Monday, June 28, 2010

Torre vs. Yankees

I honestly have grown weary of interleague play. The first few years, the novelty carried it. Things peaked for me in 2003, when the Yankees made their first trip to Wrigley. During that series, I watched Roger Clemens battle Kerry Wood in an attempt to win his 300th game. Both pitchers were dealing, and the Cubs ultimately won the game on a late rally. Of course, that just cemented my belief that I am a jinx -- as I very rarely saw the Cubs win up to that point, and now saw them play like a good team against my favorite team. The years have tarnished that game somewhat. Of course, that was the same season of the infamous "Bartman" game, and then the Yankees won in extra innings of ALCS game 7, only to come up short against a Marlins team that probably shouldn't have made it to the World Series, and I'd have been rooting for had it not ruined the post season for everyone in my household (my wife is a HUGE Cubs fan).

Since 2003, the matchups seem less and less magic. Since I don't live in NYC, or even NY state, I don't get overly excited for Yankees/Mets. I don't live in Missouri, so I don't have much reason to care about Cards/Royals. I do enjoy the Sox/Cubs rivalry, but not having a rooting interest just makes it a diversion. But the geographic rivalries have been a bit watered down by 6 games every season, just like the unbalanced schedule has taken some of the magic away from great divisional rivalries like Yankees/Red Sox, Cubs/Cardinals and Giants/Dodgers. There have been seasons where the number of games have added to the tension, but more often, it just allows the hype machine to annoy us to the point of not caring. I mean, the first Cubs/Sox series here in Chicago featured two teams that didn't look to be going anywhere. So unless you're born and bred in the city with the geographic rivalry, I don't think you really feel the excitement of these games more than any other series.

Of course, there are exceptions, and we just finished one for this year -- Joe Torre's first series managing against the Yankees. So many subplots -- most of which don't really deserve space in print -- but there's no denying that Torre will go down in history as one of the great Yankee managers of all time. Maybe the greatest, because he did his thing in an era where you can't so much as belch without it becoming news. Torre's become synonymous with the cool and collected demeanor -- the steady calm that always seems to rise above the fray. But, during last night's rubber game in the series, you could see the agony on his face as the poor man's Rivera that he's got in LA failed to nail down the win. It was a thrilling win for Yankees fans, and a heartbreaking loss for Torre and Dodger nation. Torre in LA has never seemed that weird, until I saw photos of Torre greeting Jeter, Posada, Pettitte and Rivera. Other members of the current Yankees obviously played for Joe, but these 4 guys were such a big part of Torre's run. It was strange, and one of the first times I've really felt bad for the losing team while watching a Yankee win.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

My All Star Ballot

Right -- so I'm sure you're sitting there thinking -- Wonder who Chris is voting for on his All Star Ballot. Right, biggest question I get each summer. (if you can't pick up on the sarcasm....)

So, without further ado, my AL picks are:
  • 1B - Miguel Cabrera -- Tough call between Miggy, Morneau and Konerko for me. Probably wouldn't notice Paulie if I didn't live in Chicago. Picked Miggy because he had more RBI and HR than Morneau
  • 2B - Robinson Cano -- No contest for me here. Cano has been crushing the ball, and he's underrated on defense.
  • SS - Derek Jeter -- I have to be honest....I voted Jeter because he's my favorite player. He's having a typical year by his standards, but really would have voted Jeter unless he was having an awful year.
  • 3B - Evan Longoria -- His New Era cap commercial almost killed it. But he's got great all around numbers, and gave him the nod over Beltre because of the steals.
  • C - Joe Mauer -- Really, a popularity pick. Mauer's having a decent, but not great season. No one else jumps up and gets your attention though, so voting for the name.
  • DH - Vlad Guerrero -- Raise your hand if you thought he was all but done. I don't care if its the Texas affecet -- he's having a great year.
  • OF - Carl Crawford, Jose Bautista, Torii Hunter -- I think Crawford may be the best all around outfielder in the game. He can beat you so many ways. Bautista has come out of nowhere and is having a great year. Probably a player or two more deserving than Hunter (Hamilton, Wells, etc), but always liked Torii and felt like the home town team needed someone in the starting lineup.
  • 1B - Adrian Gonzalez -- I almost always check Pujols off and don't think twice. But looking at stats, AG is right there with big Albert, and the Padres have been a pleasant surprise. Tie-breaker with to Gonzalez because he's a West Coast guy and its a West Coast All Star site.
  • 2B - Martin Prado -- I could make an argument for Brandon Phillips, Rickie Weeks and Kelly Johnson. Went Prado because the Braves are playing great right now, and this guy just seems to be the classic unheralded guy that is getting it done.
  • SS - Hanley Ramirez -- Really, really, really wanted to vote for someone else here because of his display after getting benched for dogging it. He deserved the benching, but the stats didn't give me a good enough reason to vote for someone else.
  • 3B - Scott Rolen -- Ok, a little bit of a vote with the heart here. Rolen's bounced back nicely after returning the NL, and no one else was so much better across the board. Wright, McGehee, Freese, Zimmerman were all considered.
  • C - Yadier Molina -- Ok, I'll be accused of voting for the guy on my favorite team, but ignored the stats and went with the guy that calls a great game and shuts down the running game. Average aside, he's not terrible on offense, either.
  • OF - Ryan Braun, Andre Ethier, Carlos Gonzalez -- Ethier's tailed off after returning from injury, but still has great numbers. Braun is as consistent as they come, and honestly, you need the big bat if you hope to beat the AL. Gonzalez is a bit of a surprise, but as I was comparing stats, noticed his numbers match up favorably with Braun. I thought that earned a vote. I really wanted to vote for Jason Heyward here, but his recent slump makes it a tough sell.
So there you go. I really hope the NL wins this year -- I'm more a fan of the NL style of game than the AL, plus it is getting boring seeing the AL win every year.

Is Strasburg an All Star? Join the debate.....

My cousin (and fellow blogger over at and I have long talked of how great it would be to have our own radio show where we could talk sports and debate the topics of the day. The great thing about it would be that we both generally see things the same way, but differ just enough to stir a lively debate. He's written a great piece advocating Stephen Strasburg being named to the 2010 All Star team. Fulfilling our long held dream, I'm taking on his piece with my $.02. I would love to hear your comments, as would he, so please feel free to comment here, or over at

I've heard good and bad arguments for Stras-mas, as it has been called, to extend to the All Star game. The two best reasons I can come up with to support his inclusion are:
  1. The All Star game determines home field for the World Series, and Strasburg gives the NL a better chance at winning.
  2. Strasburg is a huge draw for the fans, and the All Star game, at the end of the day, is for the fans.
Honestly, the fan in me would like to see him get a shot to pitch against the best of the AL, and I wouldn't be the least bit upset if it happens. I think Bud Selig has already tarnished the game by pinning home field on it, so including a player that has only made 4 starts to date, and will only make 2 more before the break, is no big deal.

Where I start to have a bit of a problem with things is when you start to wonder how many players the Nationals will send to the game. While there are other guys manning third base with better numbers (David Wright, Scott Rolen, David Freese to name a few), I find it hard to go too deep down the list of NL thirdbasemen before you hit Ryan Zimmerman. He's been a solid player for a couple of years, but has been somewhat underrated after a strong rookie campaign. He's putting up his usual solid numbers this year, and is among the best in the game on defense. Does Strasburg get the nod over a full time player if only one Nat is representing the team in Anaheim? If I thought the fans would vote him as a starter, I'd feel differently, but I think a guy like Wright will be the starter on name recognition and his home market alone (although I'm not meaning to suggest he hasn't earned the spot).

I also think Tyler Clippard gets slighted if you put Strasburg on the team. Clippard has been a revelation out of the pen, and has become one of the best setup men in the game. It's equally a testament to his potential and an indictment of the Nationals' rotation to point out that Clippard is among the wins leaders in the NL, but I think it does warrant considering the former "Yankee Clippard" for a spot.

I do think the All Star game is meant to reward the players who have had a solid first half. By letting the fans determine the starters, you already routinely see undeserving players starting the game. So I don't think it's a slam dunk to hand a spot to a guy that didn't even make it to the majors until early June -- especially when it comes at the expense of a guy that's been getting it done since April 6th. Strasburg is an exciting talent, would be a huge draw for the fans, and likely bring a number of casual fans to the game. I'm just not sure I completely agree that it's the right thing to do for a game that has already been subject to some poor decisions on the commissioner's part.

Please join the debate and leave a comment.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Time to give Josh his due

Roy Halladay pitched a perfect game against the Marlins. Ubaldo Jimenez tossed a no-no against the Braves. Stephen Strasburg has set the record for most strikeouts through the first 3 starts of a career. Mike Leake skipped the minors and made it until mid-June before losing a game. Tim Lincecum, despite a few rough outings, is having another typically stellar year for the Giants. Adam Wainwright is looking more and more like the #1 starter in the Cardinals rotation. Armando Galaraga pitched what many are already calling the first 28 out perfect game in history. Rotations everywhere -- especially in the NL -- are dominated by young, up and coming pitchers. And sooner or later, Cuban import Aroldis Chapman will get the call from AAA Louisville to help settle down the Cincinatti Reds starting rotation.

It just might be the biggest year for pitchers since the dead ball era ended. Yet for all of the talk about other names, one pitcher out there continues to amaze with little hype, if any at all. Josh Johnson looked like a star in the making after going 12-7 with a 3.10 ERA and 133 Ks in 2006. His 2007 season ended early and Johnson hit the DL after only pitching 15.2 innings. Tommy John surgery followed, but Johnson made it back to pitch towards the end of 2008. Johnson was decent, but took some time to settle in as his control returned. 2009 saw him return to the form many expected as he won 15 with a 3.23 ERA and 191 Ks. As we opened 2010, many expected Johnson to be a Cy Young contender.

He struggled out of the gate this season as he failed to go deeper than 6 innings in each of his first 4 starts while posting a 1-1 record. Then on April 26, he tossed a complete game giving up only 3 hits and 1 earned run, and it looked as if he had turned a corner. He followed that game with two somewhat rough outings vs. the Nationals where he gave up 5 ER in 12 total innings, but did record one win. From that point forward, the man has been among the best -- if not the best -- pitchers in baseball. He's in the midst of a sting of 8 games where he's pitched at least 7 innings in every game except one, and has not given up more than one earned run in any of those starts. He's seen his ERA shrink from 3.35 on May 8 to 1.80 after a dominating 8 inning, 6 hit, 1 run performance against one of the best teams in baseball - the Tampa Bay Rays. He's also faced the Phillies' Roy Halladay twice in that span -- losing one as "Doc" pitched a perfect game and winning the other.

He's a sure bet to be an All Star and has put his hat into the ring for the NL Cy Young. If Johnson pitched anywhere besides South Florida -- where you might be pitching in front of a crowd of 3,000 on a good night -- he'd be a household name. As it is, he might just be the most underrated starter in the game.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day 2010

Most of this is a post I wrote for Father's Day last year. This year's Father's Day is still special for all of the reasons that I wrote about last year, but also for the fact that I'm celebrating my first one as a Dad. My daughter, Quinn, was born this past January, and the last 5 months have been an incredible ride. All that I can say is that I've been told by many people over the years what it feels like to be a Dad, and never understood a single word of it until I saw that little face looking back at me on the day my daughter was born. My heart skips a beat everytime I see her smile at me. Its the greatest feeling in the world. Later today, I'll be taking her to her first Kane County Cougars game, and I can't think of too many things that I've been more excited for in my life. Happy Father's Day to all of the dads out there, and if you haven't done so yet -- go call your dad right now and wish him a Happy Father's Day.

****************************** From 2009 ********************************

My Dad has basically had it with baseball. He has always been a Yankees fan, but for the most part refuses to watch a game. As with most kids, my Dad bought me my first glove -- taught me how to catch, how to swing a bat, how to curve up the bill on my hats so I didn't look like a dufus. I do wish he'd have taught me how to pitch, because as a lefty, it seems as if you don't have to be that good to stay employed.

(a shot of my Dad and I while on vacation last summer in Petosky, MI)

DSC_0069.JPGThe modern athlete has taken a toll on his love for the game (and sports in general, truth be told) and the Players strike in 1994 was the final straw. He has not set foot in a Major League Baseball stadium since....although he will take in a Minor League Game on occasion. As with many fans who grew up in the 50's and 60's, my Dad's favorite player is Mickey Mantle, and "the Mick" is the reason he became a Yankees fan. Even though he has sworn off the rituals of being an active fan, he does still read a few books about the game and its history, and surprises me with a story or two about players that he has seen. One of my favorite baseball/Dad memories is watching the movie "61*" with my Dad. It was a fairly well made movie, and for those of you who haven't seen the film, it tells the story Mantle's and Roger Maris' chase of Babe Ruth's single season home run record during the 1961 season (one which many would argue he still has). My Dad actually feels bad today at the thought of how pro-Mantle he was at the time, and says that he remembers my uncle taking a club or a bat to a tree in their backyard any time Maris would homer and Mantle would not. My Dad is the reason that I love the New York Yankees -- even though he isn't as big of a fan as he was when he sat me down to watch Reggie Jackson back in the late 70's, it is still something that means a lot to me because it is something I share with my Dad.

My maternal Grandfather is a HUGE Cardinals fan. My first memories of actually attending a game are of seeing Ozzie Smith and the Cardinals play in the old -- but not oldest -- Busch Stadium. To this day, that is my subconscious measuring stick for any ballpark I visit. He also used to take me to see the Springfield (IL) Redbirds, the AAA team for the St. Louis Cardinals, which has since moved to Louisville, KY and on to Memphis, TN. I used to have a closet full of those plastic batting helmets that he would buy for me and my sister when we'd go to games. He's told me stories about Dizzy Dean and Bob Gibson, and gave me my one real piece of baseball memorabilia -- a commemorative Coke that he bought for me at Game 7 of the 1982 World Series. I still have the Coke, and it has never been opened (I'm told that makes it worth more money, but you couldn't give me enough to part with it). During the 2006 playoffs, I exchanged emails with my Grandfather talking about the games. He has a habit of butchering players' names whether he's saying them or writing them, so it made for some great laughs reading his nicknames for players. When I think of that team, I think of two things -- those emails and Cadillacs. Why Cadillacs? Because he was so excited that they won the Series that he used it as an excuse to go buy a new car.

My paternal Grandfather is sadly no longer with us. He passed away in 1992, and I miss him to this day. He was the kind of man that I didn't always appreciate when I was a kid. He didn't spoil us with toys or anything like that, but I came to realize that of all the men I knew, he may have been one of the finest. He loved to watch baseball -- mostly the Chicago Cubs, although he also rooted for the Yankees. I think the thing that I really learned from him was how to watch a game and appreciate players that were good -- even if you hated the team they played for. I can remember sitting and listening to him talk about Darryl Strawberry. I have always hated the Mets, and aside from his Yankee tenure, have never been a Strawberry fan. But I remember that my Grandfather enjoyed watching him play. I wish I'd have made more of an effort when he was alive to simply stop by his house and sit and watch a game with him, but I'd like to think that he knows that I always think about him when I sit down to watch a game.

I've been told by several people that I'm not a real Yankees fan or a Cardinals fan because I try to root for two teams. I understand why you might think that, but I have to disagree. I feel like my love of the Yankees in some way pays tribute to my Dad and my love for the Cardinals pays the same to my Grandfather. It's a cliché, but baseball has always seemed to be a special thing that a kid shares with his Dad or Granddad.

I've been extremely blessed to have these three men play such a huge role in my life. I've tied everything to baseball for the purposes of this post -- what else would you do when you're writing something on -- but that is just one small and unimportant reason why I'll be thinking about all three of them tomorrow.

I love you, Dad.

I love you Grandpa George.

I love (and miss you) Grandpa Alf.

Thanks for everything. And thank you for reading -- now go call your Dad and wish him a Happy Father's Day.

Friday, June 18, 2010

We were robbed

Through 45 minutes, it seemed the US Men's soccer team was living up to their reputation as a somewhat talented team that wilted on the big stage. Here was the "underdog" Slovenia leading the US 2-0 at the half. Looked pretty bleak for the Americans.

But, unlike in World Cups past, the US came out and attacked the opposing goal with an intensity that is often missing for this side. Landon Donovan slammed home a goal to cut things to 2-1 and gave the team some hope. After a few squandered chances, Michael Bradley, the son of the US coach, fired home the equalizer, and the match was tied.

This would have been a fine result considering the early deficit, but the US kept pressing, and won a free kick late in the second half. Landon Donovan sent a beautiful ball heading toward the box. The ball found sub Maurice Edu, who seemed to put the possible game winner in the net at the 86th minute. But -- just as the team and announcers started to celebrate, the referee called off the goal. The first thought was that it was an offsides call, but replays showed that all of the US players were, indeed, onside. The call was a foul on the US. I'm far from a soccer expert, but have not seen anything close to a foul committed by a US player in any replay. ESPN's experts have not been able to explain the call, either.

The final match of the day saw England draw with Algeria at 0-0 -- a result that will no doubt have the Brits feeling pressure at home that most of us can't understand. This result was nearly as shocking as the horrible call that denied the US the win vs. Slovenia. The English team looked to be afraid of screwing up the game, and the end result was a game that was ....well, screwed up. The only parallel I can draw to what it must be like to play for England is playing for the New York Yankees. Some players thrive, but many find the white hot spotlight that comes from playing in NY to be too much to contend with, and their game suffers.

The US controls their fate. If they beat Algeria, they are through and advance to the next round. Should the US earn a draw in their next match, and England also earns a draw, the US will likely be through on goal differential. Things are looking up, but the US team can't take Algeria lightly. They held England scoreless, and while you put most of that on England's talented squad, you do have to give the Algerian's credit. Today was the first game in US World Cup history where the Americans came from behind to earn a draw. If we can build on that momentum, then we're moving on to a round that validates the supposed improvement in the team.

Celtics, World Cup and some music

Game 7 didn't disappoint -- unless, of course, you are a Celtics fan. This is the great thing about the 7 game format....I started the series thinking "The Lakers are going to win, just don't get embarassed." After Game 2, I was basically happy because the Celts proved they could hang with the migthy Lakers. Game 3, hung tough, but lost when Derek Fisher decided to be clutch. Game 4 - same as Game 2. But then we get to Game 5, and the Celts take us back to LA with a 3-2 lead and a chance to shock the Lakers on their home court. That was the point where this series changed for me, and I knew that I'd be upset of the Celtics didn't win the title. But they played Game 6 like a team that knew it had 2 shots at winning it all. They acquitted themselves well in Game 7 and played with the heart of a champion -- and for that I'm glad. But I can't help the fact that I have a bitter taste in my mouth this morning because I know the Celtics could be champions right now.

All of that being said -- I really don't care for him, but I have learned to respect Kobe Bryant as a player. I don't think he'll ever be considered the best player ever -- He simply is not as good as Michael Jordan was. What I do think he is, though, is the best player in the game today, and one of the best of the current generation.

Switching gears a bit to the World Cup -- the first round of games have been somewhat boring....and I mean that in the context of someone who DOES NOT find soccer boring. In spite of the slow start to proceedings, though, the week has produced some interesting results. First there was Spain falling 1-0 to Switzerland. The Spanish team played a solid game, but couldn't net an equalizer despite numerous chances late in the match. Thursday saw 3 very compelling matches. First, Argentina took down South Korea 4-1. Argentina's my pick to win it all, and they showed a bit of flair in this match. Then we saw Greece eke out a win vs. Nigeria. Maybe not the most technically pleasing match, but anytime you've got two teams clawing for their survival, it tends to be compelling. The day finished up with Mexico downing France 2-0 in a very entertaining game. Can't muster much love for the French team, even though they are stocked with players that I have followed in the EPL. Maybe it's because of the whole Thierry Henry handball against Ireland that I can't let go of.

Today is off to a good start as Serbia stunned Germany 1-0. Germany breezed to a 4-0 victory in their opening match, so this was a bit of a surprise. As I'm writing, the US and Serbia are just about to get underway. This is a huge match for the US -- much bigger than last Saturday's game against England. True, producing a draw against England gains some respect for an improving US team, but these next two games are against opponents that the US is expected to beat. That's a different kind of pressure to play under, and if the US really wants to prove that it has started to become a power in World Football, then they have to take a minimum of 4 points from these two games. Doing so should get them out of the group stage.

So wrapping up a longer than necessary post with a quick note on music. I heard on WGN 720 this morning that Billboard has determined that Michael Jackson's most popular song of all time is "Say Say Say", which most will remember was a duet with Paul McCartney. Since his death, most have focused on Jacko's talent rather than his...ummm....unique personality. While it is true that Jacko shared writing credits on the song, I find it somewhat ironic that his most popular song was one that appeared on a Paul McCartney album.

How could I write about rookies and not focus on Garcia?

One of my first posts at Spot of Red's new home talked about 2010 being the 'Year of the Rookie', and I focused a bit on the great season that David Freese is having. Well, after the other night's Cards/M's game, I'm finding it hard to believe that I focused on Freese over Jaime Garcia. Of course, Freese is having a great year, but if you had to pick a ROY candidate from the Cards, I'd say Garcia has earned the honor. You figured he wouldn't be terrible, given that he parlayed a strong spring showing into a job as the 5th starter. But I, for one, certainly didn't expect to be sitting here in mid-June with the kid sitting at 6-3 with a 1.59 ERA. Brad Penny was expected to be the "replacement" for Joel Piniero as #3 starter -- but injuries to him and also to #4 starter Kyle Lohse have pushed Garcia to the defacto #3 spot. And he has responded. While I think 'Year of the Rookie' is a more descriptive way to describe 2010 thus far, I've heard/read others refer to it as the 'Year of the Pitcher'. Strasburg and Heyward have garnered most of the headlines, but it just might Garcia who ultimately winds up being rookie of the year.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

News and Notes - 6/15

As I mentioned earlier, its been a rough week for the Cardinals. They just finished a 1-5 West Coast road trip which saw them swept at the hands of the Dodgers and losers of 2 of 3 to the Diamondbacks -- including a heartbreaking walk-off loss in the finale on Sunday. The offense continues to be a bit less than what we had expected, as we all wonder when will Albert and Holliday get things rolling. NOTE: Neither has been terrible to date, but aren't producing to the level that we've become accustomed.

A couple of notes -
  • Ryan Ludwick has been a bright spot of late on both offense and defense. He's driven in 15 RBI over the last 15 days and is hitting at .297. He fits Tony LaRussa's mindset perfectly, and seems to be at home almost anywhere in the order -- hitting 2nd a few games, then switching to 5th and even making an appearance as the cleanup hitter.
  • Speaking of cleanup hitters -- Matt Holliday moved up to the 2 hole and went 2-4 with a base on balls and 2 runs scored. Don't expect this to be his regular slot in the lineup.
  • Slightly scary moment during last night's win over the Mariners as Albert Pujols took a Jose Lopez throw off the ear hole of his batting helmet while trying to score on a ground ball. Albert stayed in the game, and it'll likely take more than that to move him to the bench for more than a routine day off.
  • Adam Wainwright improved to 9-4 tossing 7 innings of 3 run ball while striking out 6. It was his 9th consecutive start with at least 6 Ks.
  • Jeff Suppan makes his return tonight and will face off against M's lefty Ryan Rowland-Smith. Rowland-Smith is sitting at 0-5 with a 6.62 ERA. Suppan's time with the Brewers was somewhat less than successful as he comes with an 0-2 record and a 7.84 ERA. He only started 2 for the Brew Crew and totalled 31 innings pitched before being released on 6/7. The Cards are hurting for starters at the moment, but if all goes well, Suppan is in line to get a second start against Oakland this weekend.
  • LaRussa's lineup shuffle worked for at least one night as the Cards put up 9 runs against the Mariners. The Holliday-Pujols-Ludwick combo reached base 10 times and drove in 6 runs. Colby Rasmus homered to drive in another 2 and rookie David Freese drove in the other. A different look is certain for tonight with a lefty on the mound.

Monday, June 14, 2010


Interupting baseball talk for a quick diversion to the World Cup. I was out of town for the weekend, and aside from a couple of tweets, didn't have the chance to comment on the match between England and the US this past weekend, but was fortunate enough to see most of the match. Obviously, it would have been great to get the win, but a draw was very impressive just the same. The last time we played England in a friendly (exhibition soccer match, for the uninitiated), we lost to the Brits 2-0. So this is an improvement. Plus, England has a fairly talented team, and most British soccer fans see this as a loss. You might think that it was pure luck and that England's Keeper, Robert Green, had as much to do with the draw as anyone from the US, but that is simply not the case. All of the scoring took place before the half, so you had to expect that England was going to come out and pour it on in the 2nd half. Most of the half was spent with England attacking the US goal, but thankfully, Tim Howard was up to the task.

The US had no pressure in this game -- there would be no shame in losing 4-0 to England. That's not the case with the next two matches -- against Slovenia (6/18) and Algeria (6/23). These are matches where the US will be favored, and we must get maximum points if we want to make it out of the group stage. This US team has the talent to do just that, so hopefully they live up to their potential.

One more comment -- saw several of my fellow "Yank" Liverpool FC fans on Twitter and Facebook voice the opinion that they were rooting against the US because of the whole Hicks/Gillette ownership fiasco (Hicks/Gillette are American owners of the Liverpool football club, and in short, they have saddled the club with tons of debt and erased hope that LFC will contend for the Premier League title anytime soon). Honestly, cheer for who you want to -- and I realize soccer is a 2nd tier sport in the US. But I will say that the logic behind this is a bit flawed, as these gentlemen have NOTHING to do with the US National Team. I seriously doubt there are any British Soccer (of course, they'd say football) fans that are rooting against their national team because of what BP has done to the Gulf of Mexico. If you want to root for national teams featuring your favorite club players, then fine by me -- but pretending to be a soccer snob and rooting against your country's team because of two businessmen that own a club -- well, that's just another reason why soccer remains a 2nd tier sport over here.

Thanks for reading -- promise I'll try to keep the soccer talk to a minimum.


Originally posted on Posted on June 8, 2010 at 10:34 PM:

So -- quiet night in baseball, huh? Not much to talk about...

Hard to recall a single season in recent memory where rookie players have played such prominent roles for their teams. But as prominent a role as rookies have played this season, they expectations pale in comparison to what is expected of Stephen Strasburg. He's been the talk of baseball since touching 103 on the radar gun as a college senior. His minor league starts have been available on MiLB.TV and his final start in the minors was also picked up by the VS network -- a decent little coup for a channel dominated by hunting and fishing shows.

All eyes were on Strasburg tonight -- and all seats were full for the first time since Nationals Park opened a few years ago. The atmosphere was electric, and the event was hyped like a Yankees/Red Sox match-up. Time will tell if this kid is truly the "best pitching prospect ever", but you'd have to say he lived up to the hype in his debut. He went 7 innings, only gave up 4 hits, didn't walk a batter and struck out 14. He did surrender a 2 run shot to Delwyn Young, but was lights out aside from that one mistake. Tyler Clippard took care of the 8th and Capps closed things out in the 9th.

Somewhat overshadowed was Mike Stanton's debut for the Marlins. He went 3 for 5, scored 2 runs and struck out once. Not a bad night by any stretch, and while he fell a bit short of Jason Heyward's monster debut with the Braves, still mighty impressive for a kid that's only 20 and hasn't played above AA.

The rookies carried the night - without a doubt (the Mets Ike Davis also downed the Padres with a walk-off blast). 2010 has been the year of the rookie, and with any luck, we're seeing the dawn of the next age of baseball superstars that will take the torch from the likes of Jeter and Pujols and carry us into the next generation.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Rough Road

A 1-5 road trip came to a close as the Cards fell to the D'backs 7-5. The Cards showed a bit of moxie in tying the game at 5 in the top of the 9th, but Kyle McClellan served up a 2 run homer to D'backs CF Chris Young. After getting swept at the hands of the Dodgers, you'd hope that an inconsistent team like Arizona might offer some relief. Sadly, that was not to be the case, and the pitching woes hit the bullpen. Carpenter wasn't spectacular and found himself having to pitch out of trouble a few times during the game -- and did help himself out at the plate by getting on base twice. The final 3 innings were handed to the bullpen, and 4 ERs later, the Diamondbacks took the rubber game of the series.

While it's hardly time to panic in Redbird Nation, you do worry a bit that this Cards team isn't quite living up to expectations as one of the better teams in the NL. The injuries in the rotation are hardly helping, and it doesn't look like the team will be able to make due with reinforcements from Memphis. Suppan's on the way, and you have to think Mozelik's working the phones trying to find more reinforcements (Hey, isn't Looper still sitting around waiting for a call?).

Next up -- interleague play, as the Mariners (speaking of teams that have not met expectations) come to St. Louis. The Mariners' offense has largely been MIA this season, so maybe this is a chance for the Cardinals to wash away the bad taste that the road trip left in everyone's mouths.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Welcom Back, Suppan

The Brewers recently sent Jeff Suppan packing, and the suddenly pitching starved Cardinals decided it was time for a reunion. Nice, low risk signing, but you wonder if Sup has anything left. Given his track record, you have to give Dave Duncan the benefit of the doubt, but Suppan was TERRIBLE for the Brewers. Memories of the 2006 postseason give me a sense of patience about this, but so far the 2010 season hasn't been quite what the Cardinals -- or their fans -- envisioned.

The pitching staff is in a bit of a shambles these days. While Carpenter and Wainwright have been their usual dependable selves, things aren't quite so steady with spots 3-5. Kyle Lohse is recovering from surgery and may not be fit for the rotation when he's healthy. Brad Penny's injury is looking a bit more serious than first thought. Jaimie Garcia continues to be a pleasant surprise, but now that he slots in as the #3 starter, you worry that the rookie wall is looming. The Cards have tried filling in with Walters and Ottavino from AAA, and while both have shown potential, they've proven that they probably aren't ready for a full time gig in the majors. So that leaves us looking outside of the organization for help.

Year of the Rookie

Something I alluded to in my last post (on -- Can you remember a year where rookies have had such a huge impact on baseball?

Consider the fact that you've got a guy like David Freese -- he of the .311 average, 4 home runs and 32 RBI stat line -- and the guy is going almost unnoticed outside of St. Louis because of the likes of Strasburg, Heyward and Stanton. I personally think it's great to see, though. I like that teams are starting to look inwards a bit and bringing up players they are developing rather than just going out and buying the best free agent. For some teams like the Twins, Marlins and Rays, building from within is a must. But even teams like the Yankees are starting to look at their farm systems for help -- which isn't to suggest that they are done spending gobs of cash on big names.

If this were 2005, injuries to Curtis Granderson, Nick Johnson and Jorge Posada would have triggered a trade or two, and probably the signing of some free agent sitting out there waiting for a call. Of course, you knew the Yankees were operating with a different mind set when they let Johnny Damon walk and finished spring training with Brett Gardner as their starting left fielder. But even as injuries mounted, they were content to promote guys from AAA rather than make a reactionary move.

Strasburg, of course, is the big name that EVERYONE knows at this point, but he's far from the only rookie out there worth watching.

It's Moving Day!

I've been writing "A Spot of Red in Cubland" for just over a year over at Felt like that gave me a good spot to start, but always felt compelled to keep the topics to baseball -- I mean, it was a site owned by, after all.

While I'll spend more time talking baseball than most other topics, I felt like a switch to a more general area would free me up to talk about some of the other sports and random things that might come to mind. For example, I've become a huge soccer fan over the last couple of years, and will probably talk a little World Cup. I also love TV and music, so I'm sure sooner or later, I'll write something devoted completely to one of those topics and won't mention sports at all.

Anyway, I encourage any comments and hope you enjoy the read. If you do, please share with your friends.

Thanks for reading!