The Buffa Blast(unfiltered opinion)

Here we go,

After a calm relaxing weekend, the time has come to unleash the rage at the keyboard once again.   Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a rant from this head.   Notes, opinions, and little details are formulated over a 2-4 day period and put down in a complex cocktail of unfiltered digestable opinion and data analysis.   As spectators in this tricky game of breathing for a living, we look, digest and analyze everything that comes into our specs.  So follow me here as I take you through the course of my mad mind.  Starting with the relentless St. Louis Cardinals(all Chicago Cubs fans, please skip over or get our a needle).

The Cards Blood Shop

This team continues to drive me insane.   Every game carries feelings of anticipation followed by nerve rattling introspection.  It’s like watching a 6 month thriller that has as many twists and turns as it does revelations.  When does the pain stop in following a sports team? The day they decide to stop playing for good.  While the football diehards come out and declare baseball dead, this die hard Cards fan refuses to get involved with PRESEASON activity and instead stays grounded in a playoff race.  What is going with this team?  I’ll start things off with a good, bad and ugly section.

The Good-Since our last gathering here, the Cards are 3-1 and seem to be back on track.  The driver is back in the seat and pushing this team forward.   After losing two crucial games to Milwaukee, the Cards got a hold of themselves and took the finale and won the series with the Rockies over the weekend.   Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter came up huge in the Brewers finale, with AP delivering 4 timely hits and Carp pitching 8 strong innings to get his 8th win to even his record.   This team’s offensive capabilities sprung to life over the weekend, taking down the Rockies by scores of 6-1 and 6-2 while losing 6-1 in between.  Rafael Furcal continues to shore up this infield defense, which hasn’t committed more than 1 error in a ballgame or 3 in a series since his arrival.   Ryan Theriot and Skip Schumaher form a solid platoon at second base and the outfield is doing fine if not great.  The bullpen isn’t losing games anymore, instead becoming a deep well rounded force for manager Tony La Russa to play with.   Octavio Dotel and Mark Rzepcynski have pitched very well in their short time with the team.  Dotel struck out 4 in a crucial moment in Sunday’s game and Rzep pitched 3 scoreless frames on Saturday.  The only question lying in vain on this team is the starting pitching.  Which leads me to my…

The Bad-The Rotation, with the exception of Carpenter, looks weak in August.   Jaime Garcia hasn’t pitched well in his past 4 starts, winning only one game while his team has lost his past two starts.   The Rockies roughed him up on Saturday and ruined what looked like a potential sweep.   Kyle Lohse pitched 6.1 innings of  solid ball on Friday and Edwin Jackson pitched solid on Sunday after a shaky start but what I am not seeing is deep starts by this group.   After Carpenter grinds out 8 on Thursday, Garcia and the rest can’t reach 7 in their starts.   In the past week, starting with the Brewers series, the rotation pitched decent for the entire home stand.  However, leaks are popping up and alarms are flashing.  This group is getting weaker and not stronger.   Lets run down the list.

Carpenter-A  Manny Pacquiao like tenacity on the pitching mound during the second half.  After 100 pitches, hitters only getting Carp for .155 BA and .391 OPS in 66 plate appearances.  Stronger as the innings pile up.   Also, in 2011, stronger as the season rolls along.  He is 6-1 in his past 7 decisions.  His performance on Thursday showed you why he is the Ace.  With the backs against the wall, Carp proved to be a Stopper.  Carpenter has 1 win as he walked into June and now he has 8 wins to match 8 losses.  Carpenter has turned into an Ace once again.

Garcia-A perplexing talent with 10 wins and deserving of 3 more at least but a pitcher who continues to struggle away from Busch Stadium and beginning to look vulnerable at Busch.  Garcia allowed 5 runs on Saturday night, the second coming on a two out two run single.   Two out hits are hurting this staff, and Garcia gives up a ton of them.  His young mind on the mound can’t seem to bounce back from a bad call from the umpire and unravels.  A top of the rotation talent that is struggling to stay consistent and pitch into the 7th-8th innings.

Lohse-A hot start that went away fast in June and July but is beginning to level back out.   Lohse rebounded from a rough outing in Florida to pitch 6.1 innings on Friday night and get his 9th win.  Lohse is 10-7 with a 3.44 ERA.  In his last 10 starts, he is 3-4 with a 4.50 ERA.   During those 10 starts, Lohse has only reached 8 innings once and the rest have been 6.1 innings or less.  Lohse isn’t pitching deep into games at all.  His last 4 starts have seen a total of 19.1 innings, an average of less than 5 starts per start.  Pitiful for August.  A 10 game winner with holes in his performance.  The main problem with Lohse is that he doesn’t have an out pitch and struggles to put away hitters.

Westbrook-Jake the Snake is a literal puzzle.   What do you get from this guy from start to start?  No one knows.  Westbrook’s numbers are better than Lohse in his past 10 starts(3-2, 4.23 ERA, four starts of 7 IP or more), but you wouldn’t know it if you watched the man pitch.   He is tough to watch, walks too many and can fall apart in one inning.  However, he is 9-6, has pitched well in the second half and seems to come up big in huge contests.  Still, a man that will make you grind your teeth.

Edwin Jackson-A straight up mixed bag of a talent.  He has 2-1 as a Cardinal but his ERA has risen from 3.92 to 4.04 since a move to the NL.  That’s an unhealthy concept.  However, take out the rough start in Milwaukee and his numbers as a Card look shiny.  Jackson’s main problem is the long ball and getting ahead of hitters.   His K-BB ratio is good but he often falls behind hitters and needs to throw a ton of pitches to recover.  He doesn’t start too hot and gives the opposition many chances to hurt him.  A 27 year old arm with a high octane heater(95-96mph) who induces tons of contact from hitters.  He doesn’t strike out a ton of hitters, pitches for contact and gives way to big innings.  He also exited tonight’s game with a suspected hamstring issue in the 6th inning.  There’s another problem.  This man eats up innings only if he allows the hits and runs to make you nervous.  If he gets past 7 innings, damage will be done. A mixed bag.  Genuine talent but take how far?  Will he ever rise into a top 3 starter or continue to change teams and sit in the lower half of a rotation.  He is effective but lucky at times.  He is a power arm who tips his bullpen after most games and that’s not a good thing.

All in all, a talented if unpredictable bunch of arms.   We know this team will score runs.  The Cardinals rank near the top of the league in runs scored, batting average and power stats.   However, we also rank near the top in double plays.  Read it all and this team produces baserunners and runs.  A never say die lineup that has came back in 2011 and won games after they were losing.   The bullpen is improved and pitching well.   Each arm has an assigned role down there and knows their role.   However, the rotation is the crutch of this team.   They will determine if we reach the playoffs or not.   After Carp and Garcia, the rotation is a true mixed bag of potential outcome.   Asking me to hand the ball to Jake Westbrook or Action Jackson for series win is like telling me a live hand grenade is on the mound.  The rotation will decide if we do or die, crack or prosper, win or lose in 2011.

The Ugly-The Brewers aren’t slowing down.   While the Cardinals won the series over the weekend, The Brew Crew swept the hapless Pirates and gained a game on the home team here.   The Cards are 5 games out of the first place because they wasted a game Saturday and the Pirates wasted every opportunity to take a single game in Milwaukee.   In a scoreless game on Saturday, the Pirates had chances in the 9th and 10th inning to get a run in and failed.  On Sunday, a passed ball gave Milwaukee a chance to tie the game and opened a chance for a walkoff win in the 10th.   The Cards dropped a game Saturday and lost a game in the standings.  The Brewers are 16-2 in the past three weeks.   Deadly effective and waiting for no one to tell them to slow down.  The Brewers took 2 CRUCIAL games against the Cards at Busch and beat up the Bucs.   Their next four series are against teams with bad records, including Chicago, Los Angeles, The Mets and Pittsburgh.  The Cards face Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Chicago and Pittsburgh at home.   The Brewers are playing so well that the Cardinals can’t afford to lose a game.  You start falling 6-7 games out of first place in mid to late August and the shovels come out.  Quite honestly, the Cards are in must win territory every night.

An example-If the Cards walk into Pittsburgh tomorrow night and lose, the season is slipping out of their hands one finger at a time.  Here’s the issue.  If they lose a game and the Brewers lose as well, ground isn’t lost but at the same time an opportunity to gain ground is also lost.   If we win and they win, the standings stay the same.  If we lose and they win, a crucial game is falls to the floor.  Must win mode.  The Pirates are 3-15 since the controversial call at home plate against Atlanta.  The young bunch have fallen apart and are requiring beating hours.  I am not saying the Cardinals will win.  I am telling you they HAVE TO WIN.   Throw their 5 starting pitchers into a interrogation room and tell them its time to put up or shut up.   Pitch well, earn your cash or go the fuck home and suffer the priceless reward and fate of a hack millionaire athlete.   This is where I wish athletes had to truly earn their cash.   What am I talking about?  If Albert Pujols goes 0-4 at the plate, he doesn’t collect his 550,000 per game salary.   If Kyle Lohse doesn’t pitch well enough, he doesn’t get his 333,000 dollars.  If Yadi Molina doesn’t reach second base on a double off the wall, don’t feed him after the game.  If Skip lets a grounder roll through his 5 hole at second, tell him he can’t restrap his batting gloves between each pitch or he gets tased.  If Albert rolls over on a grounder and doesn’t hustle, tell him GOD just jerked off the devil.   Leave the religion out of it and put the gloves and bats to work men.   The St. Louis Cardinals are going to have to fight, claw, and slug their way to a division title this season.   When Adam Wainwright went down, the deck was stacked against us.  Anyone with a suit and cash in Vegas tossed this team in a 6 foot hole in the desert.  This team wasn’t picked to finish dead last but it seemed that way in April.  Every fucking game counts and I am not even talking about a midsummer classic.  Here’s what I want to see happen.

A Round of Advice and Future Need

1.)Albert Pujols to completely destroy pitching in August and September.  In his 11 year career, AP loves to swing in the last two months.  He is a clutch hitter.  Since his sobering two game performance against Milwaukee on Tuesday and Wednesday, Pujols has broke back out of the cage.  He is 9-15 in his past four games and risen his average to .288, the highest it has been all season long.   Slowly, AP is coming around.  After cranking a 465 foot blast on Sunday night(longest in Busch III history), Pujols leads the NL in home runs and is in the top 6 in RBI.   Pujols is hitting game changing home runs.  Each of his past 4 home runs have either tied the game or given the Cards the lead with his one swing.  The only mind boggling issue with Pujols are his walks and strikeouts.   Pujols has more strikeouts(43) than walks(41) in 2011 and that is unheard of for the Mang.   The past 6 seasons, Albert has accumulated close to or over 100 walks and less than 80 strikeouts.  While his K’s are normal, his walk rate is horrible.  He is swinging at pitches out of the zone more times than not in 2011 and that is his main problem.  He also leads the league in double plays at 24.   A fan can only hope Pujols is slowly snapping out of his funk and locking in for the home stretch.   Tonight, Albert is hitting in his favorite ballpark.  At PNC Park in Pittsburgh in 83 games, AP has put together power stats good for an entire.  .386 BA, 27 HR, 80 RBI, 80 R with a .462 on base percentage.  In Pittsburgh for his career, he is a machine.  In 162 games(equivalent of an entire season) Albert has put together 46 HR, 139 RBI, and a .454 OBP.  If there was a case for Albert Pujols going anywhere outside of St. Louis, it would be Pittsburgh to let it rip 82 games a season in PNC Park.  Pujols dials in and destroys pitching like no other hitter in that park.  Get ready this week for some fireworks.  If the Pirates were smart, they would have Pujols arrested on sight the minute he steps off the plane.   Go hunting Albert and let that fucking bat eat!

2.)Fernando Salas keeps his quiet effective streak going.  In his last 10 appearances, Salas is 6-7 in saves, only allowing 1 run in 11.2 innings pitched and zero runs in his past 8 outings.   He has a 13-3 K to BB ratio and has finally notched a few 1-2-3 saves.  Against the Brewers, he struck out the side on Thursday after allowing a hit.  Salas is recapturing the midseason form and fooling hitters again with a deadly concoction of moving fastballs, diving sliders and effective breaking pitches.  A good closer means a winning team.

3.)Stay Healthy.  Now that the team is staying out of the trainers room and in the lineup, good things can happen.  Matt Holliday, stop lifting heavy weight.  Do some reps, tone the muscle and be nice to the back muscles.  You play baseball every day and travel constantly.  The body already hates you so compromise.  Lance Berkman, drink herbal tea, stretch and ice the knees big guy.  Age isn’t your friend so be kind to the body.   Arthur Rhodes, cash in the AARP checks and throw strikes.  Sunday night wasn’t a good debut for the newest Cardinal.   Edwin Jackson, listen to everything Dave Duncan tells you.   Write it down.  Jaime Garcia, carry a pen and pad, and ask Chris Carpenter about staying strong in the middle of a hellish inning.

4.)Jon Jay, relax and play baseball.  Center field is yours to lose and while your bat has slipped, the level of fundamentally sound play has stayed strong.   Good defense in center, a worthy bat in the #2 hole and a big future.  Jay’s batting average is still .293, but his on base percentage is slipping and his strikeouts are going up.  However, he still deserves to start over Corey Patterson, who swings at fastballs above his head.  Jay is a good player and smart bat.  Keep him in there.

5.)Rotation.   Pitch deep into games.   Listen to your coach and catcher.  Make smart pitches.  Don’t give up so many two out hits.  They kill a baseball game.   You wear the birds on the bat and pitch at a major league level and get paid millions to do it, so back up the money with a solid performance.

6.)Jason Motte’s extraodinary run of success in 2011 is flying under the radar.   Since July 24th, Motte has only allowed 1 hit  in 16.1 innings, with hitters only going 1-26 against him.  He hasn’t allowed an earned since June 23rd.   Motte has redefined the strikeout pitcher for hire in the bullpen.   When trouble rises, Motte comes in and shuts the door.  This is a pitcher that has a defined role and holds value on this team.   Quietly, through changes and up and down streaks, Motte is putting together a hell of a season.

This team is in need but playing well.   They simply have to keep it up.  Stay consistent.  This team hasn’t been consistent with their play all season.  Right now, the Cardinals need to play consistent tough competitive and smart baseball to hold ground and possibly gain on the Milwaukee Brewers, who need a sledge hammer to be knocked out of a streak.  What happens the next 39 games is something I can’t bet on, predict or call.   All we can do is watch and wait.  There is one thing I do know.  This Cardinals team is going to drive you fucking nuts but always show the effort, will, and relentless attitude to win baseball games.  They either watched too much Blues action from the last two years or need to realize they are healthy and fully equipped to overtake the Brewers.

RAMS NEWS

The preseason started off bright on Saturday night with a 33-10 Rams win over the Colts.  Look fans, I won’t bullshit you here.  The Rams were playing a Peyton Manning less team in the first game of the preseason.  That’s like facing an unloaded gun.  Peyton was spending more time at Busch than on a playing field this weekend.  Taking away Peyton from the Colts is like cutting the head off a snake.  However, Sam Bradford and company looked very good, capable and fresh on Saturday night.

Highlights-

-Sam Bradford and AJ Feeley moved the ball all night.   Every time I flipped back to the Rams game, the offense were in the opposing territory and driving into the red zone.   Ball movement is key and the Rams had it on Saturday.  Josh McDaniels is calling plays that pound the other team and hit them at different spots on each play.   Last preseason, fans needed a good book and helpful cell phone to get them through a game because Pat Shurmur’s offense was a snoozefest.  McDaniels, bad head coach or not, is a wizard with a playbook who wants to punch holes in a defense.  Bradford was the electrician and McDaniels was the navigator.

-Feeley played very well after a rough training camp.   Backups carry a clipboard and headset for 16 games if everything goes right, but they have to be ready just in case and Feeley looked sharp, accurate and moved the offense.  Good for 3.5 million dollars.

-The running backs look like a trio of bruisers.   Jackson, Norwood and Williams are going to put a hurt on teams and fit perfectly into McDaniels’ multi back schemes.  Steven Jackson’s knees and body just got legitimate(no offense to Kenneth Darby) help.

-The Defense looked sharp.   The defensive line is once again going to collect sacks and pressure the quarterback.   Fred Robbins, Chris Long, James Hall and newcomer Robert Quinn are going to give an offensive line a hard night’s work each ballgame.   Quinn looked especially impressive for a man who missed part of training camp and hasn’t played in an organized game in 2 years.  Quinn was doubled teamed in the second half and got faster and stronger as the game went on.  Quinn will emulate Long in his ability to wear down a guard over 4 quarters of play.  He has the burst and willpower to succeed here.  A Spagnuolo brand of player.

-Speaking of offensive line work, the Rams O-Line looked good if not great.   Bradford, Feeley and Thaddeus Lewis saw pressure but never got sacked.   Many football fans forget that the hardest working players on the field are the offensive and defensive lines.   Every single play, two lines of men get thrusted into each other for a tug of war and full body workout/contest.   While we watch the quarterback roll back and set up, the offensive line forms a line in front of him in an attempt to protect and produce seconds worth of time to throw while the defensive struggles(and I mean fights) to break through.  It’s a long forgotten concept because there are no fantasy points to be seen in an offensive lineman.  However, the wide receivers, running backs and quarterbacks wouldn’t score anything if it weren’t for the offensive lines work.  The Rams O-Line has really improved over the past 2 years and will keep Bradford on his feet.

-This team faces a tough opening stretch of play that includes games with the Eagles, Giants, and Cowboys, but if they can make it through the first six games with 3 wins, the middle part of the schedule contains divisional play that will make or break this team.   Sam Bradford carries a yearful of knowledge into round 2 but also a heavier set of expectations.  The Rams went from 3 wins to 7 wins in one season after his arrival.  The bar is being set high.  One friend of mine has this team winning 10 games, including wins over the Eagles at home(a stretch) and the Giants in NYC.   Whether you agree with that assessment or not, one thing is for certain.   The Rams aren’t a bad team any longer.   A certain level of play is expected from them in 2011.  What happens is anyone’s guess.  I’m glad football is back and our team looks ready to roll.

The Adventures of Sam the Ram and his enforcers continues this fall and winter.  When the weather cools down and the cold air starts to move in, football has arrived.  Dust off the wings and chili recipes.  Wipe down the flat screen.   Stretch out the legs and break out the grill my friends.  NFL action is back.  Is it more important than baseball at this point?  No, but its slowly coming alive.  The first game of the season is less than a month away.

Blues News-The team isn’t sold, preseason games are a couple weeks away, but hockey is around the corner as well so listen up.

-Jonathon Cheecho gains a little life for a roster spot with David Perron’s health failing to give way to serious action.   Cheecho is a long shot to make the roster and stay, but the thought of this former gunslinger finding Scottrade is exciting.  Why not?  Brad Boyes got two years to try and become a sniper.  Give Chee a second(or third) shot at glory here in the city of blinding optimism.

-Once again, make David Backes captain of this team.   It’s time for a true leader to take over this locker room.

-Tell Barrett Jackman we love his team player attitude, ability to block shots and get his nose dirty, but remind him that he plays for the Blues and not the other team.   Lessen the puck giveaways which lead to goals, asshole.

-Inform Ryan Reaves that it’s okay to walk over and bash the other team’s enforcer in the lip.  A young kid getting a shot at becoming the enforcer on a team is like a young man going to prison.   The first thing they must do is build up their rep as a badass and challenge anyone and everyone to a fight.  Reaves won’t be taking it up the ass anytime soon but he will be seen as weak and soft if he doesn’t get on the ice and bash skulls.  He isn’t out there to score goals(that and defense would be nice), but he skates to send messages that arrive in blood soaked fists.  As a father told his son on a recent FX boxing show, let your fists be the judges.  Let people know you don’t mind throwing a punch and taking one as well.   Fear builds and notoriety begins.  I like this kid, love his style play and want to see him come into his own here in St. Louis.  The enforcer job is his to lose and he will command a look with Perron out.

-Tell the Slovakian midget to put his game face on.   His first season as a Blue carried all the potential of prom night.   Promise, potential reward and breakdown in clutch moments.  Jaroslav Halak started out well, broke down after a few injuries to his team, started letting in soft goals, got hurt himself, came back and played decent when the games didn’t matter.  Halak is making big money in a big contract to be The Man.  His play determines if he stays there or starts to look brittle.  He is a smart goaltender and can take over games when he is right, but drown games when he is wrong.   With an old hand and a young pup standing behind him in the backup section, this is Halak’s team and they go where he takes them.

-Defense, give Halak a chance to see half the shots coming towards the net.   What marks a Blues game?  A 5 minute period towards the end of the game where the opposing team fires shot after shot at Halak and the defense in a close game.   This must end.

All in all, a season marked with higher expectations.   The acquisitions of Marty Langenbrunner, Jason Arnott, Cheechoo, and the return of the young talent and Halak make this team a threat.   However, the Central Division is stronger than ever and will force the Blues to make every game count in January and February, an area where they usually start to tail off.   How consistent can this Blues team be?

The Random Sports Bits

-Tiger Woods is never coming back folks.  Call his career done.  He will continue to participate but how many more times can we see Tiger fail to make a cut and still think of him as a threat.   People think Pujols is declining.  Point your lens at Woods, who never recovered after the reality of his personal life and true nature of his health.   His knees are shot, his swing is flawed and with or without head speaker Stevie Williams at his side, Tiger is finished.  Call it.  Time of Death.

-The NFL season looks up for grabs once again.   The NFC and AFC look wide open and I could name 2-3 teams in each conference with Super Bowl chances.   Last season, I correctly named the Green Bay Packers as a team to keep an eye on.   They won the Super Bowl without 2-3 of their top players.   Right now, I would put Green Bay, Philidephia and The Saints into a pool with Pittsburgh, New England and either Indianapolis or The Jets.   Also, don’t count out Minnesota, Dallas or Baltimore.  While we could see The Packers and Steelers in a second straight Super Bowl, the matchup could easily feature two different teams.  There are no clear cut dynasties in football these days, which makes for great theater and emotion.  16 weeks of energized emotion and inches earned or lost.  Will there be a different winner for the 4th season or a returning titan to the throne?  You never know.

-Stepping between the lines in a baseball game is dangerous.  Before Sunday night’s Rockies-Cards game, Rockies third base coach Rick Durer took a ball to the face that sent him to the hospital for a broken nose and CAT scan.   Durer was standing near first base when Chris Nelson was completing a double play drill and slung a hard throw towards first base with no target.  Durer wasn’t paying attention and took a smash to the face.   On Sunday, Jason Marquis took a line drive off his lower leg, pitched through, and ended up collapsing in pain a couple innings later to a broken leg.  A few days ago, a Rockies pitcher took a line drive to the face.   Baseball is dangerous in its own way.  Stepping between the lines requires a lightning quick awareness that few have.

-Dan Uggla carried a 33 game hitting streak into Sunday’s game that was snapped after an 0-4 outing.  Listen up folks.  NO ONE will ever break Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak record.  The pitching is too good, the schedule is longer and the grind is harder today.  DiMaggio’s streak will remain intact.  I don’t see a hitter reaching the 40s anytime soon.  It is too hard.   Uggla used the streak to break out of a season long dreadful slump, raising his batting average 35 points and carrying his team into the wild card race.  However, hitting in 56 straight games in this day and age is something that will never be reached.  71 home runs is one thing.  71 home runs in 162 games.  Hitting in 56 straight is far harder.

-Osi Umenyiora wants a promise to be fulfilled.   Two years ago, Giants General Manager Jerry Reese told Osi that if he kept up his level of play in 2009 and 2010 that he would give him a raise and a new contract.  Osi kept up his play and now wants to get paid.  This is the same reason I agree that Chris Johnson deserves to get paid by Tennessee.   Certain players reach a higher level of play than their salary pays, and a raise is expected.  In Osi’s case, a raise was promised and needs to be fulfilled.  Every player must fulfill a contract but an owner has to stand by his word.  He had a team high 11.5 sacks and also forced a league high 10 fumbles in 2010.  Pay the man his money.   Umenyiora is practicing on Monday without a new contract.

-Chad Ochocinco wants to live with a New England Patriots fan for the first part of the 2011 season.  That’s nice, but does he understand what he is getting into here?   Does he understand how much seriousness is invested into the games in Boston?  Does he know?  He wants to live with a fan to get better acquainted with the territory but what happens when Chad comes home after a loss where he drops 4 potential game changing passes from Tom Brady and the fan wants to grill him.   Where will he hide?  Is there a clause in the living arrangement contract that calls for a timeout from questioning?  If he fucks up, Tom Brady and Bill Belechick will let him know how bad it was.  Imagine going home to hear a fan tell you the same thing.  Good luck.

-The Los Angeles football scene wants a football team again and really want the Rams to return home.  I say get your own fucking team and leave ours alone.  LA once owned the Rams, but lost that right in 1995.   16 years later, they want them back.  Sorry, but that isn’t an option, especially right now, where the Rams have a leasing agreement until 2014.

-Tom Hoberstroh at ESPN.com Insider writes that a trade between Orlando and Miami involving Dwight Howard and Lebron James would work.   While it will never happen and especially never come up in the middle of a labor dispute, the trade does work on certain merit.  Howard is exactly what the Heat are missing, a big inside presence that can support Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh on the inside.  James takes his talents to Orlando and officially gets his own team again.  While Orlando has supporting pieces in place, James wouldn’t deal with the overwhelming expectations in Miami and once again gun for his championship on his own terms.  Howard helps Miami and James helps Orlando.  Florida gains power with a mega blockbuster trade which will never happen. A good idea.

-Alex Smith will never be a good NFL quarterback and isn’t the answer in San Francisco.  Now, head coach Jim Harbaugh can play him all he wants and Rams fans can rejoice.   Or he can call Troy Smith or Daunte Culpepper and bring in a quality arm.   The 49ers looked horrible on Thursday night and mostly due to the fact of their QB play.

-Kobe Bryant says he will play overseas.  Who gives a shit?  Is this really news on a daily basis?  This falls between Casey Anthony’s release and the Jersey Shore group having issues.   Wow, this is our culture in 2011?  No wonder opposing countries see us as a joke drowning in debt and carrying very few clues.

-All hail ESPN writing mastermind Bill Simmons, who on his most recent mailbag session, compared his love for a TV series(Curb Your Enthusiasm) to a pitcher’s record for a season.  He went from Season 1 to the latest season and gave each a pitcher’s record and stats.   Brilliant.  This is my hero.

MOVIES-While I didn’t catch any movies in the theater over the weekend, I did take in two on DVD at home.  Here is a quick take.

Kill The Irishman-An indie film about the legendary life of Danny Greene, a Cleveland based irish gangster who created a business on his own, grew to be the Mob’s worst enemy, survived countless assassination attempts and eventually took down the Cleveland Mob.   Ray Stevenson(Pullo on HBO’s Rome) plays Greene as a renegade young tough guy who used his intellect and deep knowledge to rise up against the most powerful men in town.   Here is an underdog story.  Greene started out as a longshoreman, but eventually took over that union, started his own gang and went head to head with the biggest criminals in the city.   Stevenson invests wit and a charming cold streak into the role, the pace is quick, and the tale is deliberate enough to hold interest.  Here is a mob story few know but most will believe upon conclusion.  Val Kilmer, Vincent D’Onofrio and Vinnie Jones also star in this fine crime drama.

I Love You Phillip Morris-A true story here as well, about famous con man Steven Russell(Jim Carrey), who escaped prison four times, eluded the authorities many other times, all in the name of changing identity and living happily ever after with the love of his life, Phillip Morris.  Russell was a closeted homosexual until he left Virgina Beach, where he was a police officer and started a life of theivery that didn’t slow down until many years later, when George W. Bush made an example out of him.   Jim Carrey is a thrill to watch here, once again showing us his man on a wire ability to go back and forth between drama and comedy.   While we laugh and soak up his con man efforts, we see the true sadness in Russell failing to craft a life for Morris and himself.  Ewan McGregor plays Morris straight and does a decent job, but the movie belongs to Carrey, who is brilliant as a man who constantly is on the move from honest identity.  The role of Russell is a tough assignment, but Carrey nails it by bringing every element of his reportoire to work here.   Physical comedy, dramatic tendencies and a confidence.  Russell once walked out of a jail dressed as a cross dresser and also left in plain clothes at times.  Escaping prison became an artform.  When he wasn’t in jail, Russell was bankrupting a law firm while robbing the retirement funds and masquerading as a lawyer.  A con film is always fun to watch and Carrey makes this true story stand tall with an engaging charmful performance.

Television

Rescue Me does it again.  Another power packed unsentimental hour of television last week.  Instead of manipulating viewers with 9/11 sensitivity, Leary and Peter Tolan sneak up and punch you in the cheek with an episode about family loyalty and using secrets to manuveur around a bad call in judgement.  When Tommy Gavin is suspended for going off on a reporter during a 9/11 interview that went south, his family step up to the plate in order to clear the slate of their renegade firefighter.  As one chief calls it, you fight fire with fire in order to get things done.   What keeps coming up huge for this series is an ability to not wring the audience dry for sentimental value.  Tolan and Leary aren’t creating melodramatic sappy memorials.  They are telling a story that is beginning to close the door on a tough subject.   Instead of dwelling on the tragic day, they use it as a story framing device for tales about people and emotions.  Leary never lets you forget that 344 firefighters lost their lives on 9/11, but he sneaks in the bitterness of the aftermath in small doses.   The main issue at the center of this show is Tommy Gavin learning to live with himself after 9/11.   Can Tommy Gavin really survive 9/11 or will he eventually succumb to its effects on the soul?  What if you made it out alive and 64 fellow co-workers you knew well didn’t?  A compelling question dived into each week here.   Leary’s narrative is so strong because he calls on the tales from real life sources.  Leary is friends with real firefighters in Boston and New York, and they keep this show grounded in reality.  This week, the crew visits Ground Zero and more hell breaks loose.

Also check out a column on Leary and the show in The New York Times right here, where he dishes on getting to use a new 27 million dollar boat that is meant to aide a future attack, using real firehouse humor in the script, crafting Tommy Gavin from two real men, and centering the theme around real heroes and 9/11.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/02/arts/television/02rescue.html?adxnnl=1&ref=denisleary&adxnnlx=1313393231-6Wu4awHTzr1rwXfi4OiFlg

Look, I really like Denis Leary because he is an underrated actor, writer and a quiet crusader.  When nobody wanted to touch a firefighting series after 9/11, Leary and Tolan jumped at the chance to spread the word on this profession.  Leary donates millions of dollars to firehouses and police departments yearly.  He is a blunt force of honesty who tweets daily on any subject.  Many will say his comedy career started with him stealing jokes, to which I will call another accusation and point out the man created most of his comedy from his upbringing and life in a big family.   I like the guy because he is good at what he does and has class and chops to back it up.  He recently wrote a wonderfully comic column in Entertainment Weekly about never winning an Emmy award while being nominated several times.  His quick takes.

On Being Irish and Lucky-From the Huffington Post

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/denis-leary/i-feel-good_b_570297.html

On Gay Marriage-“(Best Comedy)The gay marriage debate. Because there isn’t one. We have couples who want to legally declare their devotion to each other, raise children in loving households, AND willing to fight for their country? How much more American do you want them to be? Do they need to gain 40 pounds of belly fat and wear black socks with sandals and buy tickets to see Jimmy Buffett? One day soon you will have a gay family living next door. And their kids will be better dressed, better behaved, and WAAAY better dancers than your kids.”

On The Killing of Osama Bin Laden-From the Hollywood Reporter

The Hollywood Reporter: How do you feel about bin Laden being killed?

Denis Leary: I admire the Navy SEALs who pulled the thing off. But having worked with so many firefighters on the show, it was weird. I think there’s a lot of closure for certain people and not for others. When I drive by Ground Zero, which I do almost every day, none of it makes you feel better. There’s celebration in the idea that this big, evil guy got caught, but I would much rather have the guys back.”

All in all, watch Rescue Me, look for Leary’s work elsewhere and keep a lookout for his new series, Sirens, an adaptation of a British series about paramedics, coming the USA network in the coming year.

Alright, my Rescue Me and Leary love section is finished.  Now we can move on.

Other TV to Look Out For-

-Entourage is wrapping things up in slow motion.  The episodes have ended with a fire, a break up and a cocaine induced suicide, which gets high marks for creativity yet is failing to ground the series in its comedic Hollywood roots. I’m waiting for Creator/Head writer Doug Ellin to give us a wow episode and unleash Jeremy Piven on one more Ari Gold rant.  The final season is good yet needs to get better.

-True Blood is starting to pick up speed in its witch infested season that sets up the Witches against the Vamps with the werewolves in between.   A show grounded in sex spiked violence and romantic crossed action needs faceoffs to bolster the intrigue and after a false start, this 4th season is off and running.

-Hard hitting entertainment bringing heat around the corner.   The 4th season of Sons of Anarchy on FX, HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, and Showtime’s Dexter return in September.   When one season of summer power ends, the fall season always produces the most epic fireworks.   That is what’s on tap.

-After a season of recovery and love, Dexter Morgan goes killing once again.  That’s good to know.   Every Dexter fan knows that this series is at its best when its anti-hero is doing what he does best and that is killing bad people.  We have had enough feelings and love stories.  We want blood, Dexter.  Michael C. Hall promises more kills this season.

-If you need genuine laughs, catch Archer’s second season on DVD.  An animated spy comedy series that mixes James Bond with Anchorman and Dirty Harry.

Music Recommendation of the Week-

Bruce Springsteen-Devils and Dust

I’ve always said that I liked Bruno more when he sticks to his acoustic roots, meaning standing in an empty street with a harmonica and a guitar singing about the blues.   Devils and Dust marked a collection of hard to the bone gritty acoustic wonders, with this title track bringing the most juice.  Save me the E Street noise and give me Bruce all wound up and only needing a couple instruments to explain his torment.  Look for the brilliant use of the harmonica here, which covers more ground than a electric guitar or drum solo ever could.  This song is built with a story walking behind it.

http://youtu.be/cG8ZQkeZvzc

The Final Bits

Starting with a Daddy Blog entry.  A quick one tonight.   Counting the number of times where my wife tells me, “I wish men could experience this pain”, to which I respond with, “Sorry, it will never happen.   It’s science.”  During a pregnancy, your wife or girlfriend will tell you the most wonderful of things.  The idea of having two small legs crash into your ribs at zero notice.  Having a small monster push on your sciatic nerve.  Great feelings that can only be told to a man who started the madness.   All men can do is sit there in amazement at the wonderful ability of women at their most unflattering hour.  Believe me, you can tell them they are beautiful, aren’t in any way bitchy or fat, and they will hate you nonetheless a fair amount of the time.  Its just the way it is.  The creation of a human being begins with wonder, continues in complexity and hardship and never stops creating emotions.  We have a little over a month left before Vincent arrives and the amount of times I hear about the female birth experience will never cease to amaze.

-Barack Obama’s approval rating drops below 40 percent.  So what?  Presidents weren’t built to be liked or approved.  They were built to take the blame for massive overspending, bad decisions, coverups, lies, cheating, and bad management.   Obama was hated the minute he stepped into the office.  It won’t change with a different person, white or black.

-Anders Behring Breivik returned to the scene of the crime Sunday, the site where he killed 91 vacationing innocent souls in Norway.   Breivik was taken there by police to walk them through the events that led to him killing nearly a 100 people in a span of a couple hours.   That must of been intense and unsettling.  Walking a confessed cold blooded killer through a crime scene as he takes you through step by step his way of killing.  How many times did the police officers involved think…”What would happen if I put a bullet through his brain right now?”?   Many times.   That would be like taking Osama Bin Laden to ground zero and asking him to completely explain his motives.  It wouldn’t go over well.

-The cool weather opens up several possibilties.   The Outdoors become a option for hangouts when you have company over.  Instead of dying in the heat, a group of friends can have a good time outside the house.  Late night and early morning runs are a great option for runners, like myself.  During the past week, I have engaged in three late night/early morning runs and felt better than ever.  Running in cool weather allows the body to naturally perspirate and not go into dehydration survival mode.  Good times all around come from weather that ranges from 65-80 degrees.

-Fall/Winter films are going to change for me as fatherhood approaches.   Over the past 2-3 years, I have started to cut back the films I see in theaters from the ones that can wait until DVD or cable.  Looking at my EW Fall Preview for films, the choices will be hard to make because there is so much to see.   Clooney’s latest directing-starring effort about a political campaign, Ides of March.   The Statham-Owen-DeNiro Action fest, The Killer Elite.   Sherlock Holmes 2, which is promises rollicking fun and Downey Jr.-Law-Ritchie genius.   Steven Soderberg directing Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, Law and others in the virus drama Contagion.  The crowd pleasing Real Steel with Hugh Jackman.  Clint Eastwood directing Leonardo DiCaprio as J.Edgar Hoover.   Those are only a few of the upcoming pleasures.   More are coming with it.  I’ll lay out the ones to look forward to and the ones to avoid in an upcoming rant.  For now, that’s good enough.  Choices will have to be made ahead.

Well, folks, that’s all I got for now.  This session has gone on for long enough and the time has come, once again, to pull the curtain and exit the stage.  My hopes are that this was informative and enjoyable to read.  A good read is all I hope for here.  I am not trying to curve your opinion but only ease my own mind by giving a perspective.  For now, I am done.

Until next time, take care and thanks for reading.

-Dan L. Buffa

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Cards-Brewers Recap(Rage included)

Hello folks,

Lets get the unfortunate introspection started.  Trust me, I’d rather not dissect the latest Cardinals meltdown, but in order for the mind to move on, some theraputic cleansing must take place.  Here I go.  You can only stare into the abyss for so long before the need for reasoning ceases to exist.  

The Cards are a classic case of frustration, a team that fails to put it all together at the same time.  Last week in Milwaukee, the starting pitching hurt this team.  This week in St. Louis, the bats aren’t getting the job done.  According to BJ Rains on twitter, The Cardinals are 3-8 against the Brewers this season, hitting .229, carried a 270 on base percentage and a .332 slugging percentage.   The Big Three(Pujols, Berkman, Holliday) are hitting .184 against the Brewers this season and .306 against other teams.   The Cardinals swept the Marlins, and seemed poised to come home and do damage against their rival division leader.  Instead, the Birds have faltered.  According to Bernie Miklasz’s calculations, the Brewers bullpen has pitched 27 scoreless innings, allowing 21 baserunners, with 24 strikeouts, a .165 batting average to add up to a 0.67 ERA.  The Brewers are 22-8 in their last 30 games and only getting stronger, going 10-4 on the road, while the Cards have gone 14-16 at home since the All Star break.  That’s just not good enough. 

Last night, the Cardinals played like lazy souls.  That’s what I see out there right now.  Lollygagging pathetic baseball players. 

Notes from Last Night’s Game-

  • The lineup last night wasn’t good enough.  With the loss of Matt Holliday to a back injury, the outfield featured Jon Jay, Allen Craig and Corey Patterson, which scares absolutely no one.   Craig’s first game back, Jay is slumping and CP is a bench hand.  Lance Berkman wasn’t in the lineup because he doesn’t hit Randy Wolf well, but with Holliday hurting, a quality power bat like Berkman had to be in the lineup.   A weak lineup.  
  • Albert Pujols continues to struggle ONLY against the Brewers lately.  Take away the Brewers and Pujols is having an electric second half.   Lets look at it as one examines his paltry sub .120 batting average against Milwaukee.   He tore up the Chicago Cubs at Busch two weeks ago, and then collected 1 hit in the Milwaukee series.   He tore up Florida and comes home and is currently 1-7 with a sacrifice fly against the Brewers this week.   It all adds up to a player who is consistently shut down by his team’s top rival.  That’s bad news.  With Holliday out, Pujols had to step up and he didn’t.  My bet is that Pujols lights the Rockies up this weekend when the Cards are 6 or 7 games out of first place.  Albert is 1-25 in last six games against MIL and 5-42 on the season.  That’s downright horrible.
  • Pujols and Berkman are 10-76(.132 BA) against The Brewers.  
  • Please don’t blame the umpires.   Yes, Skip Schumacher was safe at home on Tuesday night and The umpire botched a play at first base that Pujols was correct that the Brewers runner was out but was called safe.   You can’t pull two unfortunate mistakes from two games and hang the losses on them.   The Cards have scored 4 runs in 18 innings in the two biggest games of the season.  That’s not up to par and makes this team resemble a dead bunch. 
  • Right now, this team doesn’t look like a playoff team and doesn’t deserve to participate.   Its almost time to get the memorial service scheduled, the autopsy finished, and the suits and shovels in motion.   As my wiser than 20 year old scotch Pj Nolan pointed out, the last two games have made this very clear.  The Cards aren’t built for the playoffs. 
  • The Loss of Lance Lynn and Holliday hurt last night but that can’t be placed in the blame box either.   Losing your hottest bullpen hand and hottest bat in 18 hours is a huge loss, but the rest didn’t take care of business last night. 
  • Mitchell Boggs is pitching himself out of a bullpen position.  He came in and allowed two inherited runners to score on a two run single.  He allowed two runs on Sunday in Florida.  While the bullpen has been lights out for the better share of the past month, Boggs’ control is slipping and his efficiency is lacking.  With Eduardo Sanchez on the mend, Boggs spot is getting hotter.  When Lynn comes back, Boggs may find himself in a watercooler role in the bullpen. 
  • Jason Motte carries more value than Boggs because he is getting stronger as the season progresses.  Motte hasn’t allowed a run in 16 straight appearance and his ERA is sharp along with his strikeouts to walks ratio.   Motte is finding better location on his 98 mph fastball and mixing in a slider.  Motte is a useful weapon.   I keep him over Boggs. 
  • Chris Carpenter stands as the last line of defense tonight.  Expect a hot, intense, fiery performance from Carpenter as he stands in front of the Brew Crew freight train.  Every ACE must step up and stop a losing streak.  Now it’s Carp’s time.  If Carpenter can’t stop a losing streak to your rival, the deal is done.  If he folds, count this Cards team. 
  • Speaking of starting pitching, Edwin Jackson and Jake Westbrook acquitted themselves quite nicely in this series.  A pre-series warning turned into a strength.   Jackson atoned for his rough start in Milwaukee and threw 6 innings, allowing 3 runs with 5 strikeouts to a hot hitting offense.  Westbrook started badly last night, allowing 3 runs in the first 4 innings while walking 4 but settled down for 8 innings and pitched 4 shutout innings to close out his night.  Starting pitching hasn’t been the issue in these crucial losses. 

When I arrived at work this morning, a co-worker/friend of mine tried to pull information about the game from me and I simply didn’t want to talk about it.   There are times when examinations can be rendered and others when nothing needs to be said about a corpse.   After running through Florida, the Cardinals have found a speed bump that won’t give in Milwaukee.   The 2011 Cardinals trademark has been come from behind triumphs and a never say die atttiude.   What happens when your luck runs out?  This team turns me into a mad man and I can’t control it.

The Cardinals botched a chance to gain ground in the division and now can only hope to stay within 4 games of the lead.    They failed.  To quote the great Robert De Niro in the underrated cop drama COPLAND, “You had the chance to do something, I gave you the opportunity, and you BLEW IT!”  In this case, the mentally impaired receiver of DeNiro, Stallone’s sheriff, is the Cardinals team.  The Cardinals dropped the ball.   When I think of this team’s awful play in the last 48 hours, I think of a cop chasing a bad guy through the streets.   In this case, the cop is the Card and the bad guy is the Brewers(STL perspective).   The cop is poised to chase him down, make an arrest and has the tools and backup to do it.   Instead of catching up to him, the cop trips up and breaks his leg.  He wastes a chance to make an arrest, put a dent in the crime rate and do good.  He fails.  That’s the Cardinals this week.  Failing to take advantage of an opportunity.

Bottom Line-If The Cardinals lose tonight’s game against Milwaukee and fall six games out of first place, the rest of the season starts to unravel.   Every time we lose to the Brewers, the team’s chances take a bullet.  Will the Cardinals go down for the count?   When their back is against the wall, how will the Cards react?  Can they be rescued by Carp and the arrival of fresh lumber? 

My question-Are they worth saving?  Of course, because if you are a true baseball fan(not the one who tells you he doesn’t care yet likes to comment when the losing streak hits 2), you will never stop rooting for this team.   If it’s in your blood, the urge never dies.   However, the lights are dimming on this season.   If we can’t find a way to beat the Brewers, we don’t deserve anything.   One can’t that enough in order for the message to be correctly delivered.

Stay tuned for more tortued drama from the St. Louis Cardinals.   

So long for just awhile,

-DLB

 

 

 

Cardinals/Brewers Breakdown

I’ll make this simple and get to the point. At this point in the season, one must become a direct judge of bad performances. As a man once told me, you either rise to the occasion or fall by the side and become a spectator.

In a game that meant everything to each side, the Cardinals came up short. Before I get to the smaller details of this latest defeat, allow me to place the blame on one man’s shoulders.

Albert Pujols lost the game last night for the St. Louis Cardinals. In a crucial division battle, the best player in baseball came up short. Pujols’ struggles at the plate mirror the entire team’s problem this season. Mad inconsistency. Pujols came up to the plate 5 times in last night’s game, and every time there were runners on base. He flied out weakly to center field, struck out on a borderline pitch, popped out on the infield, flew out to deep center, and then had a chance in the ninth inning to erase it out. With two runners on base and the game tied at 3 in a walkoff chance, Pujols swung at the first pitch from Latroy Hawkins and lost the game for the Cardinals. I woke up this morning and instantly told myself. AP lost the game last night. He didn’t give up a two run homer in the first inning, didn’t allow a crucial passed ball, didn’t give up a hit to the 8th place hitter and didn’t allow hits in the 10th inning. Pujols lost that game when he failed to get big hits in big situations. Looking at his season from a distance, he looks fine and he is. His power stats are right there, his runs scored are decent and his overall hitting performance is good. However, he is failing in clutch spots, hitting .279, failing to draw walks and swining at pitches out of the strike zone. As I wrote in a rant two weeks ago, Albert’s walk totals are drastically down from the last 6 seasons, meaning he is swinging at more pitches, and most of those offerings aren’t strikes. This is frustrating for Cards fans because we have come to expect pure greatness from Pujols at an annual rate. When he falters, we simply stare into the sky at disbelief. He is our silver bullet and our deadliest threat. Take away Lance Berkman’s struggles against the Brewers, because his numbers have highly overreached expectations. Pujols’ failures get scrutinized because he is expected to be great. For me, the ninth inning at bat stands out the most. If Albert gets a hit, the entire night is wiped clean. If he wins the game, the previous four at bats go away and we praise the king once again. Look, I still want to see Albert in Cardinal red for his life and want a big contract done. However, Albert Pujols is the player who resisted signing a long term contract in the offseason. You can’t blame that on his agent. You blame that on Albert Pujols. AP decided to walk into 2011 and hit his way into a bright future with the Cardinals or a contending buyer. That will make AP look either incredibly Lebron James like stupid or make him look like a humble proud king who chose to earn his money. Right now, while the stats don’t hurt so bad, the overall picture isn’t looking too good for Albert Pujols. THe best player in baseball doesn’t hit .125 against his team’s fiercest rival. Unless Albert Pujols hits better in the remaining 8 games against the Brewers and picks his team up and carries them to a divisional title, his season will be seen as a bad performance. Corey Patterson, Skip, David Freese, Matt Holliday, and Gerald Laird all reached base 2 times. That is two more times than Albert Pujols. If the Cards are to have a chance in these final two months, that must change. It doesn’t matter what Pujols does against the Florida Marlins, Chicago Cubs or Houston Astros. His performance against the Brewers in the biggest series of the season matters right now. ITS EVERYTHING! Albert brought this on himself. He wanted this situation. The Cardinals defied all logical advice and were going to hand him a 6-8 year deal(rumor friendly) in the offseason. He chose to hit his way into a contract. That’s like a guy throwing a lottery ticket good for 180 million dollars into the trash, picking up a bat, saying fuck you Joboo, I will do it myself. AP dimmed the lights on his solo performance capability and so far, has come up horribly short against the Brewers in the past two weeks and throughout the season. What does a best player mean? A player who can rise up to the toughest of challenges and collect the clutch hits.

The loss last night doesn’t sit solely on Albert’s shoulders, but his lack of production is what stands out 12 hours after the fact. I have defended him all season, and its the weirdest feeling because Albert producing is like rain falling from the sky in Seattle. Its expected. This season, when Albert walks to the plate against a rival, you aren’t 100 percent sure the job will get done, and that’s a brand new feeling. Imagine Conan O’Brien taking the stand against NBC, walking away, becoming a cult hero, taking the job at TBS, walking out on to the stage and saying nothing but bad jokes. It would crush his hardcore fans that gave him so much help and confidence in his weakest moment.

Albert Pujols asked for this do or die status, and has fallen short so far this season in the biggest moment. That must change during the rest of the season or there will be blood in the water here in St. Louis. Albert Pujols is playing without a contract right now and that is also affecting his performance. The pressure has never been so extreme. Will it limit him in final two months?

Pujols was facing a sharp pitching staff last night. Marcum, Saito and Hawkins made AP look uncomfortable at plate but pitching him inside and then getting him out on the outside corner. However, this is what big games are all about for players of Pujols’ caliber. Facing great talent and delivering when few can. Albert didn’t produce in five chances last night and that triggered a Cards loss. Early in the season, it was tolerable for Albert to struggle, but sooner or later his lack of production in key areas was going to start affecting this team. Its August 10th, and the time has come for Albert to earn that contract or risk being blamed for a Cards collapse. The next two months will tell the story. Albert’s most productive months are August and September, but as we found out last night, 2011 is a completely different story for the Mang.

Moving on to the other casualties from last night’s game.

The game that got away. This was a tough game for Cards fans. A must win affair that kicks off with a Corey Hart two run homer of Edwin Jackson to create a lead for the Brewers that seemed like the Berlin Wall to the Cardinals. Jackson calmed down, completed 6 gutsy brave innings for the Cards and the lineup slowly pecked away at Shaun Marcum, a man known for offspeed trickery and not heat. The Cards put the leadoff hitter on in 5 innings and only scored in two of them. They hit horrible with runners in scoring position. Opportunities were lost. Here’s the list of suspects because as known in any death, there’s a cause of death.
*Jackson pitched well, struggled, made clutch pitches and held the Brewers in check. He atoned for his performance in MIL while still leaving questions in air for his long term hopes. Jackson did the common Cards starter mistake. Give up a home run with two outs and two strikes. He throws hard and has a decent changeup but has a problem with pitch selection. He doesn’t know how to finish off hitters.
*Turning point of Game, part one. Skip Schumaher being wrongly called out at home plate by Angel Hernandez. A bang bang play on a throw from Prince Fielder was beat by Skip but he was called out. Its hard to carry too much remorse for Angel because he was the closest person to the play. The breaker was Skip’s leg coming up off the plate and touching down before the tag. This lost the Cards a run.
*Turning Point, part two. The Brewers loading the bases in the 5th inning with nobody out only to come away with nothing. Jackson loaded the bags and had to face Braun, Fielder and Casey McGahee. Using black magic, EJax got line drive outs from Braun and Fielder only to catch a runner coming home on a wild pitch attempt. After this, the Cardinals scored a run and got back into the game. 2-1 Brewers.
*Turning point, part three. Jackson gives up an RBI single to the 8th place hitter after catcher Gerald Laird allows a passed ball. This stretched the lead to 3-1 and was an unfortunate miss by Cards. Laird needs to block pitches in the dirt and Jackson needs to get 8th place bats like Jonathon Lucroy out.
*Turning Point, part four. Pujols fails in the 9th, leading to Octavio Dotel’s first collapse as a Cardinal, surrendering 2 runs in the 10th.

Game set match. A battle of wills between two teams took many twists and turns and came out in Brewers favor. This game lived up to all the hype coming into this series. The result just came out in Milwaukees favor.

Tonight pits Jake Westbrook against Randy Wolf. A matchup of flawed arms that will test each manager in their use of the bullpen. If Jake struggles, Tony must go to his bullpen. Cards can’t lose this game.

One thing I will promise. Tonight will feature another gritty battle between two contenders that either puts Cards in the ground or pulls them back into the race. They picked the harder route and must step up. It all starts and ends with Pujols’ production in clutch spots.

The last 4 months means nothing to this team unless they produce in the final two months.

End of story. My work here is done.

So long for just awhile,

DLB

The Extra Juicy Bits of Info

Since my mind never truly quits, let dive back into the rabbit hole and see what’s in the tube.   Going unplugged with bullets here.

  • The Rams offense is going to carry a completely new look under offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.  If Pat Shurmur’s plays carried the vibe of a jazz concert, McDaniels full fleet accelerated attack wil resemble an AC/DC all day concert.  JD’s plays and schemes attack defenses and don’t toy around until the 4th quarter, when its too late to make a dent.  McDaniels’ habits include turning ordinary B receivers into top of the line catchers and he implements a multiple back system in the backfield, handing weight to the fact that GM Billy Devaney brought in Jerius Norwood and Cadillac Williams.   If Sam Bradford didn’t receive the monster gift in the offseason in the form of a Grade A receiver, he got a firepowered enabled offensive mind to help sort out the toys in the box.   The Red Zone efficiency will go up.  Bradford will throw the ball downfield and not check down every other play.   The Rams offensive playbook received a shot of adrenaline when McDaniels came on board.  I would be surprised if this team didn’t lead the NFC West in points scored.  The Rams are set up to seriously contend this season.  Their depth chart is improved since the end of last year.   Look out, Arizona.
  • Edwin Jackson’s start tonight against Milwaukee carries extra weight.  If he gets bombed again by the Brew Crew, Colby Rasmus lynch mobs will form throughout the city and call the trade an immediate bust.  Which is unfortunate because it’s not true.   Aside from Jackson, The Cards got 3 other quality role filling players in the trade.  Marc Rzepcynski has fortified the left side of the pen, Octavio Dotel has pitched in 8 games and went untouched, and Corey Patterson is giving this team a backup outfielder with defense and a speed element on the basepaths.  It would be foolish to think EJ was the only piece of meat in the deal.  Rzepcynski has the ability to start and Dotel is a closer option if Salas wears down.
  • Listening to Bernie Miklasz today on 101.1 ESPN Radio, he laid down some interesting stat quips about the Cards-Brewers series.  Albert Pujols has zero home runs in 9 games against the Brewers.  Lance Berkman is turned into a singles hitter against them as well.   The Brewers bullpen has shut down the Cards in late inning close games.   John Axford has 4 saves in 4 tries against us this season.   The Brewers have improved on the road, going 8-4 in the past 12 road battles and are 11-1 since Rickie Weeks went down.   The point.  Lately, the Brewers are beating us up, holding us down and getting stronger and stronger.  The Cards get 9 more games to add direct ground on them in the standings, so one game can’t be wasted.   It all starts tonight.  The Cards have improved defense, a lightning rod at the top of the order and their best hitters thriving.  There is little reason to waste time this week.
  • Cardinals make or break players in this series.  The Starting pitchers.   After Jackson chases redemption tonight, Jake Westbrook takes the hill tomorrow.  Westbrook is a mixed bag this season carrying either doom or good will.   He is 9-5 with a bad ERA but comes up with big starts and has been solid in the second half, especially if you erase one inning against the Cubs at Busch.   Westbrook is the mystery arm in this series.  That’s why tonight’s start is crucial.  The Cards win tonight, take their chances with Westbrook tomorrow and let Carpenter nail down the series on Thursday.   The rotation has weakened in the second half, failing to reach the 7th inning and lock down big games.   This week all that has to change.  Or else.
  • If you are need of a read of something fresh in September, check out Henry Rollins latest production, entitled Occupants, a book of photograhy and writing that Rollins put together over his world trip through Cambodia, Northern Ireland, South Africa and Vietnam.   This batch of material truly defines Rollins’ ambition.   Some have said he simply wants to be a comedian but not be seen as one by his fans.  I disagree.  Rollins’ true goal is to inform and tell stories.   When he is on stage, he rants about his travels and his life.   When he is on his travels across the globe, he is telling stories.  My deepest respect of Rollins comes from his need to impose his will on his audience.  He needs to talk or else he is lost.  This book chronicles his passion, which in meeting new people, learning their history and rolling it up into an interesting cocktail of conversation telling us about it.  He is a hardcore journalist in his pursuit of new information.   Occupants earned its name because as Rollins puts it, “That’s what we are.  We get some here on this planet and that’s it”.   Henry Rollins is Washington D.C.’s worst enemy, because he brings the unfiltered truth.  He also happens to live there.  Henry is a good man and his true goal is to inform.  Here is the link, so Rollins can tell you in his own words. 

http://henryrollins.shop.musictoday.com/Dept.aspx?cp=14511_50420&src=NEWS114437

  • The Rams schedule in 2011-2012 hinges on their record through the first 6 games and against divisional rivals.  If they can find a way to steal wins against Philly at home, Baltimore on the road and finally defeat Drew Brees in the Ed Dome, the second part of their schedule lets up and opens up division play.  It also hinges on the fact that the Rams will have to play very well against their divisional competition or else you can kiss this season goodbye.  If we cough up losses to Arizona and Seattle(with Tavaris Jackson at QB), there’s no worth in defeating tougher teams like Pittsburgh and Dallas.  The Rams have a tough schedule start to finish, but if we play well and finish well and retain 75 percent of our roster away from injury, this could be a great year.  The Rams are poised to win the NFC West, but we must survive the first 6 games and battle for ground in December in harsh conditions like Green Bay, Pittsburgh and Dallas.  If the Rams make the playoffs, we are going earn it. 
  • If Peyton Manning plays a preseason game, I will be surprised.  Recovering from your second neck surgery is no easy task.  Manning suffered the worst drawback of the lockout and didn’t get the chance to rehab with the Colts personal training staff, which sounds like a soft gripe but when a group of people know your body better than most and can identify areas and get your ready the fastest, the effect is substantial.   Without Manning at the helm, the Colts are dead in the water.   This weekend’s preseason game between the Rams and Colts will be a snooze except for the fact of the lower roster spots being banged around for.  
  • The Cards-Brewers series hype is literally leaking out of my brain, which is why this will mark the 13th note on it.  What’s the best thing about the series?  Its a pivotal division battle for the top spot in mid August.   This series is similiar to the Cincinnati series last August 9th-12th in Cincy.  Same amount of importance.  Same level of fire between the teams.   Brandon Phillips doesn’t play for the Brewers but there is legitimate suspicion that tempers will rise just like they did exactly a year ago.  The Cards got in the Reds faces and into their heads, sweeping the series and pushing ahead only to collapse in the following weeks.  This year, the Reds are long gone and the Brewers and Cards are butting heads at Busch.  The stakes are as high as they have been all season.   Is this a make or break series for the Cardinals?  Yes, because a sweep from the Brewers would put the Cards in hot water.  A Cards sweep changes the dynamic of the race and the final month of the season, which includes 6 MIL-STL battles.  This is baseball at its finest.   Everything up for grabs.   Confidence, distance, attitude branding and momentum. 
  • Silent News Report-Tony Twist and Kelly Chase have been hired as onfield security for potential brawls.   Each have the go ahead to knock baseball players out.  False but funny.
  • Who throws inside first tonight?  My bet is on the Brewers buzzing Pujols, Holliday or Berkman’s front forearm, causing a bench clearing brawl before the 4th inning and a post fight hug fest.  The temperature is set to boil on the field right now with a cool wind coming in.  Watch out.  Can you feel it?

Closing Statements-

  • How long will the cooling trend continue in St. Louis?  As long as we don’t let it go to our heads.    Appreciate it while it’s here yet don’t plan any picnics just yet. 
  • The Federal Government is telling us the economy isn’t going to be right for awhile.    That is old news.  The economy hasn’t been good for years and has only barely rised above bad for a brief period of time.   Who grabbed the newspaper from 2009?
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a worthy prequel and addition because it paints a fresh face on an old tale.   It’s not just apes against humans.  Its Apes being used as cattle for a human scientific experiment in order to improve human life, and the price is too costly for the apes to stand by and die according to the new way of life.   When you take an ape out of his natural habitat(the jungle) and try to place him in a human world, the joy is temporary and consequences will follow.   Caesar is a regular chimp who gets thrusted into a war between humans and his own species because he carries a power that he doesn’t understand at first and only gradually grows closer to as the story unfolds.  What follows is pure entertainment and thought provoking theater, geared to put people in the seats and tell a story.  When does the human greed dig into innocent animal life and survival?  There is more than meets the eye here.  See for yourself. 
  • Buyers have until August 22nd to submit a sales proposal for Blues.   There are groups interested in the Dallas Stars and the Blues.   Which leads to my original theory and question?   What happens first?  A Blues sale or David Perron skating during a live Blues game?  My money is still on A Blues sale but its weakening.
  • Brett Favre.  Stay away.  Your time in the NFL playing field ended after you threw that interception to The Saints in the 2009 NFC Championship game.  We don’t want to remember last season.
  • The Rams will finish 9-7 and win the NFC West and get knocked out by the Saints in the opening round in a thriller.  You heard it here first.  Cool honest non bias opinion.  Going from 3 wins to 9 in two seasons would be astonishing for this franchise. 
  • In the offseason, Josh McDaniels urges Billy Devaney to make a trade for Tim Tebow to be Sam Bradford’s backup.   McDaniels is the coach who urged the Broncos to take Tebow before getting fired 5 games into the season.  I will not call this a good or bad idea.  I am just telling you what comes into my head.  Unfiltered flow here.
  • Entourage and True Blood are developing slow burning seasons that are going to start paying off real soon.  Just saying.
  • Barack Obama is extremely saddened over the loss of 30 US troops in a helicopter crash on Saturday.  Really?  What is he supposed to feel?  When will the President of the United States stop looking and talking like a robot?  That’s all the President is these days to the public.  Approval ratings go down because we don’t know the man in charge of our country.  We know an ideal.  A puppet with zero powers, being pulled in 80 different directions.   Useless knowledge follows his words.  If he is so sad, why doesn’t he tell his military commander to speed up the return of troops from overseas?  I don’t doubt the man’s grief.  I doubt his ability to change anything for the better.   

That is a good place to stop.   The time has come for me to pull my own parachute and head to safer ground.   That means a shower, dinner, and the Cardinals game before I slip into my sleepy state of mind around 11pm.   Working on 3 hours of sleep here, I have accomplished a decent amount today.  8 hours of work, a 30 minute workout at the gym mixed in there, mowed the lawn, wrote this and ready to unwind with a can of Shocktop or two.  Maybe more than 2 cans.  Depends on my pitch count.  That’s right.  The Golden Goodness aka Shocktop is now available in cans.  It’s the little things that get us from day to day my friends.  That’s all. 

Thanks for reading and goodnight,

Dan L. Buffa

  •  

The St. Louis Nerve Center

Greetings everyone,

Lets get straight into the action here and waste zero time with the opening statements.  You know why I am here, so I will just get on with the business of informing.

Cardinals

The team that continues to impose my need to will while frustrating me from week to week.   This is the team that gets inside your head and never lets go of your mind until they hang up the cleats.  Something tells me, the last 60 days of this season won’t be kind to my patience, but I am all in nonetheless.  What happened over the weekend?  The Cardinals took care of the Florida Marlins on the road, and by “take care” I mean they beat them up and put them down for good.  They did so with great bullpen work, subpar starting pitching, and just enough hitting.  In four games, the lineup tallied 20 runs, but won two of the games by a run apiece with the winning run on base.   For the first time since 2004, the Cardinals swept a four game series and maintained ground in the NL Central while the Milwaukee Brewers swept the AAA Astros in Houston.   What happens now?  Will the Cards make the sweep stand up or will they fall flat against their rival at Busch Stadium this week?  First, a little bit of an overview.

The NL Central is turning into a clear cut two team race.  Three weeks ago, the Cards, Pirates, Brewers and Reds were within 3.5 games of first place and all standing in the middle of a brush fire.  Today, the Cards sit 3 games behind the Brewers, and the rest of the teams are out of the race.  The Pirates took a painful loss and a stoppage in the road after a series loss to the Cardinals and responded with 10 straight losses.  They are 9.5 games out of first place.  The Reds made zero moves at the deadline, threw in the white towel and are 10.5 games out of first place.  The Cubs fired off 7 wins in a row but are still 16 long games from first place.  Ladies and gents, the NL Central is a two team battle.  This week, the fight comes full circle in St. Louis.  Any baseball mind can tell you after August 1st, every game and series means a lot.  However, when facing the team directly in front of you and holding your fate, the stakes get higher.  With a sweep, the Cardinals move into a tie.  With a series loss or a zero wins, The Cardinals are 4-6 games out of the top spot and on August 12th that is a bad spot to be, unless the year is 2010 and you are a lucky Reds team watching your competition shoot themselves in the foot.   The Deal is simple.  The Cards have to win this series.  If they lose, they are 4 games out.  If they win, they are 2 games away.  The key this week is to gain ground on the Brewers.  Here is what has to happen in order for the Cardinals to be successful.

-The Rotation must eat up some innings.  That starts with Edwin Jackson atoning for his horrible start in Milwaukee.   After his team gritted out a 8-7 10 inning victory, Jackson took the mound the following afternoon and got lit up on the mound.  In 7 innings of work and the series on the line, EJ gave up 8 earned runs, 4 home runs, 14 hits and the momentum.   The bullpen was tired and the team needed a boost and Jackson let them down.   In his first start, Jackson took care of the Cubs.  Facing a formidable offense, Jackson threw and didn’t pitch.  His fastball didn’t surprise anybody and the result wasn’t pretty.  Jackson must do better and make the Rasmus trade stand up.  A 27 year old power arm is capable of better things.  To quote Trent from Swingers, Jackson is “so fucking money”, he just doesn’t know it yet.  Get it done or bye bye in September. His entire career has been marked by inconsistency.  When will Jackson step up and truly provide a WOW moment?  We will see.

-The Big Boys must keep bashing pitching.   In the Florida series, the combined electricity of Pujols, Berkman and Holliday came together in a wonderful synergy of destruction.  They hit .437 with 5 homers, and were on base constantly.  Pujols hit 3 home runs, Berkman delivered a game winning hit and Holliday hit a couple hit home runs.  Power central is what you get when these guys are healthy.  If the three of them hit well, the rest of the Cardinals lineup looks like a handful.   The team gets better with these three healthy and producing.   It must continue against Milwaukee.

-Keep the bad tempers rolling.  If there is fire between two teams, it’s good for baseball.   Hatred fits here, so stir the tempers up and don’t feel bad about screaming at each other.  If Pujols gets hit high, La Russa needs to retaliate and let the other team know certain things won’t be allowed.   The Brewers-Cards rivalry is getting hot again and unlike Cincinnati this spitting contest will hold up under good baseball.   There is no crying in baseball and there are no apologies in this sports for revenge.

-The Cards simply need to cool the Brewers down.   The Cards are 1-5 against them in the past 2 series and the Brew Crew have won 11 of their past 12.   Winning a series will throw them into a sandtrap, give us a chance to get ahead and flip the tables.   If Milwaukee comes in and dominates, what is left of this team to contend?  These two teams play 9 more times this season, and 6 of the matchups come in St. Louis.   With the Brewers slowly uncoiling road record looking rather dull, the Redbirds have to take advantage.  If not, they die a slow death.

-Find a way to hold Prince Fielder in check, but don’t let Casey McGahee beat you.   Before the Cards came into Wisconsin last week, the struggling third basemen had 5 home runs and 40 RBI   He was hitting .240.   He bashed 4 home runs during the series, collected 9 hits and was all over the place.  McGahee is developing into a Cardinal Killer, and comes alive ala Bud Norris against this team.   If you have to walk him, do so.  Don’t let a hot hand take you down.

-Once again, the Cards struggle to find innings from their starters.   After a rough home stand and tough beginning in Milwaukee, the Redbirds needed more than the combined efforts of Lohse, Westbrook, Carpenter and Garcia, who completed only 20 innings in their four starts.   Playoff teams bolster starting staff’s that pitch effectively deeply into games.   The Bullpen has saved this team in the past 3 weeks since the trimming of the fat and the addition of new muscle.  Lost in the Rasmus deal are Dotel and Rzepcynski, who are both perfect through their first 11 days in Cardinal red.  Without Kyle McClellan, Mitchell Boggs, Lance Lynn, Fernando Salas, MR and Dotel’s efforts, the Florida series gets interesting.   The STL bullpen has been the achilles heel of this team all season.  A group that walked into the season as a liability has turned into a late season strength with their rescue of the rotation’s weak output.   Can that hold up over the next 60 days?  The pressure of the rotation coming down on the bullpen’s innings load will cause a collapse soon.  A break in the levees.  That can’t happen this week.

-The rotation problem speaks to a deeper issue with this team.  Consistency.  In any aspect of the game, the Cardinals have the pieces to go a long way but continue to squander decent chances to become something great.   How do you cure that?  Keep playing and find a trend.   Start by beating up on the Brewers this weekend.

This is a truly impact heavy series for both teams.   The Brewers can step on the Cards’ throats here and end their chances or significantly hurt them.   The Cardinals can halt the Brewers momentum and gain ground.   If you have a chance to punch your rival in the mouth, do it.   The Cards can even the score or the Brewers can wreck the party here.  Can AP-Puma-Holliday keep hitting as one cohesive force?  Can Jackson prove his worth and shut down a hard hitting club?  After seeing the good, bad and ugly of Action Jackson, which side pulls ahead in a pivotal moment? Can Prince, Braun, Marcum, Axford, McGahee and Corey Hart be stopped?  Nyler Morgan can be a real pest also.   Will Rafael Furcal bring the offense along with his D?  When the time comes, can Fernando Salas lock down the 9th inning?  All this and more will be answered this week.

Now, we move on to more smaller bits of Cardinals notes.

  • The Cards defense has improved since the arrival of Furcal at shortstop, who brings a cannon for an arm that has increased double plays and invented the big play again at a pivotol defensive position.   Defense is key for this team because the pitching staff specializes in ground balls.   With Furcal at short, Theriot/Skip at second, Freese/DD at third and AP at first, the plays will get made and the errors went down.
  • Jon Jay is hitting only slightly above 220 since the departure of Colby Rasmus bit he had a good weekend in Florida and is sharing time with defensive minded Corey Patterson.   CP was a bonus grab but is backing up the slumping Jay in center field and made an outstanding running catch in Milwaukee.  Jay is struggling in the full time spot, but has time to improve and also needs Allen Craig to return and bolster the depth.   Jay is a great 4th outfielder and is failing again in the everyday role.  Craig can share time with Theriot at second while Skip(a very good outfielder with a good arm) shares time with Jay.   Keep everybody fresh down the stretch.
  • Colby Rasmus has improved lately but is only hitting slightly above .200 since his trade to Toronto.   It doesn’t mean anything here but most fans forget what the Cardinals got in this deal.   Toronto got a cheap questionale talent with a mixed up future of potential, but the Cardinals picked up a starter, two quality relievers and a reliable backup in the outfield.   Every time you look at the trade, it gets better.
  • Albert Pujols is quietly doing it again.   Hitting .283, Pujols put together a huge series that boasted his home run total to 27 and gives him 69 RBI.  Since his return from wrist surgery, AP is hitting .328 with a combined OPS of .920.  He also has 10 HR and 28 RBI.   A quietly hot bat.
  • Chris Carpenter is a throwback and rather you like it or not, is a ferocious competitor.  Show me a guy who likes to scream at hitters, glare at his own players and speak his mind to an umpire, and I will take him on my team.  This isn’t the cool classy button up league.  Its got a bit of everything.   Carpenter personifies the Bob Gibson style of pitcher.   Mean, direct and serious.   CC has won 5 of his past 7 starts and suddenly has 8 wins and looks more comfortable than ever.
  • Tell Ken Rosenthal to shut his little mouth.   If every team hates STL, why is that every player wants to come play here, and when they do land, they hardly leave.   Rosenthal says the Cards are hated.   I hate Rosenthal and his little worthless comments.  Truth be told.  It’s better to be hated than liked.   Respect and fear walk hand in hand.   Other teams hate the Cardinals because they always are in it.

Switching gears, taking a walk and heading in a different direction.

3 Quick Movie Reviews-The Great, Pretty good and alright selections in theaters right now

Cowboys and Aliens-Do I need to tell you about this movie or read you a plot?   A mysterious outlaw(Daniel Craig, born to play a tough man of few words), wakes up in the desert with a bracelet attached to his arm that may shoot laser beams out of it.  How did he get it and what happens next?  Cowboys, aliens, a beautiful woman(Olivia Wilde), spirituality, and good old fashioned hokey movie magic play roles here.  Would I surprise you if I mentioned indians were involved?  The film recycles a lot of overused Hollywood cliches, like tough guys finding a soft spot, redemption, decency and the sun shining in the end.   There is nothing really original here.  Director Jon Faveau incorporates decent special effects into action sequences, gives Harrison Ford a role he actually likes and gets it all done in two hours.  All hail average handouts.

The Changeup-A very funny killer comedy that thrives on raunchy dialogue that will surprise even the dirtiest of minds and embraces its R rating.   A body switching comedy about two friends, Dave and Mitch, who are hitting speed bumps in their lives, according to themselves.  Dave is a straight shooting power suit at a law firm with a wife and kids.  He is living the dream but wants more adventure.  Mitch is a slacker(aka aspiring actor) with daddy issues whose next job interview involves dildos and the suspension of innocence.  He needs anything.  They piss in a fountain, switch bodies and find out what is missing in their lives.  Simple plot but when matched up with a dream team like Jason Batemen(Dave) and Ryan Reynolds, the material shines like gold.  The director of Wedding Crashers, David Dorbin, works with Hangover 1’s writers here and crafts truly nasty material and its glorious.   See it for the laughs but remember the dream team of Batemen and Reynolds.   Each play to their strengths but Batemen in particular gets to cut loose here and go a little wild.  His rants about anything match up with the funniest material in any film this year.  Is The Changeup funnier than Horrible Bosses and Hangover 2?  Yes, by a lot.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes-Right away, you are thinking, really?  Another film about apes and humans trying to co-exist.  On Saturday, I took in this film with my dad and came away impressed.  Why?  There was a touching original story plugged into this action drama.   The issue at hand felt real, not recycled, and the idea lived to the end.  The main topic here is simple.  Can apes(primates) and humans co-exist in one world without cages and boundaries?  Also, can that connection come without manipulation?  James Franco plays a scientist testing the healing powers of a drug designed to cure Alzheimer’s, a deadly disease plaguing his piano playing father(John Lithgow) on apes in his lab.  When one ape goes mad and wrecks the place, the operation is shut down.  Franco doesn’t know unti he has no choice that one ape survived the medical induced death.   Franco takes the baby chimp, Caesar, home with him, and quickly mixes him into the lives of his father and his work.  Before you know it, Caesar is 5 years old, yearning for his family and wanting to retire to the woods.   Another outburst gets in his way, putting him in a prison that unlocks his true calling.  Franco is helpless and can only watch as the connection between humans and apes is broken once again.   The film works on many levels, but reaches its highest level on drama points.   Without a doubt, we understand Caesar’s fight to be equal and free.   Its the same fight any immigrant has faced in this country or any white/black faced back in the 1960s.  The ability of apes strength and nature for violence prohibits alliance here but when does indecency comes into play.   That’s the main question.   I like the movie because it asks an old question in a new way and supplies a healthy spin.   The action is strong, the direction is assured and the end is fitting.  See this if you want to be surprised with fresh ideals.

It also doesn’t hurt that gorilla’s, monkeys and chimps are favorites of mine and seeing a large ape throw his body heroically into a helicopter is a sight to see that brought back fond memories of the final 20 minutes of Peter Jackson’s King Kong.

Quick Unfortunate Development in The US-30 US Troops were killed when their helicopter was shot down by insurgents.  That’s not a sight to see.  While going on a rescue mission, the troops were caught off guard by the insurgents in Afghanistan and this was the single biggest loss in the miltiary’s last 10 years.  Why does this have to happen?  Somebody tell me why our troops are STILL over there.   Peacekeeping? Give me a break.  There’s no peace to be found there.  Ever.  This is becoming a huge mistake.  At first, a promising idea for war and revenge is becoming a death warrant for young people in the USA military.   What good comes from our troops being sitting ducks?  There hasn’t been a terrorist attack in nearly 10 years?  Where is the gain?  Political aficionados will eat me up for this, but there’s a logic missing here.  When does the pain and suffering on the US end overcome the long term goal?

Dane Cook VS. Louis CK-The accusation.  Years ago, right after Dane Cook became a Comedy Rock Star by selling out arenas and going platinium on his records, a few Louis CK followers claimed that Cook stole 3 jokes from their comic.   The feud grew and became a popular force, slicing a piece of Cook’s success off and halting his momentum.  The claims were that Cook stole material from Louie’s act.   Last week, on FX’s Louie, the matter came full circle as Cook guest starred as a himself, and Louis CK sat down with him to ask for Lady Gaga tickets when the issue came up.   Cook attacked, Louis CK pointed out that there was a chance jokes were taken but not on purpose and that the whole thing got out of hand.  While the show is scripted, the scene felt so fluid that I get the feeling it was ad-libbed.  Cook is obviously a little pissed that his rep took a hit.  He claims to this day that he stole nothing and only wants Louis to come out and tell the crowd the truth.  The problem is, the truth won’t do much here.  Here is the end game.  It comes down to whether you like Louis CK or Dane Cook.   CK followers will stand united and attack Cook for suspected(that’s all it is) comedy treason and Cook followers(like myself) will claim nothing was stolen and move the fuck on.   Here’s why I think the matter came up.   You can line up the wording of the jokes all you want and show me links.  I have seen and read them all.   I think when Cook went global, the underground comedy crowd got pissed, found a similarity that may of came out of complete coincidence and decided to attack Cook and halt his success.  Comedy is held up on its legs by a family oriented indie group.   Cook represented something different.  A U2 like brand of comedy that stretched everywhere.  That wasn’t popular so a movement was created to halt it.  Does it affect my feelings for Cook or CK?  No.  I don’t find CK’s self deprecating dry humor funny but laugh out loud to Cook’s material, which consists of 20 years of stand up grinding that came before his big success.  It does amount to more than 3 little jokes about naming kids, itchy assholes and driving.  Anybody who thinks comedy kings are made out of 3 jokes is a fucking idiot and needs to be put down.  In the end, comedy is subjective.   We all laugh at different things and want to be the person to tell another to listen to this or try this comic out.   Material is recycled, used, reinvented, sliced up and spread out all over the world.   Whining about joke theft is only a suspicion or accusation and doesn’t get you far.  CK and Cook are both doing very well, so the theory lives on but doesn’t hamper either from being successful.  Each have their crowds and execute.  Each really, deep down, doesn’t give a shit.   Propping a theory up as anything else doesn’t hold up in a court of law.  If I thought CK stole Cook’s material, I wouldn’t make a big deal about it.   Each comic has to get on a stage and deliver.  Give me Carlin’s material and I wouldn’t be able to execute it as good as he did.  I repeat Carlin’s material everyday yet don’t get paid for it, but is there is a difference?  People laugh, and that’s all that matters.  End of story.

King of Leon-Love their music.   I don’t care for lead singer Caleb Followill walking off the stage due to exhaustion/drunkenness last week while on tour.  Pigeon shit is one thing.   Heat exhaustion or failing to hydrate or stay sober is another.   The Dave Matthews Band played 15 summers in a row that included 100 shows or more in 90-100 degree heat.   Kings of Leon aren’t having problems musically.  Their problems are internal and will be dealt with if they want to ascend to the top of the music rock world.  Right now, I am disappointed yet will keep listening to their electric latest album, Come Around Sundown.

Manny Pacquaio will fight old foe Juan Manuel Marquez on November 12th to close the book on an old rivalry and stay in shape for a possible Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight.   This fight may of been a good one 5 years ago.  Today, it’s a layup for Pacman.   He will destroy Marquez, who looked old and slow against Mayweather 2 years ago.   History made this fight.  At the beginning of Pacman’s rise, Marquez gave him two legendary fights, one during which many thought Juan won.   The first fight came to a draw and Manny took the second by decision.   Years later, the second shoe falls and the trilogy is completed.   If Marquez engages Manny, which is his style, I would be surprised if the fight lasted 6-8 rounds.  Once again, I blame these soft fights(Mayweather-Victor Ortiz, Pacquaio-Marquez) on the inability of Floyd to get his life together and come to the table and agree to a fight with the pound for pound champ, Manny Pacquaio.   The real champ here is Manny because he was the one who beat up bigger fighters, takes any fight, destroys opponents while serving on Congree in the Phillipines and starting a music career.   Pacquiao doesn’t turn down fights and walk away from negotiations.   Floyd invented this need for Olympic drug testing(mind games), and once Manny agreed during the second round of talks to it, Mayweather Jr. still didn’t want to fight.   Boxing fans are the ones hurting here.  Do we want to spend 50 dollars on Pacquaio-Marquez?  NO way.

MLB Brawls carry their own brand of pussy behavior.   A disagreement happens, the benches clear, and a group of guys swing horribly, push each other, shout and do little for real excitement.   For once, I wish the umpires would allow the two main guys to drop the glove and bat, and work out the problems with their fists.  Nobody gets kicked, shoved from behind or involuntarily hurt.    The stadiums need to employ an enforcer from a hockey team to patrol the field and come into the middle of the brawl and just start decking players right and left.   Tell Tony Twist to dust off his mitts and deal out some justice across the league ballparks.   Do something or just use a fire hose to put the fire out.

Alex Rodriguez involved in high stakes gambling.   Again.  Really.   Is this surprising news?  No.   A-Rod is busy stealing 300 million over 10 years from the Yankees, so of course he is gambling.

The A-Rod deal is the MAIN reason the Cardinals won’t give the same deal to Albert Pujols.  After some investigation and introspection, it’s plain stupid to give one man that much money if he is over the age of 30 or human.

Marshall Faulk was the force behind the Greatest Show on Turf and a rightful 1st ballot Hall of Famer.   This is a rare no brainer in sports.   Faulk read defenses on the field without having to cheat, was an excellent adjustment running back and made his whole team better.  He turned a checked down screen pass into a 50 yard touchdown with moves sick enough to pull Michael Jordan out of his shoes. He changed directions midfield and did things other players were incapable of doing.  Faulk was amazing, spectacular and fun to watch.   A classy individual who came to the Rams in a time of unknown potential.   After helping Peyton Manning jumpstart his career in Indy, Faulk came here, soaked up Mike Martz’ offense, and carried this team to the Super Bowl game twice.  Warner, Bruce, Holt and the defense were special as well, but Faulk was the engine that made the entire project work.   Take him out and the Rams don’t own a Super Bowl Trophy.

Pitching Inside is Part of baseball, my friends located in the more softer side of this sport.   Its simple.   When your best player gets a ball in the wrist, retaliation must happen.   It’s not personal.  It’s business and usual.  Minds gets so worked up about hitting batters for revenge and discussing the harmful effects of throwing at hitters.  Here’s what’s harmful.   David Freese catching a fastball to the helmet on Thursday, leaving the game and missing 3-4 games in a row.   Freese is a player plagued by injury, so it fits, but a head shot is unnecessary.   Retaliation is required, rather it happens or not depends on the manager’s testicle count.   La Russa is a fan of throwing back, so expect fireworks this week against the Brewers.

David Freese’s string of injuries is quite unfortunate.  After both ankles get worked on and his wrist heals, Freese is hit in the head with a pitch and misses better part of 4 games.   Bad deal for the Cardinals who need his bat this week.

The Rams Developments in Camp-With the first preseason game on Saturday, camp is heating up and fans are dying for a look at this team.  The one cool thing about the lockout is that it carved off a lazy part of the NFL preseason schedule.  Mini camps and other periods of rest were eliminated and 2 weeks into training camp, we have our first preseason game.  I am an advocate of preseason games and support the use of 4 games.   Why?  This is the time where rookies and old vets battle for those low hanging roster spots, so that’s exciting.  Also, these are the games enginnered and created in case a lockout happens.   Now, we get the ugly play out of the way before the real games start.  Injuries happen more frequently, but if you watch football, by now you know anything can happen on any given Sunday.  It will be interesting to see Rams Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels incorporate the red zone offense that lit up the scoreboard in Sunday’s scrimmage.    How many steps forward can Bradford take?  With support, what season can Steven Jackson put together?  Which wide receivers will claim the last spot or two on roster?  Will the defense bring the same pass pocket pressure?    Tons of questions flood camp.  I need answers and need to see a game to make my way towards my resolution.

Blues News-Other than signing defensemen Danny Syvret to a one year two way deal to add depth to the defensive roster, the Blues aren’t making too much noise right now.   Certain readers will think I’m insulting the Blues here with this small section, but what is there to talk about?   Send me questions and I will answer them.  It’s the offseason, so the action is slow on the Blues front.

Song of the Day-Glen Hansard-“Say It To Me Now”

Quite honestly, one of the best true solo performances that I have ever heard.   Hansard is the leader of the bands, The Frames and The Swell Season, and rocketed to fame when he and former love/current bandmate Marketa Iglova made a love story for music called ONCE.   In this song, he is blasting his lungs and singing his heart out about the very essence of the dream.   Seek out opportunity and chase it down until you get it.   This is an amazing, tight, emotional performance.   Quite memorable.

http://youtu.be/kPwXsQe87e4

This recommendation comes on the heels of the news that the Swell Season is releasing a documentary this fall about the Post ONCE success.   Hansard and Iglova winning two Oscars, falling in and out of love, going on an international tour and coming back together to make an excellent followup album, Strict Joy, which was released in 2009.  After the beauty of Once and seeing them live twice at the Pageant, the Swell Season is a documentary to look forward to because its based in true unselfish love for music. After their breakup, Glen and Marketa put together a wonderful second album. That’s worth
looking for.

Brian Wilson isn’t just the quiet star of Showtime’s The Franchise.  He is the charismatic moral center of the show as well.   Every time the SF Giants closer comes on screen, the show hits another level because you don’t know what Wilson will say, wear or come up with.   He wore a skin tight seal suit to the ESPYs, played a prank on Aubrey Huff, and spits out philosophical jargon at will.   The best thing about him.  He craves the attention, feeds off it yet remains humble and loving of his fans.  He took the grilling from Seth Meyers at the ESPYS, responds to every beard question, and keeps coming up with material while putting together a very good career as a closer.  A little Wilson bio here.  He was born a month and 13 days after me in 1982 on March 16th.  He played college ball in Louisiana and made his debut in the big leagues in 2006.  The Beard was created on a whim and simply never died.  I hold memories of Wilson clean shaven or carrying a squirrel like bit of facial hair.  Now, its simply a stagecoach robbing wrecking beard.  This season, he is 34-38 in saves, holds a 2.77 ERA with 44 strikeouts and 28 walks in 52 innings of work while only allowing 2 home runs.   His save percentage over the years has gone from 84 percent to up to 91 percent last season.   For his career, he is 168-192, a 89 percentage of success.   He is a high innings durable closer who gets better as the season gets older, a key trait for a closer.  In his last 10 outings dating back to July 14th, Wilson is 8-9 in save opportunities, carries a 1.00 ERA in 9 innings with 5 of those saves coming against Milwaukee and Philidephia.   Wilson is a reason to watch the show, but also a guy you don’t want to face in crunch time.

After spending 8 hours at St. Johns Mercy Hospital on Sunday for a baby class, I know full well what I am in for as a parent but still have to run the gauntlet myself to get the honest feeling.  The course taught me a lot of good things and many areas of need after Vinny arrives.   Pre-labor warnings, the amount of time between the water breaking and the baby coming, and preparing for the 2-3 day period of action.   It wasn’t a memorable Sunday but in the end, the knowledge will be appreciated.   I do think that in order to be truly know how to be a dad, you have to experience it.    Only so much discussion is warranted before info is repeated and attention is lost.  The baby is coming and I am as ready as I can be.   I didn’t need 8 hours for that, but I appreciated seeing the hospital, the procedure time, the rooms and space I will be occupying.

Daddy Blog of the Moment-Vincent is landing into this world around September 14th-21st, so a lot of things are being cleared out of my usual schedule.  Movies will take a hit.  Softball won’t exist for a season and Cardinals baseball will be innings and not hours at a time.   Its a good change but one I am soon finding out will indeed impact ever other area of my life.  While scared, I welcome it because its that time.  When I was younger, I always wanted to get married and have a kid.   For now, it will only be one kid.  I hate it when grandparents and parents start the countdown for baby #2 when my wife is still pushing out the first and we are beginning to realize the weight of true responsibility.  My message to them from my wife and I.  If you want it, you can carry it.

The Tim Tebow debate isn’t needed.  Kyle Orton rightfully is the Denver Bronco’s starting quarterback because he helps out the team in the current situation while Tebow is the future of the franchise and a question mark.   TT is a winner and will succeed in the NFL, but this is only his 2nd season, so I don’t understand the hysteria over the decision.  Once Orton wasn’t moved in a trade, he got the job and looking at his stats, the move is easy.   It will be interesting to see if Orton can sustain his high passing ways without Josh McDaniels calling plays, but he earns the chance to find out.  Tebow will be a backup, collect knowledge, watch games from the sidelines and prepare.   His work last season after Orton’s injury was thrilling but flawed.  Tebow’s skills are in need of honing and his game needs work, so I see him as a backup.

Tiger Woods will never be the golfer he once was, and it has more to do with his health decline than the public fallout from his marriage.   Woods’ body is breaking down, failing to do what he once was able to accomplish, so his game takes a hit.   As far as his now ex-caddie is concerned, I really didn’t know caddies in golf deserved so much attention.   They aren’t taking the swings.

Mariano Riveria has 5 blown saves in 2011 after last night’s 9th inning collapse against Boston, but he is still 29-34 on the season and carries a deadly 1.87 ERA.  Playing on an aging team, Riveria is 12 saves away from 600 and has an outside chance of reaching it this season.  A legend of the game, Riveria is starting to give up games but still is as consistent and capable as anyone in the league.  While giving up a lot of hits, Riveria has 39 K-5 BB and a WHIP of 0.97.

Being a Big Jon Hamm fan, the fact that he is directing the season 5 premiere is very cool news.  Hamm’s haunting work as lead ad man Don Draper sets the tone for the show and propels the stories.   The 4th season, which chronicled Draper’s drinking and buried demons, was the best complete season and featured the unforgettable episode, The Suitcase, that featured Draper and copywriter Peggy Olson staying into the morning hours working on a client but also bringing their problems front and center.  Hamm in the directors chair is good for the show and for the fans.

With that high mark to a native St. Louis soul, I am bringing this rant to a close.

My final plea to the Cardinals.   Go with the advice of Red from Shawshank Redemption.  “Get busy living or get busy dying.”

That’s all for now.  Thanks for reading and good morning.

-Dan L. Buffa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STL Soul Food

Welcome to the latest gathering of material that has formed in my head over the past week.   A variety of material collected over the last few days that requries inspection.   Topics come and go, but true juicy content survives here.   For example, I won’t be providing any british royal news this evening.  I have not one ounce of care for Henry, Harry, Kate or her sister.  There will be no Spencer and Heidi talk.  If you don’t know who those people are, consider yourself lucky to be alive.  I will try not to complain about the harsh hot St. Louis weather, but since I work and run in it daily, the urge will be hard to avoid.  After all, this is an unplugged Buffa blast going on here, not a library study session.   Gas Prices get no space here either.  Like stocks, they go up and down with or without our participation.  Talking about them is similiar to starting a conversation with a hot woman with, “How about those gas prices at QT, so expensive?” as you walk out of the market with 2 hot dogs, a bag of chips, beef jerky and a donut.  What’s the [point?  The areas I choose to cover here consistently(sports, film, random facts, personal insight, ideas) has nothing to do with your life, but every now and then, a interaction occurs and interest is spiked.  As the great Todd Snider once told the audience before a show, “I’m not here to change your mind, yet ease my own.”   With that lovely explanation planted, lets get moving.

The Cardinals
A puzzling frustrating pack of middle of the road contenders struggling to be great.   The Cards are a good team that constantly denies the urge to reach greatness.   After taking the first games in back to back series to Houston and Chicago, we drop the ball in the final contests and that led to a rough series in Milwaukee, where we literally escaped with one win.  The main problem is the pitching and it starts and ends with the rotation.   Since mid June, this group of hurlers have underachieved and failed to go deep into ballgames.   During the last week, Carpenter, Garcia and Lohse have struggled to reach the 6th or 7th inning and the only reason Edwin Jackson finished 7 yesterday was to save the bullpen.   In short, the less innings thrown by the rotation puts an extreme weight of pressure on the bullpen, which collapses and increases the pressure on the lineup to score more runs.  The Cards have one of the best hitting lineups in the league, and over the past week, the evidence stacks up against the rotation.   All I see is blown leads and big innings allowed, gentlemen.   Carpenter blew a 2-0 lead on Monday, Garcia blew a 6-3 lead on Tuesday(given by himself) and Jackson surrendered a 4-3 lead yesterday.  Small margin advantages to begin with, but still a trace of error.   Also, the Cards defense is average at best, starting in the infield and stretching into a palpable outfield attack.   Errors are made but more often than not, plays simply aren’t made.  Balls aren’t run down and grounders are fumbled.  A lack of deep starting pitching and soft defense makes for a losing record.   Since mid June, the Cards are under .500 and fallen out of first place.   Will they finish 4th or 5th?  No.  They will struggled to contend with Milwaukee if they don’t get better lead protection and more innings from their starters and release the tension from their bullpen.   GM John Mozelaik made a couple decent trades, but the rest of the team has to make them stand up and produce wins.  Right now, this Cards team is a mystery.  They must go into Florida this weekend and dominate, and win at least 3 of 4 before coming home to face the Brewers at Busch.
The Biggest miss came during the past week with the Cards only winning 4 games on the homestand and not taking at least 6.   When  The Cardinals split with the Astros, the home stand was doomed to suck.   While the games with the Brew Crew loomed larger than most, the homestand against shitty NL Central talent was a key push ahead.   After they acquired the Action Jackson package, the Cards went to sleep for two games and lost two crucial ballgames to the Astros, a bad team that just got worse.  After winning two solid games against the Cubs, we dropped the finale on Sunday and lost ALL of our momentum.  That’s the key here, folks.   Momentum.  Building a solid game to game energy that leads to an unbreakable winning streak that either carries you along with a team or pushes you ahead in a tight race.   When the Cards lost 2-3 more games than they needed to, we lost ground on the Brewers.   The worst park about the past week.  Losing 3 games started by Chris Carpenter or Jaime Garcia.   The Rasmus-Jackson and company trade improved this Cardinals team on paper, but when it comes to seasonal trades, the aftermath is the entire plate of soul food.  Losing two in a row to a lowly team like Houston put the Cardinals in a tough position.   A playoff team takes 6 of those 7 games on the homestand.   The Cardinals didn’t take advantage and in turn, lost an advantage to the Brewers, who have won 7 in a row after last night’s victory.     A big problem in this 2011 team during the month of June and July is consistency.   During the first two months of the season, the Cardinals only lost 2 series’.   In June and July, they have lost more than 6 series and haven’t tied any wins together.  Unlike the Brewers, the Cardinals can’t put wins together and more importantly, finish team when they are down.   In each series leading up to this crucial three game set, the Cardinals took the first two games in commanding fashion, only to lose balance and drop the proceeding finales. 
Any true Cardinals fan understands the wager of confidence in this game.  During a tight race, every game that’s within reach has to be pulled in for victory.  If the Cardinals continue to blow early leads, lack a clutch hit and get failed by their defense, the losses will pile up and the Cardinals will be out of this race by the end of the month.   The Cardinals make it harder on themselves to bring a series win to Florida this weekend.   The classic spin on this 2011 team is overachievement due to a heavy injury toll, but a more fitting description is an enigmatic bunch of talented seekers.   Fully loaded with talent, depth and reliable firepower, the Cards are set up to win the Central Division and go deep into the playoffs.  If you look on paper, the Cardinals are stacked.   That’s the beauty of baseball and the biggest challenge for these Redbirds.   Taking their blueprint for success(midseason trades) and turning it into a strong foundation of consistent winning baseball.   Trades don’t win divisions.   Teams that use the trades to their benefit and ensure their survival are the last ones standing.   The one thing this Cardinals team promises this season is a roller coaster ride to the finish line.  However, if they fail to win this series or at least steal a game, the rest of this month will prove to be an impossibly difficult course.   You heard your general manager, boys.  WIN NOW OR FOREVER HOLD YOUR POTENTIAL. 
Other Things to Consider about this team-
Albert Pujols
The Mang struggled mightily in Milwaukee, going 1-14 with one bloop hit that barely escaped the infield.  Along with Berkman’s poor series, Pujols didn’t produce much of anything in a key series.   In a perplexing season for AP, this is the latest speed bump.  When your best hitter only collects one hit, hits into 3 double plays, leaves 10 runners on base and strikes out more than he walks, the series won’t belong to your team in the end.   This comes after a solid homestand from AP where he bumped his batting average up to .283 and started to look locked in.   On the cusp of breaking loose, Albert continues to stall.   However, it must be pointed out that AP is only having an off year by his own standards.   While others praise Berkman’s comeback year of .286, 28 HR, 72 RBI, Albert Pujols’ season of .275, 24 HR, 65 RBI is considered a rough patch.   That tells you the different universe Pujols works in.  Compared to Berkman, Pujols’ numbers are fine.  According to the last 10 years of AP production, they are not so good.   When you are a phenomenal talent, the expectations go through the roof.   Pujols must catch fire or dare I say this Cards attack will eventually hit a big time speed bump.   A closer Pujols inspection provides a small hint into his 2011 troubles.   Pujols has only walked 38 times in 2011.   His walks are down, which means he is putting the ball in play more often and his batting average takes a hit.  Pujols’ career low in walks came in his rookie season, where he received 69 free passes.   Unless his walks drastically increase, he will set a career low this season.   When you aren’t walking as much, you are a free swinger, failing to take pitches and giving the defense a chance to beat you.  Pujols has drawn 100 plus walks per season throughout his career, which puts pressure on pitchers to give him hittable offerings.  What does this mean?  Pujols is pressing more in 2011, which makes sense since this is the first season he is playing in without a contract set up for the next year.  Pujols is earning his weight right now, which explains the low batting average and on base percentage.  Hopefully, after 10 seasons, Albert isn’t losing his patience and getting solved.  It’s either one or the other.  For the Cardinals and fans sake, let’s hope the old AP shows up soon. 
All this comes after Pujols collected his 2,000th hit on Friday against the Cubs.  Pujols hit an RBI double down the line, trotted into second base, pointed to the sky in Pujols fashion, and took a moment.  He tipped his cap twice, got emotional and all in one moment understood what it meant to be a god in a city of baseball lovers.  This is another reason why AP is staying in St. Louis.  Why leave a kingdom? 
And please stop talking about the high pitch up and in, La Russa.   Albert was hit, Motte hit Braun, and the world keeps moving.   Pitching inside is part of the game. 
Edwin Jackson
Action Jackson hit a brick wall of reality in Milwaukee, running into fastball loving hitters and getting clubbed for 4 home runs, 10 runs(8 earned), 14 hits in seven long innings of work.   This is why I didn’t demand an extension for Jackson in the Rasmus trade.  He is a 27 year old power arm, but an enigmatic starter with a mixed bag of a career.   In 14 innings of work in his two Cards starts, Jackson has allowed 12 runs(10 earned), 22 hits, struck out 12 and walked 2.   One good start and one bad.   Jackson surrendered 3 home runs to one player for the first time in his career.  A first for a Card since 1976.  My main question comes down to this.   Is Jackson better than Lohse or Westbrook? How much?  I like Jackson but need to see more from him and need to be impressed in order to give him a multi year extension.   His next start allows for instant redemption.  He takes on the Brewers at Busch next week. 
Yadi Molina gets suspended 5 games today by MLB for making contact with and accidentally spitting on the umpire in Tuesday’s nights game.   A worthy suspension for a calm player who blew a gasket late in the game.  If you watched the roller coaster 8-7 Cardinal victory, you noticed the inconsistent strike zone, the tensions, the emotions and boiling water that was flowing throughout the game.   The umpire was calling a wickedly inconsistent strike zone and it troubled the players.   Molina snapped and completely lost his temper towards the end of the game.  Its normal for players to argue with umpires and get tossed out of a game.  Molina’s behavior was abnormally dangerous and simply bad for baseball.   He took the argument too far.  After a called third strike call inside(a pitch that wasn’t consistently called all night), Molina immediately turned around and opened vocal and physical fire on a seemingly helpless official.   What we don’t know is the possibility of an all game chatter between the two that lit the fuse.  What is known is Molina’s actions warranted a heavy suspension.  What he did in the end was hurt his baseball club in a bad way in the middle of a playoff race.  Molina’s actions were unacceptable for a professional major leaguer.   This is something you would of expected from a minor league bat or a little league coach/dad.   Instead of Tony Rasmus hollering in the umpire’s face, it was a respected ballplayer like Molina.  Bad for business.  If Molina is smart, he’ll avoid a useless appeal, serve his suspension immediately in Florida this weekend and only miss one game with Milwaukee next week.
The Early Returns on the Cardinals Moves the past week are positive.   Jackson will remain an interesting puzzle, the bullpen arms are working well(Rzepcynski and Dotel solid through 4.2 innings), Patterson has provided a bench bat and spot starter, but the biggest change was the addition of Rafael Furcal at shortstop.   For the first time in years, The Cardinals have a spark plug at the top of the lineup and a gold glove caliber shortstop in the field.   Furcal’s arrival pushes Ryan Theriot into a platoon situation at second base with Skip Schumaher and strengthens this team for the long run.   Furcal was coming off an injury, only hitting .200 when he got into St. Louis on Sunday, but he has provided big hits already.  A 2 hit game on Monday, a game saving catch on Tuesday and a 3 run homer on Wednesday.  Less than a week into his time here and Furcal is making an impact.  This is a potentially game changing player.  Furcal can make the great defensive play and provide a big hit.  The cost is only 1.4 million for two months and a potential 12 million option for 2012.  
-Tony La Russa needs to stop using “closer” Fernando Salas in non save situations.   Looking at his appearances in 2011, half of them have been in non save situations and that’s counting since he took over in late May.   Salas has closed every game the past two months, yet still finds himself in tied or out of touch baseball games.   Closer’s can’t be overused or exposed.  They are the finishers, not the mediators.   Salas comes undone and his pitches are less effective after 1 inning of work.   He is becoming more hittable.  Less swings and misses and more dangerous contact.   La Russa must utilize his new bullpen hands and limit Salas to save only situations in order to keep him fresh and effective.
It’s August and the pretending is done.  This team must step up its play and run after this division crown.   The Cardinals could afford to win series’ in May and June.  Now is the time to sweep and dominate teams.   They must walk into Florida this weekend and take at least 3 of 4 or else the games are useless.   With Milwaukee playing the hapless Astros, the Cards can’t afford to lose right now.   The division deficit is 3.5 games, and if it grows by the time The Brewers arrive Tuesday, the Cards chances of catching starts to diminish.  August means teams need to step up and perform.   With the trades and healthy players returning, the Cardinals have no more excuses.  Its do or die for this frustratingly exciting bunch. 
Getting away from Cardinals news for now and going into free style.
Rams Signings
A good set of moves that won’t include any “wow” reactions, but GM Billy Devaney filled holes on the roster.  He signed a beast of an offensive guard in Harvey Dahl, signed an outside linebacker/pad popper in Zach Diles, brought in talented safety Quentin Mekkel(replacing Atogwe), and signed two running backs in Jerius Norwood and Cadillac Williams to provide a speed burst behind Steven Jackson.   Also, in my favorite move, the Rams signed wide receiver Michael Sims-Walker, a quality receiver from Jacksonville.  These are quality low key roster moves made by a team that drastically needed to improve in key areas.   Instead of practice squad running backs behind SJ, the Rams now employ two established halfbacks.   Sam Bradford gets an established receiver to throw to in Walker and gets more protection in Dahl.   Zach Diles will complement most valuable defensive player James Lauranitas.  Withou 100,000 dollars to cut before tomorrow, the Rams upgraded their roster.  
NFL News
The laughable part of the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement is the slow movement of the ratification of the agreement, allowing new players to practice with their teams.  Today, at 4pm, the new Rams players were pulled off the field because the votes weren’t in from the players.   That is pure laziness.   It will be fitting when these players get into a preseason game and find out how big of a mistake it was for this negotiating period to drag out so long.  Injuries will happen.  Emotions will run high.   Coaches will add gray hairs and grate the nerves.   Owners will pour a whiskey.   Players will feel the pain of days and weeks lost toying around in suits and shorts.  Any more delay in the CBA ratification would be futile.  
Randy Moss isn’t retired.  He is waiting for a team to pour more money in his agent’s direction.    Call this Brett Favre holdout, Part 2.  Moss retired on Monday, but a smart football knows that decision is far from final.   Moss doesn’t want to go through training camp, so he is waiting for a team to lose a wide receiver and come calling with a better offer.  My hope is that it isn’t the Rams, who really don’t need his bad attitude, lack of involvement on plays and playoff collapsing ability unless our roster is weakened.  As much as Moss hovers over the NFL, The Rams won’t bite.   
Peyton Manning signed a worthy 5 year, 90 million dollar contract on Saturday, ending his long discussions with Colts ownership and proving how much of a team player he is.   The Colts wanted to make Manning the highest paid quarterback in the NFL, but Peyton turned the bigger contract down and asked for Tom Brady money.   Manning has only one Super Bowl ring, but he is a guaranteed producer.  He takes his teams to the playoffs, puts up big numbers and turns ordinary wide receivers into Pro Bowl performers.   He earns that paycheck, being the face of the franchise and having played in 240 plus straight games.   That streak may be in jeopardy with a neck surgery performed in the offseason, but I doubt it prevents Peyton from playing in September.  One bite of the lockout was players being unable to meet with their team physicians.   When you are recovering from your second neck surgery, the need is critical to work with a trainer who is familiar with your body and makeup.   Manning is going to miss some camp but will be ready to play this season.  When it comes to getting the job done, Peyton is as sure as rain.  His playoff success has improved and it would be fool hardy to place the entire blame of the Colts last two playoff defeats solely on Manning’s shoulders. 
The Eagles made the biggest free agent splash but that doesn’t mean they can beat the Packers, Saints or Cowboys.   Teams that look good on paper still need to walk into camp, games and earn a playoff spot.   If Michael Vick stays healthy, the chances are high.  If DeSean Jackson avoids a long holdout, the chances are high.   If Vince Young doesn’t prove to be a cancer, the chances are high.   If the defense can properly insert 3 great corners into the defense, the chances are high.   In sports, the “if’s” outweight the paper potential.  Hold your bets Las Vegas. 
Blues News
David Perron won’t start the 2011-2012 season on this team as an active player.  If the last sentence surprised you, congratulations, you are an idiot.   Perron and his agent met with team officials yesterday and came to a decision that due to Perron’s lack of ice time, he won’t be ready to go in September or October.  Don’t expect to see the frenchman until 2012,  if you ask me.   The logic here is clear.  Perron hasn’t skated with the team since his injury, a deadly mid ice collision with Joe Thornton in November.   Perron hasn’t seen game activity in 9 1/2 months.   That is too long to see this guy get whipped into shape in less than two months for game activity.   When will he be able to take a decent hit?  Perform on a 90 second shift?  When will Perron hold value to this team’s record again?  The question is up in the air along with the potential sale of the team? 
Here’s a bet.  The team gets sold before Perron suits up for a game.  You can take my word and dangle it over a fire if you want.  I simply don’t see Perron entering a real game or a physical practice session before the new year begins.   A highly unfortunate injury for a talented young player.  Perron only weighs 165 pounds soaking wet and isn’t a collision ready player to begin with.  His recovery will take time.  Right now, Perron is dead to this team.  If you think that was too dramatic, you don’t know hockey.
This is a make or break year for Jaroslav Halak.  Entering the second year of a four year highly lucrative contract, the Slovakian youngster needs to carry this team and become the star goalie the team set him up to be.   Halak’s performance makes or breaks this team.  The Blues will score goals this season and be consistent.   The question is will Halak back up their play with sound goaltending.  It remains to be seen.  While the defense in front of him was suspect at times, Halak’s play needed to be at a higher level. 
It would be nice to avoid the phony cheesy television commercials with Blues players awkwardly walking down streets being followed by fans or David Backes telling us they are in it to win.   At least the Cards spots involve humor and a little class.  The Blues TV spots come off as a team begging its fan base to come out for another season.  Save the money on the spots and put it towards the team.  One more thing.  Don’t show me Andy McDonald walking down the street and expect me to be scared.  I would bash that scrawny runt to a pulp off the ice.  Two years ago, the spots showed Blues players like Oshie, McDonald and Erik Johnson walking down the streets looking tough.   Please, dudes!  Save the cash and put it into real effort and wins.
TV Recommendations-
Rescue Me On FX
Once again, gents, this is the best show on television.   After last night’s thrilling start to finish hour involving firefighter Tommy Gavin going through the gauntlet of giving 9/11 interviews for the 10th anniversary, Denis Leary reminded us once again why he is painfully overlooked on this show.  An underrated dramatic actor who fits into the role here of Gavin and consumes every one of his demons.   Tommy Gavin is a man who has taken every wrong turn in his life and is starting to pay for his mistakes, publically and personally.  When you have an affair with your best friend’s wife, cheat on your wife constantly, drink like a fish, take too many risks on the job and repeat these mistakes for years, a person runs into monumental problems.   There are no gimmicks here, gents.   Just hardcore brutal drama. 

The General Idea of Rescue Me’s last season carries a variety of questions to be solved by September 11th, 2011.

-Will Tommy Gavin die?  After years of avoiding death and barely escaping the clutches of his mortality, will Tommy make it out alive?  This is the beauty of a cable network.  They don’t have to worry about keeping their main character alive because when they say they’re done, its for real.  All bets are off.

-If Tommy doesn’t die, who will?  Every week carries a reality show like competition, where you are lining up odds on who makes it to the next episode in this drama that keeps you off guard with the light dark comedic moments mixed with dark ambitious ones.

-Will Tommy either drink his way back into trouble or cheat on his wife, Janet(whose pregnant by the way) before the end?  When it comes to Gavin, his shortcomings walk around wherever he goes.  If there is a vodka and a willing lady ready to open the gates, trouble awaits for a Gavin.  If he does cheat, will it be with cool cancer patient Tracy or with ex-flame/crazy bitch Sheila?

-How many episodes pass by until Tommy Gavin’s next legendary rant about being badass, running into fires, breathing smoke on a regular basis, on 9/11, and on the everyday roller coaster that consumes his life? Every season carries at least one TG rant and it is glorious.  Give Example.

-Will there be a happy ending or a grim finish?  Ask Tommy Gavin in last week’s episode if there are positive outcomes and he bluntly told a 9/11 reporter, “there are no happy endings”.   Since the show is a tribute to 9/11, a few will bit the dust but there will be a hopeful outcome.

-Will the show get any respect at next year’s Emmy’s?  For years, Denis Leary and company have been looked over for any winners and that is downright fraud.  For 7 seasons, Rescue Me has been a dynamite unpredictable thrill ride of an inside look at the heroes that put out the fire.   Where is the love?  Rescue Me is a groundbreaking show.  How many other firefighter dramas are out there?  Denis Leary took a sensitive subject, withheld the melodramatic manipulative tendencies and simply inserted gritty storytelling into the tale of heroism.  His endeavor took a healthy set of brass balls, and ask any critic around and the crew pulled it off.   Leary and Peter Tolan.  Whenever a new cop show, legal drama or hospital drama comes to the table, they are copying a formular and adding their own spin to it.  Rescue Me took a hard subject matter(heroes personal lives) and made it funny, thrilling and personal.  That’s worth an honor.  On most shows, you get 1 or 2 highly developed characters.  On Rescue Me, every character carried a particular set of dimensions.  How many times can you hand a prize to 30 Rock or Mad Men?

Watch this show because it is the best show on television and worth the next tasting session when your need for a new show comes along.

DVD Reviews-Conviction and Casino Jack.   Here are two worthy, compelling true stories brought to film that are worth your time in a living room, if not a movie theater.   Conviction stars Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell and tells the story of a woman who goes to law school in order to prove her brother is innocent of murder.   Swank and Rockwell are great and the story, while predictable, tells itself and leaves a bite at the end.   A sad get lucky tale that is better digested at home where the expectations are lower.   Casino Jack is an intriguing look at the powerful super lobbyist Jack Abramoff(a perfectly casted Kevin Spacey), who was the biggest piece of “infleunce” around Washington before he went to jail 6 years ago.  Abramoff specialized in influencing different parties in ways to invest their money and become richer.  In the process, Abramoff and his partner, Mike Scanton(Barry Pepper), got rich as theives and lived the high life until a Washington reporter and an Indian community brought them down for fraud.  Abramoff and Scanton’s actions lead to corruption, murder and the two face the price of living off the movements of others.   A hard hitting film that’s deliciously enjoyed at home and features another great performance from Spacey.  The first scene of the film is the table setting moment where Spacey’s renegade stares into a bathroom mirror and goes on a 5 minute rant defending his profession, ending it with Abramoff’s catchphrase, “And I work out every day!”.   His game was confidence and hustle, which led to a downfall.  Check out either films and come away satisfied with a compelling true American story.

A 9/11 Rant

With the 10 year anniversary rapidly approaching us, I will start sprinkling little rants about that day and the effects that still exist a decade later.  Unless you have ice running through your veins, that tragic day took a piece out of you and caused you to stop and realize at once that anything can happen and life isn’t a guaranteed pass.   In one day, 3,000 people lost their lives, including over 343 firefighters and over 300 cops, first responders and security workers.  When the World Trade Center towers were struck by planes on a Tuesday morning and unleashed a cloud of black smoke and death over New York, a memory was implanted in your brain.  Ask anyone and they can give you a story. Here is what I don’t like.  The first 9/11 rant here will be about remembering the final stats of the day.   Since the infamous afternoon, many have come forward and drawn up conspiracy theories and the idea of US government involvement.  I am not against the idea of Bush’s corruption stemming from these attacks and wouldn’t be surprised if the truth came out that the Bush Family was in bed with the Bin Ladens.   However, there are some people who take this issue too far and forget about the selflessness and heroism that happened that day.  Whether or not corruption was present or terrorists simply caught our country off guard, the reality is the same.  Over 3,000 people died that day and whatever the truth is, they stay dead.   If a theory was proved right, it isn’t like a mother, father, son, daughter, friend, grandmother or stranger will all of a sudden pop out of the grave and come alive.  That’s the problem with death.  The crime can be solved but the dead stay dead in the end.   A close friend of mine thinks there were no planes at all that day and the images were fabricated.  Honest.  What is forgotten is the loss that occured that day and the efforts of many to save lives.  When people were sprinting from the Towers, firemen, police and paramedics were running towards the building and died when the Towers collapsed.  That’s heroism that can’t be forgotten.  The only thing survivors can do is honor their memory by respecting the effort and not spitting all over it by mixing up political jargon and weightless theories.  We, as a country of survivors and living breathing souls, are better than that.

Cardinals Update-The Current line on Kyle Lohse right now.  50 pitches, 3 runs, 6 hits, and 4 outs recorded.   That’s right.  Lohse blew a 3-0 lead and has surrendered 8 base runners without recording 6 outs.   Horrible.  Another example of why this team isn’t going anywhere is the paltry starting pitching the past 6 weeks.  While the bullpen has improved and the lineup produces, the rotation(Lohse especially) isn’t getting the job done.  They aren’t doing their part.   Kyle Lohse avoids a big inning, getting a double play to keep the game tied at 3.   However, he has thrown 53 pitches through two inning, which means he is barely finishing 5 tonight.   After throwing 65 pitches through 5 against the Cubs on Saturday, this is unacceptable and will force the bullpen to see significant action again tonight.  Big problem in little city.

Side Note-Matt Holliday is having another quietly productive season.  After missing 20 games, Holliday is hitting .316 with 17 home runs and 58 RBI and is one of the hardest working players on the team.

Back to Things to Watch-

Brian Wilson On Showtime’s The Franchise

The SF Giants closer is every bit a character as you think he is when seen on this solid cable sports series, which follows the Giants in 2011 as they defend their world championship.   Whether its discussing a snack he likes to eat(BBQ pop chips with chalua), talking about 9/11 or dressing like a biker with style, Wilson is pure entertainment.  The man is an interesting ball of emotion, intellegience, and quirky humor.  When describing the snack, Wilson comes alive with energy, repeating to the interviewer, “It’s so good, so good”.    From the mega beard to the wickedly surprising sense of humor, Wilson is the reason to watch this show.   Other than that, its a solid interesting show.  Anytime cable mixes with sports for a series, the result is golden. 

Daddy Blog

Tomorrow, I get to see Vinny on the ultrasound screen again.   For the last few weeks, I’ve missed appointments due to a heavy workload at the warehouse, so I am excited to see my son tomorrow.  Spending the nights feeling his kicks and watching a remote get moved on my wife’s belly is good theater, but the time has come to lock eyes with this guy on a screen.   There is less than two months to go before I officially become responsible for this kid, so the waiting is starting to get cut short.  Anxiety and patient excitement fill my days while I watch Rachel get bigger and bigger.   Feelings over becoming a parent feel like becoming the owner of a car or house, only heightened to a much broader level.   You never know what kind of dad you’ll become until you are one.  Here’s to a solid first one on one encounter with Vincent.  

Political Frustration

Look, I have nothing personally against Barack Obama and I voted for him in 2008, but in the end, he won’t be able to fix much in this economy.   He has tried, faltered, tried and faltered.   Its not his fault particularly.  He works in a faulty system, called Washington DC.  Every time I hear someone complain about Obama, I roll my eyes and ask them what did they really expect.  By now, we have to know.  We won’t be able to believe a President or look for an impact until 2025.   There is so much debt caused by Clinton, Bush, and Obama that any move by a leader ends up being a deeper hole.   This much is known.  George W. Bush was a horrible President, a C-average earning alcoholic son of a President who fell into the ownership of the Texas Rangers, fell into a college diploma, fell into the Governor’s seat and eventually and regretfully fell into a President’s chair.  Look, people, the man can’t speak properly or spell.   He wasn’t the answer, got the country into wars that with good intent but horrible strategy.  Obama signed a health care bill that left millions without it, caught and killed Obama but covered up an Oil Spill and is lying to this day about the debt factor.  Every time a politician opens his mouth and produces a dish, the recipe is 85 percent bullshit and 15 percent hope.   That’s politics in the end.   A worthlessly unsatisfying unforgiving GAME.  Call me when Henry Rollins makes it into office to dish out real truth, or when a lady not named Sarah Palin makes it into office.  At the very least, make the game interesting.

Another baseball note-The Pittsburgh Pirates are sinking fast.   Since their series loss to St. Louis, the Pirates have sunk below .500, 6 games out of first place and are on the verge of being swept by the Chicago Cubs tonight at home.   This isn’t a surprise.  The Pirates are a young, inexperienced team looking for the extra push in the final two months.  This team hasn’t contended since 1993 and find themselves in an awkward spot in no man’s land.  All along, I told you this division wouldn’t be decided until the last week of the season.   I still believe that.  What I refuse to believe are the Pirates being involved in this race in September.  The fall will continue.  Since the win over the Cardinals in Sunday walkoff fashion,  The Pirates are 1-9 and on the verge of their second straight series sweep and 7th loss in a row.  With the Reds falling away quick, this is becoming a two team race.

Scary Moment for the Cards-David Freese catches a high fastball to the helmet and leaves the game tonight.   Freese took the pitch off the head and went down and eventually left.  This will result in a couple days of rest. 

Albert Pujols Fights back and Shows his Worth-Against the Marlins tonight, Albert is 2-2 with a long home run, a single, a walk and three runs scored.   He also started a nifty double play from his knees in the 4th inning.  In less than half a game, Pujols is reminding you what he is worth to this team when he is on.  

Music Recommendation

The Dead Weather-“Die By The Drop”

Jack White’s second passion project, the LZ inspired funky rock band infused with the goddess of rock, Alison Mosshart(The Kills), delivers a true blues rock classic here.   Coming off their second album, Sea Of Cowards, this tune is consistently great and can be enjoyed on many levels.  White’s specialty is guitar, but here he plays the drums and slips into the background, creating an ensemble of musicians delivering a sound that is at once familiar yet untraceable.  Here’s the song.  Listen please.

http://youtu.be/K0YI0UUazkU

Cowboys and Aliens Intrigue-There is one real reason(and smaller ones) to see this film, which I will tonight after I wrap up this epic taut blog at the Moolah Theater.  Pure Summer Fun.  While it will prove to be a box office failure and critical bomb, I want to see it for three reasons. 

1.)The chance to see Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford match tough personas and go head to head on screen.   Craig stepped into Bond’s shoes smoothly and Ford is the classic man of few words, so I am interested in this matchup in a cowboy setting.  In one year, Craig will star as a cowboy, as an obsessed reporter in Girl With A Dragon Tattoo and put on the tux for a third Bond film.  Ford is collecting aging actor support on the final wheels of a long career.  Good chance this could be one of Ford’s last rides in the saddle.

2.)Olivia Wilde’s gorgeous face, body and ability.  Wilde is a step above most pretty faces in Hollywood.  As she has proved on Fox’s HOUSE, Alpha Dog, Tron and here, Wilde is more than a sex symbol. A small sample size but worth noting.  She has a slowly budding future as an actress with looks.  I don’t see an Oscar in her future, but what I do see is an interesting blend of beauty, free style talent and ambition.  She dumped her Italian Prince of a boyfriend in real life and signed up for a western.  Along with her looks, I like it.

3.)Jon Faveau playing with toys in the desert which are anchored by deeper moments in between.  The film’s high points will include special effects filled battles between the cowboys and the invading aliens.  However, the quiet moments will be appreciated.  The man with no name element of Craig’s character, who wakes up in the desert with a weird metallic lit up bracelet on his hand capable of deadly ambition.  The fact that his character can’t remember anything except for a woman being yanked out of their house into a ship.  The mystery of the characters real intentions. 

Basically, why not check out a summer action film with tough guys, hot women and some fantasy?  Better than two hours of reality television.

What’s on tap this weekend-

-The Changeup, a comedy from the director of Wedding Crashers and writers of The Hangover, starring Jason Batemen and Ryan Reynolds as friends who accidentally swap bodies while pissing in a fountain.   One is a family/job driven family man.  The other is a ladies man with no direction or future.  Guess which one starts as one and ends up as the other.   The result is killer comedy.  

-Rise of the Apes.  The real intrigue here is simple.  My favorite animal group are apes.  Gorillas, monkeys, chimps.  Getting to see the spectacle of a Kong sized ape leap off the Golden Gate bridge and slash a helicopter in two pieces is hard to avoid.   Peter Jackson’s King Kong remake was only good when the focus was the actual monster with a sense of detachment.  The plot is simple.  Planet of the Apes tale on homeland.  James Franco’s doctor takes in a chimp as a medical experiment, placing the ape in his home and teaching him human traits. Think of Project Nim in a fictional tale.  Soon enough, the Ape attacks a stranger, gets thrown into a lab, tested on, and eventually unites with his fellow apes and attacks the city.   Bad things happen.  Monkeys gone wild.  

-A Brewery Tour at Anheuser Busch, featuring the official meeting between me and my favorite beer, Shocktop.   Beer making.  Free beer.  History lesson.  90 minutes of it.  Count me in.

-An 8 hour pregnancy course at St. Johns on Sunday.   All day breathing, stretching, learning and baby school.  Getting ready to have a baby school.  Every time I think about the birth of a child, I think of this. 

http://youtu.be/mOP52g_rO24

With that dose of Mr. Cosby, my time here is done.  There isn’t much more to say here because I am pretty sure I have said it all.   There comes a time where you must decide to stop.   For me, that time is now. 

Thanks for reading, and if you made it this far, find me and I will buy you a drink. 

Goodnight and good luck,

DLB

Cards/Rasmus Trade, A Deeper Investigation

Good morning lads and small timers,

Now that the paint has dried on this Cardinals trade, lets take a closer look under the hood of a deal that I like and have defended all night.  As the stroke of midnight approaches, allow me to dive into the half full pool.

I like this trade.  I don’t love the trade.  It’s hard to love a trade a day after you make it because the players involved have to arrive and make a little impact and you have to figure out what you have.  However, I understand what the Cards did and support their move.  It was a necessary trade.

Colby Rasmus may or may not become a very good player.  That’s the main issue.  Will his performance ever catch up to his potential?  My guess is no, and that made his departure a well played move.   Many people have complained that a better deal awaited the Cards out there, and that is an empty suggestion that forgets the plummeting stock value of Rasmus in 2011.  Lets examine a point here.  Colby Rasmus’ stock went down in 2011.  Teams weren’t lining up to look at him or offer an equal return.  There were two AL teams in the bidding and both those teams were involved in the trade on Wednesday.  Please stop telling me we could of gotten Ian Desmond and another reliever for Rasmus.  The Nats didn’t call and didn’t want Rasmus.  They picked up Jonny Gomes, who has similiar stats.  The Giants didn’t call, because they want Beltran.  The only suitors, in my mind and through my sources, were The White Sox and Blue Jays.  The Cardinals had a shot to get a return for Rasmus and took the chance.  What did we lose?  A 24 year old center fielder who was hitting .259 in his major league career.     This was the third season of Colby’s major league career, and the chance was laid in front of him to step into a bigger role in the offense and reach his potential.  He didn’t reach that goal.  He regressed.  There wouldn’t be a conversation if Colby were producing consistently.  He is hitting .245 with 11 home runs and 40 RBI and these days he is good for a home run or a strikeout.  He lacks consistency, is playing horrible defense and his attitude has worsened.   What do you do with that situation?  Fix it.  Reroute a player and add a few others.

This wasn’t only about Tony La Russa and Colby Rasmus not getting along.   While they feuded over his style of play and coaching, this was a matter of a young player spending 6 years in an organization and taking a major step back in 2011.  Rick Ankiel was released, Ryan Ludwick was traded, and the path was paved for Rasmus to make a dent.  The pressure of Jon Jay may of gotten to him.  The pressure of a first round draft choice caught up with him.  Rasmus may of heard several voices in center field telling him he wasn’t good enough.  Whatever the reason may be, Rasmus wasn’t going to become the great player the Cards drew him up to be, at least not in St. Louis.   Will Rasmus become great in Toronto? I doubt it.  I think he will hit a ceiling similiar to J.D. Drew, another great draft pick that tripped up before his potential.   Rasmus didn’t have the drive to change his perception here and improve his play.  He gave up weeks ago.  He cashed in his chips and lagged until a trade came up.  Right now, he has to be jumping at the chance for a fresh start.  I wish him well in Canada, but am glad he is gone.

That isn’t the problem among Cardinal faithful.   Most of Cards nation wanted him gone.  They had a problem with the return.  I will attempt to disagree here, and I will lay down my facts clearly.  Lets look at the players.

Edwin Jackson is a two month rental but that’s all we needed to get.  With Lohse and Westbrook under contract through 2012, Carp and Waino in waiting and Garcia locked in, why would we give Jackson a 1-2 year extension without negotiating and locking up one of our aces first.  Bad move.   Jackson can come in, produce and earn an extension.   If he pitches decent enough to get us to the postseason and beyond and departs, I am fine with that because if we keep Carp and Waino the rotation is set for 2012.  Jackson was brought in for one reason.  A move to pull Kyle McClellan from the rotation.   Do you want to see the Cards roll down the stretch with K-Mac, Westbrook and Lohse filling out the back end of their rotation?  That doesn’t get you far my friends.  Here is what Jackson gives you.  He is only 27 years old, 3 years older than Rasmus with plenty of mileage left in his tank.   Rasmus was up for arbitration in 2012, and who knows what Scott Boras would command for him in court.   Jackson is an innings monster, collecting 200+ innings of work in 2009 and 2010.  He has won 3 of his last 4 starts, including a perfect game against Detroit.  Take out a horrible year in 2007 with Tampa(5-15, 5.76 ERA), and Jackson is 50-38 for his career.  Jackson is a good pitcher with potential.   This year he has only allowed 8 home runs in 121 innings, collecting 97 strikeouts against 31 walks.   He is also a second half monster who gives you innings.   A big reason the Cards have faded in the past month is the lack of innings from the back end of their rotation.   Instead of K-Mac and Lohse struggling to give you 6-7 innings every time, Jackson steps in and gives you the innings monster.   Jackson isn’t being asked to save the world in St. Louis.  He is being asked to fill a 5th rotation spot.

Marc Rzepczynski is a quality lefthander, collecting a 2.97 ERA and a .159 BA against lefties in 2011.   A former starter, MR(that name drains me) will fix the bullpen’s left side issues.   Instead of La Russa using Salas to get lefties out in non save situations, MR enters the situation and gets it done.   This is the jewel of the deal here.  A quality lefthanded reliever who has only allowed 2 earned runs in his past 11 innings and has only allowed 2 home runs in his entire 39 innings of work.  He is holding hitters to a .201 average.  This is a guy you can depend on.

Corey Patterson is a bonus addition but look at what he is doing with limited playing time.  Patterson has 6 HR and 33 RBI and is hitting .252, stats that aren’t too far off from Rasmus right now.  That’s what I look at.  The latest production of a ballplayer.  Take away potential and expectations and give me the stats.   CP is 7 years older than Rasmus but is producing on a moderate level.  He moves from a starter in Toronto to a 4th outfield spot here.   Patterson has 13 steals.  In 5 less games, Patterson has 2 more hits than Rasmus.  The comparisons between CP and Raz are vital because this is the current performance rate, an important stat.   Who has 13 steals on the Cardinals?  Nobody.  The Cardinals went 2 weeks without a stolen base in July until Molina stole one in Pittsburgh.  Patterson will fix that.

Octavio Dotel won’t be the closer here, but he is pitching well this season, posting a 3.68 ERA with 30 K-11 BB.  Dotel isn’t a closer.  He is 106-151 in saves in his career.  Dotel allows you to make Mitchell Boggs or Jason Motte expendable in the next few days.  Dotel gives the Cardinals another hard throwing arm in the pen with experience.  He either becomes a weapon or turns into Miguel Batista Jr., as mentioned earlier.   Dotel isn’t a big piece here, but a small bonus.

Once again, the market for Rasmus wasn’t great.  Look at it.   His stock took a huge Mike Tyson like right cross to the cheek in 2011.  In 2010, his trade value was high because he was producing.   This season, the teams weren’t willing to provide a piece of their roster for this questionable performer.   If you are the Nationals, do you trade Desmond and a lefty in the pen for Rasmus?  If you are the Padres, do you include Heath Bell in a package for Rasmus?  Really.  Right now, Colby’s value is down.  The Blue Jays have plenty of power and had the pieces the Cards wanted.   Don’t slam this trade because you crafted several others in your head, where real life stats disappear and potential fantasy points arrive.   Colby Rasmus wasn’t working well in St. Louis and needed to go.

This can be called Rolen and La Russa, Part 2.   I agreed with La Russa in 2006-2007 when Rolen threw his tantrum about playing time and ended up being traded to Toronto for Troy Glaus, who gave the Cards a good year while Rolen rebuilt his shoulder in Canada.   Rolen wasn’t producing, was playing with a bad shoulder and La Russa sat him down for Scott Speizo in the 2006 playoffs.   I supported the move and deemed Rolen a bad product when he left.   Don’t forget La Russa called JD Drew’s bluff and got him moved for Adam Wainwright years ago.  Drew was a injury proned disappointment, and La Russa stopped playing him also.  Call TLR any name but respect the man for putting the hot hand on the field.   Here was another case of a favorite in the organization failing to produce and La Russa pushing him into a platoon role.

The Cardinals are a win now team slowly building up its young talent and farm system.   The Cardinals didn’t have to forfeit Shelby Miller or Carlos Martinez in this deal.   If the Nats wanted Miller or Martinez(the centerpieces of our rotation in the years to come), I would of turned them down.   This is the Cardinals attitude right now.  Win, but guard the future just in case.  Its no secret the Cards are pushing for a major playoff run this season.  The atmosphere for 2012 is unknown at the moment, so the Cards are looking to lay their chips on the table here.  Albert Pujols, Carp, Waino, and Berkman are all coming off the books in November.  We have no idea what this team will look like next season.   For that matter, we have to push this season for a title.   The magicians go to work after the last pitch, which makes the Rasmus trade look smart and intuitive.  Instead of letting him walk into arbitration with a few guns, you get a couple required pieces to help you win in 2011 and take your chances in 2012.   The difference between the Cards and the rest of the NL Central is they contend every season but do so in a low key business slick manner.  An instant look at the trade today does produce question marks and puzzlement but a deeper look allows you to see what the Cardinals got for Rasmus and essentially 3 bricks(Miller, Tallet, Walters).

Jackson-A quality 5th starter that may get better when dipped in the Dave Duncan Wishing Well.

Rzepczynski-A quality lefthanded reliever

Dotel-A power arm who is holding hitters to a .180 batting average in 2011

Patterson-A speedy outfield option that can steal bases and play solid defense with a little pop.

All for Colby Rasmus, a player full of hope yet standing at a crossroads.   Would you rather see Jon Jay traded for a few less pieces and let Colby finish the season hitting .255, 18 HR, 60 RBI, a step back from 2010?  Jay is the better player at the moment, is cheaper and offers you the chance to bolster your team.

The Cardinals are a better team today than they were yesterday.   Yesterday, we didn’t have a new intriguing young starter to move K-Mac to the pen.   We didn’t have a quality lefty.  We didn’t have base stealing threats on the bench.  We didn’t have a veteran power arm that makes a younger piece movable.  We had 2 worthless lefties, a career minor league starter and Colby Rasmus.

This is a good, not great, trade.  The Cardinals aren’t taking a huge hit in next year’s payroll with Jackson.  They have Rzepczynski locked up for 3 seasons.  Dotel and Patterson also comes off the books.   This is a low liability deal for the Redbirds that could pay off huge in the end.  A low key John Mozelaik special.   A friend told me the other day he wished Mo had more balls to go after King Felix in Seattle and I laughed at him.   Mo would need more than balls to acquire the Cy Young winning righty from the Mariners, and quietly, Mo has made a lot more smart moves than bad ones in his 4 years as Cards GM.  He is a business man who doesn’t overextend himself.  Mo moves slow but he carries plenty of bite in the end.  The Cards gave Colby 2.5 seasons to step into the center field role that awaited him since Edmonds left, and Rasmus failed to grab it.   Name reasons and they are worthless.   If Rasmus runs to Toronto and hits well, good for him.   There is no way a baseball fan can say he would of been able to bounce back here.   He had his chance and he blew it.  The Blue Jays can deal with a guy who has a .332 on base percentage, 77 strikeouts and only 78 hits in 94 games this season.   The con’s outweigh the pro’s for Rasmus in 2011.

Here’s something to finish things up.

JD Drew’s first three seasons in MLB with at least 120 games(75 percent of a full season)-

2000-18 HR, 57 RBI, 137 Games, .295 BA

2002-18 HR, 58 RBI, 135 games, .252 BA

2004(Atlanta)-31 HR, 93 RBI, .305 BA, 118 BB(Drew’s best season to date)

In his 5th season, Drew finally broke through after years of up and down play, injuries, potential chased yet never found and only when he went to another baseball team.

Colby’s first two seasons-

2009-16 HR, 52 RBI, .251 BA

2010-23 HR, 76 RBI, .276 BA

2011(94 games)-11 HR, 40 RBI, .245 BA

If The Blue Jays keep Rasmus around for next season and 2013, he may break out for them.  Rasmus could produce in the second half of this season.   Hypothetical-My bets on him keeping up his current pace the rest of the way and the Blue Jays paying him whatever he gets in arbitration.

In the end, at the final scroll, I like this deal.   It carries risk and reward, but the Cards suffered little liability, improved their team and will be giving younger players a chance to shine in a bigger spot.  Can Jon Jay keep the production up?  What will Jackson provide?  Will the bullpen improve?  Questions to be answered another night.

If this helped you make up your mind on this trade, I am glad.   This second round summed it up.

Now, after 8 hours of work in a hot warehouse, 3 hours of softball at night, and another day of fun in the rapid sun in less than 6 hours, I am taking my body to a more comfortable position.

Take luck and thanks for reading,

Dan L. Buffa

“The L is for Larry”