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

Opinions and Thoughts

Welcome to the Bits Session

After the long epic plunge yesterday, I am not even close to being done.  I call this session the hammer round because its non stop bits and dives into various subjects, fleeting and introspective while laying down the stiff news.  Here we go.  Let the St. Louis sports cocktail begin.

  • The Rams take care of one hole and signed Quintin Mekkel to a 4 year, 28 million dollar deal that guarantees 14 million.   Mekkel is the top safety on the market, and the Rams pulled him in.  A required move after the loss of Oshimingo Atogwe right before the lockout.   Mekkel has 88 tackles and 3 interceptions for the Eagles last season, is young, and a great leader.   With James Laurenitas leading the linebacking crew and Chris Long on the line, Mekkel will bring order to the secondary.   Good first move out of the gate for the Rams.
  • The Cards beat the Astros 3-1 on solid pitching, timely hitting and a couple bombs.  Here are various points on the proceedings.
  • David Freese has amazing opposite field power, a key trait for a hitter.  Nothing scares a pitcher more than a guy who can hit to the opposite field for power.  It limits the pitch selection.   This makes him a threat.  His 5th home run last night was also his 5th to the opposite field.  Impressive.  This is the guy we got in the Jim Edmonds trade.  Freese is turning into a cheap necessity at third base.
  • Jake Westbrook is quietly 9-4 after last night’s 6 inning performance.   Since the All Star break, Westbrook has been dialed in and won 2 of his 3 starts.   In his last two starts, Westbrook is 2-0 in 14 innings with only two runs allowed and 1 walk.   If his pitches are down, the sinker is working and ground balls happen.  Known as a second half pitcher, Westbrook’s success comes right in time when early season faves like Kyle Lohse and Kyle McClellan are starting to recede.
  • Ryan Theriot can’t hit lead off because since July 17th, he is 2-35, and one of those singles he was picked off first.  Combine it with bad defense, no power and a decreasing ability to get on base and you have a dead player.
  • Brief Football Note-Donovan McNabb is going to the Vikings if all talks are finalized.   McNabb is a good fit for Minnesota because they have the offensive tools there to give him the help to get back to the playoffs.  D.Nab is a player who is talented yet needs help in reaching a goal.  Without players like Westbrook, Maclin and Owens, he faltered in Washington.   Matt Hasselback is going to the Titans, which is also a good place for him and gives Tennesee a chance to ease Jake Locker into the role.   With Mekkel out of Philly, they will trade Kevin Kolb to Arizona for Antonio Cromartie.  That’s all for football news.

The Latest on Cards Trade Deadline Activity-

If all things go as planned this afternoon, the Cardinals just upgraded their team and cut some dead weight.  The Cards are trading Colby Rasmus, Brian Tallet, Trevor Miller and Pj Walters to the Blue Jays for Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel, Mark Rzepczynski and Corey Patterson.   I like this deal for various reasons.  Here we go down the list.  In one trade, the Cards nearly fixed every problem they had.

-Colby Rasmus, a problem child is finally dealt.  The final nail in the coffin of Rasmus, full of potential yet carrying no staying power, was bringing his father, Tony Rasmus, into the Busch Stadium facility and using him as a coach.   For a control freak like Tony La Russa, that’s a bad idea.   Add in Rasmus’ bad attitude, regression and you have a goner.  I don’t need to sit here and name the reasons why Raz needs to go.  With Jon Jay and Allen Craig in reserve and Holliday and Berkman powering the outfield up, Rasmus was expendable and he will fit into the swing happy bunch in Toronto.  Bye Bye.

-In Edwin Jackson, the Cards get a good 4th-5th starter capable of winning 13-15 games, giving 200 innings and doing a solid job.  This allows Kyle McClellan to go back to the bullpen, where he is better suited in the long run for this ballclub.  Jackson wasn’t going to be enough by himself, but he will help the rotation stability and his contract runs out after this season, so the ties are cut dry until next notice.  Jackson will help.

-Octavio Dotel is a loose cannon hard throwing righthander who can offer another option in the pen to this team.  This is a bonus piece of the trade that is a no lose situation.  Dotel can be great or be bad.   His contract is also up after 2011.

-Mark Rzepczynski is another required piece.  If you unload Tallet and Miller, the Cards needed a lefty in this trade and they got a good one.   Lefthanders are only hitting .159 against  this LHP in 2011 and he is an effective young lefthander who can instantly strengthen the bullpen.

-Corey Patterson is another bonus piece who can add depth to the outfield.   Patterson gives you speed, base stealing ability and a backup to the young talent on this team.  At the very least, he plays a great centerfield and can be a fast set of legs off the bench.  Patterson is an ex Cub who was having a decent season in Toronto as a reserve.  He hits National League pitching well and fits here.

What did the Cards lose in the deal?  Except for Rasmus, the Cards cut dead minor and major league weight.  It doesn’t matter if Trevor Miller or Brian Tallet didn’t fully implode in 2011, because if La Russa isn’t going to use them in pressure situations, they are no good to this ballclub.  Miller isn’t having a good season, Tallet is injury prone and both were dead weight.   You cut two and added one, and got stronger.   Pj Walters was a player who couldn’t stay on a major league roster and didn’t rise above the “band aid” status of minor league talent.  Walters didn’t fit here and will get a chance in Toronto with a fresh set of eyes.

Rasmus followers will say the Cards simply got rid of him and that isn’t true.  Rasmus was a problem child here, carried some value, wasn’t producing at his normal capacity and needed to be moved out of town.  In return, the Cards got a starter, a speedy bench bat, a quality lefty in the pen and an additional heat arm from the right side.   We dropped baggage and got stronger here.  Read over the stats and I am backed up here.

In one trade(if all goes as planned, the Cards corrected a lot of mistakes and holes on their roster.   Jackson pushes McClellan to the bullpen.  Dotel helps the young Boggs and Motte in depth.  Patterson add speed and defense while Rypenski gives La Russa an arm he can use in the pressure spots during the game.   All in all, a good trade for each team.

If Rasmus goes on to hit 30 home runs, drive in 100 and hit .290, good for him and the Blue Jays.  I will tell you this.  He wasn’t going to do it here, wore out his welcome and punched his own ticket when his attitude trumped his game.  Goodbye Colby.  Pack up the farm animals, hay and cornbread and start watching hockey.  All good will reserved, I am glad we were able to get a good return here.  Jackson wasn’t going to be enough, and the Cards added to the deal.  A strong deal from John Mozelaik to get equal value here.

ESPN writer Bill Simmons writes that he loves Rzepczynski and adds that Jackson has been sneaky good in 2011, hoping his Red Sox could of pulled one of them in.  Having read Simmons for a year, I can tell you the man knows his language and that his approval means a lot.

When examined from outside the Cards emotional radius, the trade works very well in a number of ways.   The trade is designed as a “win now” move, but with the Cards farm system producing quality talent like Jay and Allen Craig, a move is possible.  We could walk a mile and discuss Rasmus’ potential but the end will be finalized when the production comes into question.   Its simple when examined.  Rasmus is regressing as a once promising All Star talent, and carries only so much value.   The Cards struck while the iron was hot.

Juice Note-Edwin Jackson pitched a no hitter last year for the Diamondbacks, albeit with 8 walks included.  He has 97 strikeouts and 31 walks in 2011, an impressive 3-1 ratio which is good for any league.  He also carries a workman like 3.92 ERA, good for the AL.  Jackson is a contact pitcher who is enjoying a very good second half and slots in as the Cards 5th starter.

Jackson and Rzepczynski are the key components of this deal, while Dotel(3.68 ERA, 30 K) and Patterson are the potential bonus pieces.  In the end, this is a risky yet successful and required trade.

Bottom Line-While people around baseball consider this a great deal for the Blue Jays, I can easily question that analysis.   What we have here is a question of value.  A need for value.  No one can sit in a sober state and say Colby Rasmus will be a great player in St. Louis if he had stayed here for a few more seasons.   A conflicted player of massive complexity and stoned faced acknowledgement, Rasmus refused to work with Cards coaches, requested a trade in 2010 and obviously wasn’t happy here.  This would of led to more subpar play and means he had to go.  In return, we get a variety of weapons.  In Jackson, The Cards get an innings eater who is only 27 years old and is in a contract year.   In Rzepcynski, the Cards fix their #1 need in bullpen help from the left side.  In Patterson and Dotel, they get depth and insurance to the young players on their roster.  This is a good deal for a Cardinals team trying to win a division in a four team race.  If they sat around and gave Colby time to grow and he didn’t, the widespread talk would be that they didn’t strike while the iron was hot.  Rasmus can come into his own in Toronto and help the Blue Jays battle the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays for the toughest division in baseball.  The Cardinals get stronger as well and can make this trade because it allows them to move Kyle McClellan back to the bullpen, gives them the flexibility of moving Motte or Boggs after bringing in Dotel, and Patterson gives the bench a speed threat with pop and a player who can steal bases.  Looking at the little things, the deal works and while it carries risk in St. Louis, the alarm isn’t scary on this end.  The hardcore reality is this.  La Russa isn’t going anywhere, so Rasmus had to move.  My true feeling is he wouldn’t of been able to do well here because A.)he wasn’t happy, B.)Carried the pressure of a highly touted first round draft pick and C.)had better players breathing down his neck.   Rasmus didn’t have the drive to call off Matt Holliday in the outfield for a fly ball, much less rise to the occasion.   This deal worked for the Cardinals because Colby Rasmus wasn’t going to work in La Russa’s system, and love or hate the skipper, that’s just the way it is.

With more on this soon, Im moving on to more bits.

-With Theriot going downhill, Skip Schumacher has stepped up his production.  Since July 16th, Skip has raised his average from .262 to .288, signaling a turnaround for the transitional player.  After hitting .300 for two seasons with a .350 plus on base percentage, Skip had a rough 2010 season.   His defense worsened, which put more stress on his hitting approach, causing the downhill collapse.  In 2011, his defense has improved and his bat is following suit.  He needs to split time with Descalso and Jay in the leadoff role.

-Albert Pujols’ two run homer was up for debate last night as the ball struck the top of the center field wall, causing an instant replay and a debate from the Astros dugout.  In my opinion, the ball wasn’t a home run, but the umpires ruled for Albert.  If you’re a Cardinal fan, you keep your mouth shut and like it.  If you have a problem with instant replay on home runs, file it with the judge.  If MLB wants to improve their system of replays, go to the war room where several sets of eyes can see the replay and lay down a ruling.  This is the format in the NHL, where refs will call up to the Toronto war room, where all games are monitored and get a ruling.  Leave it to human error or add another set or two of eyes.   Complaining about it does no good.

-A Brief Mention for A Beer taking care of me in the summer.  Consider this a commercial break.   Ladies and gents, after you replenish your needs with a wheat beer of any kind, settle down at night and crack open a bottle of thick delicious Trader Joe’s Stockyard Stout.   This isn’t a stout season, but real beer lovers can dive into any brew at any time, so make the plunge.  Carrying a deep rich taste that contains barley, chocolate and coffee afterthoughts, Stockyard delivers the goods for any Stout fan.  Recommended by a good friend, I bought a 6 pack and have drank a bottle per night.  One bottle of Stout satisfies the soul and finishes the day off perfect.  This is a beer that puts hair on your chest and peace in your mind.  For the ladies, the hair is held back but the genius factor is included.  Give it a shot.

-Cards fans, Don’t worry about Lance Berkman.  Remember the Neil Young song.  “Old Man/take a look at my life/it’s a lot like you.”  Berkman is getting old, will miss games here and there yet deliver when in the lineup.  Last night, he took two at bats, didn’t feel right and pulled himself out of the lineup.   If Berkman plays 130-135 games in 2011, that’s good news.   The key is to keep those knees fresh and ready for September and use the bench in order to keep the Puma ready for big time action.   Look at his stats right now and he is better than 2009 or 2010.   .286 BA, 27 HR, 69 RBI, 66 Runs scored.   Give me a break and him while you are at it.  He is an MVP candidate who needs rest.

-The Cards are hot and have won 5 of 6 by taking care of business.  After taking a game against the Mets, we took care of the Pirates and are beating a bad team in the Astros.  Keep it up and the record gets padded before the next week begins.  This is how the 2011 team succeeds and the 2010 falters.

-The Reds traded Jonny Gomes to the Nationals to insert power and relieve the Reds of attitude trouble and dead weight.   Gomes is a clown who has worn out his welcome and will add marginal power to the Nats, who are suffering with 22 million dollar boy Jayson Werth hanging low iwith Gomes like numbers, .217 BA, 11 HR, and 35 RBI.  That’s called a solo project that’s sank in the water.   Werth is sinking under pressure without the firepower of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley behind him.   He makes Matt Holliday look like a bargain contract.

-King Felix Hernandez is staying put.  The Mariners are a horrible team without offense and depth, but they aren’t stupid.  They won’t trade their Cy Young award winning centerpiece in Felix and risk their future.  If you take away the centerpiece, the table collapses.  Bad idea.  Keep Felix, sign some power hitting and regroup for next season.   Anybody who thinks or dreams King Felix is leaving needs a reminder that the ground they walk on belongs to reality.

In Entertainment news-

-Looking forward to an indie film premiering at the Toronto Film Festival called, Ides of March, starring George Clooney and Ryan Gosling. A political drama about a presidential candidate(Clooney) who runs into a brick wall while on a campaign, due to a scandal involving his assistant(Gosling).   Clooney is directing, and his track record is pretty solid behind the camera as he makes classy politically ambitious films, the best being Goodnight and Good Luck, about radio voice Edward Morrow’s stand against Joseph McCarthy in the Communism struggle.   With Clooney, there’s juice to spare and the supporting cast is littered with talent like Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti.  A film to look forward to.

-For all the True Blood fans, I’m heavily awaiting the Bill-Eric bash kickass fest this Sunday. In a show about vamps and humans co-existing, the thrill has always been the raging sexcapades and the interesting characters and unpredictable nature.  This is Rome with vamps and staged in the south.  Season 4 has seen Bill thrust into higher power and Eric into stupidville, so Im glad a change is coming.  Since he lost his memory, Eric has gone flat for me.  Since I carry two thumbs and like the ladies, his looks don’t interest me. As played by Alexander Saarsgard, Eric’s allure has been the little things.  His attitude, ability and way of handling business has always been the thrill for Mr. Northman in this house on the male end.  From the moment he came on screen in Season 1 at the bar in the king’s chair, we knew he was dangerous and wouldn’t be denied screen time.  I haven’t read the books in the series, but these vamps intrigue me and chief among the instigators is Eric and his “give it to me now” way of acting, so after he runs into Bill with 2 fingers and a member deep into the centerpiece, Sookie(the lovely Anna Paquin),  hopefully Eric gets his mojo back.  Season 4 is entertaining but missing the key element of Eric Northman’s dangerous persona.  The loser puppy routine is growing old.  If you don’t watch the show, this paragraph will seem like spanish.

-Since I am not a Seinfeld fan and don’t watch Curb Your Enthusiasm, seeing Larry David on the cover of Rolling Stone carries zero interest to me.  RS ranks among the top in entertainment journalism and quality cover piece writing, but this issue I will pass.  David is Woody Allen’s nervous brother when it comes to interviews, so no thanks.  A No Go.  I’m sure he is a comic genius who spurned a classic series and went on to star in a quirky one of his own, but right here it gets a slow…mehhhhhh.

-Look up Hugo’s cool alternative rock album, Old Tyme Religion, for a fresh take on various genres in music.  His folky spin on sound and his bluesy cool vocals produce entertaining cool tunes.   Hugo is doing things different and we’re better for it.

That’s all I have for now.  A  baseball blood soaked rant here with bullets of Cardinals persuasion mixed with entertainment and free speech.   Just another collection of words from my head to your eyes.   Time for me to exit stage left.  All I have is what I’m going after, so for now I am giving it a rest.

Goodnight,

Dan L. Buffa

“L” stands for Larry

 

A News Reel of Varied Opinions

The time has come once again to tell you who I am and what I do here.   Every hour of every day, I feel a need to inform people of my opinion.   Paid writers hate guys like me because I have a ying for every yang they publish.   I call stories exactly as I see them, with no filter required.  I carry no editors in my house, and nor do I ever want one to look in.   It’s my show here.  Ask me about anything and I will give you a point of view is that is unbias, direct and of the moment.   My words hurt people and yes I have made people cry from ther result of using brutal honesty in my blogs.   There is no need to sugar coat anything in life because it delays the inevitable.  The honest to the heart truth.  What you get here is 100 percent me.  Up to the minute thoughts and the mind drippings of a simple man who feels a journalistic hunger to tell people the news.

Let’s get into the Cardinals weekly rampage of exhausted hunting for meaning in a team

When it comes to the Rogues in red, you take so many twists and turns that there isn’t an end in sight.  There is only the next round of material to discuss about this team, which is what I am running into right now.

The Cards started the second half with a 4-5 road trip through Cincinnati, New York, and Pittsburgh, the last stop yielding a series victory but an unfortunate close.

The Mets are better than their record, sport decent pitching, and the return of Jose Reyes and emergence of Carlos Beltran as the trading deadline nears sparked the Mets to take the first two games of last week’s series.   The Mets won in convincing style on Tuesday and walked off on Wednesday, giving the Cards their 9th defeat in game winning fashion.   There isn’t much use to dive into the rougher cuts of that series because its a week old but I will say this.  A couple things became apparent in that series that fully explained the Cards needs at the trading deadline on July 31st.

-Kyle Mania is dipping to an all new low as the months pass by.  Lohse and McClellan aren’t the same pitchers from May and June.  The last 7 starts by these two don’t mirror the first 10, where K-Mac went 6-1 and Lohse was also 6-1.   Since then, Lohse has only won two games and lost 6, and McClellan hasn’t won in his past 7 starts.   Lohse and McClellan pitched average in New York and didn’t give their team a chance to win.   Each labored through 6 innings and allowed 4 earned runs.  There is zero quality in those starts.   This is why the Cards need starting pitching.  McClellan is hitting an innings wall and regressing, while Lohse is straigtening out into a 4th arm capable of giving up 4 or 5 runs per start.  Is this surprising?  NO.  McClellan is a first year starter better suited for bullpen work, where he spent all of his first 4 seasons doing well.  Lohse is a starter with one great year in an otherwise unnoteworthy career.  This guy isn’t surprised at all about the downfall of the Kyle’s.  We have approached the collison of ability and reality, otherwise known as late July.  McClellan needs to go back to the bullpen to better serve this team.  His two starts this week against the Astros and Cubs are his last chances.

-Tony La Russa carries zero faith in his lefthanders in the bullpen.   This explains why Fernando Salas was pitching against Angel Pagan in the 10th inning of a tied game on Wednesday.  Pagan hit a game winning home run off a Salas fastball that once again didn’t get inside enough.   Salas had already pitched the 9th inning, and La Russa sent him back out there.   For what reason?  With Pagan, Beltran and Reyes approaching, there was no need to stretch your closer 2 extra innings.  With Trevor Miller and Raul Valdes in the pen, La Russa had options that he didn’t to turn to.  This means only one thing.  La Russa has lost complete faith in his lefties.  Get him new arms.  Release Miller and send Valdes back to Memphis because they are worthless if La Russa can’t use them in pressurized situations.

Those are the two things that popped into the head during the lost series.   Two holes on this team.  Rotational wear and tear, lefthanded bullpen help and a closer who can shut down a team 1-2-3 in the ninth inning and not be stretched past a single frame.  The bullpen is pitching extra innings, getting beaten more because the starters aren’t pitching deep into games any longer.   Lohse and McClellan can rarely pitch past the 6th inning, and except for Thursday’s gem, Jake Westbrook doesn’t go more than 5.2 innings.  When the starters tire, the bullpen weakens.  Along with a very average defense that is committing errors twice a game, those are the needs on this club.

Other Things to Consider from New York-

Jason Motte is having a decent season, has been wrongly saddled with more than a few situations(bases loaded, 0 outs) and has good numbers.  However, Motte isn’t pitching well with runners on base.   His inherited runners allowed is bad this season, hanging a cloud on his impressive K-BB and ERA.

Jason Isringhausen, a long time favorite of mine, collected a save and a win in last week’s series, causing me to get nostalgic about his Cardinal days and become a tad bit angry.  Izzy worked 3 scoreless innings for the Mets against the heart of the Cards order.  He struck out AP and Freese on high fastballs.  He got Holliday and Berkman to reach twice each.  In short, Izzy looked too good for his crisp old age of 37, causing me to complain, when was the last time Izzy pitched 3 scoreless innings in a row for the Cards?  You have to go back to 2007 to find it.  Here is the realization.  Izzy is pitching without pressure in NY, serving most of the season as a 1 inning bullpen hand and doing well.  In St. Louis, near the end, Izzy felt the weight of the world on his shoulders and pitched with boulders sitting on each arm.  His hip was rotting away and his shoulder wasn’t healthy.  He pitched bad in his 2 of his final 3 seasons in St. Louis, years after leading the league in saves(47) in 2005.   If he came back to St. Louis this season or next, he would immediately feel the pressure from his closing duties here.  Whether or not he closed, the “best fans in baseball” would let him have it and be relentless with their assaults.  It wouldn’t work out here because Izzy carries too much baggage.  If he faltered, he would be slaughtered.  That’s the life of a closer.  You are only as good as your last outing, and so far in 2011, Izzy is well liked in New York, the mother of pressure cookers.  Who could of written this script?   Last night against the Reds, Izzy struck out Brandon Phillips with the bases loaded to seal another win for the Mets and his 297th save.  Wonder how those bases got loaded in the first place?  Izzy put them there, as Bob Gibson would tell Tim McCarver back in the 1960s.  That’s the thing about being a fan of Izzy.  He has put plenty of gray hair on my face and head, but to this day, I pull for him to do well.   Its called loyalty.

Give credit to Jake Westbrook.  In a supreme time of desolate need, he pitched 8 innings in a 6-2 getaway win that salvaged a game and pushed the Cards into Pittsburgh in a healthy mood.   Westbrook has been up and down, pushed to the side all season, and roughed up and locked in all in a week.  He is a pitcher looking for solid ground and on Thursday, found it, used a Albert Pujols homer to stake himself and collected his 8th win.  His ERA is high but Westbrook is 6-2 since early June, thanks to run support and timely pitching.   He is a 5th starter through and through, but he is coming up big this season in big spots.   Its been one year since Westbrook came over in a trade for Ryan Ludwick, and Jake has answered the call and fulfilled expectations.   He will never be called an ace, like he was dubbed in Cleveland, but he gets the job done and gives you a gritty 5-6 innings.

On to  the Pittsburgh series, where the Cards took 2 of 3 in a huge series but dropped the finale in devastating and embarrassing fashion.

Quick Recap of Friday and Saturday-Carpenter dominates, gets stronger as the innings go by, goes 8 strong, yields 4, and rides three Cards homers to a 6-4 victory closed down by Salas for his 18th save.  On Saturday, the Cards romp, winning 9-1 and Jaime Garcia collects his 10th win, going 7.1 innings and giving a single run.   Carpenter is 5-0 in his last 6 starts, with a 2.95 ERA, and the Cards have won every game he has pitched.  Garcia deserves 13-14 wins but sits with 10 wins again, eliminating doubters with every start and trimming his ERA back to under 3.00 while pitching fine baseball.   The two Aces of the rotation did the heavy lifting on Friday and Saturday.

Sunday’s game was a disaster because once again, the Cards shot themselves in the foot, didn’t capitilize on key chances, and beat themselves.  The Cards blew 3 leads, left runners on and played horrible defense, falling 4-3 in 10 innings.   A good friend of mine argued that the Sunday loss eliminated the previous two wins and made the series a downer.  While I disagreed, his point has to be examined.  Every time the Cards have a chance to truly rise to the top of the NL, get into the upper ranks, step on their divisional competiton, they falter and lose.  They lost a chance to sweep the Reds two weeks ago at home.  They blew the first game after the All Star break in Cincy, allowing the Reds to stay in the NL hunt.  They allowed the Mets to walk off with a series win after blowing a 4-0 lead.  On Sunday, the Cards couldn’t finish off the Pirates, slow them down and take over the division.   Imagine what a sweep may of done to the Central power system.   The Cardinals walked into Pittsburgh and did the right thing.  They reminded the Pirates that the king of the division will not go down and told them who has dominated this division for 10 years.   Yesterday, they passed up a chance to be great, instead falling back down to good and credible.  Why?  A lot of reasons.  Lets dip into that pie.

-Any time you leave 11 baserunners stranded, commit three errors and blow 3 different leads in a one run game, you are going to lose.  Period.

-Ryan Theriot’s bat is eroding and his defense is still bad.   He committed two errors and allowed two late throws from the catcher on base stealing attempts to get past him and into center field.  The second pass was crucial, setting up the game winning run for the Pirates in the 10th inning.  Theriot is an average talent and always has been.  He hit his peak in 2008 and 2009, had a bad 2010 season and started hot this year only to slowly fizzle out.  Theriot went 1-6 in yesterday’s game lowering his average to .271.  He is hitting .209 in July and has lost 25 points on his batting average in 12 days.  His defense is horrible.  He makes routine plays close and can’t make a good play.   Theriot isn’t a leadoff hitter and has stopped getting on base, meaning he will be dropped to the bottom of the order.   Here is the problem.  Skip Schumacher isn’t a better leadoff hitter.  The Cards don’t have a good leadoff hitter.   The idea of hitting Jon Jay leadoff has to spring into La Russa’s mind.  If not, Theriot will continue to rot.  He is like a flower who gets pulled out of water and laid on the ground to die.  As the season goes on, he gets worse.

-Gerald Laird can’t throw his mother out at second base.  3 stolen bases allowed in a game isn’t a good sign for a catcher.

-Kyle Lohse only pitches 5 innings and throws 64 pitches.   Asking your bullpen to get you 12 outs with a starter doing well is stupid.  Lohse blew two one run leads but was looking sharp when he left.   I don’t care if his finger wasn’t 100 percent ready.  If he makes the start, he has to throw at least 85 pitches.  A bad move by La Russa to remove Lohse in a close game, no matter the situation.   Tony Cruz came up to pinch hit and struck out.

-If I were Tony, which I play 10 times per game because of my success rate, I would of pinch hit Yady for Laird and stopped two more stolen bases from happening.   Molina getting rest is nice and all, but the best catcher has to play in big games.   Sitting Yady on Sunday was bad news.  If you are playing Houston and Chicago this week, there is plenty of time to rest Molina.  A potential sweep contest was a bad choice.

-Hitting Skip in the sixth spot doesn’t scare any pitcher or manager in the major leagues.   Another La Russa fuckup.

-In the end, the Cards lost a heartbreaker.   The last two runs the Pirates scored came on a double play grounder and a sacrifice fly.   That’s how close and painful the game was.   Rotten display of play does put a slight damper on the previous two wins.

However, the Cards walked into Pittsy and took the series.  A recovery from a rough road trip and a chance to come home and do damage.  With the Astros and Cubs coming into town sporting bad records and dismal futures, the Cardinals need to get out the big sticks and put a beating on these teams.  No retreat, no surrender.  If the Cards can’t beat these team, they don’t deserve to contend for a playoff spot and should recede towards the bottom of the division.  This week is huge because bad teams need to be taken care of, and this is brightest flaw from last season’s collapse.  If we lose to Houston, the Pirates series victory does mean nothing.

Two ways you beat the Astros lineup-Keep Michael Bourn off the bases and throw Hunter Pence outside breaking pitches.  Their rotation, bullpen and depth aren’t pretty and there is a reason they are the worst team in baseball.   They do few things well.  The Cards will face Bud Norris but have hit him better recently.

When you lose, lessons come out of the fire.   Losing to the Reds, Mets and Pirates reminded the Cards of their needs at the deadline.

-Starting pitching

-Lefthanded bullpen help

-A closer fill in

Fernando Salas has saved 18 games in 21 chances but is getting more hittable with each appearance.   The Cards can’t afford to blow any more games this season and they lead the league in blown saves.   Salas is decent yet getting hit hard lately.  He is resembling Ryan Franklin with each appearance.  The hitters are collecting more contact against him and Salas hasn’t recorded a 1-2-3 9th inning in over a month.  Out of his 18 saves, 15 of them have included baserunners.   He isn’t a shutdown closer, was never groomed to be one, and is overused by La Russa.  A replacement is going to be needed unless La Russa treats Salas like a true closer.

Colby Rasmus is trade bait, but can’t be moved for a low end return.   The rumors of a trade sending Rasmus to The Chicago White Sox for starter Edwin Jackson wouldn’t make for an even deal.   Rasmus carries too much value to be traded for a downhill treading arm like Jackson.   Here is the question.  Is Jackson a lot better than McClellan or Westbrook?  No way.   He is an innings eater and sports a 4.00 ERA and 6 wins, but isn’t a fair deal for Rasmus.   Rasmus leads the team in walks and is 2nd in runs scored, and is only 24 years old.  He is also cheap and still carries potential.   This is stated because fans need to remember you don’t trade a player for a lesser product.  Unless the White Sox throw in lefty reliever Scott Thornton or Chris Sale, the deal doesn’t work to me.

Albert Pujols is accumulating strong power stats but failing to put 2-3 games together where he destroys pitching.  After going 4-5 on Friday and reaching .280 again, AP finished off the series 1-9 with an RBI single.   He has 22 home runs and 60 RBI, second on the team to Lance Berkman.   Albert is getting closer, crushing the baseball but hasn’t reached solid land yet.  According to Pujols standards, AP 2011 is still behind.

Here is what irritates me about Tony’s way.  Why do you sit Matt Holliday, David Freese and Yady Molina on a Sunday where you have a chance to sweep your division upstart Pirates?   It is plain stupid.   Save the rest dates for this week when you face teams that are 10-20 games out of first place and worthless.   In make or break games, the lineup has to feature the core talent.  Big miss by La Russa.   His managing will be called impressive this season because of the reliable resilient performance by the Cards in the face of deadly injury, but he is irritating me every game with his subpar choices.

Idea of the week.   Bat Jon Jay leadoff.   He hits .300, gets on base in a variety of ways, and is CONSISTENT.  He is a more reliable hitter than Ryan Theriot right now.  Make the move.   Follow Jay with David Freese or Nick Punto, who has to start cutting into Theriot’s playing time.   Winning teams go with the hotter hand, and right now its Jon Jay.

This week I am going to three games at Busch Stadium, so I will get a close look at this team before they hit the trading deadline on Sunday.  Expect action this week to heat up in the league as teams make improvements for the stretch run.   John Mozelaik is known for his post deadline waiver moves, but he will make a trade this year of some variety.   I will get the chance to see McClellan’s next two starts against two division foes.  I will see Garcia on Thursday.   After this week, I will be able to tell you what is right and wrong with this team, which will lead to make or break moves.  The Cards are 1-2 moves from being a very good baseball team.  The question is…will those moves be made or not?

Moving onto other topics while the Cards prepare to battle the Astros in 2 hours.   Updates on the team to follow as we roll along here.

Update-Cards beat the Astros 10-5 on Monday night, a successful night for many, including these players.

-Kyle McClellan pitches 7 strong innings, striking out 5 and allowing only a 1 run on 6 hits.   A solid performance that keeps K-Mac in the rotation.  Pitching against a poor lineup, Kyle had to be sharp and rose to the occasion.

-Colby Rasmus goes 1-3 with a walk, smashing a 2 run 420 foot bomb in the 5th inning, continuing his trend of hitting home runs inside several bad at bats.  Rasmus can hit homers, we know that, but can he hit consistently and get on base game to game.

-Pujols goes 1-5 with a single.  Pujols is close yet not there with his timing.  With him, its all timing.

-Pj Walters comes into a 8-1 game and allows a grand slam to Carlos Lee.   Why is Walters on this team again? Walters hadn’t pitched in three weeks, came into a blow out game, and allowed the Astros to get back into the contest with a 4 run 8th inning.   Walters is a career Memphis arm who only makes appearances here when the team is in need.  Right now, the roster includes 14 pitchers, more than enough help for a July finish.

-Ryan Theriot goes 0-5 and drops below .270.   Theriot is becoming a worthless leadoff bat and doesn’t help with his defense.   His playing time needs to be cut short.  The Cards knew what they were getting in RT, so the time has come to shove him to the side, play Punto or Descalso and make a run for it with Theriot on the bench as a pinch hitter/part time starter.  La Russa needs to realize this like he realized Miguel Batista and Ryan Franklin were only hurting the bullpen every time they pitched.  Tough but required step for all managers.  Recognize a player going through a career sealing rough streak.

Captain America Review

The latest Marvel summer action film arrival is exactly what you want and a little more.  Unlike decent if forgettable guilty pleasures like Transformers 3 or Green Lantern, Captain America has a full blooded story and a iconic hero in Steve Rogers, the little skinny guy who only wanted to help his country fight the Germans in World War II.   The film is peppered with pure action exhilaration while retaining a thoughtful soul carried out here by Chris Evans, giving an energetic if understated performance as Rogers.   Director Joe Johnston borrows here from early America comics by mixing the plot up with the WWII struggle between The USA and the Nazis, here led by the evil Red Skull(Hugo Weaving), a man who simply wants to take over the world and kill off the competition.   Right as he sets aim on the USA, Rogers joins the army and gets selected by a military scientist for a secret experiment.   What the military soon finds out about Rogers is that while he only weigh 100 pounds, his heart and hunger to do good outweighs half the men in the army.   He is selected to be the first human to be transformed into “a super soldier”, a heroic super strength and fast moving evil fighting machine.  Red Skull was given a similiar procedure, but the effects didn’t completely take and he is left only disfigured and full of hate.  Rogers comes out a living breathing superhero, and the fight between Captain America and Red Skull begins.  Throw in an old fashioned love story between Rogers and a british officer(Hayley Atwell) assisting the US, and the film is classic good vs. bad delight.  Its a simple pleasure being crafted here, a film that will please both the longtime comic fans and the summer crowd looking for an action film with true American bite.  Evans is perfect in the lead role, resisting the urge to overplay the heroic drama and simply let his look and movements cast the biggest growth in his performance.   Weaving makes for a  perfect adversary, cold and evil to the core.  Another reason this film is so strong is because it speaks to the many people in our country who aren’t genetically gifted yet carry a willpower and hunger to do the right thing.  All they need is a chance.  Rogers gets that chance in this movie, as his character is a symbol for every undersized man in the world.  Marvel fans get their fill here, with expected cameos from Nick Fury and a supporting role from Howard Stark as the chief builder of Captain America’s suit and shield.  After the credits, there is a very well put together trailer for next year’s Avengers.  Look, Captain America is for comic book hounds but also appeals to filmgoers looking for a summer action film that gives more than guns blazing and bad guys falling.  A superhero story with a bit of old school romance thrown into a World War II plot makes for a good time at the movies.

Other things to Like here-

-The Attention to detail.   Die hard fans will recognize small links to the old comics in the dialogue and in the costumes.  Well done here by the designers.

-Hayley Atwell makes for a fine female counterpoint to Evans in the lead role.  A young british beauty, Atwell takes a second rate role and makes her own.

-The patience in the storytelling is appreciated.   Moviegoers get to see Rogers make the slow transformation from nobody to hero.   Its a 30 minute transformation that defies the usual superhero tale, where filmmakers feel like the running time is a race and skip past all the juicy parts of the hero going from man to supernatural.   While some get impatient, I appreciated the slow boil of the plot here.  In a story of simple good against evil, the script needs to be strong.

THE NFL LOCKOUT IS OVER

After 132 days of deal making, pausing, and torment in the circles of the rich, the NFLPA and The Owners agreed on a new 10 year labor agreement. The NFL is alive again and open for business.  Anybody surprised by this needs a reality check and be reminded this is all about money and not about football.  Its chess, not checkers my friends. The wait is over, and the fans will get their football fix this fall and winter.   First thing, fans have nothing to whine about.   Except for the useless HOF game in Canton, the fans aren’t missing out on anything.   The four preseason games will go on, and the 16 game regular season trek is planned as well. When people call fans the victims, they are out of line and sound quite stupid.  The coaches are paid top dollar to get athletes into game shape, so 40 days is more than enough time to get ready to play football.   All in all, the game didn’t lose much muster and only found itself with a couple mini camps.  The smart players will stay in shape and the dumb ones will get injured.  The two sides weren’t dumb enough to waste the millions made in the preseason and came to an agreement that makes each side content, if not happy.  In the beginning, it was going to be a real act of stupidity to miss any preseason or regular season games.  Money rules here.  Its hard to side with either group here because each contributed to the greedy pack.   The players didn’t want to hand over part of their share for the owners to sort out their revenue sharing system, so the owners locked them out.  The players laid down their terms, filed suit, and the owners remained adamant about splitting the pie and adding a billion on top of the sharing.  The players and owners went to court and battled.  Each side remained stubborn enough for one STL radio voice to claim football would be cut short in 2011.  In the end, the players accepted the owners revised CBA, and we are back in business.

The Rams Outlook

The Rams are opening camp on Friday, and GM Billy Devaney, Steve Spagnuolo and Stan Kroneke need to get to work and attack the free agent market.   The Rams are 2-3 players from making the playoffs.  An outside linebacker,  a backup running back, a cornerback/safety and a big play wide receiver to mix in with the B pack bunch on the roster.  Sidney Rice, Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards are expensive options at WR.   Plaxico Burress is a cheaper look for the Rams.   Its easy to sit here and say what the team needs but these are the facts.  Last year, when the Rams suffered injuries, the passing game took a hit and the team struggled to put points on the board in the red zone.  Struggles in the red zone come back to wide receiving playmakers.   Since I can’t have Larry Fitzgerald, one must look to the open market.  Look, there are good things to say about Danny Amendola, Brendan Gibson, Danario Alexander, Donnie Avery and Mark Clayton, but they are all supporting players and not playmaking #1 threats.  You keep 3-4 from the bunch and add a real stat monster who can run and catch.   Sam Bradford is a great leader but he needs a toy.   A big toy to play with on offense.  The Rams need to find him one.   On defense, an outside linebacker to accompany James Laurenitas and a cornerback/safety to replace Oshimingo Atogwe would be preferrable.  The Rams have an intriguing team yet carry holes.

Also on the list is a backup running back.   A smaller speedy type who can complement Steven Jackson’s bash and slash style of power running.   Darren Sproles would work very well here.  Brian Westbrook is perfect, with his running and catching abilities.   Marion Barber was released by the Cowboys.  He could fill in behind SJ39 but they are built from the same cloth.   Jackson needs help because he is gaining years along with the yardage and takes a beating in his style of play.  A backup with real juice heightens the abilities of the running game.  Cut them with a speedy second man, and allow SJ to finish them off.

The story of the Rams is simple.   Spags handles the defense, creating a pass rush heavy attack that helped the Rams lead the NFC in sacks last year yet left them vulnerable to the running game and a big passing play.  On offense, Josh McDaniels takes over the book and will reinvent this attack.  One reason I am content with the group in a small way is that McDaniels will suck every bit of talent from the roster and is built from the Mike Martz school of 4 down territory.  Run and gun, and slam the ball down the defenses throat.  The success rate hinges on the amount of  holes Devaney can fill with Stan’s cash.  Get it done. The Rams fans are back in the seats, so now the idea is to keep them there.  Let’s not be like the Blues and make zero moves on the roster for 3 years(what happened to the note before the past season).   Lets find flaws and fix them.

Amy Winehouse Died this past weekend.   The brutally talented jazzy pop artist passed to unknown causes, yet I am can guess with a clear mind that drugs were involved.  This death is no big surprise to anybody who pays attention to pop culture and the music industry.  Before Saturday, mention Winehouse and you see people briefly smile and nod before taking a dark swing into a mixed up expression.  Amy was gifted yet addicted.  Her biggest album was named Back to Black and her biggest hit was called Rehab, which carried an addictive spell of its own on a listener.  Listening to her, you knew there was talent there, but the fight here is the same as it was with Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.  Would the talent outrun the drug addiction?  In the end, for Amy, the addiction won.   She was a cold blooded musician, a prodigy who couldn’t stay out of the press for drug/boyfriend/disturbance issues.   While drug addiction and alcoholism isn’t a real disease, the issue is a definite reality in several people’s lives.  A problem that is created within a person’s space and company.  Winehouse could of been guarded with an army of sober people but would find a way to use.  Whether she was off or on, accidentally drugged or purposefully high, Winehouse was 100 percent authentic.  That’s what I’ll remember about her.  Her talent and her real world.  She didn’t fake a thing and gave it all in person.   You can’t fix death, but you can remember someone despite their problems.  I’ll remember Winehouse real cut attitude.  Since her death, her album sales have rose.  This is also no surprise, as we have understood from Hendrix, Cobain, Tupac and Marley’s modern day effect.   When an artist dies early, their music reaches another level.  Rehab was great, but my favorite Winehouse song was bittersweet and perfectly explained her demise.  The song is called, “You know I’m No Good”.  Here it is. Take one look at Winehouse and she had a “guess what I’m going to do next” expression on her face.

http://youtu.be/b-I2s5zRbHg

The Tragedy in Norway is simply horrible and something that I struggle to explain to people or to myself.   Terrorists are led by religious duties, but we always forget to throw gunmen into that group.   What led a single man to kill 92 people on vacation in Norway?  What went through the man’s head?  He posed as a police officer, set a building on fire, gathered innocent people around him, and begin to pick them off, one by one with an automactic weapon.  ONE MAN nearly killed 100 people inside a single day.  How do you react to that?  You make sure he is dead, find out his origin, and what led him to the act, but what happens after?  Its inexplainable.   There is nothing one can do but appreciate the ground you walk on isn’t joined by a gunmen looking to end life for no real reason.   According to Henry Rollins, Norway is a peaceful loving place full of good people.   In one day’s time, a man changed that.  Who the fuck cares what his name is?  I don’t need it here.

Leave Daniel Craig alone.  Reading two interviews and each time Craig blasts the writer for stepping into uncharted territory.  While I appreciate a movie star’s requirement to give insight and a writer’s job to probe, I can understand if Craig doesn’t want to release the details of his wedding and marriage to the lovely Rachel Weisz.   Movie stars are the commodity but there are borders and limits to an interview.  Talk about the movie. That is what they are selling.   Their work in film, not at home.  I may give more if I were in Craig’s shoes, but that’s me and not him.   I happen to like Craig’s rebel attitude to say “that’s off limits”.  In a land of robots, Craig can stand up and say that’s enough.  Ask him what makes his James Bond tick, what leads him to parts, what he likes about movies, but stop asking about his personal life.  Every time a writer steps over a boundary set by a human being, its annoying.

Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde and Sam Rockwell star in Cowboys and Aliens, released this weekend.   This is a movie you hear about and instantly know your reaction to it.  My opinion is that this makes for the perfect summer movie.   What did we dream about or play with when we were kids?  Cowboys and indians battles.   Mix in aliens and the game is set.   Take the two most iconic things in our history. The coolest and the unknown, throw them together with a good cast and I am in.   Ask Craig or Ford why they took the film and they will tell you, “for fun”.   Jon Faverau turned down Iron Man 3 and took this job instead, and Favs makes fun movies.  That’s what summer is all about.  Make entertaining movies that stimulates our senses and teases the mind.   Craig is a mysterious cowboy, dropped into a town by unknown sources with a powerful bracelot that shoots bolts of lightning generated power out of it.   Ford is the lawman who wants to put Craig in jail.  Wilde is the mystery woman, Rockwell is the bartender, and all is set to collide before aliens invade.  Cue the questions, mystery reveals and action and romance.   Cowboys and Aliens won’t win an award but it will get two hours of my time.   I like movies that take a worn out topic and spin a fresh look on it.

Speaking of fresh spins, here is a reloaded version of Jay Z’s famous “99 Problems” by folky artist Hugo.   If you like artists taking a popular song into their studio, tossing it at their playbook like a misdirected son and coming back with something completely different, Hugo’s bluesy twist is for you.  Set aside your opinion of Jay Z and listen to this song.

Hugo-“99 Problems”

http://youtu.be/LloIp0HMJjc

Daddy Blog Post-Diapers are like runs in a softball game.  You can’t have enough.  This weekend, I am getting friends together for a Cards-Cubs game at Busch and a night of drinking and fun at Sports Zone in Kenrick.   Each person brings a pack of diapers as a gift.  Its a testosterone filled baby shower.   A chance to have good times and collect “baby shit briefs”.    Ask any parent and they will tell you.  Load up on diapers because babies shit themselves hourly.   Since there is no possible way to prepare for a bad load, I am going to accumulate as many as I can so I can practice.   The phrases “runny”, “ass rash” and “nonstop” will carry new meanings  this fall.

Random Bits as I roll past the 6,100 words typed mark here in an epic blast of Buffa Explosion.

-Tiger Woods drops to 21st in the golf rankings.  How the mighty have fallen?  That’s how the truth feels, Tiger.  Along with a career full of denial in injuries.

-Where will Kevin Kolb land in free agency?  Arizona or San Francisco.   Donovan McNabb will drop in Minnesota or Cincinnati.  Brett Favre, hopefully, will watch it from his home.   Unless your offensive line is made out of a steel wall, there is no need for Favre to risk serious life threatening injury.  Ask him who he wants to be.   Troy Aikman or Kurt Warner.  Do you want to walk off the field or be carried off?  I understand a hunger to play, but enough is enough cowboy.

-Cam Janssen going back to New Jersey sets up February 9th as the first round of Ryan Reaves VS. Janssen battle in the enforcer’s post Blues career.  Eureka native Janssen played 4 years of solid 4th line fighting duty for his hometown team, and that’s all an aging bruiser or fan can ask for.   Janssen was everything you wanted in a cheap tough guy.  A protector of his teammates, an entertaining fighter and a man with a compulsion to throw his weight around on the ice.   So long, Cam.  My money is on Reaves taking the fight after Cam lands a couple right hands.

-Blues News.  For the crowd wondering where the Blues news is, tell me what there is to talk about and I will answer.   Unless you are Jeremy Rutherford or Andy Strickland covering this team for a job, there is no real news.   Here is what I have heard.   Dave Checketts HAD three promising buyers lined up.  That was 3 weeks ago, so who knows what strings are being pulled there.  David Perron has all of a sudden been cleared to practice in August and Davis Payne said he will be ready for October.  I will believe that when I see it.   Reaves will have to fight for a roster spot with Jamie Langerbrunner and Jason Arnott filling the 3rd and 4th line on this team.  My feelings are every team needs at least one solid enforcer.  Sit Bj Crombeen and get Reaves in there.  Other than that, the needs for this team have been halfway met.   A mixture of young and old talent will hopefully be turned into a successful season but any real Blues fan knows that the result will be determined by Jaroslav Halak’s play in goal.   If he falters, gets hurt, starts hot and goes cold again, the Blues will suffer.  This team depends highly on their goaltender’s play.  Its been the same way for the past 5 years.  Chris Mason carried this team to the playoffs.  Halak will have to do the same if this team suffers injuries on it’s front end again.  Until there is fresh blood, that is all in Blues News.

-A good loyal cologne is hard to come by these days my friends.   The only kind I care to use is Hugo Boss, because it’s elegant, smells good but doesn’t overpower and is consistent.  It smells good 12 hours after you put it on, which is key for an expensive cologne.   Good cologne is also hard to fall in love with, because of the changing weather, but Hugo Boss is my preferred smell and one of the best.  My defense against the stinky nature of the heat.

Once again, I’ll take the winter over the summer because the human body can deal with the cold in a way far better than it deals with the heat.  When it’s cold, you put another layer on to stay warm.  When its deadly hot and humid, you take layers off but still feel sick, empty and worn out.   In my eyes, the heat is the most deadliest form of natural weather.  And it makes a working man smell quite bad at the end of the day, which is why I need a good shower and cologne like Hugo Boss to protect against it.

Speaking of pure stink, its about time I put an end to this near 7,000 word count batch of Buffa madness and exit the stage.   There is a time to stop and I passed it two days ago, so I will quit while I am still struggling to make up time.

Until next time, do something with your life, find new great music, see a good movie, speak your mind and stand by it, and stay cool in this deadly heat wave.   Thanks for reading.

Goodnight and good luck,

Dan L. Buffa

 

Go Cards!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Idea of Open Minded Speaking

When it comes to ranting like a maniac, there is no real end in sight.  You go on and on, and only stop when you sleep, but in all actuality, stats are being counted, ideas are being born and the world keeps moving as you sleep.  That’s the way my mind works.  When something happens that gets my attention, there’s a need inside me to speak my point of view on it.  Call it crazy, purposeful but please respect a man with a keyboard with guns in his hands.  Here we go. 

It’s been 4 hours since my last post.   Since then….

Jason Isringhausen saved a game for the Mets against my team and his former team, The St. Louis Cardinals.   Ironic and fitting to see an old hand deal the Cards a slap on the second leg of this road trip.  Izzy takes over the role for the Mets after the team traded Francisco Rodriguez(23 saves) to Milwaukee to set up for John Axford.   Izzy has 294 saves, and rather or not some think its credible, that is the benchmark for closers to reach and feel satisfied.   After three years toying with retirement, getting healthy and slowly making his way back to respectability, Izzy gets his first save in 3 years.  The last year he closed games for St. Louis, 2008, Izzy collected 12 saves in a doom filled season that saw him and Ryan Franklin share duties in an off year for the team.  Remember?  Izzy starting the season by blowing 3 saves in the first week of the season, sounds familiar to actions seen in 2011.   With K-Rod gone, Izzy is inserted into the pressure cooker known as Citi Field in Mets land.   Tonight, he looked sharper than ever, the best since 2007, and made the middle of our order look like a Double A grunge band.  Matt Holliday reached for a curve and grounded out.  Lance Berkman reached for curve and grounded out.   David Freese struck out on a checked swing and before 15 pitches were thrown, Izzy had his first save of the season.  Let me tell you why this means something to me.  Izzy was my favorite Cardinal for 4 seasons.   As I have marched through my years as a Cardinal die hard follower, I’ve taken plenty of shots to the chest for Isringhausen.   When his hip blew up, his saves disappeared and my need for a bullet proof vest at my old job, on the Manual Scoreboard at old Busch Stadium, became increasingly apparent and required practice.   When Izzy fell, my job started as non profit counsel for Izzy’s former estate as a better than average closer.  Izzy was a thrilling guy to watch in the 9th inning because he made things interesting, hung every pitch on our shoulders and took every beating like a pro.  That’s why its good to see Izzy back in the saddle again.  He has earned it.  When he crashed, Izzy burned.   No one in the major leagues has worked harder, acted so selfless, taken the abuse on the chin, kept his head high and been as patient for his last chance than Isringhausen.  When I see him climb the hill like a former gunslinger who retrieved his lost gun(the deadly curve) and shut down my team, the death didn’t hurt as bad as when Francisco Cordero closes the door two nights before.  In short, for one night, it was alright to see Jason Isringhausen find his closing touch, gain save #294, and find a piece of his dignity lost three years ago at Busch Stadium.   A guy whose wife had to take their daughter out of Busch Stadium because the “best fans in baseball” screamed every possible negative one liner at Izzy as he walked off the field after a blown save.   A guy who has gone through 2 shoulder surgeries, one elbow surgery, 2 hip surgeries and various other injuries in his career to remain throwing 93 mph tonight.   If anyone has earned a second chance, its Jason Isringhausen.  Move over John Franco.  There’s a new aging closer in Queens. 

The Cards lose to the Mets because they couldn’t score more than 2 runs off a rookie pitcher, David Gee, that they never faced before or saw pitch at all.   A common trend for this team is to lose to rookie pitchers, so tonight wasn’t a surprise.  One must crawl over this dead body, sign off on the autopsy(no hitting, average performance from Kyle Lohse, efficient pitching and timely hitting NYM) and prepare for Game 2.   There’s bad news in this series.  Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia will not pitch.  There’s good news in this series.  David Wright isn’t playing but David Murphy can hit cleanup and bash deep fly balls over our drawn in outfield’s head.  The story of tonight’s game was Murphy crushing a 0-2 pitch from Raul Valdes with 2 outs over Jon Jay’s head in center.  If Jay is playing at normal depth, the deep fly ball is caught and the inning is over, leaving the score at 2-1 Mets.   Why is an outfielder playing so shallow with 2 outs and the cleanup hitter at the plate?  A horrible decision by Tony La Russa(probable cause) or a rare mistake from Jay(least likely).   Either way, the 2 run double makes the score 4-1 and the game is sealed. 

The worst thing about a defeat is the aftermath and effect.  With the loss, the Cards drop to 2 games out of first place and fall into third place behind the Pirates and Brewers.   Guess what the Pirates did for the second night in a row?  The Bucs shut out the Reds, 1-0, marking 18 innings of scoreless Reds offense.   John Hanrahan locked down his 28th save, the Pirates needed only 1 run, and they won again. After breaking the Cards hearts and taking 2 of 3 from us over the weekend, the Reds can’t produce 1 single run in 18 innings against Pittsburgh.   Do I take back my theory that the Pirates won’t hold up?  I will not do such a thing. Does the awareness of this weekend’s three game set between the Cards and Pittsburgh up East gain significance?  Yes indeed.  I am no expert at all folks, but I don’t like the Pirates one bit right now. 

Small bits on the Cards.  

  • Albert Pujols grounded into his 20th and 21st double play tonight, and in a two run loss those failed opportunities are huge.  AP is slowly arriving but his average can’t get past .283 and his double play tendencies are alive and well.   If he is going to stay around slugger weight(.270 BA, 20 HR, 55 RBI) he has to run out those grounders harder, especially on double plays. 
  • Nick Punto took grounders from shortstop and third base to prove to the team that his unintentionally funny lolly pop throw in Cincy was a fluke and that his elbow isn’t in two pieces right now.   Punto is vital to the Cards defense and bench, so if he sticks around and avoids his third DL stay of the year, its a positive development for this team. 
  • Colby Rasmus sits down again, holding his bad batting average and low hanging power stats in check for one night.  Colby saw zero action tonight.  No pinch hitting or wakeup calls.   Message, farmboy.  Start hitting quick because Tony La Russa gets his way in this town and that means bad news for young hot shot talent trains that derail easily.  Colby’s laidback demeanor doesn’t bother me too much.  His lack of production is the thorn in the side of my dick every time he strikes out in a crucial moment and homers in a useless at bat.  4 of Colby’s last 5 hits have been home runs.   Too bad I am talking about a 3 week period.  Colby, get well or be gone.  You have two weeks to wake up. 
  • If the Cards deal Rasmus, I will be surprised.   That’s all.   This isn’t a supporting statement for Colby or a presser on the Cards front office, just a know well hunch.  This is me saying the ego of the Cardinals front office and suits section is as big as 5 football fields.  They want to be right.  These are high powered businessmen with law degrees and money.  Are you surprised?
  • Put a gun to a GM’s head and ask him how much he likes a certain player and how much he really likes a veteran manager.  Don’t cock the trigger.  Just hold it and ask him.  I am curious.
  • Lance Berkman homered again tonight, bringing his season total to 26, almost twice the amount Puma collected last season in two different uniforms.   There are three things to consider here.  First, Lance Berkman isn’t done putting up big seasons in the majors.   Second, the Cards would be wise to negotiate an extension for 2012 now rather than at the end of the year when he has 42 HR and 110 RBI.  Third, this is what healthy knees, a repaired psyche and new digs can do for a veteran slugger who hid under the radar for 8 seasons.
  • How much can a fan trust the Cardinals bullpen right now?  Allow me to compare the situation to a person leaving his stove on low heat while he or she ran to the grocery store for a missing ingredient.   That’s about right. 

That is enough for now about this team that constantly wishes to drive me insane.   How many things in your life do you passionate about that you can’t control?  Please don’t tell me it is just a sport or a game.  Those who think that never played it or really got into it.   What we take seriously in life has to do with a truth inside us that can’t be explained.  This is the same reason I don’t frown on people who care two shits about baseball yet live and die over who some ugly lady on The Bacholorette picks to be her 1 year husband in training on live television.  We all have our passions. This is mine.

Movie Idea of The Week-In Time, starring Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfrield and directed by Andrew Niccol(Lord of War, Gattaca)

Imagine a world that took the phrase, “Time is money”, seriously?   In Niccol’s new film, societies aren’t cut up into separate pieces of geography yet decided by wealth and poverty.   The wealthy groups wear long button down shirts and waste time.  The poor wear zip up clothing(faster to assemble and wear) and must rush to work, through life and home in order to stay alive?  What if one day, you were told your time was up and you had to make it to work on time in order to “buy more time”.   That is Timberlake’s character’s predicament.   Please don’t knock JT.  The man is supremely talented and versatile.  He has taken several supporting roles in film and knocked all of them out(Alpha Dog, Social Network, Black Snake Mamba, Bad Teacher) while selling platinum records, killing on SNL and having sex with Jessica Biel.   Multi tasker who finally gets a movie of his own here.   This is a film that gets me excited because A)It isn’t an adaptation, sequel, or superhero CGI fest.  B)The script is fresh, the concept is smart and the cast is versatile and perfectly calibrated.  C)Andrew Niccol, director of visionary future world plots such as Gattaca and brilliant films lik Lord of War, is guiding the ship.  Imagine a world where you had to buy time.  A world where wasting time on a couch is seen as a crime and punishable by death.  Every moment is high stakes poker.   This is a film I am interested in.  Comes out in the fall, when the true heavy hitters start to arrive.

Secondary television isn’t advertised but it happens because unless you work 60 hours a week, drink like a fish, read a lot,  go to school and work full time or study plants or have a kid you have time on your hands at night.   When I watch MasterChef, Weeds, and Big C all in one night, I am in need of something to do with my time.   Secondary television can be seen as a guilty pleasure or as an ambitious kick in the head.   One of the good things with a kid arriving is time will have to be earned and not wasted on secondary television.  Here is an example.

First Rate Must Watch TV-Rescue Me, Dexter, Californication, Entourage, Wire, Sopranos, Sons of Anarchy

Secondary Television-Weeds, Big C, MasterChef, Royal Pains, Chopped

In the middle-Entourage, Man VS. Wild, Sons of Guns

Entourage is in there twice because depending on the season and the writing of Doug Ellin, Entourage can be a must watch or a show stuck in the middle of guilty pleasures and a waste of time.  

Speaking of the Boys from Queens attempt to make it big in Hollywood HBO series, the last season starts on Sunday.   An 8th and shortened final season and look at Vincent Chase and his band of theives from home.  The rock of the show still belongs to super agent Ari Gold, played like a bullet fired out of a glock by Jeremy Piven.  Piven gets the best lines, scenes, setup, leeway room in ad libbing and guides the best moments.   Aside from that, the appeal for this show for me is this.  The appealing nature of friendship.   The fun part is watching this group of friends take the hits and keep on coming.  Sure, they drive Aston Martin’s and live in Mansions, but they are regular guys at the core and in that divide lies bare boned appeal and intrigue.   Here’s to 4 more hours of Ari Gold zingers, good times with the boys and a halfway happy ending for the star crossed movie mini god Vinny Chase. 

Preview Ari Gold Zinger-“You don’t want Vinny mistaking your pale round head for a crack rock, Eric.”

If Doug Ellin(creator and head writer) did one thing well, it was expand Piven’s role on this show into a role that has earned Piven two Emmy awards and several nominations.  As Gold would advice, put on your armor, get your sunblock, because we’re going to hell and back. 

Song of the Day-Reaching into my U2 vault here and pulling out an old goodie, “Running to Stand Still”, from their finest achievement in making a complete album, the Joshua Tree.  This is a slow burner that needs to be listened to in the quiet of the morning or the deep hours of the night.  Either now or in 7 hours.

http://youtu.be/kioyUGaABjA

What else is there to talk about?  Follow me as I make my way down the rest of the list.

-If you want to know how older rock bands keep their mojo, listen to U2’s last two albums, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb and No Line on the Horizon.

-After seeing the 90 second first preview in theaters and watching it three times in a row online,  Christopher Nolan’s epic conclusion to his Dark Knight trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, is the ultimate must see film of 2012.   That’s right.  One year before its release date(July 20th, 2012), a teaser is released.  Welcome to the 21st century ladies and gents.   Here’s why it is the most anticipated film with 365 days left to wait.  Nolan’s genius.  He picked up a dead franchise and inserted new life into it.  He did the unthinkable and combined a blockbuster superhero film with a hardcore drama and created a Best Picture nominee at the Oscars and provided Heath Ledger with the role of a lifetime(his swan song) and a supporting Oscar to share in his grave.  Look at the 90 second spot and its details.   The Liam Neeson voiceover from Batman Begins starts things off here.

“If you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal, than you become something else entirely, you became a legend, Mr. Wayne, a legend. “

That’s what I tell myself in the morning, but after that we see Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon staring down a person we know to see Batman while stricken with an unknown illness in a hospital bed.   Gordon is telling Batman that Gotham needs him back and that evil has rised up in his absence.  At the end of the last Nolan entry, The Dark Knight, The Joker had turned the city against Batman, leading to the dark hero taking the blame for Harvey Dent’s death and was casted out as a fugitive and rode off on his Batpod with Gordon smashing the bat signal.  This final film marks the return of the Caped Crusader to bring down justice on very bad guys like Bane(played by tough Brit/Nolan alum, Tom Hardy).  Look at the rest of the cast.  Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Oldman, Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon Levitt.   Stellar casting marks every Nolan production.  If you haven’t dipped into Nolan’s Batman universe, do so right now.  Put down the remote, go buy Batman Begins and The Dark Knight and get educated on film appreciation.  You have one year.  Here is the trailer.

http://insidemovies.ew.com/2011/07/18/the-dark-knight-rises-trailer-video/

To run or not run at this late hour in South St. Louis City?  I am not sure.

On Sunday, I took in the small film known to many as Harry Potter.   The final chapter came out on Friday and I took the wife(who read all seven books in stealth mode) to see it with friends.   My report.  The Potthead was who I thought he was.  It wasn’t bad or great, and exactly as I predicted.  A good time, full of adventure, little boys with little sticks, dealing with dark lords, angry witches, mysterious creatures and 2.25 hours of it.   Do I want to read all the books?  No.  Do I want to go back and watch every film?  No.  Will I admit the films are a tad bit enjoyable and slightly addictive to watch when in the seat?  Yes.   That is all.  There is no need for further review on Harry Potter.   He is good.  Another is bad.  Only one wins.  Go see for yourself.

Also in front of Harry Potter came the first trailer for Sherlock Holmes 2: Game of Shadows, the second Guy Ritchie-Robert Downey Jr.-Jude Law exercise in the famous detective story.   The first film, released on Christmas of 2009, was a highly enjoyable, rewatchable filmmaking treat that showed Downey at his peak and Law in fine form.   The key love fact on Ritchie’s take on Holmes is the way he turns him into a thinking man’s action hero with brains and wit to spare.  While the action is good and story is strong enough, the make or break factor is the chemistry between Downey’s Holmes and Law’s Watson.   Greatness.  Here is a clip.

http://youtu.be/bHBHMtl9YWw

One Reason to Want to see The Changeup, despite its body switching plot revisiting.  

1.)It stars a comedy dream team in Jason Batemen and Ryan Reynolds

2.)The director of Wedding Crashers is working here.

3.)The writers of the Hangover also work here.

Calling all comedy buffs.   Batemen’s family man speech on babies acting like “mini drug addicts” gets me in the door.

Hard Part for a Dad to be-Telling the wife that he doesn’t have the patience to wait for his future son to respond to a tap on the belly with a kick back.   I feel horrible pulling away from my wife, but its frustrating when you feel nothing. 

Tomorrow’s forecast-Hot as hell with a chance for more heat.  The heat index(what it feels like) is 115.   That’s it.  Do I really need to show a radar or chart?  Why is so much time wasted on the weather in prime time bland news segments?  Useless money wasting to watch a man with a clicker move around a green screen moving his hands up and down, making 150,000 dollars a year doing it and being wrong 50 percent of the time.

The NFL Lockout comes to an end, the NBA lockout only begins and free agency arrives all in one week in July.   The NFL lockout will end, hopefully, in less than 5 months. 

Appreciate a well made cup of coffee in the morning.   Tomorrow’s wakeup call.  Cafe Sumatra Blend from Starbucks.  Delicious.

Why did I start a blog?  The chance to speak to a room of millions of instead of the hundreds.   Simple as that. 

Until next time, you know the drill. 

All Politicians lie. 

Gas Prices go up and down like stocks.

Time keeps moving.

People live and die inside 24 hour periods.

There’s nothing we can do about it except for, maybe, talking about it afterwards.

That’s life, in my opinion, a series of conversations. 

Thanks for reading and goodnight.

-Dan Buffa

 

 

A Round of Opinionated Discussion

Hello,

Now that the weekend is finished and the Monday Blues have come and gone, lets do a little recap of the action that took place over the past couple days.  This rant may not reinvent the idea of public opinion, but it will free my mind in the end. 

USA WOMEN’s TEAM DROPS THE WORLD CUP
The ladies blew it on Sunday, giving up two leads in the latter part of the game and eventually falling in penalty rounds to the Japan team by 3-1.   After wasting opportunities early in the game, the USA team got ahead 1-0 and blew it 4 minutes later.   They reclaimed the lead in extra time 2-1, but couldn’t starve off the Japan team as they tied the game 3 minutes before extra time ran out.   In this tournament, there is no sudden death overtime.  When you score in overtime, you must hold off the opposition until the end of the given time.  Abby Wambach proved clutch again, scoring the second goal on a perfectly timed header and scoring the only penalty shot for the USA team.  USA goalie Hope Solo stopped as many shots as she could but in soccer, the angles don’t favor the stopper, so in the end Solo was helpless.   The Japanese fought hard, tied the game twice, and used their knowledge of the USA penalty session style of to beat them in the end.  The USA team had played with fire throughout the entire tournament, and their lack of finish got to them on Sunday.   Simply put, the USA team dropped the ball at the wrong time.  With Japan on the ropes early, they didn’t capitalize on several scoring chances.  Late, when in the lead, they couldn’t clear the front of their net and lost control of the outcome.  On the bright side, it was good for Japan to win because of the devastation their country went through in the Tsunami.   They needed this more than we did, so in a small way, you were happy for them.   On the other side, it was a disappointing finish for a USA team that seemed bound for glory once again.   Wambach’s dream of lifting the Cup will have to wait 4 years until the next FIFA World Cup tournament.  Once again, the World Cup action was addicting to watch.  At one point, I was leaving the Cards game just to see how many minutes the game had left before the USA team would leave Germany with a win.   Soccer is a nail biter of a game to follow because while the action is slow building and emotion stirring, patience is rewarded when the goals fly into the net.   Every American had to be on their feet during this game and crashed and burned with the ladies in crunch time.   A missed opportunity from a thrilling team to a country that needs a win.  Sports titles stand as symbols of hope in this world and the World Cup will heal part of the tragedy of the tsunami.  The intention was to win the Cup but at least in the aftermath, the loss comes to a country in need of a lift.  On a racial slur note, how many times did I scream during the crucial moments of that game, “OH GOD, THIS IS PEARL HARBOR ALL OVER AGAIN! CLEAR THE NET!” At least four different times. Abby Wambach’s header to give the USA a 2-1 lead was a thing of beauty but we lost and that’s the way the chips fall. Also, on a body cleansing note, is it okay to ask the USA Women’s head coach to shave her beard now? That is highly disgusting in HD. Just saying.  While she was explaining the loss, all I could do was count her facial hairs.   Horrific.

THE CARDS DROP A SERIES IN CINCY
Once again, the Cardinals doomed themselves from the outstart when Fernando Salas blew his third save on Friday.   Similiar to a series in mid May in Cincinnati, the Redbirds came back from being down 2 different times to carry a 5-4 lead into the 9th inning, where Brandon Phillips hit a walkoff bomb to literally rip the hearts out of every Cards fan chest.   This guy getting the last laugh is like Bill Bidwell walking into Rams Park and lighting a fuse on another team.   Phillips hit the sure homer, jumped and hopped around the base paths like it was Game 7, rubbed it in as much as he could, and at that moment the Cards lost the series.   Salas blew his third save and put his own job in jeopardy right around the trade deadline.  The Cards starved off back to back bleed out stabbings in the Redlands on Saturday behind more Albert Pujols power and Chris Carpenter grit, winning 4-1 and Salas getting redemption in locking down his 17th save. Albert Pujols is alive and well, hitting 2 go ahead home runs over the series and looking more locked in than ever.   However, the bats went cold on Sunday and the Cards defense and lineup couldn’t solve Homer Bailey and the back and forth Reds-Cards rivalry continues.  Right when you think we could snap their backs with a come from behind win on Friday, Salas blows it up and the momentum shifts on Sunday.   If it weren’t for Carpenter gritting out 8 innings in the Great American Home Run Derby Park and Pujols’ clutch laser, the Cards may of been swept.  A Reds dominated series that sets the Cards up now as zig zag artists, a team that can’t figure out if they want to stay up and take another kick to the ribs. 

More Notes-
    • The Salas blown save/recovery over the weekend isn’t easy to explain but let me take a crack.  First thing is, the man doesn’t walk many batters.  He carries a 3-1 strikeouts to walks ratio and only gets beat by pitch location.   His fastball to Phillips caught too much of the plate and got sent out.  Jose Bautista’s home run at Busch was a well placed outside cutter that got lifted out.  Salas doesn’t make many mistakes but the ones he leaves over the plate are getting hit hard.   One defense of Salas is that La Russa uses him in several tied game situations and non save spots.   If he is the closer(17 saves makes you the closer, TLR), than he should only pitch in tied games that take place during the extra innings.   Salas is being overused by La Russa and is being exposed with the inning total.   Granted, the loss of Eduardo Sanchez and lack of a quality lefthanded reliever put a strain on La Russa’s choices but he can’t keep dipping Salas in frequent situations that aren’t a save spot.   Salas is slowly coming undone, enduring a subpar late part of June/first part of July after a stellar 6 week stretch after taking over the closing duties.  He is wearing down because this is a real innings load for the young righty and that’s a wall every pitcher hits in their first full season.   Can he last?  My answer is mixed because I know how La Russa will use him, in his reluctancy to name Salas the official 9th inning arm.   Another factor is Salas doesn’t get many 1-2-3 saves, and that leads to blown saves.  Base runners put on by closers lead to breakdowns in the current situation or future save chance.   Salas doesn’t have shutdown stuff.  His pitches are far better than Franklin’s arsenal, but Salas is slowly getting hit.   Friday’s meltdown could lead to a trade for Heath Bell.  I was against the move two weeks ago because Salas wasn’t wearing down too badly yet but now the move may be apparent.   The Cardinals can’t lose heartbreakers like Friday’s game in August and September if they wish to contend in this tight division race that has had a different leader each day of the past week.  I like Salas could see him move into an 8th inning setup role with Lance Lynn if Bell arrives in St. Louis.   The sticky spot here is the price required for Bell’s services.   Colby Rasmus is expendable(making the Padres carry two Ex Cards in their outfield), but what else would San Diego want?  The Padres are a sinking ship and want to move Bell but will ask for Shelby Miller, a highly touted pitching prospect that Mozelaik will not release.   Mo will also want to lock up Bell for 2-3 yrs  if a trade is made, which is smart if you are giving up Rasmus/2 other decent prospects.   The Cards aren’t a win now team because they have a deep roster and farm system of reliable talent and carry young players on their roster(Albert, Yady, Waino, Garcia, Freese, Jay, Holliday) but are unloading salary and contracts at the end of the season.   Do the Cards want to pay Bell 10-12 million a year if they are going to resign Albert, Berkman and potentially Carpenter?  That’s the question.  I don’t want to trade great prospects for a two month rental of Bell.  It’s just stupid.    However, there is a lot to like about Bell.   He closed down 19 straight games before blowing a save Thursday and is 73-75 the past two seasons in San Diego pitching on a light hitting(that’s a nice label) team.   Imagine his chances with the Cards high powered attack and the sky is the limit.   However, can the Cards keep Bell around and what would San Diego want in return for a A-list closer? Big questions in little St. Louis. 
    • Albert Pujols is still only hitting .280, but he is starting to crush the baseball.   He has 11 home runs since June 3rd and is slugging close to .700 in that period.   He nearly hit a homer in the 1st inning Friday but Chris Heisley robbed him with a great catch.  He is cranking line drives all over the field and has decent power stats heading into the last two weeks of July.   AP has 20 home runs and 55 RBI, and has also scored a team high 59 runs.  He isn’t walking a ton, but he isn’t striking out either.  He has hit into 4 ground ball double plays the past month after hitting into 15 the first two months.  He will eventually kick that average up near .290 and by the end of the year could be sitting with .300, 34 HR, 105 RBI, which would down for his standards but a great recovery.  Again, this comeback season does affect his contract talks but won’t split them in half.  My belief is AP wants to stay in St. Louis and will only be able to ask for a lesser amount of years and lower annual pay.  The 10 year deal is out the window, but the contract will still be strong if he finishes strong.  Albert sets his fate here with his finish.   He showed an amazing ability to recover from a serious injury and come back hitting stronger.  My feelings are still him asking for 5-6 years at 23-25 million per season, which for Albert’s below market value requests/great production is fair on both ends.
    • Non performance note.  I ran into David Freese at the Quik Trip in Kirkwood last week during the All Star break and can report the man is a gracious fella who stopped to say hello and provided me with a small bump to my usual paltry Monday.   Any time you run into an athlete and find out they aren’t an asshole is a cool thing to be a part of.  I said hello, congratulated him on the game winning home run against Arizona the day before, and also said farewell as I left and wished him well in the second half.  I didn’t say, “stay off the booze buddy”, because that would of ruined things a bit but it is good to see Freese has turned into a cheap productive player and stayed sober for the most part during his past year of recovery.  For a while there he was on a road to becoming Josh Hancock, Part 2 and his rehab from two DWI arrests is good to see.  Freese came to St. Louis in the Edmonds to San Diego trade and the move is looking better every time Freese delivers a clutch opposite field hit.  Once again, if we are to resign Albert and others, the need for cheap reinforcements at other positions is necessary.  Players like Freese and Jay are required to make the budget fit the guidelines of the team.
    • One more thing about Colby.  I don’t want to trade the guy for nothing and still see him as a worthy talent because something we are all forgetting is the kid is only 24 years old and still has years in front of him, a couple including cheaper ones.  In actuality, Rasmus is collapsing under high expectations set down by team scouts, management and owners.   Tony La Russa looks at him and sees potentia that’s going unrealized and eating up space in his daily lineup card.  In all fairness, Colby isn’t an expensive guy to keep in center field.   Here is the real kicker.  If Colby could perform half way near his expectations, Jon Jay stays on the bench and is a dynamite 4th outfielder.   If Colby hits, the team is near perfect on the lineup card.   You have Allen Craig when he returns and Jon Jay on the left side or pressuring Colby for at bats.   Rasmus has been given every opportunity this year to seize the job in center field but he hasn’t progressed, instead taking a step back.  However, John Mozelaik isn’t going to give him away for two bullpen arms or toss him away.  My firm belief is that he will hold onto Colby and give him more time to get into his zone.  If Colby hits, the Cards offense is unstoppable, literally.  There is no real weak spot in the first 7 spots if Colby hits.  By failing to succeed at a position crafted for him, Jay is being pushed into more starting and going away from his role.   Can Jon Jay be an everyday player and keep up the stats?  While taking into account my argument on the subject, there is zero evidence to challenge that Jay is ready to take the everyday role.   Which is why I see this happening.  The Cards take fliers on Colby, see what’s out there, ultimately keep him, give him another shot because this team is doing so well with minimum output from Rasmus.  Mozelaik won’t deal Rasmus because he won’t be enough to bring Bell into the closer role here or grab a rotation arm worthy of pushing Kyle McClellan back to the pen.   Mozelaik believes Colby needs more time, and also that Salas can close and be reliable.   Mozelaik’s entire plan is based on young players making big contributions and so far this 2011 team is near first place because of it.   While we don’t care to see Rasmus get more chances to strike out or misplay a ball in center, he will get that chance unless a big trade presents itself.  In the back of my head, I’m still quietly hoping that Colby starts to get hot.  It raises his trade value and helps this team during this crucial two week stretch where we play The Mets, Pirates, Astros and Cubs. 
    • The Pittsburgh Pirates get a dose of reality on Friday when they face the man they truly hate to see on a pitching mound and that’s Chris Carpenter.   Carpenter is 4-1 in his last 5 starts, hurling 8 innings per game, looking sharper and sharper and throwing 120 pitches a start.   In short sight, Carp is dominating right now and the Pirates will have to bring their A game to take him down.   While I like the renewed spirit in the Bucs, I won’t jump on the black and gold kool aid bandwagon and say The Pirates have a chance to win the Central and say hot throughout September.  This weekend’s series between the Cards and Bucs is huge because in order for the Pirates to steal this division they will have to continue to beat NL Central teams and that includes the Cards and Brewers.   Big time action this weekend.
    • Quiet reason why Ryan Theriot was tossed from Sunday’s game by an umpire after making contact and saying the magic words.   The ump leaned in and told him, “You really suck as a shortstop you overachieving ex Cub bitch”.   Just a thought.  This carries as much weight and humor as making the claim that Tony La Russa never had shingles and Colby Rasmus punched him in the eye several times one night when Tony kept referring to him a dumb calf.   Another thought.  Colby Rasmus hates Tony La Russa and that’s why he will never reach his full potential here.  La Russa has always been reluctant to start or play Rasmus because of his laidback style of play and inconsistency.  The sad fact that a simple change of scenery may do Raz a lot of good.  Unfortunate but probably true.   Theriot was suspended two games for his contact with the umpire, a rightful charge because there are certain things a player can’t do in a chat with the wardens on the field.   Make contact, say certain words and try to seem like the smarter man. Bad idea. 
A Few Work Pet Peeves of Mine-
  • Please don’t lean over me while I type.   Whenever I work on a rant at lunch or on break at work, I deal with several co-workers who lean down, breathe on my left ear and slowly read out loud my rant as I work on it.  I feel like swinging around, smashing them in the ankle and shoving them back into the left side of my cubicle.  Its simply impolite to lean over someone’s shoulder as they work.  Its too remiscent of high school, where teachers loved to spy on you during assignments.  The people that lean down over me are the same souls who will eventually get to read the rant when it is sent out.   Everyone wants to know what Buffa thinks about this and frankly, they have to wait.  The next time someone leans down over me as I write, I am going to push a button, which launches a pencil out of my shirt and into that person’s eye.   Every request is best delivered through blood, sweat and tears.
  • Monday’s suck, which means for the first 3 hours of my shift at work I really don’t need the mini press conference of questions, comments and remarks from co-workers.   Sometimes, a man needs to be left alone.  I leave myself out for slaughter because I am a very social person from 10am-330pm, but for the first few hours I don’t want anything sent my way.  You ever give bad advice because it was too early and you hadn’t gotten a cup of coffee yet to correctly simulate a potent response?  That happens to me all the time.  Its quite tragic.   One day, a person asked me about world peace at 830am and I responded quite tartly, “World Peace is overrated”.    In reality, I respect the idea of World Peace but will admit the world thrives off a little dose of anger throughout the days of our lives.  The fact is here that for the first 2-3 hours of work I don’t want to be talked to and need peace in order to perfectly calibrate my mind for the day’s activity.   Hold the press conference, the 20 questions, the need to get inside my head and soon enough I will be ready to talk Cards, politics, Asian religion, Chinese cuisine, and other random topics.  Give me some time. 

More Topics-

  • Cam Janssen signed a 1 year deal with the New Jersey Devils, returning to the team he started with and ending his 4 year career in St. Louis.  After coming over in  a trade for Bryce Salvador, Cam made the most of his chances and turned into a cheap effective enforcer, making 600,000 a season to run his body around the ice and take a fight when needed.    He was a local hero who gave more back to the city in community service than any athlete in town.   A St. Louis boy who was given an opportunity and seized it.  He was also a player who wouldn’t turn down a fight and often fought the biggest guy on the other team and held his own.  Up until the end of last season, Janssen was a credible fighter who won his fair share.   When Ryan Reaves arrived, Cam’s playing time was cut and his effectiveness in fights and ice time decreased.   Reaves is a hungrier fighter and a better all around player, so the move was warranted.   Cam will be remembered as the underdog city boy who gave until it was gone on the ice.   Good Luck Cam Janssen, one of my favorites.  I look forward to a Reaves-Janssen matchup in the middle of the season.  While I lament the departure of Cam, I understand it within the guidelines of this team.
  • The NFL Labor Deal is coming to an end this week.  Hopefully, the millionaires have sorted out their billions and the rest of us blue collar lovers can enjoy their fall football action on time.  A CBA will be reached by Thursday, opening up free agency by Friday.   For 3 days, teams can negotiate with their own free agents until Monday, when open free agency begins.  A long annoying useless battle may be ending just in time for tackling to begin.  Expect the Rams to be busy with an owner in place.
  • The 100 degree temperatures continue today and that means consistent sweating from 7am to 7pm.  There comes a time where you tell yourself that a stop point for sweating won’t come any time soon.   My work environment is a piece of scorched earth that hits you in constant waves.   Walk from office cool out into the warehouse heat and experience something the body doesn’t take a liking to.  I am not one to constantly bitch about things out of my control(heat, gas prices, politics), but when you are standing still doing next to nothing and burning up so much that you are infected with sweaty arms, the feeling is not good.  Here’s to 3 more days of this 12 hour madness. 
  • Last week was Lincoln Lawyer, and this week’s DVD must have is Limitless, hitting the shelves today and in need of viewing.  Ladies and gents, Bradley Cooper’s first solo mission as a movie star was dynamite entertainment and one of the most enjoyable movies of the year.   The story involed Eddie Morro(Cooper), a struggling writer with zero energy, blinded ambition and a life that represented a ticking clock towards slackerhood.   Then, Eddie’s brother in law stops in and gives Eddie a pill that is designed to unlock all the hidden brainpower that scientists tell us exists lost in the mind.   In less than 24 hours, Eddie is cleaning up his look, finishing his book, learning different languages and making friends in high and low places.  With powers comes new responsibilities and soon Eddie finds himself a target.  The rest spins quite nicely when seen.  The power vessel of this film is the star making crackerjack performance of Cooper, free from The Hangover ensemble to chew on his own steak here.  Cooper’s wild eyed gaze and ability to throw himself into the role breaks down a wall for the viewer because if we don’t like Cooper as Morro, the rest of the film falls flat.  Robert DeNiro carries a part as a banker interested and perplexed by Eddie’s abilities.   Cooper and DeNiro carry four great scenes together, carrying the look of two diggers circling a pot of gold.  Both deserve credit for their work here  DeNiro for taking an actual role where he can give a performance and Cooper for not shrinking in the competing role.  If you have the cash and time, rent this film.   A perfect mind rush for a hot summer night.
  • Every time I watch the trailer for Moneyball, Brad Pitt’s film about Billy Beane’s overhaul with the Oakland A’s in the earlier parts of the decade, I like the hints more and want to see this film.   At first glance, Pitt doesn’t seem a physical fit to play Beane, but when you make movies about real people and their stories, the look doesn’t have to be identical.  Did Russell Crowe’s beefy post Gladiator physique fit the skinny frail look of John Nash in A Beautiful Mind?  No, but Crowe was magnificient and nearly won an Oscar, losing only because Denzel blew us away with his evil nature.  Pitt carries the charm, cagey attitude and easygoing confidence to play Beane, a man who singlehandedly changed the way baseball teams were built.  Instead of relying on advanced scouting and feedback, Beane and his assistant(Jonah Hill) used sabermatrics, raw stats, and the numbers game to seek out their players.  Dealing with a small payroll and a sinking franchise, Beane changed things and turned the A’s into a playoff team.  While not liked, Beane’s actions were warranted.  Moneyball is a film worth seeing if you like true sports stories told from the inside out.   Pitt’s performance and the base of the story make this highly anticipated.
  • U2 blasted Busch Stadium on Sunday evening, bringing their 360 degree tour to St. Louis for a show that few will soon forget.   If I had the money and the time, I would of been there to take in a once in a lifetime show.  U2 is a band that I have admired since I was in my teens, growing up on their legendary Joshua Tree album and savoring their hits over the years and finding time to take in their latest work. How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb and No Line On the Horizon.   While some will say U2 have abandoned their original style of music, I will argue that Bono, The Edge and company have stayed true to their roots while stretching their music inside the universe of different genres.   They can change styles of music from album to album yet retain their core sound.   There is no better way to recognize a U2 song than to hear the electric sound of The Edge’s guitar.  The thing I admire about this band is that they perform great live(based on several trusted accounts from friends) and they deliver consistently across the globe.  Bono is a great rep for World Peace and The Movement to improve Poverty and does several good deeds.   Bono is a musician/celeb who doesn’t just make promises yet fulfills them too.   This is a band that gives back as much as they receive, something they haven’t lost over the years.   While Bono’s voice has taken a hit(25 years of work will do that to a small irishman), his songwriting has remained strong on the past two albums, especially low riding hits like “All Because of You” and his shot to the heart from dealing with the passing of his dad, “Some Things You can’t do on your own”.   While some complain that their giant stages and tours aren’t needed, they have grown into that arena of rock and earned the spectacle.   I am 100 percent sure that if a fan of the band were thrown into that environment on Sunday, they would find little to complain about once the lights went out and the music got loud.   U2 are one of the few bands who hung together, still create fresh music and don’t forget about their fans, young and old. 
  • A key to remembering lost good friends.  A nod to my late friend Troy Siade, because the man deserves more words than my fingers can produce.  The only way to extend a person’s legacy is to talk about them constantly.  Remember his actions, his face, his electric humor, his energy and the way he changed the makeup of a room once he entered it.  That’s the only way I’ve been able to get over his passing.   Remembering him and keeping in touch with fellow friends of the Manual Scoreboard of Old Busch Stadium.  Keep them alive in your own memories.  I never wish to make someone emotional over a retelling of Troy’s effect on me.  I bring them up because I miss them and the only way to heal is to remember what they did here.  A friend asked me the other day why I am such a die hard Cards fan.   Avoiding the usual thesis statement answer, I simply told them this.   “I have to be double die hard for this team for myself and a late friend.” 
  • A key to knowing which friends of yours are the true ones.  The friends you can go to the edge with in a conversation and come right back to a common ground of fair and concentrated opinion.   Those are the keepers.  I happen to have more than one in my back pocket and it keeps me sharp. 
  • Shows to Watch right now.   Rescue Me and True Blood.  If you only have one hour, make it Rescue Me. 
  • Once again, I’ll take the winter over the summer because cold weather is easier to protect yourself against. 
  • One more thing.   I am not an expert but I do happen to know a few things.   I don’t stand here as a god of all opinion.  Just another guy unloading his inner thoughts.  
Thanks for listening and goodnight.

-DLB

The Weekly Buffa News Reel

A stream of semi concious thought begins with an opening statement.

A reminder. If it comes out of your mouth, than in some way, you meant to say it.   The one thing I hate in life is people who don’t appreciate a good memory.   A family member or friend will say something to you and days or months later will forget that it ever happened.   They will say that they didn’t mean it.   It was a fluke of built up proportions inside their throat that got put on the vocal chord speedbelt without editing.   What they forget is that the target never forgot the intention of the words.   Hopefully, by now, you understand what I am talking about.   Joking doesn’t exist.  Sarcasm is a tool used to shadow real intent.  When words come of someone’s mouth, the makers had a clear intention for them.  It’s almost unfair how sickeningly good my memory is.  I remember everything that comes out of a person’s mouth, or pretty close to everything.   This isn’t taking everything personally, trust me.  This is a database of dialogue that helps in future conversations and arguments.  If you said it to me in a tantrum or a blast during an argument, there was truth to it and for that it must be stored in the memory.  Words aren’t wasted here.  If drunk or high, words still aren’t wasted.  If mad or happy, words aren’t wasted.   Truth serum isn’t needed anymore.  People reveal themselves through the language they speak.   If its thrown in your direction, there was meaning and precise thought behind it.    Remember this always. 

Now let’s begin with the ideas, thoughts and random bits hiding inside my brain.   Let the unplugged firing session begin. 

A Tragic Note-Arlington firefighter Shannon Stone died last week at a Texas Rangers game while lunging for a baseball thrown to him by Josh Hamilton.   Stone was sitting in the outfield bleachers, reached over a waist high pole, and flipped over it down between the seating area and the outfield wall 20 feet head first into a concrete floor.  Lights out.   Stone was a 18 year veteran of the firefighting force in Brownwood, Arlington.  He died tragically and suddenly in front of his 6 year old son, who fellow friends and coworkers said was inseparable from his dad for his entire life.   This is a sad story that will likely bring a lawsuit from the family’s lawyers about the safety measures in Arlington Stadium.   This is two accidents in two seasons for the Rangers.  Last year, a man with a few beers in him, flipped over a middle section onto the concourse below, and lived.  Stone fell to his death doing what many fans would do.  Reach for a baseball given to him by an All Star baseball player.  Personally, I don’t reach for baseballs at games, but if thrown right in my direction by Albert Pujols, I might see the need to make an effort.  Stone was stupid, but did something risky and paid for it.  He was a firefighter after all.  They are paid to take huge risks in high danger situations.   Hamilton will feel horrible for a while.  He didn’t kill a person, but he flipped a baseball that forced a fan to overextend himself and plunge to his death.   If I were Hamilton’s “special adviser”, aka the person who keeps him away from drugs and alcohol, I would keep a close eye on him these next couple days and weeks to protect him against a relapse.   Watching a man fall to his death the minute you connect with him and his kid is rough ground for a fragile addict like Hamilton.   Just a precaution. 

BLUES-Taking 5 players and going with it
-David Backes-Give him The Captain stitch.   Backes has earned it with his solid play, leadership and pure style of play over the last 3 seasons.   A captain isn’t about points, goals or winners.  Its about reputation.  What the other players think of you and how your play sprinkles onto their future chase.  Backes breeds toughness, smart play and knows how to play hockey.   He deserves the right after Eric Brewer jokingly carried it for several seasons of mediocre play.
-David Perron-A mystery that could only get worse with decision making on horizon.   GM Doug Armstrong pumped these team up with veteran juice last week with the additions of Jason Arnott, Jamie Langenbrunner, and Scott Nichol.   This puts David Perron in a hard spot if you ask me.   Perron has been sidelined completely from hockey activity since November after suffering a mid-ice blind sided hit from Joe Thornton.  Since the hit, Perron scored a game winning goal, took a seat the rest of the season and hasn’t done much since the last game at Scottrade.  He is a poor French boy with a headache that won’t go away.  Armstrong has a suddenly crowded roster that includes Matt D’Agostini, a 20 goal scorer from 2010-2011 who doesn’t deserve to play on the 4th line unless David Perron is out.   Unless Perron starts hockey activity by next week, he will be out until November.   What do you do with the talented yet head broken kid?  Big decisions coming up.  The team insurance is paying him while he heals from his massive concussion, but this isn’t a money issue.  It’s a roster issue.  He can’t go to Peoria, but he can go on the extended injured list.   Perron’s concussion has built a huge boulder in the middle of his career.  Highly unfortunate. 
-T.J. Oshie-Wake up kid.  Fourth year is the make or break session.   A one year contract from your team means only one thing.  Impress me now.   Fan favorite or not, Oshie is on the hot seat. 
-Patrik Berglund-A 2 year deal doesn’t mean to lay down the ambition verve either.   Bergie, when he is on and playing at full ability, is a game changing talent.  A Colby Rasmus like talent that is only great when fully realized.  Berglund has the size, skill and soft hands to score 35-40 goals in this league, but will he ever do it?  50 point seasons need to stop now and PB needs to step up. 
-Jaroslav Halak-Look you little Slovakian fuckstick, its time to put up or shut up.   The Blues found you more muscle, but can you provide a consistently strong net presence.   The soft goals need to be cut down.  This team needs a dominating goaltender to take over the games where they can’t light the lamp.  Can you be that guy?  The team gave you a 4 year safe and secure contract after seeing you play a great half season in Montreal.  We stole you from Canada, so prove your worth. 
Note-The Blues sign former sniper/right winger Jonathon Cheechoo to a 1 year, 2 way deal.  If the name sounds familiar, that’s because Cheechoo was a promising scorer five years ago.   From 2005-2007, in two seasons, Cheechoo tallied 93 goals and 69 assists with the San Jose Sharks.   He was a grinder, a goal scorer, and a guy who would get dirty if he had to.  However, his production slipped so bad that in 2009-2010, the Ottawa Senators released him.   If you are looking for the answer to the riddle of his lost touch, look elsewhere.  He simply stopped scoring, lost value, got traded and then released.  The Senators released him when they traded for Dany Heatley, who has since left Ottawa.  From 2008-2010, he had 10 goals.   He spent the last two years in the AHL in Worchester.   Playing for a different Sharks team, he had 18 goals and 29 assists last season.   His deal with the Blues is a second chance in the NHL.  A go for broke signing that leaves low liability on the Blues end and gives Cheechoo a chance to recapture what was lost years ago.  The scoring touch.   With Arnott and Langenbrunner, I’ll take this 30 year old winger looking for redemption because he doesn’t have a weight on his shoulders, will have to earn his minutes and could end up being a steal.   A two way deal means his contract is valid in St. Louis or Peoria, meaning the Blues can send him back to the AHL if he doesn’t produce up here or a spot is needed for younger talent.  In general, Cheechoo is back yet on the clock.  An exciting deal.   The pay is 600,000 dollars if he makes it up to the NHL with the Blues, and 105-225,000 if he stays in Peoria.  The Blues are paying Cheechoo as much money to attempt to revive his career as they are Brian Elliot to fight with Ben Bishop for the backup goaltending slot.  Its make or break money and a contract that puts the ball in the player’s court.  Cheechoo has been training all summer, working on his speed and hopefully can get back being the once promising player who collected 10 points in a playoff series.  A comeback story only missing the production.   As Yahoo News’ Greg Wyshynski writes, Cheechoo’s headline can read:”Blues sign former 50 goal scorer”, which is comparable to seeing the poster for M.Night Shymalan’s next movie with the reading, “The Director of the Sixth Sense and Unbreakble”, not knowing what the result will be.  Cheechoo is a mystery.  Will he be worth the look or a waste of time?  We’ll find out.
CARDS
-Jaime Garcia getting a 4 yr, 28 million dollar deal with two options is a smart move by Mozeliak. Lock up a talented young lefthander for 7 million a season in the prime of his career. A similiar deal that Mozelaik worked out with Yady Molina and Adam Wainwright. A testament to Mozelaik and head scout Jeff Luhnow’s system. Look up and down the roster. Garcia, Pujols, Molina, Wainwright, Jon Jay, Fernando Salas, Eduardo Sanchez, Kyle McClellan, DD, and Jason Motte.  Future rotations arms Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez are on the way.   The Cardinals are building a team of young guns.  A team of minor league born talent fully arrived. Garcia is latest to be locked in.   Garcia is 9-3 with a decent ERA and duplicating 2010’s success.   Anytime you can get a very good lefthanded starter at a young age for 7 million a season set up long term, you take the deal.  If this is on the table, the Cards need to get it done. 
-With Adam Wainwright on the mend, The Cards would make an extremely smart play to bypass the holding period, break the urge for Wainwright to rush back from Tommy John surgery, and exercise the options on his contract for 2012 and 2013, which would pay him 9 million and 11 million annually.   Wainwright is a Cy Young caliber talent when healthy, and if you have a chance to reserve his services for less than 15 million a year, why wait on a rehab to complete or present other dangerous options for the righthander.   If there is a chance to get him cheap, do it.  If the cards are in play, go ahead and negotiate an extension to the options, throw on an extra two seasons at 15 million and 18 million for 2014 and 2015.   Keep him here.   He is a young highly talented pitcher, and will more than likely come back strong from a huge injury.  Instead of waiting and praying, just sign Wainwright up, kick in the options, and allow him to slowly make his way back.  Take the gun out of his hand and get him a chair for this season.
-Did Albert Pujols deserve to be at the All Star game?  When the initial fan votes came out, my answer would be no.   Joey Votto and Prince Fielder were more deserving and Pujols was still on the disabled list with a then serious wrist injury.  However, now that he is back and healthy and hitting, his case gets stronger.  Also, with 5-6 players pulling out of the game, there is a spot for Pujols on the team.  It’s weird to see him not on the team.   His first half stats are only subpar by Albert Pujols standards.  .277 BA, 18 HR, 52 RBI, .355 OBP.   You trying to tell me AP isn’t one of the top 35 players in the National League?  After all the sitouts and injuries to voted in players, Albert should of received a call from Giants manager Bruce Bochy.   Scott Rolen and Miguel Montero don’t deserve to be on the roster in front of Albert.  Any way you slice it up, something is wrong here. 
The Jon Jay VS. Colby Rasmus Argument
-Jon Jay is a smarter play for the Cardinals right now than Colby Rasmus.  With the trading deadline rolling up and the Cardinals sitting with a few needs, its time for Rasmus to be trade bait.  If I had to pick one of the players to ride out the rest of this season, my answer is easily Jay.   Look at what Jay has done in 224 at bats in 2011.  He has hit .300, drove in 22 runs and hit 7 home runs and plays fundamentally sound baseball.   Jay is an all around better player than Rasmus.   Colby is a huge disappointment to me.  From 2009 to 2010, Rasmus showed improvement.  In the same amount of at bats, he hit 7 more home runs, drove in 14 more runners, hit 25 points higher, doubled his walks and scored 30 more runs.   He progressed from his rookie season to his sophomore session.  In his third season, he is regressing and declining.  He is hitting .249 with only 9 home runs and 36 RBI, and in his last 10 games he is hitting .132 with 1 home run and 4 RBI.   He isn’t getting the job done and he is getting worse in center field.   Colby can’t make big plays and doesn’t possess a strong arm.   He hasn’t hit well in one spot in the order.   With runners on base and a chance to tie the game on Friday night at home, Colby struck out on 3 pitches.  He has struck out 15 times in the past 10 games and walked just twice.   He is getting worse.  Jon Jay is a cheaper, more sound and skilled option in center field.  A few more reasons. 
-Jay will come cheaper.   In a free agent period where the Cards will battle to keep the likes of Pujols, Berkman, Chris Carpenter in Cardinal red beyond 2011, keeping the cheaper player in Jay is a smarter play.  
-With Holliday and Berkman back in the outfield and Freese and Pujols back in the lineup, there isn’t a need for a power hitting speed option in center field or in the # 2 hole in the lineup.   Jay is a contact hitter with occasional power but can give you the big hit and hit .300 with more playing time.  He has risen above the overexposure label with his performance in 2011.   Jon Jay gives you balance in the lineup. 
-Colby is heading for arbitration after the season, which will cost the Cardinals money if Colby stays and finishes well.  
-Jay is a more clutch hitter, pulling a .333 BA with Runners in scoring positon and 2 outs.   Colby is hitting .233 in the same spot. 
-Jay possesses far better defense in center field, carries more range and can make the amazing catch, as he has 3 times in the past month.   Jay has a plus arm while Colby has an average to poor arm. 
-Jay simply plays the game the right way.  He is a smart hitter who makes contact, doesn’t strike out as much and plays the game right.  A classically fundamentally sound baseball player.  In short, he isn’t stupid out there.
-Colby offers you more on the trade market and the Cards have needs.  A 5th starter and lefty help in the pen stick out and Rasmus is a key componet.  For years, Walt Jocketty and John Mozelaik resisted the urge to deal Colby in order for him to reach the next level of center fielders, but he hasn’t made it and gotten worse in his third season. 
Quite simply, who you want at the plate with the game on the line right now?  Jay or Rasmus.   Who do you want in the lineup?  Jon Jay, end of story.  He is more clutch, defensively skilled and able.   He is cheaper and just what this lineup needs.   He is a perfect #2 hitter who can be the table setter for the big bats in the lineup.  This is a tight NL Central race and decisions have to be made.  In my opinion, Jay has risen above the backup label and turned into an everyday player here in St. Louis while Colby has taken a step back.   Keep Jay and deal Raz if the deal is there to make. 
A Word for Colby Rasmus
Look, I don’t dislike Colby and want him gone because he is the basis of every bad mood in my life.   To me, he is a player with supreme talent who may never reach the top of his potential.   Every time we think he is going to move up, he takes two steps back.  He is an exhaustingly talented player who confuses fans.  That’s why he is expendable, not untouchable but I don’t want the Cards to dump him for nothing.  I am not surprised my good friend and Cards President Bill DeWitt III is defending Colby on the radio and telling us we need to be patient.  For 6 years, Rasmus has been the golden child of this organization.  He is playing in his third year in the pros this season and stopped making progress.  To an owner/president, he is going to be the player you never want to let go.   To a fan, he is a player who is increasingly hard to watch.  Once again, he made big improvements from 2009 to 2010.  His numbers went up and he showed promise.  In 2011, he has gone down.  Maybe it’s Jon Jay flanking him in left field when Holliday missed time.  Maybe he looks at Lance Berkman and doesn’t see him going anywhere, so he thinks Jay is right behind him in 2011.   Jay is directly behind him and waiting to take over.  That puts pressure on a player, but remember, this is the major leagues and pressure is the main ingredient blocking supreme success.   Colby either deals with it or succumbs to it.   His father isn’t helping things, because Tony La Russa wants to be the only control freak in this town.  Tony Rasmus, Colby’s dad, keeps an open line next to his bed, throws Colby BP after games at Busch Stadium, and is plugging his own knowledge into his sons head like he is still 5 years old in the back yard playing catch.  Tony Rasmus, this isn’t little league anymore.  Its the major leagues.  Its chess and not checkers, so back off.  I’m all for father-son exchanges on baseball, but when he is on Cards property working with his son and going on internet forums saying Rasmus needs to leave St. Louis, he needs to shut it down.   Rasmus is an intriguing talent, a good player, but what more will he ever be?  He doesn’t get the patience that Pujols/Holliday get during their slumps.  They have years and decades of proof that their hard times come to an end, but Colby, he has nothing.    He will always be a commodity to the Cardinals, but sooner or later, the Cards have to realize that Colby’s value as a commodity towards other teams could take a fall.   They need to strike while the iron is hot. 
More Cards News
-Fernando Salas finishes the break with 16 saves in 18 chances, bringing an imperfect blend to a broken arrangement and fixing the situation with effectiveness.   Salas doesn’t complete many 1-2-3 ninth innings but he has restored order to an early season casualty.  If he can keep it up, the bullpen is a strength instead of a liability.  Its easy to find a lefty on the market than a real good closer.   In the same manner as center field where Jon Jay offers you a cheaper more effective reward, Salas may present the Cards a chance to keep their prospects at the end of the month and leave Heath Bell in San Diego. 
-Albert Pujols has reclaimed the magic touch at the end of the first half, going 5-8 on Saturday and Sunday to bring his comeback numbers up to 6-20(.300), 1 HR, 5 RBI and 4 runs scored.   Pujols finished the first half with .280 BA, 18 HR, and 50 RBI.   His walk total is down, but he only struck out 27 times.  He has scored a team high 54 runs.  AP hasn’t been himself for the first half but he has shown enough progress to not worry about his power numbers while his average struggles to climb.  His extended snub from the All Star game hurts, but the four days off to rest the wrist and let him get locked in for the second half are good news.  What is his free agent status right now?  A mystery.   He has the chance to finish with .300, 30 HR, 100 RBI, 100 R and stay under 60 strikeouts and still command a 4-7 year contract at 24-25 million per.   His prospects of getting a ridiculous 10 year deal are gone, but I doubt Albert ever wanted to tie the teams hands together with that long engagement. 
-The needs are starting pitching help because if you find a decent fifth starter, Kyle McClellan goes back to the bullpen and both sides get help.   A lefthanded reliever is also a need unless La Russa wants to utilize Trevor Miller and insert Raul Valdes into a bigger role.   Tampa Bay and Toronto are suitors for Rasmus but a deal must be equal on each side to be green lit. 
-When Eduardo Sanchez returns, the bullpen gets stronger.   Sanchez carries a 1.88 ERA in 28 innings with a 2-1 K-BB ratio.   The Cards need to treat his shoulder delicately so he is 100 percent and ready when he returns.
The Road Ahead For Cardinals Baseball
-Overall, the Cards finished the first half 49-43 and tied for first place.  I’ll take that with the damage given to this team.   Their outlook is decent, especially when you consider they spent the better part of the first half injured and walking with a limp.  Now, fully equipped, this team is primed to take off if a couple new players arrive.   The Cards will play their 10th game fully loaded on Friday, with their entire starting lineup from opening day intact.  The team survived because the bench stepped up, namely in rookies Daniel Descalso, Jay, Allen Craig, Salas, Eduardo Sanchez and Lance Lynn.   If there is no bench help, this team plummets.   Lance Berkman’s MVP effort powered this survival also.  Pujols has woke back up from his slump, Carpenter has taken ahold of the rotation, and this team has 5 walkoff wins in 2011 so far which means the team isn’t going down without a fight.  If I am a Cardinal fan, I am intrigued yet worried by this team because they’ve shown an ability to come back and stay up but collapse too easily.  Friday’s series opener in Cincinnati is a huge start and a big series for a team looking for positive traction directly out of the gate.  Will Colby rise up and claim his job?  Can Carpenter hold up?  Will Salas keep the saves coming?  The biggest question is…what will Albert do?  The Brewers, Pirates, and Reds will continue to hang around and fight for this thing so the second half will be interesting.  The division is up for grabs, so worry about winning that first.  Getting into the playoffs is first priority.  Worry about the details after the October starts. 
All Star Game Recap-The National League beat the American League in a good old fashioned game of clutch hitting, timely defense and excellent pitching.  The NL pitched better, got a couple more timely hits and made plays in the field.  For the second year in a row, home field advantage exists with the NL and that’s a good thing if you are a Cards fan.   If you think home field advantage doesn’t mean anything, think about if you would rather play Game 7 of the World Series inYankee Stadium or at Busch Stadium.   The Giants took advantage of their home field edge in beating the Rangers in 2010.    Its a big deal and while the format is wrong, the end result is clear.  The deciding factor for home field advantage in the playoffs shouldn’t be decided by an exhibition game, but as most things are in life, that’s just the way it is so we deal with it.  Here are some things I’ll remember about the All Star game in 2011.
-Hunter Pence’s bullet throw from left field that nailed an overambitious Jose Bautista at home plate in the pivotal momentum changing 4th inning.  Bautista made a nice catch in the 2nd inning, got a base hit but took a huge risk in rounding third and taking a chance at home.  Pence’s throw was a direct shot to Brian McCann at home plate and nailed Bautista.  The instant I saw it I thought to myself, “There’s no way that was Matt Holliday who made that throw”, and I look up and Pence subbed in for Holliday.  Great throw that changed the direction of the game.   Adrian Gonzalez led off the inning with a solo homer off Cliff Lee, and two singles later, the AL were poised to break through, but Pence’s throw ended the two out threat. 
-The Prince bomb.   After Pence’s throw, Fielder bombed a 3 run game deciding homer that clinched the game and barely got over the left field wall.  The home run came off Rangers lefty C.J. Wilson.   Fielder scored the MVP with his big hit and made up for a dropped pop up in the 2nd inning.  
-Lance Berkman’s single and caught stealing in the 2nd inning.   There’s no telling what made Berkman(0 steals in 2011) make a dash for second base with Matt Holliday at the plate, but the result was a strike out-throw out that ended the threat and led to both Cards being taken out of the game.  Yady Molina scored a double off Chris Perez in the 7th and did a classy deed in tipping his cap to the former Cards hurler before and after his hit. 
-Heath Bell’s 17 mph dash from the bullpen to the mound in the 8th inning, which ended with a pop up slide in front of the mound.  Known for bringing out the unpredictable nature of bullpen mutts, Bell drilled humor into a pitching duel infused game. 
We can break down the pro’s and con’s of the mid season classic all day, but I will say I enjoy it and appreciate the additional effort of players since the game started to carry meaning.   Its an exciting nostalgic experience to see your favorite players in one setting battling against each other   This was an exciting game that included everything we love about the game.   Great pitching, timely hitting and a key defensive play.   The change of the guard in the power from AL is NL is pleasing and the last two games have been dominated by the NL, which is a good sign for a league shut out from 1996-2009.   I don’t like the idea that Derek Jeter declned a chance to show up and participate.   Fans travel across the country to see the players they help vote in, so when Jeter takes an “emotional break”, its a letdown all around.  He doesn’t get a choice.  He needs to show up and please the people who pay his salary.  The Home Run Derby sucks and carries no thrill unless your player is in the final round.   Its a glorifed session of batting practice that gets old after the 3rd or 4th home run.   Seeing Robinson Cano bash 24 home runs in 3 rounds to win it isn’t anything special because he is hitting soft toss pitches.  If they wanted to make it real interesting, put real pitchers on the mound and tell them to pump heaters at the plate and then see how many home runs gets hit out.  Do that and its a contest.   There’s also the strategy of getting rid of the derby all together because it sucks up prime time and puts the futures game on Sunday afternoon.   There are several things you could change with the game but as long as the games are entertaining and worth watching, the festivities and complications that come with them can be tolerated. 
Changing gears into a Movie Review-Horrible Bosses
I highly recommend Horrible Bosses for various reasons that start with hilarious and end with satisfying.   Solid comedies are hard to pull off and when a movie brings all the componets together, one must take notice and spread the word.  The plot is simple.   Three friends, played by Jason Bateman, Jason Sudekis, and Charlie Day, have evil manipulative rotten bosses.  Horrible Bosses is a joke drunk look at the corporate ladder of envy, shame, powerless standing, and general miserable life of the working class souls.  The three friends who suffer throughout this movie can found in real life everywhere.  90 percent of work slaves hate their bosses and wish harm to them.  Its a natural tendency and that’s why this film’s concept works.  The success of the jokes and jokers playing make it a great time at the movies. The three protagonists have it bad here.   They complain about their bosses every day and wish they were gone but haven’t done anything about it.  One night, they hatch a plan to murder them, which sets off mishaps, complications, mistakes and hilarious adventures.  Here are a few reasons why this movie works.
1.)A raunchy well written comedy is always welcome in the summer when sequels, superheroes and CGI madness is going on.  Comedy is golden because of its synthetic basis and makeup.  The need to laugh and watch realistic situations play out horribly is classic fun.   The script contains classic one liners, dirty dialogue and hilarious scenarios setting up our protagonists.  The writers pull no punches and soak the script in filthy humor that plugs the film with required deadly dry humor.
2.)The film pulls a page from Hangover, citing an emphasis on the adventure of a group of friends instead of leaning on a concept alone.  Everybody hates their bosses in some manner, but we must care about the good guys here or else the bad things they do hit down wrong.   Great comedies don’t rely solely on a good concept.  We must care about the characters in the script and follow them through their travels.   Similiar to the Hangover, we care about what happens to these three friends desperatey trying to correct a piece of their lives.   Batemen is a guy who is worthy of a promotion but gets stepped on by his user of a boss, played with complete evil deeds by Kevin Spacey, pulling a page from his Swimming with Sharks rotten bad guy.  Day is a dental assistant who is sexually assaulted by his boss(a reinvented Jennifer Aniston) and only wants to be a good husband to his fiance’.   Sudekis is a chemical company worker who loses his mentor in one day and has to deal with his worthless son(Colin Farrell, add hairpiece and gut).   The problems these guys face are the problems of many, so we relate and follow.  Key part to the film.
3.)Great ensemble acting, including a wow performance from Jennifer Aniston and Colin Farrell.  Aniston carries the dirtiest dialogue in the film and reinvents herself as an actress here by doing something here she never does.   Play dirty and bad.  She sheds clothing, spits out the naughty dialogue and pulls interest in her corner.   She will never be a good actress, but she can play the occasional good role.  This is one of them, because she goes away from her normal routine and spices things up.  Farrell has always been a gifted actor, and plays the lowest of the shitty bosses in a four scene cameo meant to not shock his fans but add another layer of genius to it.  Batemen, Sudekis and Day are all fine as well.   Batemen gives another quality understated performance here, capturing the working man’s headache in a non sentimental way while Sudekis soaks up the lady man jokes and Day is the energetic speed demon, racing through his jokes while being effective.
4.)Quick pace keeps the action moving.  Every comedy needs a good pace in order to let the jokes fall in place but keep the story moving.   Comedies slow down and the excitement dies.  Moviegoers want to be lost in a comedy’s good natured fun but don’t need too much plot.
5.)Consistent jokes that aren’t in the trailer.  The key to any good film is to resist giving away all the goods in the trailer  Throughout the film, we get new setups and jokes that weren’t seen in the trailer, which means Director Seth Gordon didn’t play his entire hand in the preview.  This is always a good thing because surprises are in store. 
All in all, a very good film for the simple fact that the script ranks as high as the players reading it and the running time and scenes don’t let up until the credits roll.  Do the bosses get their due?  In a matter of ways, but the juice is in seeing the manner in which an ending is met.   The satisfaction here lies in the last third of the film bringing the entire plot together.   A very funny film and highly worth seeing in theaters.  
USA Women’s Team Headed to Final
While I am not a soccer fan and only get infested when it comes to the World Cup and other top flight tourney play,  I can jump on the bandwagon here and appreciate the Womens team effort.   After outlasting Brazil in a thriller shootout on Saturday, The USA knocked out France today in commanding fashion, 3-1 and will meet Japan or Sweden in the championship game.  Its alright to get on the bandwagon because this team represents the entire country when they step on the field.  The women are playing for every American who was born, raised and lives in this country.   That’s why its easy to get excited.  This is America’s team and we are behind them.   Its hard to forget 1999’s thriller finish when the Women’s team won the final in a shootout and the Brandi Chastan fell to her knees, ripped off her jersey and screamed in wonder as the entire team swarmed her at mid field.  In that moment, womens stance in sports took a major step up.   What sport do women receive worldwide play here?  Tennis and maybe golf.   The triumph in 1999 brought women’s power in sport to the world and put women on a pedestal for the first time since Bille Jean King won in New York against the top male tennis competitor.  This is everything.   The chance to see the women take down the top competitor and win the Cup 12 years later is a thrilling concept and worthy of everybody’s attention, soccer fanatic or not.  I watch as much league play as I do chinese chess.   World matches are a completely different story.  If they win again, you can chant USA and feel better.   Wear the colors, scream and get loud about the country where you grew up.  The thrill of world play is standing behind your country no matter what.  We saw it with The Men’s action two years ago, and we will see it again this week. 
The Return of Rescue Me to Television
Wednesday nights just got a whole lot juicier my friends.  Rescue Me, Denis Leary’s shot from the heart to firefighters series on FX, is back for its 7th and final season.  The series that chronicles the years following 9/11 in a NYC fire house that goes beyond the firefighting and takes us into the lives of these men and women who give until it’s gone every second of their life.  A show that tackles every demon in the bottle.  Guilt, alcoholism, bitterness, shame, heroism and pure despair.  The epic trials and tribulations of Tommy Gavin(Leary) come center stage this year.   Will he stay or go?  That’s the hottest question on this show.  Will Tommy make it out alive?  Does he deserve to?  I’ll take a shot at that question here so follow along.  Calling Tommy Gavin a conflicted man is like calling Whitey Bulger a criminal.   It only explains the first page of the book.   Gavin is a classic good hearted fuckup, a firefighter who manages to be brilliant at his job yet destroy everything else in his life.  He has divorced and reunited with his wife three times, lost his son to a drunk driver(a scene that still gives me cold goosebumps every time I watch the clip), saw his brother have an affair and a kid with his ex wife, went on to have an affair with his cousin’s wife, drinks like a fish, watched his daughter become an alcoholic and above all else, can’t shake the dramatic effects of 9/11, where he lost 60 firefighting friends and 4 in his own house.   This show is Denis Leary’s baby, the peak of his career in show business.  A man that will tell you he is hitting .200 lifetime in his movie career will nod to this show as his shining medal.   Its a rightful choice.  Rescue Me is a consistently powerful, funny and sometimes heartbreaking look at a way of life.  Tommy Gavin’s struggles aren’t alien to real life firefighters, as Leary based the show off real men he knew and dedicated it to the 340 firefighters lost on 9/11/01.   This is my favorite show of all time.  Big words speak a truth here, but this is a show that constantly tugs at my heartstrings and pulls out the rug on me at any given moment.  Rescue Me represents a reality that many of us face everyday.   The idea that livings carry a measure of pride in them yet break into our personal life in tough ways. The idea that life is a constant game of give and take.    What we choose to do for a living, our jobs, takes a piece of our life away and turns us into a person we never thought we would become.   Tommy Gavin chose to be a firefighter and in doing so, brought on measures of pain, sadness and guilt that sees the light of true heroism from time to time but turned him into another person.   As he tells his wife Janet in the 7th season opener, “Normal isn’t an option anymore.  Normal was buried on Ground Zero beneath the rubble.  Its gone.”  That is the paradox within Gavin on this show.  The lingering rage inside him that divides a pack of souls into the strangers he has saved from death and members of his family that he has hurt.  An ongoing struggle.   This is a show to talk about because it takes a real life event, mixes it with a true calling and puts a tough reality on display.  A crowning acheivement for Leary and company.  Will Tommy make it out alive on September 7th, the series finale?  Yes, because they have tried to kill him off many times and decided not to do so.  There’s a reason.  Tommy living through the end is a sign of hope for a series that started out as a dedication to the firefighters who not only gave their life on a tragic day but it speaks for every firefighter working today.   As Denis Leary writes in a guest column for Entertainment Weekly Magazine, “firefighters run towards a fire when everyone else are running away from it.  They rescue you no matter if you are gay, straight, yoga pants or not.  They have balls under their chin.”   Denis Leary gives most of the DVD sales of Rescue Me’s first six season to a charity supporting Boston and New York City’s fire departments, helping them buy new equipment and brand new technology.   A passionate morality tale that takes shape in real life.  If you want a taste, don’t about asking me, just go ahead and call.
The Random Nature of Things
-Another person nearly dies at a baseball park reaching for a home run derby long ball.  Prince Fielder hit a smash on Monday and a man got up on top of a metal drink holding table, leaned over and was ready to dive 20 feet onto a concrete pool area before two of his friends pulled him back.   There’s a meaning in this and its this.  People are naturally stupid and some never mature.  A near tragedy less than a week after Shannon Stone fell to his death in Texas.
-Leave Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison and his comments on Roger Goodell and his team alone.  Harrison spoke to Men’s Journal about Goodell, the lockout and his team this week in his cover story and he made the headlines with his words.   You know what?  Ask a liberal about his opinions on people and get ready for the feedback.   This is a free country and while Harrison is under contract to the Steelers and represents their franchise, off the field he can say anything he wants.  Its called the freedom of speech.    If he wants to call Goodell a “liar” and “the devil”, that is his opinion.   Basically, if you ask a man a question, be ready for the response.  Men’s Journal knew what they were doing when they approached Harrison about an interview.   Harrison has reason to be mad at Goodell.   The commissioner used him as a scapegoat when the NFL installed new rules on hard hits last season, fining the linebacker over 100,000 dollars for clean football hits in my opinion.   Due to safety regulations and public fear, the NFL is trying is soften the hard knock game of football and Goodel singled out Harrison last season, so JH can be made all he wants.   Football is a deadly physical game and takes a toll.   Concussions are part of the way of life in the sport.  Asking a linebacker to slow his momentum towards a player carrying the football is not an easy request.  Harrison has a job to do on the field and that’s prevent the ball carrier from passing the line of scrimmage.   He is an old school tough hard hitting linebacker, and in my eyes a true throwback to the old days where players aimed to put quarterbacks, halfbacks and receivers out of the game with pulverizing hits.  Dick Butkus said that if he didn’t want see the quarterback leave on a stretcher, his job wasn’t being done.   Harrison has the right to speak his mind to a reporter.  Off the field, he is free to say and do what he wants.  Frankly, Harrison needs to set Big Ben straight when it comes to avoiding the true public eye in the offseason with stupid behavior.  It would be disappointing to see Harrison ride his motorcycle off the road or sexually harass a few women in hotels and nightclubs.  That’s not right.  What Harrison is doing is simply nothing new or wrong.  He is speaking his man.  Put a microphone in front of an outspoken player and be ready for anything.  The only reason I criticize Harrison is that he had to use a gay slur in his comments(bad for business) and did hammer  2 of his teammates, which needs to happen behind closed doors and not in an interview. 
-The Black Keys secret ingredient in their music are brilliant lyrics and a bluesy style of music that creates an addicting listening experience.  Something they have done their entire career is stay true to their original intentions and build songs off strong writing.   Once again, if you haven’t bought and listened to their latest album, Brothers, do that as soon as possible.  It’s a great record.
-The Cardinals don’t need to trade Colby unless there is a solid return on their end.  Rasmus is expendable but doesn’t need to be moved for nothing.  John Mozelaik has to fix a hole if he creates one.   When he moves Colby, he creates a hole on his bench by moving Jon Jay to the outfield.   However, with the return of Allen Craig, the bench will get stronger.  I’d trade Colby for a quality lefthanded reliever or 4th-5th starter.
-Update on Women’s Soccer Team.   The USA will take on Japan on Sunday, facing a team they are 22-0-3 lifetime and 3-0 against this year.  The ladies will have to defeat themselves in order to lose this game.  
-Brewers Acquire Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez.   Intriguing, confusing and risky move by the Cardinals competition.   I’ll tell you why.   K-Rod has 291 career saves, carries 23 this season for the Mets before the trade, and will want to close games.  The Brewers have a promising young closer in John Axford.  If you are a Cards fan, you want this overload of 9th inning power to turn into high stakes poker drama for The Brewers organization.   Axford is enjoying a very strong season, carries 23 saves in 25 chances, 2.43 ERA,  51 strikeouts to 17 walks, has only allowed 2 home runs in 41 innings pitched and is the future of the bullpen for Milwaukee.  So, what are the Brewers doing here?  Loading up or bringing in insurance for their young hurler.  Axford waited for Trevor Hoffman’s large shadow to leave baseball last season after he reached 600 saves.  Now, he is dealing with another premier closer in Rodriguez.   K-Rod will want to close.  He didn’t accept a trade to just walk onto a playoff contender.  If you differ, remember who we are talking about.   K-Rod is putting together a solid season until the trade, carrying 23 saves in 26 chances with a 2.41 ERA and 44 strikeouts to 15 walks.  The deal breaker here is if Rodriguez finishes 21 more games, a 17.5 million 2012 option kicks in immediately, putting the Brewers on the tab for that and killing their chances of resigning Prince Fielder.   This could be a desperation throw by GM Doug Melvin, setting the Brew Crew on a win or lose it all mission.  Clearly, they won’t shove their rookie closer to the setup role, partly due to keeping K-Rod from reaching the option stats.   Let me add something else.   NO CLOSER IS WORTH 17.5 million dollars.   Mariano Riveria makes 15 million in New York and that is borderline crazy, so K-Rod doesn’t deserve 17.5 million for 2012.   A confusing yet intriguing move.   The last thing the Brewers want to do is confuse and insert conflict into Axford’s head, causing him to lose his edge and start blowing saves.  I can’t see how the Brewers want to pay K-Rod, so it must be a platoon situation or they will slowly move K-Rod into a setup role or hold him for the playoffs, if they make it.   Why did the Cards not acquire K-Rod, who went to the Brewers for 2 average minor leagues? There’s 17.5 million reasons but all you need is one.   The Mets are salary dumping, and K-Rod is the first to go with Carlos Beltran next.  The Brewers bought the bait, hoping to strengthen their team when they could be potentially cribbling it.   We will see.  Lots of intrigue.
-Wall Street 2:Money Never Sleeps….but does my first viewing verdict?  The sequel is on HBO now, and I have caught different parts the last week, dipping my eyes back into a good if not great and ultimately forgettable film when I saw it in theaters.   Michael Douglas returns as Gordon Gekko, searching for his old kingdom after serving 20 years in jail.   He sees young broker Jake(the very good Shia Laboeuf) as a way into the modern room of stock legends.   Jake is dating Gekko’s daughter, so this presents a three way relationship tug of war between Gordon, Jake and his daughter.  As I watch it on cable, I am sucked into this commercially built morality play that takes place right at the cusp of the 2008 stock market crash that broke the economy in half and executed several Wall Street players.   While we aren’t immediately told of Gordon’s true intentions, the reality is there that most people don’t change, especially old lions like Gekko.  The main player in the plot here is Jake, played with ease and authority by the young supremely talented Laboeuf.   Throughout his career, Shia is turning into the new everyman, an actor who can be wickedly funny and serious inside two scenes.  He holds his own here with Douglas, Josh Brolin, Susan Sarandon, Frank Langhella, and Carey Mulligan.  The appeal on cable is getting to rip back into the film’s many layers of plot and see if it works.  The answer is that Oliver Stone crafted a more commercially efficient yet strong character piece here that stands up as a worthy sequel.  The end is sweeter but the chase is the juicy part here.  Watch if you dare.
-Early tell on Jon Favreau’s summer action film, Cowboys and Aliens.   A fun time at the movies.  Judging from the trailer, there is a lot to like here if you buy into the silly premise of cowboys and aliens doing battle on US soil.   Daniel Craig plays a mysterious outlaw who has no idea who he is, where he came from and doesn’t know what the weapon on his wrist does or contains.   Harrison Ford is the cranky old cowboy gunning for Craig’s lost soul.   Olivia Wilde is the woman helping the men meet their goals yet carries a secret.  Favs’ makes enjoyable action stories with a spice of comedy along their spine.  Summer popcorn fun. Dig in or get out.The trailer will tell you all you need to know about the desire to see this film.
-The biggest comedy of the year, according to Denis Leary, is the Gay Marriage debate. I agree and will explain.  Since it was officially legalized this past week, many religious buffs have spoken up that its wrong and unjust.   Let me ask you something.  What is so unjust about choosing to be in love with a man instead of a women, or the other way around.   What is wrong with starting a family, living together as a married couple and the natural will power to choose your own life in this country?  People who argue against gay marriage have no case and need to stay out of church.   Gay rights is the biggest proudest member of civil rights, because it says people can spend the rest of their life with whoever they want.   Do I want to see two men make out in public?  No, but I am sure they don’t like watching a man and a woman make out in public either.   There is nothing wrong with choosing to be gay.  I have known several gay people in my life and they are great people.  Get over it and remember what the foundational rock of this country is.  Freedom to choose.
Buffa’s Mid Season Film Report Card -My Top 5 movies of 2011(no added support required, because by now you will know why I like them)
1.Lincoln Lawyer-Released on DVD/Blu Ray this week. Please check this film out.  It is the most satisfying and well made stand alone film of the year.  The real comeback of Matthew McCoughnahey.
2.Limitless-Bradley Cooper’s thrilling power play on the ability to turn into a genius is the actor’s first starring masterpiece.   It comes out on DVD/Blu Ray next week. 
3.Super 8-The imaginative detailed sketch of the loss of childhood innocence amongst a group of young friends when their small town experiences a weird invasion of government property.
4.Source Code-An underrated sci-fi action drama starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a soldier desperately trying to prevent terrorists attacks in Chicago.  An emotionally solid movie.
5.Adjustment Bureau-Matt Damon and Emily Blunt’s chemistry powers this tale on the pursuit of free will in a world where your future can be controlled.   An old school film for hopeless romantics.
Catagory semi finals-
Best Action Film-Fast Five
Best Comedy-Horrible Bosses by a hair over Hangover 2
Best Documentary-Conan Can’t Stop
Best Guilty Pleasure-Thor
The Bad Films-The Tourist and Hanna
Best Film Released in 2010 that arrived in St. Louis in 2011-127 Hours
More Random Bits of Opinion
-Roger Clemens is guilty of using steroids.   There is no judge, jury or lawyers required to know that.   The Rocket’s legacy is full of juice.  He decided to not admit his wrong doing, and against hardcore evidence, the judge ruled a very wrong mistrial.   What do we do?  Remind ourselves that a court doesn’t decide truth all the time.   Read….Casey Anthony, OJ Simpson, Drunk Drivers. 
-Mowing the Law sucks.  Save me your “its freeing, fulfilling and satisfying”.  Mowing the lawn is as satisfying as a good run.  You love it only when its done.   When its 95 degrees outside and your grass is taller than required, there is nothing good about it.   Save me the bullshit proud father routine.  Mowing sucks.
-I am personally waiting to see if the Pittsburgh Pirates can hold up over the second half of the season.   Anytime a previously bad team heats up, fixes some areas and wins games, analysts and sports minds get in over their head and call them playoff teams.   While I like the return of Pittsburgh to competitive baseball, I will remain skeptical of their talent until I see consistency.   This is a young team that has no idea what competing for a division title means.   They are new to the party.  Without a true star player, it will be interesting to see if they can hold up in their second half schedule of NL Central play.  If they make the playoffs, they will earn it.
-The Dark Knight Rises trailer showing on Harry Potter’s last ride through film in theaters right now is a reason for me to see the movie, along with getting the wife into a theater to see a Potter adventure on the big screen for the first time.   Christopher Nolan’s third and final Batman film is the most anticipated film of 2012.   A year before its release, we get a tease.   Nolan is the key appeal here.  A true renegade director who only makes great films.   He assembles the biggest most talented casts and puts a golden script in their hands and a brilliant concept to work with.  The moral struggle in Nolan’s Batman Gotham universe has always been the clash of good yet flawed heroes and truly bad villains in a real world setting.   Nolan uses Bruce Wayne’s inner demons to slowly peel back the layers that make up the dense complicated meaning of what it means to be a hero and the choices you have to make in order to be a good guy in a mad world.   I await this film as the next great film.
-Until July 12th, 2012, I will wait for December’s delivery of Sherlock Holmes 2:Game of Shadows, the second Robert Downey Jr.-Guy Ritchie tag team spin on the legendary thinking man’s action hero.  
Daddy Blog-If had to choose right now which feeling was winning the pre-daddy stage war going on inside my head, excitement or fear, I would choose pure fear this week.   Those are the two general feelings in a dad to be’s head from the moment you find out your wife is pregnant and the day of birth.   You can hear stories from people you know or read a ton of books, but the weekly struggle is Excitement Vs. Fear.   Right now, I am scared shitless.   I am scared of not having enough money right after my son is born because my wife will need 4-6 weeks of maternity leave before she can work.   There’s a stranger called Mortgage working there.  I am scared of being left alone with MY KID for the first time when Rachel goes to job training.  I am scared of something happening to my son as he gets older.  Watching Rescue Me and the horror in what happened to Gavin’s kid(riding the bike in street, hit and killed by drunk driver) made me ill yesterday.   These are the things in my head.   What if I make a shitty dad?  What if I can’t protect my kid?   What if he finds out his dad is a fork lift driving blue collar grunt and that isn’t cool enough for me and him to stay friends past high school?   Fear my friends lives in me right now.   I can’t wait to be a dad, but I want to know what its like on the other side of reality where real life takes over expectation and history.  I am scared about the future of a kid being the center of my life.   Its all a huge game to me.  A Game 7 battle between me and my future self.   A funny weird ordeal that only dad to be’s and current dad’s know about.   That’s the most honest daddy blog I have written.  Enjoy it as it will continue to pour out as we count down the last two months towards Vincent Daniel Buffa’s arrival.  Here’s to the unbreakable power of health. 
Song of the Day-The Black Keys-“10 A.M. Automatic”
That is all for now my friends.  Thanks for reading and be ready for my return, for I am always loading up the guns of thought in my hands. 
Goodnight and Good Luck,
Dan L. Buffa