Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Brain Junk - 5/18

Several random thoughts that I've had in mind but that did't seem to warrant a lengthy post.....

  • I decided when my Grandfather passed away in January that one of the things I was going to do to honor him was to "be a Cardinal fan" for 2011. It isn't a stretch -- I am a Cardinal fan, but typically would answer the question of favorite team with "Yankees". While I'm less invested in these Yanks than I have been any team since the mid 80's, it isn't like I just flipped the switch and dumped the team from my sports consciousness. But this current Posada/Jeter mess is just yet another example of what's become harder and harder to like about the team. My original plan was to write something about how tough it is when your longtime favorites no longer live up to the image you have of them. That has been both Jeter and Posada this year, and things came to a head with Jorge on Saturday when he asked out of the lineup. Rather than try to write something, I'll direct you to this article by Matthew Leach, which is far better than anything I could come up with. I couldn't help think of Ozzie Smith when I read this. I fondly recall the 1996 playoffs, mainly as the year that the newest Yankee dynasty was born, but the Cardinals were also one win away from treating me to a World Series featuring my two favorite teams. Watching that series very nearly rekindled my passion for the Cards the way the Yankees victory did my passion for the Bronx Bombers (before you say "fairweather fan", I'll remind you that this was still early days after the '94 strike, and it took a while for me to come back). I had actually lost some of my love for the Cards as TLR ran Ozzie out of town in favor of Royce Clayton. Didn't matter that it was time...this was Ozzie, and I STILL revert back to my 10 year old self at the mere mention of the man's name. I'm quite a bit older now and the attachment to Jeter and Posada is different, but it is still sad to see them both decline as they have. I still think Jeter makes something of the season, but Posada seems past done.
  • Ok, a little longer than I intended....So just when I think the Cardinals are looking like a contender in the NL, they go to Cicni and get swept. The Reds took a bit to find themselves, but they seem to be rolling now. And as the weather heats up, so do their bats....they have the potential to be a very formidable team -- especially if they make a few solid moves at the deadline. Walt Jocketty has a habit of making shrewd moves at the right time.
  • Speaking of the Reds, I think this has the potential to become one of the best rivalries in baseball this year. Dusty Baker and TLR don't like each other and that has definitely spilled over onto the field. There seems to be some little extra curricular thing that pops up every time they play. Hopefully it doesn't turn ugly like the fisticuffs last summer, but there's no doubt that there will be an abundance of drama.
  • Slight diversion from baseball....How much fun was it watching the Bulls blow out the Heat on Sunday? Loved every second of it. I still think the Heat win the series, but definitely rooting hard for the Bulls.
  • I've referred to the Cardinals as contenders in a few posts now. If that is to be believed, then something needs to be done to address the defense. I think some of it is just bad luck, but the fact remains that they allow more unearned runs all but one or two other teams. That is never a recipe for success.
  • Has Tony LaRussa ever met an outfielder that he didn't think was better suited playing 2B? But, good to get Craig's bat in the lineup.
  • Interleague play is almost here. I used to love it, but now my usual response is just "meh". I really think the novelty has worn off. For all the excitement of a team like the Cubs making their first trip to Fenway in over 90 years, or the Yankees coming to Wrigley for only the second time since the 1940's (didn't look that up, might even be 30's...yes, sometimes I'm too lazy for my own good), most of these series are of the ho hum variety. Even the cross town/cross state rivalries seem watered down. It'd be one thing if you had a situation where all the teams involved were at least mediocre. I really think MLB needs to cut the geographic rivalries down to one series per year. Or, given that you'll never convince an owner that it is good to give up the gate for those games, make it a 4 game series with 2 home games each. And then that's it for the year. Sure we'll still be stuck with that classic Padres/Mariners grudge match, but at least you restore some of the novelty to the event for the ones that fans do care about.
That's all the time I'll waste for today. Thanks for reading....

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Vanquish the Cubs, Bring on the Reds

More time passed since my last post than I had intended, and the outlook has changed considerably since then. With my last post, Mitchell Boggs had just taken the closer reigns from Ryan Franklin, and the Cardinals were just starting to show some signs of life. As it stands today, they are atop the NL Central (tallest midget, some would say) and at times look like a serious contender in the NL. Boggs has given way to Eduardo Sanchez as the "head" of the closer committee, although we've also seen Trever Miller and Fernando Salas close things out.

We've also seen the first installment of the I-55 rivalry for 2011 - a time that is always a little tense in my household (as my wife is a huge Cubs fan). The Cards took 2 of 3, which -- and I don't mean this as anymore than a statement of fact in terms of the Cubs -- is the minimum you'd expect given the start of both teams. The sad fact of the matter, for Cubs fans, is that the team just isn't very good. There is some hope for the future as the Cubs continue to fill the gaps with young talent from the farm system. Geo Soto and Starlin Castro have both settled in as fixtures in the lineup, and while it is too early to proclaim him the real deal just yet, Darwin Barney is looking like the type of player that might hold down 2B for a couple of years. Tyler Colvin has struggled to start the year, and may earn a trip back to AAA Iowa, but playing behind the likes of Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome and Carlos Pena means that either ineffectiveness or injury is likely going to give you a shot sometime soon. The young pitchers are also starting to gel a bit -- Samardzija is starting to develop something useful besides his fastball and Andy Cashner looks like a top 3 starter (and is getting closer to coming off the DL). So while 2011 looks like another "wait for next year" type of season, the tide may be turning.

Of course, you can't talk about the series in Chicago without mentioning "The Hug". During batting practice prior to the first game of the series, Cubs GM Jim Hendry and Pujols greeted each other with a hug.
Many a hopeful Cubs fan decided that this was just the latest sign that Pujols would ditch the Cardinals to sign with the Cubs. The Cubs also have several big contracts coming off the books and would be able to offer the huge contract that Pujols is looking for. It would certainly be a coup for the Cubs to sign the megastar player away from their rivals, but this would be a terrible move on several fronts.

First off, Pujols isn't going to the Cubs for any less than he's demanding of the Cards. You needn't look any further than left field at Wrigley to understand why you don't give a player in his 30's a lengthy free agent deal. Plus, with all of the contracts coming off the books, the Cubs are going to have a few holes to fill. Even if Pujols took money over than winning, who are you putting at 3rd? Right Field? What about the rotation? Obviously, I'm far from unbiased, but I really don't see it happening, and if it does, I think it would be yet another signal that Cubs management just doesn't get it.

The Cardinals left Chicago and rolled into Cincinnati ready to take on the Reds. The Reds have been a bit of an enigma this season. They started out the season looking like a powerhouse, then came back to earth. But with Cueto and Bailey back in the rotation and Scott Rolen returning to face his former team, the Reds are poised to take the lead in the NL Central if they can sweep the Cards. Friday's game was one that has become typical of this rivalry as the Cards jumped out to the early lead only to having the Reds continue to hang around until Joey Votto's walk off single in the 10th. The remaining two games in this series should prove to be equally as dramatic.