Here’s What I Know, Volume #9: RIP Michael Nyqvist, Trump, black coffee, baseball PPV

All the thoughts that are fit to publish.

Advertisements

Live from the hot sauna that is St. Louis in the month of July, a stream of consciousness.

  • A few words about good coffee and friends. Whenever my friend P.J. Nolan comes into town, a coffee shop is our one stop shop. Black coffee-usually strong as an ox-and conversation that ranges from baseball to boxing to living. Easy and simple. As I pass the tender days of 35 years in 2017, my need for excitement can be measured. I don’t need to live the high life or get into a serious amount of trouble. My advice for living long and prospering: find something that engages your mind while putting it at ease, and stick with it.
  • Side note: Sump Coffee is delicious. At the advisement of Jeff Jones-a professional in the hockey world but a fine voice in other lifestyle fronts-I visited the South City coffee joint for a tasty concoction with P.J., and we had a couple pots of coffee. Whether it was an Ethiopian blend or a Columbia kick in the head, the flavor was undeniable. Sump and I had a conversation before, but it had been too long. I will be returning. Sump coffee is so good, I don’t even need a stevia packet. Black and bold like Oprah.
  • Baseball is a real bastard. 162 games. Seven months. There isn’t another sport that pounds you into the ground, demanding all of your patience and nerve endings to endure a contending team’s trek towards the ultimate goal of a championship. One of the hardest things to do is coming up with commentary that doesn’t echo other writers, but also enduring the constant change in a team’s play. The Cardinals are a Frank Sinatra song; flying high one month, shot down the next. What I try to do is not pay attention to what everybody else is writing, and simply reward my readers with a voice they can trust. Control what you can, because anything else would be uncivilized, and quite simply a headache.
  • A few words about radio. It’s a sad but true declaration, but talent alone won’t get you far in this business. Unless you are a name like Frank Cusumano or have the savvy sales skills of a Don Draper, you won’t make it. The easiest part of my job as a radio host the past year is sitting down in front of the microphone and talking. Going door to door, asking business owners to hand over money without a reliable ROI promise, is the hardest part. I’ll never conquer it, and that’s not being down on myself. That’s merely being honest about a tough trade. Before I got into radio, I thought the host put out a good show while others sold the goods. I was very wrong. A great radio show-Game Time A.M.-bit the dust this week, and it had little to do with skill. Organizational structure and a matter of revenue is often the executioner.
  • Speaking of radio and the changing gears of the sportswriting game, Clay Travis wrote a column that struck a chord. He wanted to know what was causing this rapid downtown in the world of sportswriters, and it came down to two things: businesses and corporations value videos over words and won’t pay the writers using their products to promote them. Travis just happens to be replacing Game Time AM at 590 The Fan, but it’s hard to dislike Travis. With a few kids in tow and a need to escape a law degree, Travis tackled the business all alone, and now is one of the most successful stand alone entities out there.

  • Have you seen the Snyder’s Pretzel commercial? If that bitch took my car keys and threw them into the bushes, I’d knock her the fuck out on general principle.

  • I find the best friend women in movies to be hotter than the leading ladies? I’m looking at you Judy Greer and Kathryn Hahn. I treasure the imperfections in women over the ones who attempt to strangle perfection.
  • Carlos Martinez and Max Scherzer is a pitching matchup Don King could sell on a Pay Per View card. Two young men with the need to impose their will on hitters. One a local kid who made it big in The Motor City and bet on himself to receive a 200 million dollar contract. The other a Dominican Republic pitching sensation who is only getting started in the making hitters look silly department. Both are emotional wrecking balls on a pitching mound. And they say baseball is boring. Pay more attention. (Update: Scherzer outdueled Martinez, striking out 12….fuck.)
  • The Blues had a great draft and I don’t understand the need to shit on fans who are excited about it. Doug Armstrong could fuck up a wet dream, but he actually pulled a pair of moves that set his team up for success in the near and far. Let’s feel good about it instead of playing the classic Blues cynic. That’s so tiring. Some people just need to get laid more often.
  • What’s a good beer? Try Logboart Company’s Flybye Ale, a farmhouse ale with a smooth finish and sweet taste that will push you over slowly into the land of buzzing. Farmhouse Ales can be so good if they are produced correctly. Show me a beer with some substance and I’ll pay the extra money.
  • Hey, did you see what happened in the NFL and what the Rams are doing? I have no clue, because I don’t give a shit. Fuck Roger Goodell. Now that I don’t have to talk about it on the radio to play nice and get along, I couldn’t care less.
  • What if this Cardinals team had a healthy Alex Reyes? Bullpen would be a whole lot better and the rotation would have more protection. See you in a year kid.
  • It doesn’t matter if it’s 95 degrees or 10 degrees, I’ll run my 3-4 miles. As long as you are hydrated and conditioned correctly, the workout can take place no matter the weather. Running is the ultimate exercise, because it pushes your whole body to the brink. I’ll take cold weather over hot though.

  • I miss George Carlin. Without him, comedy took a hard hit. He challenged people to think and made them laugh their asses off.
  • Rest in peace Michael Nyqvist. The 56 year old actor lost a fight with cancer, but not before he created signature villains in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and more importantly, John Wick. He practically sold the Wick film in one key scene. “I once saw him kill three men with a pencil; a FUCKING pencil.” Rest easy. Fuck you cancer.
  • I’ve applied to become an Uber driver. I want to make more money and do it at my leisure. Here’s to no violent offenders or vomit masters. So I’m trying out the hipster cab vessel company for a spin.

  • Let’s make something clear: it’s okay for two people to write about the same topic on the internet. In the push-shove era of basement bloggers and online scribes, the need to play the shame game on an opposing writer for dishing his take on a topic that someone already touched on is quite weak. Let’s act like adults and open up the litter box. I remember reading Bernie Miklasz a teen before taking a minute to see what I thought about that particular subject. Being inspired is not the same as copying. People are way too fragile these days. There’s enough room at the table.
  • Life has a way of keeping you honest. A few weeks ago, I lost my grandmother, Stella. She was fighting a myriad of health problems, most notably the inability to take a deep breath. She had been fighting this for a long time, and she didn’t throw in the towel, yet finally felt content letting life go. Like my other grandmother, Meme, I didn’t spend enough time with Nana, and regretted that after she passed. You never get enough time. With anybody. Well, maybe Donald Trump, because after five months, we are done with him as POTUS. My point is, stay in touch. Nana was a fighter, and I am glad I picked her up on my son’s fifth birthday, so she could see him hit that number.
  • What’s fucking weird? Saying goodbye to your house of eight years. This is the final week in my Mardel home, aka the Buffa Estate. The closing date is Thursday, and so many memories will finally reach their bookend. It’s like writing that abrupt chapter to the book. Three months ago, we weren’t thinking about moving, and then, suddenly, it happened. Now, it’s nearly at the conclusion, and it’s incredibly hard to not get sentimental. It’s the house where my wife and I found our dream jobs, went through several cars, watched a World Series game in our backyard, and raised our son. Now, a new house and empty slate of memories await. Cue the Beatles.
  • Can I complain about something? Construction crews in front of my street busted a water main TWICE last week. How bad do you have to be at your job to do it twice? In case you missed it in “who gives a shit news, St. Louis variety”, they are installing a greenway on my main street, Wabash/McCausland. A path for bikers and runners to find their way down to the shittiest park in South City, which is also called Francis Slay Park. Otherwise known as WTF would I go there Park. Construction delays remind of Will McAvoy from The Newsroom preaching: “this will be a wonderful city, when they are done building it.”

  • I am t-shirt snob. Whenever I look at shirts these days, I want to know the fabric and how they fit. Since I designed a few for the now defunct Film-Addict, I have gotten picky with what I wear, since this is my daily wardrobe. My go to is 50/25/25 blend. Who cares?
  • Cheers to the @ToastDispatch twitter account, ran by Nick Jr. and Sr., for coming into studio this morning. I haven’t had that much fun on the radio in quite some time. We joked about “Joe Maddon excuses”, “Managing your life like Mike Matheny manages a bullpen”, and engaged in an epic rock-paper-scissor contest.  These are the days where hosting a radio show can be too much fun. Easy going. No egos.
  • Fuck Trump. Every time he attacks the free press, he shits on the history of the mantle he is holding. Journalists have a right to their territory and questions just as much as Captain Dickweed has with putting on a red tie. This may be the low point of Washington D.C.-and it’s not even close. Keeping this guy off Twitter and playing a violin for all the sulking he does is a smart maneuver.

  • According to Joe Maddon, the cause for the Cubs bad play is the announcement from Will Ferrell last week that there’d be no Old School sequel, thus burying the comeback of Vince Vaughn, one of Chicago’s prodigal sons.

What else? Eat healthier, but don’t reach miserable temps to extend your life by a few years. Hydrating is almost as important as sunscreen. Animated films will always make money. Sequels are shit half the time. If you’re going to waste money, do it on a six pack of light beer instead of bad food. 

    That’s all, folks. For the three people who made it to the end, you receive nothing but a warm digital embrace. 

    PS: Can we please stop killing each other? Cool, thanks. In the words of Lumbergh, “that’d be greaaaaatttt.”

    What the return of Randal Grichuk means to the Cardinals

    The return of the Cardinals top “theme park ride” spells excitement.

    You hear that? The roller coaster is getting put back on the tracks. Ladies and gents, Randal Grichuk has returned after an 18 game absence. Suddenly, from the shadows of doubt, disbelief and an unknown rehab schedule, the Rosenberg, Texas product is stable again. I couldn’t have been more surprised looking down at my phone and seeing the press release. Where was the timetable? The elbow strain that was combustible for weeks but now is back in session. What does Grichuk mean to this team when healthy? Randal’s impact to this Cardinals’ lineup when healthy is comparable to a new ride opening at Six Flags. Just watch and admire.

    Randal ExperienceAnother smoking gun waiting for his chance in what is expected to be a closely contested game at Busch Stadium. He is one of the few players on this team that can’t make the starting lineup yet still linger just as deadly. Clint Hurdle will be thinking about Grichuk the entire night. That’s the Grichuk effect in a nutshell. An oncoming storm that you must prepare for in advance. The kid can fail to get the sweet spot of the barrel on the ball and still hit out to right center field for a home run. That’s how good he is.

    What was he doing before his elbow barked on August 16th? Have you seen the movie, Action Jackson?!!!? Grichuk was among the top rookies in baseball with 15 home runs, 44 RBI, and a .561 slugging percentage. In 289 at bats, Grichuk had an unreal 43 extra base hits. With a full slate of 550 at bats, Grichuk would end up with 75-80 extra base hits. He’s a special kind of lethal.

    The drawbacks aren’t hard to recognize. His 97 strikeouts in the same low number of at bats(34 percent) signal a kid still getting to know the strike zone. A student with a few credit hours to go before he graduates from the Sombrero watch. It’s also important to remember the ripe young age of Grichuk(24 years old). With only 399 at bats to date, Grichuk has plenty of time to cut down on the strikeouts but here’s the fun part. The explosive bat will not go away any time soon. He’s learning to take outside heaters to right field and lay at least one slider per four sent to the plate. If this is a learning curve, what does the finished product look like next year?

    Matt Holliday and Matt Adams are also expected back this month, but Grichuk’s bat brings the most excitement. The Cardinals have plenty of on base specialists. They need the cannon inserted into the middle of the sparklers to ignite everything. That’s Grichuk in a nutshell. Ignition.

    What’s my lineup when Grichuk is ready? Matt Carpenter, Stephen Piscotty, Jhonny Peralta, Jason Heyward, Randal Grichuk, Yadier Molina, Matt Adams, and Kolten Wong. That’s a layered explosive device that will be set off at Busch before the homestand is over.

    The Cardinals offense has found its way in the past two weeks but could use a boost. Now with Grichuk back, the run production should only increase. Sitting with 92 wins, the best team in baseball is only going to get stronger in the next few weeks. How hard it must be to witness from the outside of The Lou?

    The appeal of Grichuk is universal and even appeals to the casual baseball fan, like my wife. When I asked her where Grichuk should hit, her response was simple. “4th because he’s hot and he can clean up.” Unlike most Cardinals who people have a hard time remembering, Randal Grichuk isn’t easy to forget. He may strike out, hit a 410 foot home run or whiz a single past the pitcher’s ear. All in one night. He’s an experience.

    And that experience has returned.

    Have a good night and thanks for stopping by.

    -@buffa82

    Are the Cardinals really “vigilantes”?

    After Friday’s game, Cubs manager Joe Maddon called the Cards “vigilante’s”. Is that right?

    So the Cubs beat the Cardinals Friday and Saturday but wait, there’s more.

    Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
    Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

    Friday, in the 5th inning, Matt Holliday was hit in the head by a Dan Haren breaking pitch that got away from the veteran starter. The pitch bounced off Holliday’s helmet, and tempers barely rose. Holliday slowly walked down the line, touched the base and exited. Remember, this was always the plan. Holliday was never going to stay in the game. He’s still got a gimpy leg. The effect of this HBP would reverberate throughout the game. Like the night you are lazy and eat McDonald’s because there’s nothing else open but you feel it right afterwards. Part of me wanted Holliday to pull an Avengers and hulk slam Haren like the big green fella did Loki, but that’s just the movie addict in me.

    This came after Tyler Lyons hit Anthony Rizzo in the fourth inning. Clearly not intentional and Rizzo hovers the plate anyway. However…

    In the 8th inning, Cards pitcher Matt Belisle threw a pitch behind Anthony Rizzo that barely brushed his calf, but the young first baseman reacted differently than Holliday and took a step towards the mound. This is baseball, land of the shoving contests and hard stares, so there was never going to be a real fight. Belisle was kicked out due to the warnings given by umpires after the Holliday HBP, and Mike Matheny was also sent packing. Enough, right? No, after the game Joe Maddon unleashed a tirade that included rewriting books on late game strategy and noted that the Cards “started this but we will finish it”. I really think Joe likes to hear himself talk but that’s just me.

    Lost control or not, Haren hit Holliday in the head. As Tony La Russa would say, get better control of your pitches or go play softball. Rizzo gets grazed in the leg and he’s mad about it. Please. I am surprised Rizzo actually got out of the way of a pitch because if it helps his on base percentage, it’ll let anything touch him. Point being, whether the pitch was on purpose, there’s no reason to get up in a frenzy about it. It’s baseball folks. That’s all. The Cards retaliated in the least harmful way possible. Was it right? No. Did Maddon need to treat this game like the Art of War declaration? No.

    In Saturday’s game, three Cardinal batters were hit. Kolten Wong was hit twice, one on a pitch up and in. Joe Maddon and his pitcher were ejected in the 9th inning. After Maddon’s big speech on Friday evening after the game, how does he justify his pitchers plunking three Cardinals the next day. Were the HBP on purpose? No. Will we ever know for sure? No. Pitchers are paid to throw baseball at a high velocity towards the plate and establish a zone that hitters have a hard time touching. Faulty results are common. This weekend has proved not only has the rivalry returned but foolhardy hijinks have followed as well. It’s all kind of unneeded.

    For all the Matheny haters and critics out there, have you seen how cool and collected he has been while Maddon has acted like a hungry child? Take notes if you will.

    Here’s what I don’t like. The umpires warning the benches so early after supposed unintentional hit by pitch incidents. If it was clearly not on purpose, why warn them? The rest of the game, each team is put on edge and anything inside becomes suspect to ejection of players and cool tempers. It’s comical. The Holliday head shot was unfortunate and 99% unintentional, but why issue a warning? Nothing is more ridiculous in baseball than the under-cooked bench warnings.

    This sets up a hot and contested finale on Sunday that was already carrying juice Friday morning. At the very least, this sets the burner on this previously dead rivalry to medium high. The Cubs haven’t had someone that was this outspoken since Dusty Baker and we all know how those Septembers played out. While the Maddon speech was a bit over the top, it did signify that these two teams don’t like each other all that much and this historically prevalent rivalry has got its legs back.

    You know what they say about Wrigley action in September? To quote the late and great Joaquin Andujar, “you never know”. Welcome to the end of a long tired season. You can act like a manager whose team has looked up at the Cardinals for 5 straight seasons or you can stay calm and cool like Matheny and know that as long as the Cards avoid a sweep Sunday, the series wasn’t botched.

    Where do you stand on this HBP infused rivalry?

    In Defense of Mike Matheny

    As the St. Louis Cardinals enter the final two weeks of the 2015, I ask the hottest question. Does Mike Matheny deserve the hate?

    There isn’t a more popular trend on Twitter during St. Louis Cardinals games than throwing manager Mike Matheny on a white hot grill and dissecting his moves. Every fan base does it, but in St. Louis it’s an extreme activity. Win or lose, it’s all about what did Matheny do wrong.

    There should be a new stat for the Matheny critics called Wins Above Matheny. WAM instead of WAR or WIN. When I decided to defend Matheny last month for a controversial move, I was riddled with comments and feedback that saw people questioning my judgement and soberness. You would think I was defending a coach managing a team in last place with 40 more losses than wins.

    The situation. Washington Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman came to the plate in the 8th inning with first base open. He had scolded the Cardinals and the National League for the past week. He cranked two home runs Wednesday and four during the series. The consensus of Twitter wanted Matheny to walk Zimmerman and pitch to Yunel Escobar, who is a fine hitter with a .320 average off right-handed pitchers. Jonathan Broxton had walked a guy to begin the inning. He had a 3-1 strikeouts to walks ratio and was holding right-handed hitters to a .214 average.

    I didn’t have a problem with Matheny allowing Brox to be careful or pitch to Zimmerman. Ryan hit an outside pitch down the right field line for a go ahead double. The Cardinals didn’t sweep and therefore fell to a rougher 39 games over .500. People immediately blamed the skipper for allowing Brox to pitch to Zimmerman, aka Mickey Mantle. They didn’t point out the weak offense that managed three runs on 13 hits or Brox for failing to get the man out. This is a usual activity for fans after a loss. How can we blame Matheny?

    The same thing happened Friday st Wrigley. The Cards get beat by Joe Maddon’s Cubs and it is all Matheny’s fault. Please.

    Let me state that Matheny isn’t perfect. Far from it. Which manager is perfect? He has an attachment with certain players even when they clearly aren’t doing their job or are not healthy(Allen Craig in 2014, Jon Jay in 2015). He does make questionable calls during games. He can be outmanaged by a fellow manager like Bruce Bochy but also runs circles around other player turned managers like Don Mattingley and Matt Williams.

    Matheny’s tutelage and ability as a tactician is a great subject for ridicule but it’s also something that is still being honed. Ask any fanbase if they love all the in game moves by their manager and the list will be very short. St. Louis fans just don’t experience this because they are too busy chopping down Matheny. He is not without his faults but he is also doing something impressive with the roster this season.

    Anyone who can’t appreciate Matheny’s work this year will probably never appreciate his work. The 2015 Cardinals have been hit with a variety of injuries and setbacks. They lost their ace starting pitcher, their left fielder, their first baseman, their setup man, and their versatile outfield bat in Jon Jay for a huge part of the season. Jaime Garcia went missing for a stretch. Their bullpen has also lost Matt Belisle for half a season. Nothing has gone right. Hot bat Randal Grichuk has been out for two weeks. Still, for the fourth year in a row, the Cardinals are right among the top teams in the National League. They are a remarkable 92-55 with a 5 lead over Pittsburgh.

    How does credit not find Mike Matheny for his work with a roster that has been made up of AAA hands for fair portions of the season? How does he not deserve a decent amount of consideration for Manager of the Year when he lost three starters in the first three months of the season? When people have to reference a World Series mistake from 2013 in their criticism of Matheny, isn’t that telling you something? The man has improved dramatically this year.

    Many pointed to his usage of Trevor Rosenthal last year as horrible. This year, he has went to Kevin Siegrist for saves throughout the season and even used Rosenthal in non save chances. His usage of his closer has improved this year and the results are there on display. The closer is getting results and looks a lot sharper this year as a result of Matheny’s adjustment.

    Matheny has leaned on rookies like Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty in the absence of veteran starters. He only starts Pete Kozma once every two weeks and Tony Cruz once a week. He isn’t calling for as many bunts as he has in the past. The improvements are there while the results are still overwhelmingly positive. Did anybody see this team in this position when Waino went down in late April? The answer is no. If you ask the majority of Cardinal nation on social media, the credit belongs to a pitching staff and not Matheny.

    How many seasons does this guy have to win in order to gain more respect from his fans? If we go off the great football coach Bill Parcells’ saying that you are as good as your record, then Matheny is very very good. When managers are fired in baseball, the fans and media point to their record. In St. Louis, it just doesn’t matter how good Matheny’s teams are, he doesn’t deserve the credit. Hey look at what Clint Hurdle is doing in Pittsburgh! Look at Terry Collins in New York! Joe Maddon’s Cubs are great!

    Hey, neither of those teams are as good as the Cardinals and neither of those teams have dealt with the amount of injuries Matheny has been forced to juggle in St. Louis. Doesn’t that apply when assessing a manager? How else do you assess a coach or manager in sports?

    Mike Matheny has 20 playoff wins in 39 career postseason games, but people will point to his losses to the Giants and Red Sox(eventual World Series winners) as his downfall. Well, of course. That doesn’t make him a bad manager. It just doesn’t make sense.

    Matheny’s record as manager of the St. Louis Cardinals is 367-266. Matheny has done that with numerous injuries and breakdowns. Give a roster to Matheny and he wins. Weak bench or not, he wins. Every year. For some people, that’s not enough. The Cardinals can win 8 of 10 games here to finish August and start September, but the loss to the Nationals will be nitpicked. He gets all the blame for the losses and little credit for the wins. Sounds like a losing argument to me.

    Matheny can win a World Series and people will complain. That’s a bet. Some managers and coaches can’t escape blame. If Randy Choate comes in and doesn’t do his job once, Matheny is blamed for using him. When Choate does it, it was just Choate making a pitch. When Seth Maness coaxes double plays like a magician, it’s not Matheny knowing when it use him or not, it’s just Seth magic. When pitchers fail, it’s Matheny’s fault. If Brox gets Zimmerman out, nothing happens or at least, Brox bailed out Matheny. If Zimmerman walks and Escobar cranks an RBI hit, Matheny is blamed for pitching around Zimmerman. Win or lose, the narrative on Matheny never changes.

    I think he is the right man to manage this team. When Ryne Sandberg was canned in Philadelphia, Jimmy Rollins pointed to some guys not feeling 100% convinced Sandberg was the man for the job in 2014. They talked about not playing all out or go for broke for their manager. You NEVER hear that in St. Louis. The players on this roster would go through walls for their manager. His connection with these players and their trust and belief in him can’t be quantified by a stat on Fangraphs or Baseball Reference, but it’s a real thing that beats throughout his clubhouse. Matheny is the right man for this team, which is why I was happy with John Mozeliak hiring him after the 2011 season. There isn’t a manager out there who could elicit a better performance from this team. Sorry Terry Francona fans.

    While the narrative will support Collins and Maddon for the award, I think Matheny deserves serious consideration for the Manager of the Year award. The injuries, expectations and hurdles he has faced this year may have gotten the best of a lot of young managers, but not Matheny. There has to be a value in there. A value to go with his 361 regular season wins and 20 playoff wins.

    It’s easy to throw blame on Matheny. The crowd is huge for that. While I will complain about some of his tactics, that’s par for the course in this game. Maddon, Hurdle, and Collins all get grilled by their fanbase just as hard. I can recognize an improvement in Matheny’s managerial performance this season. He’s growing as a manager while being the best leader in any clubhouse in baseball. No players trust their leader like the Cards trust Matheny. The results are there. The little things are catching up fast.

    While he is far from the people’s favorite, Mike Matheny is the man for the job in St. Louis. His record and improvement in a treacherous season have earned him serious consideration for the Manager of the Year award. Have they not?

    What is your take on the manager?

    Cardinals: Sky isn’t falling but it’s ugly

    Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
    Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

    Important note to start out with. It’s not giving up on a team to call a recent string of play ugly.

    The St. Louis Cardinals are in the midst of a bad stretch of baseball, their worst in 2015. Their September record is 3-8. Their lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League Central Division of 6.5 games a week ago is now 3 games before the Pirates begin play tonight against Milwaukee. There is only so much kool-aid a man can drink before he recognizes what he is seeing is bad for business.

    A slump is one thing, but the timing of this particular slump and the opponents beating the Cardinals make this one hard to digest. After dominating the Central all year, the Cards lost series at home to Chicago and Pittsburgh and one on the road this weekend to Cincinnati. Take away the miraculous come from behind win Wednesday and this streak is very ugly.

    It doesn’t help when the Cardinals are losing to average rookie pitchers and bad teams. For example, with the three wins in a row this week against St. Louis, the Reds have moved to 27.5 games behind the first place Birds.

    This weekend, the following Reds rookie starting pitchers have shut the Cards down. John Lamb, Michael Lorenzen, and Anthony Desclafani. These kinds of pitchers and teams are the lowly scrubs that the Cards need to dismiss and destroy in order to keep a stranglehold on the division. At the most important time of the season, the Birds are playing their worst baseball.

    Was a slump like this to be expected from a team clinging to great pitching and dealing with the worst slate of injuries in the league? Yes, but that doesn’t make the results digestible. While the pitching has come back to earth the past 10 games, the hitting is still what’s plaguing this team.

    A look at a few hitters and their performances these past 7 games. 

    Mark Reynolds 0-11 with 7 strikeouts

    Brandon Moss-0-21 with 11 strikeouts

    Jon Jay 3-17 with 7 strikeouts

    Jhonny Peralta 2-19 with 5 strikeouts

    The rest of the lineup won’t get a pass but these are the prime suspects. Jay clearly hasn’t improved since his return from a persisting wrist injury and Moss’ supposed hot streak has burned off. Peralta’s second half slump continues. Reynolds’ bat has slowed down.

    Matt Holliday can’t return fast enough. Matt Adams and Randal Grichuk have returned from the disabled list but are not 100%. That needs to change. The lineup needs something. With Holliday’s return, Stephen Piscotty moves to first base and pushes cold bats like Reynolds and Moss to the bench and Grichuk’s return won’t give Mike Matheny the opportunity to use Jon Jay as much.

    Other bad news. Tommy Pham’s once hot bat can’t find the starting lineup and Tony Cruz needs at bats to get ready for his undeserved playoff roster appearance. There’s no refuge in sight save for Greg Garcia’s surprising presence at shortstop and second base and Kolten Wong’s return this weekend. To say there is a light at the end of the tunnel is a tough sell, even for a team that has endured all kinds of setbacks and obstacles this season.

    17 of the final 20 games this season are against N.L. Central opponents. The Cards finish the road trip against the Reds, Milwaukee Brewers and Cubs before coming home to deal with the Reds and Brewers and finish with the Pirates and Atlanta Braves. It’s a weak schedule on paper, but any opponent looms as a threat right now, especially inside the division.

    Optimism lies in the belief that the pitching will right the ship and the returning veterans can add some firepower. The Cardinals can use any sort of offense at the moment. After seeing their division lead shrink, the Cards have walked into Cincinnati and scored just 3 runs in 27 innings. That’s pathetic for a team with the best record in baseball. When your rivals aren’t quitting, there’s no room for a slip.

    Is the sky falling in St. Louis? No. Is it apparent that something is wrong and there’s a malfunction in the system and a fix is required? Yes. The Cardinals need a boost. Who will give it to them? Stay tuned. September just got interesting. Have the Cards ever made it easy on their fans?

    Should fans be worried about Carlos Martinez?

    The young righthander has looked rougher of late, but that doesn’t mean he is spiraling out of control.

    Back in March, there were people who didn’t even believe Carlos Martinez could be an effective 5th starter for the St. Louis Cardinals. Questions came in about his maturity and emotion on the mound. Some questioned his ability to go deep into games. Some just liked Marco Gonzales better. Flash forward a few months and “El Gallo” has blazed a trail through the National League. He hasn’t just looked like a legit starter but a probable ace down the road. However, lately, the soon to be 24 year old righthander has looked a bit more human. Is this rookie starter fatigue, hitters coming around to him, or just some rusty aftershocks of an unbelievable 2/3 portion of the season?

    Let’s slow down and remember the kid is only 23 years old. He’s young, fiery and has enough life in his arm for two pitchers in Milwaukee. Downfall is always a suspect in a young man’s rookie season and I am talking rookie season because 2015 is the entry campaign for Martinez’s real job. A starter for the best team in baseball.

    The team took precaution and rested him against The Nationals, citing a sore back even though an innings precaution was the likely idea. Coming into Friday’s start against Pittsburgh, Martinez had 154.2 innings, a season high for any stop in the young man’s career. A wall was going to be struck at some point.

    After compiling earned run averages of 2.18 and 2.03 in June and July, Martinez’s ERA for August was 4.15. The trend started on July 30th when Martinez was beat up for 5 earned runs and 10 hits against Colorado. After a decent 5 inning effort against the Reds, Martinez threw a gem against Pittsburgh. Eight innings, 3 earned runs and eight strikeouts. Miami then reached him for 4 earned runs before Carlos fired consecutive quality starts against San Diego and Arizona. Friday, the Pirates got to him for four earned runs in five innings. That’s six starts with rough ones included. This followed a stretch where Martinez didn’t allow more than 3 earned runs in 13 consecutive starts. Hitters are reaching him for a .292 average since the All Star break and his ERA is 3.80 during that time.

    When it comes to pitch usage differences, Martinez has leaned more on his changeup and slider in the past month over his sinker, which is a world renowned deadly pitch. Friday, his fastball had zip but everything else was flat.

    So, is there reason to be worried about Martinez? Is the back an issue? Is rest an issue? Was a rhythm disrupted with the rest or is Martinez just having a rough patch?

    I don’t think there’s reason to worry too much about the kid. He’s still 13-7 with a 3.07 ERA to go with a 2.5-1 strikeouts to walks ratio. His WHIP is respectable and he still has an ability to pitch well with runners on base and in scoring position. A “human” stretch may force certain scribes to revisit old themes and fans to question the durability of the young man but I still see a fiery finish to the season.

    Martinez carries loads of emotion, willpower and guile to the hill every start. He won’t let it weigh him down. He’ll pop back out on the mound for his start against The Cubs on Wednesday for the homestand finale with something to prove. Here’s something to remember. Martinez has pitched at least five innings in a start since May 9th. Expect him to respond. This is not your normal young pitcher. Martinez is foolishly talented and will be ready, on regular rest, on Wednesday. It’s not time to overthink his durability or stature.

    The rest means the Cardinals are thinking of him for a playoff rotation spot and that’s the right move. As easy as it is to once again send Martinez to the bullpen for the third straight time, it’s important to remember the kid’s 2.68 ERA and .228 batting average against on the road. That shouldn’t be forgotten.

    Yes, Martinez has looked rougher as of late, but that doesn’t mean September will end with a Martinez fade. He had a rough May as well(4.19 ERA) and he bounced back. Sometimes, the kid just needs to breathe and relax in remembering this is a six month season and it’s a lot different when you only pitch once every five days. 2015 is still a class in session for Martinez. Some bumps were expected but the course is still set.

    Carlos Martinez will ride high again…after he is finished building the largest tower of cups in the dugout this weekend.

    Max Scherzer was a gamble Cardinals didn’t need to take

    Max Scherzer is a great pitcher but not one the Cardinals needed to invest in. My article on the Chesterfield native.

    When Washington Nationls and St. Louis native Max Scherzer was testing free agency in the offseason, many in St. Louis were wondering if the hometown Cardinals should put an offer in. Why not? Max is in the prime of his career, has the arsenal of an ace and would be able to put the Birds on the Bat on his chest at last. A alum of The University of Missouri, Columbia, it’d be a homecoming for Mad Max. There was just one thing. He wasn’t needed. I wrote about it then and confirming it now.

    Let’s flash forward eight months. The best ERA in baseball belongs to the Cardinals(2.73) and the most quality starts(94) sits in St. Louis as well. This happens without Adam Wainwright for all but four starts and only a half order of lethal lefty Jaime Garcia. It includes an old tough cowboy in John Lackey, a durable innings beast in Lance Lynn, and two white hot phenoms in Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez. Along the way, Tyler Lyons and Tim Cooney have also helped. Where does Max fit into this equation? Where does his seven year, 210 million dollar contract fit in with the Birds?

    Scherzer is making 17 million this year and 22 million from 2016-2018. After that, he is scheduled to make 42 million over the next three years(2019-21) but it is being spread out over the next seven years. The Nationals are going to be paying Scherzer for the next 13 seasons, but he isn’t scheduled to throw a pitch after 2021. Does that sound like something John Mozeliak would do?

    The answer is no and the reason he didn’t step into that ring was due to the depth and success the Cardinals have established over the past few seasons. It seems like every year the Cardinals are hit with brutal injuries and just bounce back like warriors in a coliseum. That’s because they aren’t built on one insane contract. Mozeliak traded Shelby Miller and didn’t get close to the Scherzer tree because of guys like Wacha and Martinez. When you are growing perfect tomatoes, why pay outside the farm?

    To be fair, Scherzer is having a solid season that needs to be appreciated. His fielding independent ERA is 2.75 and he has 219 strikeouts to just 26 walks. He has thrown three complete games and two shutouts. His record, 11-11, is just another signal of how useless the win total can be with a pitcher. He’s earning that 17 million dollars. I’m just glad he is doing it in a Nationals uniform and not a Cardinals one.

    Pitching is not what the Cardinals are in need of. Prime hitting, especially in the future with aging bodies like Matt Holliday reaching the final stage of their career, is their need. The money that fans wanted to see put into an arm like Scherzer will go into a long term contract for Jason Heyward. In the end, Mo knows when it comes to what free agents to bring in and which ones to just smile and look at. A talent that has been growing out at 7th street and Spruce for a while now.

    While Max Scherzer coming home to pitch for the Cardinals would have been a nice story and generated some waves across baseball, it simply wasn’t a gamble the Cardinals and Mozeliak needed to take.

    Photo by Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports