t settled in yet.  I woke up today late for work and in a mad rush, so I couldn’t soak in the slow pleasing pleasure of a ride to work knowing my team is in.   As the hours roll by, I will sit here in wonder and amazed at my team.  How did it happen, precisely?  Allow me to explain.

The Recap-The Cardinals scored 5 runs in the first inning, added 3 more and easily dispatched the Astros 8-0 in less than 2.5 hours.  Chris Carpenter took the big lead and shut the door like only an ace of the rotation could.   Carp threw a complete game shutout, allowed 6 hits, and struck out 11 against only one walk.   Carp dominated on the most important night of the year.  Carpenter’s individual comeback, along with Pujols’, was impressive and worth the reward.  After starting 1-7 through mid June, Carp finished 10-2 with a 2.29 ERA.  The Cardinals used RBI hits from Pujols, Berkman, Freese and a late home run by Allen Craig to propel them to victory, but Carpenter was the engine behind the strong finish.   When in need, true ace’s stand up.    This is exactly what the Cards had to do against the horrible Astros.  Get a big lead, throw the arm on the mound and punch this team in the mouth quick to strangle the momentum of the evening.   The Cards victory was never in doubt after the first few innings where Carp looked filthy good.

Smaller Highlights of the Game-

*Allen Craig sure makes the absence of Matt Holliday sting less.   Craig has done nothing but hit clutch home runs, collect a .315 BA and drive in nearly 50 runs in only 95 games played.  Craig finished with 11 home runs and 50 RBI in a bench role.  He gives you plenty of options next season.  An exciting young talent.

*Nick Punto and Craig came up huge in the Astros series.  In the last 2 games, Punto and Craig combined to go 11-16 with three home runs and 5 extra base hits.   Teams win games when their bench players can perform as well or better than the players they replaced.   When Rafael Furcal and Holliday went down Monday, Punto and Craig stepped up in a huge way and helped this team secure a playoff spot.

*The bullpen gets a full night’s rest for the first time in weeks.   There aren’t too many complete gamers on the pitching staff, so the bullpen rest is vital before a playoff series.

Looking forward to The Phillies

*The rotation has to be Kyle Lohse, Edwin Jackson, Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia and Lohse for the five game set.  There is no way you can let Jake Westbrook work a playoff game with his inconsistent arm.   Short playoff rounds only need to carry 4 starters, so Jake will hit the bullpen for the Phillies series.   Lohse shut down the Phillies twice during the 2nd half and had a great second half all together.  He is a good candidate to get the ball twice because that’s the way the rest fits in.   Garcia’s start needs to be scheduled at home and not in Philly.

*While Albert Pujols finished up the season right below .300 and a RBI shy of 100, he still needs to contribute big hits in this Phillies series.   The Cardinals amazing September finish coincided with AP enjoying one of his best months ever.   When AP is on, the lineup is destructive.  If he comes up short in Philly, this will also.

*Cliff Lee scares me more than Halladay or Hamels.    Lee has as good of pitches and the right mentality to start a playoff game.  His stats are the strongest in the postseason and when he is on, the rest is history.  Lee pitches game 1.   The Cardinals will be tested right out of the gate.

*Craig blasted two homers off Cole Hamels on two badly timed pitches during the Sunday night game last week.  Craig is an integral part of the lineup and that includes going against Hamels, who is a great pitcher but one that makes key mistakes(example being Dan Uggla’s 0-2 bomb last night).

*Matt Holliday and Rafael Furcal’s health are in question, but if they aren’t completely healthy, there’s no reason to push.   Punto and Craig are doing a fine job and don’t need to be pushed off by a hurting regular player.   Holliday can’t throw a baseball and Furcal can’t run.  Sit them down if needed.

*The starting pitching is key and the lineup has to produce, but to me its the bullpen which comes under fire this month.   Can Motte close games effectively?  Will La Russa overuse Motte and not use Boggs, who pitched well against Houston?  How many innings will Salas pitch, or will Sanchez(Tuesday’s winner) be able to help him?  Who gets the ball first, Rhodes or Rzep?  In my case, hopefully neither because they aren’t good lately.

*Do the Cards have a chance?  Sure they do.  All a team has to do is get into the postseason and let it rip.  I’m smelling a 2006 style of play this fall from the Redbirds.  Barely crawl into the postseason and then play your best baseball.   Win or lose, the comeback was incredible and the Cards saved their best play for last.  We were 6-3 against the Phillies in 2011, and played them very well in Philidephia two weeks ago.   The Cardinals have a chance to make things happen here or make life a living hell for Charlie Manuel and his troops.   I wouldn’t be surprised if we were beaten up but I also wouldn’t rule out a well played series.  With this team, it’s so hard to predict a result.   Facing Halladay, Lee and Hamels doesn’t faze me.  Good pitching can be defeated.  The small things worry me.   Philly getting hot over the week.  La Russa’s lack of confidence in his bullpen arms.  The Tony mind games.  What will get in the Cards way?  Their manager or their play?

The Wrapup of the Cards regular season finish

Allow me to throw something back here as I fight off a nap, handle the kid and prepare to add more juicy bits to my already forming Comeback Cards blog.  I’ll call this the finishing touch.   Mea Culpa indeed.  The Cardinals surprised all of us, including me, who drew the sunniest outcome for them all the way back in April.

There are reasons for everything, so here is my quick list of reasons why the Cards came back and stole the wild card-

1.)Atlanta let them back in the house.  I always imagined a final month surge as a family keeping their house safe and protected.  The Braves had a 10.5 game lead heading into the end of August, and that seemed stable enough to seal the deal.  However, they played horrible all around baseball and let The Cards slam right through the front door.   Their pitching fell apart after injuries, their closer imploded and their offense couldn’t score runs.   The Cards basically did the opposite.  Hit with power, pitched great out of the gate and found their young closer in Motte.  The Braves and Cards flip flopped fates.  I’ll take it.
2.)You can’t count out the work of Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman in September.   Both hit .360 plus and slugged homers and game changing hits during Matt Holliday’s sixth absence due to moth head and back cold.   Pujols has always been a late season strong finisher, and Berkman supported him on his off nights.  These two provided the basis of a foundation for our run production.
3.)The Bench kicked it up a notch.   Nick Punto filling in for Furcal and slapping hits around the yard.   Allen Craig hitting homer after homer in big games.  Daniel Descalso filling in on defense.   Adron Chambers and Tyler Greene giving us the speed factor late in games.   With the large amount of injuries, the bench had to come through and did.   Big plus.
4.)The starters shut it down in the final 3 weeks.  Cards starters sported a 3.20 ERA and pounded out quality start after quality start.   Carpenter, Jackson and a man named Kyle Lohse(2 huge starts in September) held up the weight while Garcia and Westbrook wandered.
5.)La Russa is a mad man crazy methodically insecure bitch, but he kept the ship moving, made some strong moves and created his own brand of crazy.  I won’t give him too much credit but he did stir this team in the right direction in the crucial stretch.
6.)Jason Motte closed 9 of 11 games in the clutch hour as well.  After setting a record of flawless pitching from June 23rd through September 6th, Motte took over the closer role, ran into exhaustion and growing pains but got the job done.   He came a long way from April of 2009 to September of 2011.  Big gain for this team in getting a closer.
7.)The defense improved.  Furcal coming in at short.  Jay coming in at center, and DD and Punto filling out the edges.  Berkman played well in right field, and the errors were minimized in the last month.

We can dwell on things like double plays, blown saves, micromanaging leadership, starter wear and tear, but during the last month the Cardinals played their best baseball.   Small things like Ryan Theriot becoming the ultimate late inning pinch hit threat helped.   The return of Eduardo Sanchez this week.  Chris Carpenter going 10-2 in the second half.  Pujols coming back.   Berkman finishing strong after a dry period in July and August.   My friends, we can all lay down our picks in April, reestablish those ideas in July, August and September, but the team we watch and torture ourselves over controls the true cards.  Predictions are halfhearted attempts at a GOD complex.   This Cardinals team was the most frustrating group because they drove in so many directions throughout the year.  When they traded Colby, they were in first place.  A month after the deal, we were in 2nd place and buried.  Two months and two days later(today), we are wild card champions.   That’s baseball.  That’s life.  How did this team do it?  Putting all the pieces together and getting a little help from the Braves.  The 2011 Cardinals never gave up.  They just kept on fighting.  A never say die spirit that wasn’t always distributing a pretty display each night and game, but one that got stronger as the season got shorter.   This is a special year because we will remember the hard times and stressful moments to go with the end result.   We bleed this year and got a huge payoff.

Wednesday night, September 28th, was one of the greatest moments in baseball.   The Red Sox, picked to walk to the World Series, dropped the ball horribly in September and were beaten by the Orioles in the clutch hour while the left for dead small salary Moneyball team Tampa Bay came back from a 7-0 deficit to win on a walkoff and steal the AL Wildcard.  A dream of mine is seeing the Cards and Rays, the forgotten teams, battling for the World Series.

It’s easy to say the Cards face a tough challenge in the Phillies.   Would they have it any other way this season?  Facing Cliff Lee and the Phillies in Game 1 on Saturday is exactly what the Cardinals need and the perfect spot to shock the world again.   Was this playoff entrance more thrilling than 2004, 2005, or 2006?  I believe it was because of the manner in which they plowed towards it.   Unpredictable, entertaining, heartbreaking and unforgettable.   Years from now, I can tell my son Vincent that when he was born the Cardinals completed a highly improbable and thrilling comeback that the sport hasn’t seen in years right as he turned 2 weeks old.

Hey everyone, the St. Louis Cardinals are in the playoffs.  Repeat that a few times until it sticks.  What am I going to do on my night off from The Rogues in Red?  Go watch Moneyball, a film about a renegade GM(Billy Beane) who figured out a different way to build a major league baseball team and make it into the playoffs.   A fitting way to spend my time before the Cards make their desperate walk through October.  The hardest part is over for the Cardinals.  All a team has to do is get into the playoffs.   From there, it’s anyone’s game.

That’s all I have for now.   The surreal nature of this playoff ticket is settling in as we speak.   All day, I have fought off sleep deprivation, tried to keep myself busy and not fall asleep on my forklift.   It’s still a pleasure to hear on the radio that the Cards made it in.   Unbelievable in fact.

Now, I am going to relax and let my eyes close for a few minutes.   The past 24 hours has felt like a jet lagged trip on a french train.   A lot of speed and no in between pauses.  Here’s to the small plunge back into reality.  I am not pinching myself but I do suggest a tiny reminder that what I am seeing is real.

So long for just a little while,

DLB

A Pack of Words for the Cool Kids

Hello Ladies and Gents,

A pack of silent words for the cool kids here as we roll around towards 1am.   While I have to be at work in 5 hours, I am withholding sleep(daddy hours limit) and will pound a few words into the wind here before I get a few hours.  I’m one man with one set of hands with a need to inform.

Very Quick Takes on a few subjects-

The Cardinals fire a blank in Houston 
In a season opportunities lost, The Cards miss another golden opportunity.  It doesn’t matter who you face in the big leagues. You have to execute!  If we had did our job and taken care of business on Thursday and tonight, we’d be leading wild card race by a game.  Instead, we are down a game. Players are paid for a result and not just effort.  The Cardinals are a ton of effort, but no result.   We had a chance to score in the 3rd, and Albert Pujols was thrown out at the plate.  We had the bases loaded in the 6th and only got a run on a double play ball.  In the 8th when we tied the game, the Cards had 2 on and nobody out, and nothing happened as Nick Punto slid headfirst into an out at first base.  Ridiculous.  The Phillies put runners on and scored.  They won 4-2.  They have 100 wins.  The Cards have to win the last two and hope that Roy Oswalt and company deliver a couple wins for us to steal this thing.   An amazing run of 20-6 this month is going to fall short unless we can drag out talent and wit together to beat Houston rookie Henry Sosa(no relation to Sammy) tomorrow and Brett Myers on Wednesday.   FORGET about Thursday until we make it there.   The Braves aren’t going to wilt.  Braves centerfield Michael Bourn(no relation to Jason) called his Houston teammates and told them to keep on playing.  Any Cards fan who was mad at the Astros squeeze is a sore loser and forgets the ultimate rule of competitive sports.   You can never look bad by competing your ass off and winning.  The Cardinals head is on the chopping block, and believe me I am done talking about them. 
This is what the Cards need to watch and listen to..
http://youtu.be/WO4tIrjBDkk

Final Say on Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Victor Ortiz fight
I watched the fight, all 15 minutes of it and have this short cut on it.  The end was exactly what it was called.  A failure to recognize an action by Ortiz.   After headbutt and break, Joe Cortez said “let’s go” and Ortiz left his hands down and got caught. Fair and firm.  The immaturity of Ortiz stood up again.

The Rams Are Ugly Losers
Make no mistake my good friends.  The Rams aren’t just losing.  They are getting their asses kicked.  You’d have to be blind to miss it but you can’t misstep reality.  Sam Bradford and the Rams are playing shitty lazy lifeless robotic football and don’t show any sign of coming out of their tomb.  They are getting outscored 96-36 in their first three games and still have 4 tough matchups before they catch division foe Arizona.  Next week, they get Washington, who lost a close game to the Cowboys tonight yet still own 2 wins under quarterback Rex Grossman(that wasn’t a joke).   Grossman is putting up solid games and doing his job.  If he walks into the Ed Dome and dishes us a beating, I’m going to poke holes in Bradford’s tires, cut open Steven Jackson’s fat lip and shit in Spags’ hat or hide his hair gel.   The Rams can’t score touchdowns in the red zone, and other times we can’t reach it.   The secondary is lousy.   When you allow a rookie playing his first game in Baltimore’s Torrey Smith to score 3 touchdowns in a single quarter, your unit isn’t playing NFL caliber football.   There is no big name stopper on our secondary.   The Rams didn’t care to inquire about one of the Eagles three corners or free agent Antonio Cromartie.   We were set with our collective group of crap.   Where’s Stan Kroneke’s check book now?  Get the ink pen, Stan or realize what you gave up one of our Colorado bases franchises for?  The Rams have stepped back into 2009, where they won 3 games and looked pathetic 89 percent of the time.   Ask Bradford what’s wrong and here’s his answer, honest as a dull knife.  “Where do I start?”  Jackson and the running game aren’t doing much.   Lance Kendricks can’t catch a pass.  The receivers drop too many passes as a whole.   Bradford is going to be hiding in the video room by the end of the season if he keeps getting sacked and blindsided.  The offensive line isn’t protecting him and will relinquish 64 sacks at the current pace.   Big draft pick Jason Smith couldn’t stop Oprah Winfrey on a pass rush right now.  What’s on the agenda at Rams Park?  A strong test of character and skillset.   Spags needs to realize what he has on deck and find out what he needs to pull this ship together and back on course.   Call GM Devaney and communicate with Stan.   Do something.  Go on a team hunting trip.  Kill shit together.  Bond.  Watch Remember the Titans.  This isn’t what we paid for and hoped to see while we nearly drowned in a lockout full of money and greedy grease.  This team was picked by some to finish 10-6 and 11-5.   It’s time to rethink those numbers. My own personal prediction of 9-7 is looking retarded right now.   Rams fans united, what do we really have here?

Until Spags gets a clue, here’s what the Rams need to hear….
http://youtu.be/y-AXTx4PcKI
“You don’t want to hear it…well, the good news is pal, you’re fired.  And you have one week to regain your job.   Starting with tonight’s sit.”-Alec Baldwin In Glengarry Glen Ross, a classic Mamet film about salesmen in a make or break desperation weekend sale
“You can’t close the leads you’re given.  You can’t close shit.  You are shit.  Hit the bricks pal and beat it, because you are going out.  What’s my name?  Fuck you, that’s my name.  I drove an 80,000 dollar Mercedes.  That’s my name.”

One more time-Peyton Manning isn’t coming back in 2011.  If the Colts are 0-10, why risk the potential of losing Manning for part of 2012, or year 2 of the 5 year 90 million dollar contract?  More commercials for Peyton while he signs his brother up for reading classes.

The Blues Expectations
Make the playoffs and then some.  Do Something productive.  The Cardinals are breaking our hearts again and the Rams are shitting on top of them, so take a stand for the first time in years.I want more than the playoffs.  I want a semifinal playoff game.  The Blues are built to kill and gain a playoff spot on paper, with or without brain damaged Frenchman David Perron.    Perron is a mystery.  I don’t know if he is coming back to the broadcast booth or the team.  He is doing light skating and lifting, but that’s a far cry from getting your clock cleaned on the ice.  They announce big news coming and then tell us he isn’t even expected back for awhile.  Save the ink boys.  Perron is a casualty of war and may never be the same.  Unfortunate because the kid’s talented and puts us over the top this season if he is healthy.  I agree that any production from Perron will be icing on the blue and gold cake.  Take the “soon” out of your first sentence mang.  Perron will attempt to come back during the next 6 months from his concussion, which was suffered last November on a mid ice hit from Joe Thornton in a game I attended.  He scored the winning goal that night and left in the 3rd period.  I’ll believe Perron’s comeback when I see him skate with the team in a game.   The chances hinge on the play of Jaroslav Halak and our defense.   The team needs to improve on the power play and limit the 5 goal games allowed.  If not, well, it’s the same story for the Blues since their arrival here.  Failure on all fronts.    It’s not so hard, is it?  There are 8 playoff spots in the Western Conference.  Get one of them.  That’s double the spots in the National League in baseball, for the Blues fans bashing the Cardinals.   In hockey, the record is polished with bullshit.  Overtime losses aren’t put in the loss column.  They have their own special spot.  That would be nice for baseball.  Lose in extra innings and there’s a special column for it so the record doesn’t look so fucking pathetic.  I guess what I’m saying is this.   Blues, give us something real for a change.  Misery is tapped out here in St. Louis in 2011. 

Very Very Quick Takes
-Tony Romo engineered another 4th quarter comeback against the Redskins, a game the Cowboys won in 6 field goals.  Romo’s still a little choking bitch.
-The Steelers almost lost to the hapless Colts.  There’s the lesson again.  Winning is about executing against anybody. 
-Watch the youtube clips above.  They apply to both those team recaps.  Trust me.  Watch the entire clip.  The best 12 minutes of your day. 
-That’s the difference between winning and losing.  Living and dying.  That inch!  Pacino could light a match under a bunch of fat cats.
-The Red Sox fall with the Rays rise is the best story in sports.   Boston’s payroll is right up there with the Yankees, and they made a big splash in the offseason with the signings of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez.  Crawford has tanked under the spotlight while Gonzo has thrived, but the Red Sox pitching is shit, starting with Daiska’s final fall, Lackey’s crumbling, Wakefield’s weary arm, Beckett’s health and Lester’s resistance.  The Rays were picked to win shit.   They lost Crawford, Carlos Pena, Matt Garza and Rafael Soriano in the offseason.  A piece from each pie, but they added Johnny Damon and found solid pitching and a closer in Kyle Farnsworth.  The Rays tied the Red Sox for the Wild Card last night.  While the Cardinals are struggling to finish their comeback, the Red Sox are choking the hardest.  A desire to be like the Yankees is falling short, unfortunately.   What happens this week will be remembered throughout baseball until the day spring training starts.  Will Boston get back up?
-Watching Jonathon Papelbon close games or pitch in tight spots is must watch television.  The man personifies intensity on the mound.  He burrows his lips into a bullet hole, rears back and fires smoke to go with a devastating changeup.  If the Red Sox don’t want him back, I would be inclined to ask John Mozelaik inquire about his services.  Forget Health Bell.  Paps pitches in the ironclad AL East.  I’ll take him in a heartbeat. 
-If there is a chance to trade Jake Westbrook in the offseason, I pull the trigger and throw in the worn down Kyle McClellan in order to keep Edwin Jackson here.   However, the last thing I’ll ask of Jake Westbrook is to turn in a solid performance tonight in Houston.   That’s all I ask from Jake.  Keep the hope alive and burn every Journey CD in the Cardinals clubhouse.
-Listening to the clubhouse in the postgame of another brutal loss, you wouldn’t know it from the music, chatter and players.  They don’t sound defeated and will come out tomorrow swinging. 
-The 2011 Cardinals officially own the record for double plays at 170 and counting.  Ask La Russa and he’ll tell you we put a lot of baserunners on and that’s what happens.  He’s only half right. 
-TV Shows to Look Forward to-Boardwalk Empire and Dexter.  Empire’s first season chronicled Prohibition and Steve Buscemi’s city treasurer’s Nucky Thompson’s stranglehold over Atlantic City.  A teasing intelligient first season left us wanting more, but I savored the brutality of the characters and the well rounded cast and storytelling.  A slight chill was in the air.  Dexter returns for round 6 on Sunday.  Coming off a season where our good hearted serial killer discovered love lost and did some soul searching, this fall Dexter is going back to straight crimefighting and mixing in spirituality.  I’d be worried if the supporting cast didn’t included Edward James Olmos and Mos Def. 

Right now, I can use a shot of espresso injected into my neck.  That means I am taking a bow and going home to my bed.  Kiss my kid on the head, kiss my wife on her cheek and fall down for awhile.  8 hours of work, a run at lunch, a workout after work, and a Cards game that drained my soul again.  In a few hours, I start it over again and that’s fine by me.  I’ve spoke my mind and the head is clear for now.  I will be back, so read up on this and wait for my return.  Spit up and shitty diapers included. 

Things are changing, but my soul is well intact. 

Goodnight and good luck,

DLB

“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a  team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”-Vince Lombardi

The Proper Way to Anticipate If You’re A Sports Fan

Fine Ladies and Wise Gents,

We have officially entered do or die territory in Cardinal Nation.  The theory no longer applies.  The reality is alive and well.  The Cardinals control their fate this week in Texas.  The idea is that we have 3 games to decide our fate in Houston.  The Cards defy the normal thought of momentum.  When we seem to be running on 4 legs, a brutal loss halts us in our tracks.  Momentum is poison to this Cards team.   What can a fan do?  Stop predicting, hoping and praying.  Just watch and see.  The odds are in our favor, but does that mean anything at this point?  The Cards are facing the worst team in the major leagues and the Braves are facing the best team in baseball, according to record.  In Vegas, we are looking good.  In reality,we are ordinary contenders.  Will the team fall victim or become the predator?

Before you calculate the odds, realize how far this team has come.  A month ago, we were 10.5 games behind the Brewers and Atlanta.   Hopeless bitches without a chance.  Today, we are a game behind the Braves and looking dangerous to a first round opponent.   Once this team lost Waino’s 20 wins and Carp and Albert took first half naps, this team was toast.   If you need to see how a team is doing, look at the table setters.   Carp went 9-2 in the second half and Albert hit .360.   Both recaptured their dominance and helped this team get right. There were smaller contributors but these two led the way.   We were picked to finish 4th in the NL Central.  We’ll finish 2nd to a bionic Brewers team and no worse than 14 games over .500.  The Cardinals didn’t piss excellence until September, but this week everything is up for grabs and its fittingly ambitious for a team that couldn’t decide if they were good, bad or ugly.

We can look back on missed opportunities like a tourist scanning a field of dead bodies.
-25 blown saves
-166 double plays hit into
-Horrible defensive lapses
-Thursday brutal collapse

Gentlemen and ladies, I’m all in.  I’m a true diehard fan and I never left the team.  I cut my arm open a long time ago and started bleeding next to this team.   I didn’t jump ship like most(I’m talking to you, season ticket holders in late August) and are now scrambling back.   Whether I like it or not, I am strapped to this bomb.

Tonight, we face Wandy Rodriguez, the pesky lefty who shut us down in July but is a vulnerable starter playing with a AAA offense behind him.   My questions are simple..
-Will the mentally unstable Jaime Garcia be able to pull off the start of a lifetime?  This is his first true playoff atmosphere test.   Will he sink or swim?
-Will Pujols reach 40 HR and 100 RBI and stay above .300?  Forget the pending free agency.   He has 3 or more games left this season.   Advice to local media.  Stop asking him about it.  The man is a machine and needs to focus.
-Will Tony La Russa micromanage, overanalyze and wreck this team ship?  That’s my biggest fear. La Russa mismanaging the bullpen is a huge X factor here.

Remember, folks.  One game at a time.  There are people asking me about Thursdays one game playoff.   We have to survive first.  One game at a time.  The Cards are built to disappoint but aren’t going down without a fight.   Wait and see my friends.

How am I treating my pregame wounds?  A 20 ounce starbucks iced coffee with an extra shot of espresso.   Bold, black and strong like Oprah.  A Gunpowder blend of coffee.

That’s all.   Thanks for playing.   The season is almost over.  Will October matter to the Cards?  We need this.  The Rams are playing like lifeless cardboard impersonators and the Blues are an entertaining if uncertain bunch.

As a sports town, we need a comeback.

Go Cards!

-DLB 

A Rant, Pure and Simple

“My father once told me, life is like sucking honey from a thorn.  There’s good times and bad times.”-Robert DeNiro in The Killer Elite

The Anatomy of A Comeback
There I am, driving down the street prepping a day of shopping that will result in an exhausted glow of despair for the upcoming evening.   My wife and I are attacking the beast on a Saturday afternoon to clear the Sunday bill for football and relaxation before my ass heads back to the warehouse on Monday.   In addition to our shopping misery comes an extra passenger in our car, a man by the name of Vinny.   The kid doesn’t have a fucking clue what’s going on, spending the heavy share of the day in a car seat with little wiggle room and only a bink to suck on.   We leave the house and the Cardinals are down by a single run heading into the top of the ninth.  The tip of the iceberg is approaching this 2011 Cards ship, ready to crack it in half.  If the Cards lose today, we stay 3 games out of first place and with 4 games to play, that’s a stiff deck of cards to pull a quality hand from.   As we pull out of our street, Lance Berkman ropes the first pitch from Cubs closer Carlos Marmol to center field straight into Marlon Byrd’s mitt.  One out already.  Before I can hit a fucking stop sign, this team is down to 2 outs.  The Chicago Cubs are holding the knife this weekend, plunging the dull blade into our shoulder as the blood starts to pour all over our hometown grass, which was cut that morning.   Marmol is a nasty pitcher with a power fastball and an unfair slider that dives off the plate.  He throws a pitch and gets one out, but the fun is only starting for Cardinal nation.  The 42,000 in attendance are getting loud, rumbling the seats, shaking their drinks, and screaming like its the Last Supper.  They honestly can’t shut up and the Cubs have no idea what this means because they eternally suck.  Before the first pitch, the crowd was going so crazy Cards radio play by play legend Mike Shannon commented that this was the loudest he had heard this crowd get before a rally.  “LISTEN TO THIS CROWD!”.   Shannon said all they wanted was a couple tallies.  I’d take a sign of life.  Since their brutal loss on Thursday, the Cards surrendered their bats to their psychic evil twin  The lineup had registered only 1 run in the 19 innings, and it came in a suicide squeeze in Friday’s 5-1 loss.  It’s like the Mets stole the game and hid the bats from our boys.   Motherfuckers!  Anyway, Marmol gets the ball and climbs the hill against Matt Holliday, the returning brute who has pounded the ball into the ground all fucking day.  2 groundouts to third and a useless bounce to short.  On the second pitch, he rips a line drive to right center for a long single, cut off by the amazing Byrd, who has spent the entire day robbing the Cards of plays.  Cards bench speed demon Tyler Greene runs for Holliday, basically telling the Cubs catcher Geovanny Soto to put his arm in lock and stock mode because a steal is coming.  Greene steals second and the ball glances off his back and into center field.   With one out, the tying run is at third.   The crowd gets louder.  By this time, we are pulling through the ATM, which is always a frenzy.  There I am, paying attention to the game and depositing a check.  It isn’t rocket science but sometimes a lab coat is needed to roll through a bank ATM and stay focused.   Making sure I don’t withdraw 500 dollars instead of giving 50, I take my time and work slow.  Like a jungle cat on steroids speed slowly coming down from the high point of the drug.   Type in my bank code, listen to a pitch, tap deposit, listen, hand the check over, listen to a pitch.  This takes a multi-tasking brain plan that puts you in an athletic frame of mind.  Three cars sitting behind me.  They are waiting for their own chance to see the misery of their bank statement while I juggle two tasks at once.  What are they doing?  Talking on the phone, listening to Yanni, jerking off.   I’m doing important shit and need to concentrate.  My heart starts to skip a few beats.   It’s uncontrollable.  I finish and pull away, but Rachel knows I am off my driving game.  She is my co-pilot for life, and right now I am flying the plane at 60 percent participation with a portion of my heart, brain and mind on a baseball field 15 minutes away.   David Freese strikes out.  Chump.  Greene is still at third and Marmol is gaining confidence.   The Cubs are a classic fuckup artist franchise, blowing leads for life and becoming the symbol of embarrassment in the major leagues.   It’s a shameful practice.  Marmol carries the weight of 103 years of futile baseball on his shoulders every time he closes a game.   He has 34 saves on the season, but he won’t reach 35 today.   Yadi Molina comes up and works the count to 3-2.  Molina is a perfect foil for Marmol’s power sinker-slider-fastball assortment, because he is a Harvard grad when it comes to taking pitches and making pitchers work.   He confounds Marmol.  He fouls off a couple pitches.  Marmol throws the slider and Yadi lays off and walks.   First and third, 2 outs.  Skip Schumacher strolls to the plate.  In my eyes, a 50/50 clutch hitter.  He steps out between each pitch to tighten his batting gloves and preach quiet words of confidence to himself(look closely at him at the plate and he is speaking to himself).  The man watches Caddyshack and Ted Knight too much.   Marmol is starting to lose control completely.   His counts with Freese and Molina carried a confidence and fear during the matchups but Skip is seeing zero hittable pitches.  The count runs to 3-1 before Marmol misses by a foot off the outside portion of the plate.  Bases loaded.  Adron Chambers runs for Molina.  Second and third base are full of speed, meaning a single will most likely score both and give the Cards a win.   Corey Patterson, a regretful excuse for a major league roster spot, stands on deck during Skip’s at bat.  A decoy towards Mike Quade’s Cubs bench to fool them into thinking they will get to face the Ex Cub Patterson and escape with a victory.  La Russa closes the book on Patterson and sends in another Ex-Cub, Ryan Theriot.  Simply put, Theriot will draw a walk before Corey Patterson lays off any breaking pitch.   Theriot works the count to 2-0 and the umpire hands a gift basket to Marmol in the form of a strike call, which registers as Marmol’s 2nd strike in 10 pitches.   Theriot works the count full.   Tension rises.  We have pulled into the Blockbuster parking lot to return a film(Bridesmaids=sucked) and Rachel wants to get a bite to eat.  I am hungry but my capacity to focus right now on anything other than a 3-2 pitch isn’t possible.   Theriot takes a close inside pitch and walks.   The game is tied.  Brand new life for the Cards.  Rachel knows me well.  She knows when I am frustrated, tense, disturbed and sitting in the palm of this team’s hand.  She takes my Subway order and leaves the car.  Now, it’s the radio, Vinny and myself.  My own private Idaho.  Bases loaded, Rafy Furcal up and the Cubs haven’t left the danger zone yet.  I smell something in the air.  That’s fresh bread from Subway, my mistake.   It’s hard to explain the next few moments because I nearly went into shock and sat in disbelief.   I would later find out that Marmol threw a nasty sinker on an 0-1 count, that passed Furcal, Soto and the umpire back to the backstop and bounced towards the Cubs dugout.  Chambers streaked down the third base line, scored, jumped into Molina’s arms and the Cardinals won 2-1.   A thrilling victory that almost didn’t seem real until Mike Shannon came back from a break and read the box score.  Shannon is still a marvel behind the microphone in tight situations.  With Theriot at the plate and a 3-2 count, Shannon dusted off an old gem, “Here we go, folks.  The most exciting play in sports.  Bases loaded.  3-2 count.  All runners off with the pitch.”   When Chambers scored, I pounded on the steering wheel in Troy Siade fashion.   Aggressive celebration is the only way to do it.  After 48 hours of misery, the Cards recaptured the spirit of the fans and their souls with a breathtaking comeback.  Sure, Marmol handed them the win but taking pitches and working a walk is harder at times than making contact.  I can tell you with money down that if Patterson hits instead of Theriot, the game is over and the Cardinals lose 1-0.   Theriot hasn’t had a good year but he hasn’t had a bad one either.  He is hitting .272 and has gladly taken a bench/sub role since Furcal showed up.   Theriot is clutch and can draw a walk and has improved at second base.  He was the true star of the game because that 3-2 pitch was close.  Folks, this is living.   Sitting in a car, emotionally tied to your team, with the rest of your day hanging on their actions.   True freefall dedication.  Being strapped to a bomb comes with a fair dose of sweet and bitter. 
In the end, the Cards won 2-1 and stayed alive in the wild card race.   With 4 games to play, they are 2 games out. I can’t tell you the odds right now.  I’m too close and keeping this one close to the chest.  I could tell you the boys have a shot and be proved wrong tomorrow when everyone is watching football.  I will say this to the masses and the experts of the world….anything can happen.

Will Sunday be Albert Pujols’ last day in Cardinal home red and white? 
My answer would be no.   I can’t see this team without Albert at first base.  After the 11 years he has put together, I can’t see a single route where the Cards don’t make every gesture, move and attempt to keep AP here.  Give him what he wants.  He has done something A-Rod has not, and stayed maddeningly consistent for 11 seasons at a reasonable price.  Pujols deserves a raise and will get one.   We all would love to see Albert play the blue collar cool card, walk into Cards headquarters tomorrow morning before the biggest game of the season and tell John Mozelaik that a deal needs to be locked up and I’ll play for 8-10 more years at 16 million.   That would rock the baseball world and put Dan Lorzano in a mental home.  It won’t happen, but its our own little dream.   Easy measures aren’t located in lengthy contract talks.   The local media is prepping the swan song ride for Pujols on Sunday and I refuse to play along.  I have said all along that Albert Pujols is a man of his word.  When it comes time to decide yes or no, he will make the call and stay here.  He wants to retire here like Stan Musial.  He has built a kingdom here.  He makes a good salary.  His entire life is here.  Does he really want to change that at this point in his career?  I really don’t think so and already have a standing bet of 20 dollars with a co-worker of mine.  When the media noise lessens and the two camps meet in a quiet conference room to discuss the contract or convene over a phone call, the real ideas will come out.   Mozelaik knows there is too much revenue in Albert to let him go.   He means 200,000 in attendance to this team.  The Cards won’t gross 3 million fans in 2012 without Albert.  While they would contend in a poor division, the Cards money bank would take a hit without Albert.  He is approaching milestones, carries the Cards name on his chest and is the face of the franchise.  What happened to Edmonton when Gretzky left?  What happened to Cleveland when Lebron left?  Money was lost.   In some way, shape or form, the organization will take a hit.   It makes more sense to keep him here.  Pay the man his money.  Instead of having a bad year, Albert rebounded, hit .395 down the stretch and has pounded 37 home runs, 98 RBI and scored 102 runs to go with a .302 batting average.  There’s no way Albert walks away from St. Louis and there’s no fucking way the Cards let him.  Please don’t believe what you hear in the press, local or national.  Every paid writer has a motive and an external plan to their words and point of view on Albert.   I’d bet the mortgage that Pujols or his agent never asked for 10 years at 300 million dollars.   That was media created.   Albert doesn’t want to be the highest paid player in baseball.  He just wants market value and a fair deal that represents his status as the best in baseball.  Both sides aren’t stupid enough to break up this happy marriage.  End of story.

Movie Reviews Of The Week

The Killer Elite is an engaging action thriller with dramatic weight and action chops to set it up as the latest great thinking man’s action ride.   Jason Statham holds his own with Clive Owen and Robert DeNiro and the story is solid.  Based off a true story and adapted from a book called “The Feather Men”, this movie works a British Spy tale into a delicious cocktail that’s part Ronin, Munich and The Mechanic.   Statham plays Danny, an Ex-Special Ops agent pulled back into the operation to save his mentor, Hunter(DeNiro) from a Sheik who wants revenge for the murder of his three sons.    The kills came at the hands of the British SAS, which means Statham must bring down 3 hardcore killers in order to get his friend back.   Standing in his way is Ex-British SAS agent Spike(a cunning and clever as always Clive Owen), who wants to protect the isolated agents against the will of his former superiors.  The movie sets the three men on a collision course.   The rest is action drama gold.   Director Gary McKendry knows how to fuse fine drama with full blooded action sequences.   Statham and Owen clash in a series of fights that satisfy the action fan, while the quieter moments between Statham and DeNiro please the more complacent crowd.  One has to think the producers had Statham attached and came up with an idea to up the ante with the additions of DeNiro and Owen.   The result is a deeper than usual action film, with plenty of twists and turns towards the end and an ending that leaves the audience wanting more yet glad they paid money to attend it.   Statham is at his usual bone crunching best, but his acting talent displayed in Snatch and Bank Job come through here.   Unlike Arnold or Jean Claude Van Damme, Statham can act when he has to and add the wild action stunts as a dessert course.  The Killer Elite is an entertaining british spy film that combines the rugged brutality of Statham, the clever talent of Clive Owen and the wise wine of DeNiro to create an intelligient action story about natural killers running the world like hungry lions in a den.  This is more than just another Statham banger with the game acting and worthy story.  See it to believe it before you cast it off into the wasteland of contending films for your attention. 

Bridesmaids sucked.   A disappointing film that failed to match the hype given to it upon its release and weeks later when it grossed over 100 million dollars.   Look, I went into this so called Judd Apatow produced “Female Hangover” with a decent set of expectations and wanted to like it.  The result was a comedy that loaded up on the raunchy material yet fell short in laugh out loud moments and a solid script.   Kristen Wiig stars as Annie, a single woman in need of a bump up in her life.  She recently lost her bakery and her boyfriend in one swift shot and now she is reeling.  Right at the moment of despair, her best friend Lillian(Maya Rudolph) tells her she is getting married.   Cue the fireworks.  Lillian brings in Helen(Rose Byrne), who quickly becomes a thorn in Annie’s side and the two start to butt heads on the wedding and start ripping Lillian in half.   The rest of the film is the buildup to the wedding and the slow maturation of Annie as she struggles to find any sense of safe ground in her life.  Melissa McCarthy has some laughs as one of the bridesmaids, but she isn’t enough to carry the film.  The biggest weight of the miss falls on Wiig, a SNL veteran and a fine supporting actress who can’t carry the proceedings here.  Wiig is too bland to care for here and Rudolph and Byrne don’t help at all.  I never cared too much about  Annie’s fight because the entire film is played like a joke and when it tries to get serious late, the attempt is incomplete.   Comedies that don’t reach the level of their hype carry a case of anticipation blue balls syndrome.  The Hangover carried the same weight heading into theaters.   The word of mouth was strong, the trailer was hilarious and the setup looked fresh and with a talented comedy director(Todd Phillips) navigating and the star in the making Bradley Cooper headlining the cast.   That met and exceeded expectations because all the jokes weren’t located in the trailer.   The comedy was fresh but the reason the film was loved was because we cared for and believed in the group of guys slowly losing their nerve yet regaining their souls in Vegas, the land of wild fun and absolute turmoil.  The fact that the ladies go to Vegas in this film is an insult.   The one highlight of the film comes in the form of Jon Hamm, who works 3 scenes here as the biggest douchebag/fuckbuddy of Wiig’s Annie.  Every time Hamm comes into frame, the movie gets a push.  This comes from a big Hamm fan, but the reason I liked him here was we saw another shade of his talent.   While he plays a cutthroat bastard on Mad Men, Hamm’s role here carries an extra serving of asshole.  How is this for a greeting?  “What’s up, fuckbuddy?”  Hamm owns the film and he only appears in 3 scenes.   Bad news for a heavily favored contender like Bridesmaids.  Pure disappointment. 

Ten Final Bits of Info

  • How did MU do against Oklahoma Saturday night on FX?   To quote the great Ari Gold, how did the fucking bay of pigs go my friends?  MU got their ass handed to them and I once again remind you this will be a down year for the school.   Rebuilding a team doesn’t happen in one season.   QB James Franklin will learn to throw better or simply run faster than a linebacker.  T.J. Moe will provide plenty of highlights but Gary Pinkel’s team will suffer a losing season.   This is what happens when there is no QB in the waiting when your star leaves for the NFL.   Blaine Gabbert is starting for the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, so there’s one small perk.  He didn’t leave for nothing.  How many games has Chase Daniel started in the NFL?  Zero.  Hello to the life of Drew Brees’ backup.
  • Can The Rams beat The Baltimore Ravens on Sunday?  Sure they can.   Matt Hasselback and the Titans kicked their ass last week.   It comes down to red zone efficiency and the minimalization of mistakes for this Rams team.  Will there be a fight in this team or will we beat ourselves again?
  • How many interceptions will Eli Manning throw against The Eagles tomorrow?  My cold hard cash is banking on at least 3 picks, with one being a pick 6.  Michael Vick will rip apart the Giants secondary and the Eagles roll 38-21.
  • Song of the Day-Florence and the Machine-“What the Water Gave Me”.   Forgo the soft name and enjoy the well trained pipes of Florence Welch.  The red haired shedevil can sing and her vocals power this fast moving alternative rocker. 
  • Enjoying a small treat in being a dad right now.   As I write here, little Vinny is passed out in his basonet next to me listening to the rockabye baby soundtrack.   Marley, Vinny and I are all getting a little tired but this is what I dreamed about when I found out Rachel was pregnant.  Creating prose right next to my creation.
  • Attention all old drivers.  Stop fucking driving unless you can follow the simplest rules of the road.   Signal, drive the speed limit, stay in your lane and look before you turn.   Stay at home and die or get a bus route. 
  • Beer of the Week-Guinness Black Lager, a new combination of a lager(one of my favorite kinds of beer) and the Guinness stout.   A stone cold tough guy/girl blend of malt.  Try it if you dare.  We aren’t talking bud light or michelob ultra here.  Prepare yourselves for something called TASTE.
  • The Blues lose to fall to 3-2 on the preseason.  Why can’t the regular season carry 5 Blues game in a week?   I love this tommy gun schedule of back to back to back games in a single 7 day stretch.   The idea is that the training camp is so short, the leagues gets the teams on the ice as fast as possible to throw them into serious game shape.   If you come back from the offseason in shitty shape, good luck in the preseason.   While the scores don’t count, the shifts do and the floor scrappers looking for work need to be ready to push the first week.   Once again, there’s no way the Blues shouldn’t contend for a playoff spot this season.   After two shitty seasons of being unable to finish in the top 8 spots in their division(imagine is MLB carried 4 extra spots per league in its playoff picture), the Blues need to make the playoffs and go deep this season.  The team isn’t young anymore and the veteran presence is ingrained into this team’s roster for the upcoming 2011-2012 campaign.   There’s no more excuses.  Get it done.  The first week proves this team will score plenty of goals but how well the defense and goaltender Jaroslav Halak play will determine the fate of the St. Louis Blues.  Stop the Journey commercials and win some fucking hockey games, dudes!
  • After being off work for nearly 2 weeks, I return to Senoret Chemical on Monday.   While I loved being at home for Vinny’s first week, the time to return to work is right and I will be a proud producing papa working the blue collar grind to keep a roof over our heads.   Going to work carries an additional incentive now along with the sadness of being away from my kid for 10 hours for 5 days a week.   Remember what I said earlier.  The sweet isn’t as sweet without the bitter.
  • There are times when being a father is lovely and full of ambitious excitement, and then there are times when your son fires shrapnel like shards of shit at your face while you change his diaper in a Walmart parking lot.   Priceless moments my friends.  For the record, he missed me for the most part.  This matchup will carry a sequel. 

The time has come to wrap this up.   A mini Buffa Blast of thought and opinion.   Remember, be nice to your friends and family but keep them close and don’t be afraid to tell them how you feel and speak your mind at all times.  Blood bonds and likeness should never hide a brutal shot of truth serum.  

Thanks for reading and goodnight,

Dan L. Buffa