With just over an hour left before the non-waiver deadline, St. Louis finally pulled the trigger on a minor move, sending former first round pick Zack Cox to Miami for reliever Edward Mujica.
Obviously, Cox's status had dropped significantly in the past year or so. It's a situation that reminds me of Brett Wallace, only the Cardinals were able to get value for him before people figured out he wasn't quite a top prospect after all. They weren't able to move fast enough with Cox and, as such, he's traded for a middle reliever.
Cox was only hitting .254 with nine homers in Memphis this season and I believe the Pacific Coast League is supposed to be fairly hitter-friendly. He had a torrid June (though with only two homers) before slipping back somewhat in July. With David Freese staying healthy and looking more like a long-term solution at third, Cox was expendable.
I expected Cox to be dealt at some time, but thought he'd be part of a package deal that brought in a bigger reward that a middle relief guy. Mujica has struggled some this year, posting a 4.38 ERA. Looking just at his 10 game log, at the front and end of that span were games were he gave up two runs in less than an inning, but in between were eight scoreless appearances.
Skimming the rest of the year, it looks like he's either lights out or he gets roughed up quite a bit. Very few one run outings, more 2-3 runs or nothing. Which, if the nothing happens quite often, is probably tolerable.
He was very good last year (2.96 ERA, 1.03 WHIP) but that was easily his best year in the bigs, though he has had a lower WHIP than that. He seems to have a bit of a propensity for the long ball, giving up six this season in 39 IP and averaging 1 every seven innings in his career. If he's able to keep the ball down, he could be a guy that they use to try to bridge that seventh inning gap.
It seems like they sold low on Cox, but if Mujica firms up that bullpen even more, it could be a good move. As always, In Mo We Trust. One of the downsides, though, is that this probably means Trevor Rosenthal goes back to the minors with the memory of Anthony Rizzo going yard as his last big league memory for a while. He'll be back in September, though, I'd think. Until then, the bullpen seems to be fairly well constructed. Now, if the bats will just figure out how to get those timely hits.............
If you've watched Fox Sports Midwest for games in the last month or so, you've seen the commercials for the reunion of the 1982 team, who beat the Brewers for the club's ninth World Championship. (Not coincidentally, the Brewers are the opposition for this weekend's festivities.) For those that remember it (I turned seven that summer but sadly this was in my pre-baseball days), it must be hard to believe that it's been 30 years since Bruce Sutter got that final strikeout.
As befitting such an historic moment, this weekend is packed full of stuff, so if you are in the area, head on down to the ballpark! (Sadly, though, it's the return of the powder blues. I know some people have a nostalgic attachment to them, but I've never been a fan.)
FSM 1982 World Series Championship Reunion Weekend Details
Large contingent of '82 team to participate in weekend Celebration of 30th Anniversary of Championship
Highlights include throwback jerseys, fan giveaways and a special on-field parade & ceremony
ST. LOUIS - July 30, 2012 - More than twenty members of the Cardinals' 1982 World Series championship team will reunite this weekend as part of the Fox Sports Midwest 1982 World Series Championship Reunion, as the Cardinals take on the Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium (August 3rd - 5th). Three days of reunion activities are planned to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the Cardinals 9th World Championship.
"The 1982 team was one of the greatest in Cardinals history," said Bill DeWitt III, President of the Cardinals. "We are thrilled to have so many members of that legendary team reunite as part of this weekend celebration."
Ozzie Smith, Whitey Herzog, Bruce Sutter, Red Schoendienst, Keith Hernandez, Ken Oberkfell, Dave LaPoint, Jim Kaat, John Stuper, Jeff Lahti, Steve Mura, John Martin, Doug Bair, Jeff Keener, Tito Landrum, David Green, Gene Roof, Dane Iorg, Mike Ramsey, Glenn Brummer, Joe McDonald and Gene Gieselmann are among the members of the legendary squad that are expected to participate in a special on-field parade and ceremony Saturday.
The celebration starts Friday as the Cardinals will honor the man who made the final out of the '82 season, Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter. Sutter will sign autographs at Busch Bash in Ford Plaza prior to game, and the first 25,000 ticketed fans will receive a Bruce Sutter bobblehead, presented by Coca-Cola and Dierbergs.
On Saturday, the first 25,000 ticketed fans, ages 16 and older, will receive a 1982 World Series Game 7 Replica Ticket sponsored by tickets.com. Fans will want to be in their seats by 6:00 p.m. as the Cardinals will honor the 1982 squad with a special pre-game on-field parade and ceremony. To mark the occasion, the Cardinals will wear replica 1982 "home" white uniforms, while the Brewers will wear 1982 powder blue "road" uniforms, courtesy of Majestic.
On Sunday, the first 12,000 ticketed fans, ages 15 and younger, will receive a 1982 World Champion Cardinals Build-A-Bear. While the Brewers will wear their current uniforms, the Cardinals will sport 1982 "Victory Blue" road uniforms. This will be the first time the Cardinals have worn the "Victory Blue" for fans in St. Louis. The game will be telecast nationally on ESPN. To accommodate the national broadcast, the game will start at 7:05 p.m.
Tickets for the Reunion weekend are still available at cardinals.com or by calling (314) 345-9000.
There was a lot of momentum going with the Cardinals into Wrigley Field this weekend. It looked like the team we'd hoped would be around all year had finally showed up. Friday seemed to confirm that things were different, but the rest of the weekend was so sadly familiar. Let's take a look.
Hero: Matt Holliday. He got the power show started with a home run in the first, drove in another run later, and had three hits. That's what we call a big day.
Goat: Lance Lynn. It's a good thing the offense was clicking, because Lynn was erratic. Three-run homer to Anthony Rizzo in the first, another three runs allowed in the third. So typically baseballish--the worst pitching performance of the weekend is the only one that gets a win.
Notes: Home runs in five straight innings? That's not bad at all. You can't even say you wish they'd saved those runs, though, because they needed pretty much all of them. A good first outing by Brian Fuentes, who relieved some of the worries we had about the signing. Not all of them, but it did look like he has some good stuff left. All in all, the bullpen did a mighty fine job on a day when it wasn't that easy to put up zeros.
Notes: So tough to lose on a squeeze bunt, especially after all the times we saw Tony La Russa win a game that way. Fuentes wasn't as sharp in this one, allowing the walk, but the bunt play was a brilliant call there that nobody on the Cards saw coming. It's hard to assign a lot of blame there, it just was the way baseball should be played.
Saturday did stir up some Twitter controversy, though, and depending on what you believe about tipping points, the first inning could have been where the game was decided.
In the first inning, Jeff Samardzija walks the first three batters of the game. Not just by a little, either. He had thrown 12 of his first 16 pitches outside of the strike zone. Carlos Beltran then comes up and swings at the first pitch, topping one to second that just barely avoided the double play.
There is a line of thought which, ironically given their normal propensity to encourage walks and deep counts, said that was the right play. Beltran should have been looking for a pitch in a certain area, he thought he got it, could have been the best pitch of the at-bat. Odds are that the pitcher is likely just going to lay it in there to get ahead in the count and that's a pitch that could be hammered.
There's a lot to that line of reasoning and I've got to say that they were very persuasive. For my part (and others with me in this mini-Twitter skirmish), the thought is the batter should go up there waiting for the pitcher to throw a strike. You only help him out by swinging at the first pitch and, indeed, after bases loaded nobody out, the Cards only managed the one off of Beltran's groundout and didn't score again until late in the ballgame.
As wild as Samardzija was, even if he starts you out with a strike, he's likely to come back with something either appetizing to hit or be wild out of the zone again. If you make him throw a strike, he still has to repeat the outcome again. Perhaps just getting one strike would gain him confidence, I don't know. But he has to throw more pitches and you work him a bit more.
Now, obviously, Beltran could have roped a double or hit a home run and kept the momentum going. In fact, if the pitch had been a "get me over" fastball like Beltran apparently was expecting, he likely would have. Instead, though, it was a slider that Beltran got on top of and drove into the ground. With the run that Beltran is on right now (hitting .250 going into that at-bat), the result wasn't all that surprising. Of course, if he'd been more in tune, he might have recognized it wasn't a fastball and held up, who knows.
Again, I think there's valid arguments on both sides. I just would have rather seen him take there instead of giving Samardzija a chance to get out of the inning with no further damage. Too bad there's no way to back up that game and run it again with him taking to see what would have happened!
Hero: Carlos Beltran. His homer in the eighth gave a little life to the Cardinals and made it believable that they could pull it out. Sadly, that wasn't the case.
Goat: Trevor Rosenthal. You hate to give it to the rook, but when you face two batters and neither of them get out, that's going to be hard to avoid the tag. Give a lot of kudos to Starlin Castro, though. He hit it against the shift that was on for him--a regular alignment and he's out--and that likely changed how Rosenthal approached Rizzo.
Notes: Lots of patient batters this weekend, but it wasn't doing a lot of good. Six walks against Samardzija on Saturday, four against Paul Maholm on Sunday, but there weren't enough hits to go with those walks to make them viable. The bullpen, save Rosenthal, did their job, but made it interesting. Most especially Marc Rzepczynski, who faced two lefties and walked them both, but got the righty in between out. That's mind-blowingly frustrating!
Since the Reds have decided never to lose again, apparently, doing their best 2011 Milwaukee Brewers imitation, the Cards now stand 7.5 games behind in the division and 3.5 back in the wild card. Can something be done before the trade deadline? I think the question now is, should something be done?
The more I think about it, the more I expect that this deadline is going to pass without any moves by the Cardinals. They've dug themselves a hole and they have the talent to get out of it, but there doesn't seem to be any reason to throw the Hail Mary and give up some quality talent for a guy that probably won't make enough of a difference anyhow.
The only thing that might happen is a trade for James Shields. He's been very high on the Cardinals' want list for a long time now and seems to be more available than he ever has been. Shields could help some this year--though the way the rotation is going, it's hard to see just how--but he's a great economical piece going forward. He has a $9 million option for 2013 and a $12 million one for 2014 and to be able to get his sort of quality on the open market for those prices is pretty unfathomable.
For instance, Kyle Lohse is close to $12 million this year and likely will get a raise in the open market. Now, the Cards could try to do what they did last time with him and come to a contract agreement before the end of the season, but Lohse is two years older than Shields and would come at a higher price.
Shields also is an innings eater, which could be a big thing depending on how Chris Carpenter comes back next season and what the next step in Jaime Garcia's evolution is. A rotation of Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Shields, Garcia and Lynn would be a very potent one and it would allow Shelby Miller another year at AAA to try to get back to the form we expect out of him.
I'm starting to feel about the idea of a Shields trade the way I felt about a Scott Rolen trade in 2002--that this is what the Cardinals want to do and they are going to do it. I was all for the Rolen trade, but it seemed so inevitable that I traded for him in my fantasy league a week or two before the actual deal. It made sense and it seemed like something the Cards really wanted. My gut feeling is, if Shields is traded at all, he is wearing Cardinal red. The price may seem steep to us, but I don't think John Mozeliak lets him get to another team.
Cards are off today, but let's take a look at the pitching matchups for Tuesday's game against the Rockies, in case I don't get around to writing tomorrow.
Kyle Lohse has put together a strong run of starts lately and continues to add money to his free agent account. He'll take that streak into Colorado, which could be a challenge.
Todd Helton isn't what he used to be, so those numbers worry me less than they normally would. Other than that, Lohse has done all right, but he does carry a career 6.43 ERA and 1.62 WHIP at Coors Field which makes for some anxious thoughts.
Rockies send out Jeff Francis. Francis contained the Cards earlier in the year, allowing just two runs in five innings. That wasn't anything out of the ordinary, as shown by these numbers.
Rafael Furcal has seen him the most, but there's no telling whether his stiff back will feel well enough to get out there. Hopefully after sitting two games and an off day, he'll be back in the lineup. Otherwise it might be a long night for the offense.
Enjoy the off day and hopefully the Cardinal bats will have already landed in Colorado!
Our last book of the evening is Ozzie's School of Management by Rick Morrissey. This one was the toughest book I've read in a long while to get through, but that's more likely my sensitivities rather than any slight on the material.
As most of you that read this blog or listen to any of my radio work know, I'm not a profanity user. Not that I typically fault anyone that does use it, but I think for the most part it's unnecessary and not something that adds much to the conversation. For any of you that know anything of Ozzie Guillen, I've just explained the issue I had with this book.
If you filter out the profanity from both Guillen and, occasionally, Morrissey, besides being left with a book that is significantly shorter than its 259 pages, you have an interesting look at the mind of a manager that is both lauded and derided, depending on who you talk with and what day it is. Wade through the language and there are things to be learned here.
The book is laid out with each chapter being a personal rule of Ozzie's, either explicitly (no pun intended) or inferred from his actions. You have things like "Protect Your Employees from the Barbarians" and "Don't Confuse Team and Family." Ozzie's love of bullfighting gets tied into his managerial style as well as the way he had to battle in the minors to make it to the bigs.
Interestingly, there's a number of references to an old friend of ours, Tony La Russa. La Russa rates about 10 different spots in the book, at least in passing. La Russa doesn't come off well either, whether it's from Guillen's comments or Morrissey's asides. For instance:
The dugout is where Guillen holds court with the media before most games. He is not in the least like La Russa, who took himself Very Seriously. When media members gathered around La Russa, it was clear they felt a duty to ask the perfect question so as not to offend his baseball sensibilities. With Guillen, reporters can ask anything, and he will say anything.
(I originally thought Morrissey may have been a Chicago sportswriter long enough to remember the La Russa White Sox era and, as such, hold some sort of grudge. However, it looks like he only got to Chicago in 2000, so this is most likely just your generic stereotypical thoughts about our former manager. Morrissey also terms TLR as "puffed-up", which should tell you plenty about his mindset right there.)
While Guillen would like to say he's nothing like TLR, there are some obvious similarities. For instance, Guillen, like La Russa, tends to use the media spotlight to keep the pressure off the players. While La Russa will criticize things such as the lights in Milwaukee or blow up on a questioner, Guillen says outrageous things and tries to keep people talking about him rather than the fact that Adam Dunn is having a terrible year.
The book also points out that he learned from TLR. It seems hard to believe, but Tony was still with the White Sox in 1985, when a young shortstop from Venezuela made his major league debut. Guillen had shown a thirst for baseball knowledge all throughout the minor leagues and he had a lot of top baseball minds in Chicago when he got there to continue his education.
I think we something feel like Guillen is an ego-driven, gotta-be-in-the-papers type of guy. You don't get that as much from reading this book, though it's obviously written to put Guillen in the best light possible. (And, of course, it was completed before the Castro controversy of the spring, though there was a line that I can't find now that seemed to foreshadow it, something about Ozzie going to say something to get people stirred up.) It seems like Guillen is a guy that likes to talk and has a strong loyalty to his players, which is an admirable trait in a major league manager.
It's interesting to read through the book now after he's been in Miami for half a season, a season that hasn't panned out at all like people expected and has them shipping off players in what at least reminds people of the Marlin fire sales of the past, even if it might not be quite that. There was a lot of optimism for the year, optimism that hasn't panned out but, as yet, hasn't spurred another Guillen outburst (if you don't count theBryce Harper flap).
If you can handle the language, this really is an interesting look inside the mind of one of the game's personalities. I don't promise it'll change your opinion of him, but it'll give you more of an idea of just what Ozzie being Ozzie really means.
I told you, I get books in bunches. Which means I tend to finish books in bunches, as I usually have more than one going at a time. Couple that with trying to find the time to actually write some reviews and, well, here's your Friday night blog dump, as it were. Consider this some good weekend reading and your scouting report if you are heading to the bookstores in the next few days.
I received a copy of Major League Dads, subtitled Baseball's Best Players Reflect On The Fathers Who Inspired Them To Love The Game. While that's an extremely long subtitle, it does give you a good idea of what this book is about. Authors Kevin Neary and Leigh Tobin interviewed a number of professional baseball players with the caveat that all they spoke to had to have been coached, at one time or another, by their father.
It's an upbeat book written for the casual fan as over 130 players remembered their days of Little League or T-Ball and what they'd learned from their dads in that time period. Some had dads that were more focused, some had dads that really didn't know the game, but all of them learned valuable things from them while they had them as a coach.
Those things didn't always have to do with baseball. A large number of these players said that, while they have learned more baseball than their dad knows and have coaches to deal with that side of things, they still talk to their dads about things and get valuable advice from them. (Of course, there are some dads that also want to chime in with baseball help as well, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn't.)
The authors must have taken a long time to collect all of these interviews. For instance, former Cardinal pitcher Matt Morris is in the book, but Matty Mo hasn't pitched since 2008. The same with Moises Alou, but neither of the interviews indicate that the players are retired.
The writeups are, at times, simplistic as well. Dads are always put in the best of lights, which is understandable, but it stands out most with another former Cardinal, Colby Rasmus. As Cardinal fans, we know just how much controversy that Tony Rasmus has stirred up from time to time, but there's no mention of it at all in the book. (It's also an indication of how dated some of this seems, because there's no mention of his trade to Toronto and, indeed, the last dated material is his 2009 debut.)
Most players get a couple of pages, some just one, a few more. It makes for a book that's easy to pick up and read a little about, then return to at some other time. Players in the book that will be of interest to Cardinal fans, besides Morris and Rasmus, include Lance Berkman, Jaime Garcia, Matt Holliday, Steve Kline, Yadier Molina, Mark Mulder, Cliff Politte, Scott Rolen, and Andy Van Slyke (talk about a guy that's been out of baseball for a while!). It's neat to see siblings talk, as all three of the Molina brothers get to explain what their father meant to them and their baseball career.
It's a fun book, not necessarily focused at the diehard fan but more the dads and moms who like reading about the family dynamic. It's also a good book for dads that have kids playing Little League and organized baseball, like myself, because it helps you realize that you don't have to be the demanding dad that pushes his kid like crazy. We see that all the time, but there are guys that make it to the bigs without that. They just needed a dad to be there to help them on their way in whatever way he could.
As you know, from time to time I'm sent baseball books to read over and review. Thankfully, I've never actually been asked to do this quickly, because 1) they all seem to come at the same time and 2) I don't get to sit down and read as much as I used to, grabbing bits and pieces here and there at meal time or other moments. So, to all those book promoters out there that are reading this, thanks much for your patience!
One of the great features of the 1970 book was the fact that no matter how long their time with the team was, anyone that got into a game got a biography in the book. That feature carried over to this Dodger tome as well, as players such as Erv Palica (three innings pitched) and Don Lund (20 at-bats) get covered as much as Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson.
The biographies cover most all aspects of the players' lives. You'll find players that stayed married for 70 years and players that wound up with three or four different wives. You'll find players that hung around in the minors for years after their brief time in the major league sun. You'll find out how they died and be pleasantly surprised that a few are still living today (or, at least, when this book was written).
Also like the previous book in this series, the biographies are broken up by short recaps of each game, divided by months or, as in this book, half-months. One of the things I enjoyed more about the Orioles edition was the fact that these previews included the headline from the Baltimore paper relating to that game. That didn't carry over to this Brooklyn book, though perhaps because there were many different papers to choose from.
This book also goes off the field, providing biographies for the famous owners Branch Rickey, John L. Smith and Walter O'Malley. There's also coverage of the broadcasting team, which was mainly Red Barber but also included a man named Connie Desmond, who apparently had all the talent in the world to be a broadcaster, but couldn't control his alcoholic tendencies. Just like with the players, not always does talent win out.
What this book did that the Orioles book did not was to include essays about different tangents related to the '47 squad. There was coverage of the team's spring training in Havana, Cuba, done so to ease a little of the transition for Robinson, an examination of Rickey and his relationship with the press, and how the Jewish people of Brooklyn came out in full support of Robinson's integration of the game. For the most part, these essays added a little bit more depth and context to the team and the players of that time.
One of the drawbacks of a book like this, however, is that it's not written by one author. While Lyle Spatz edited it, many different people contributed and, as such, some topics seem to get covered a little too often. There were at least three or four discussions about the suspension of manager Leo Durocher, including its own essay, and it got a little wearisome after a while. Still, even though it was addressed often, each time was a slightly different way of looking at it, which helped temper any aggravation of reading it again.
All in all, I'm really enjoying these books that SABR is putting out and I look forward to any that they do in the future. For Dodger fans, having a chance to relive this historic season, to go beyond the surface of Robinson breaking the color barrier, makes this book a wonderful resource. Fans of baseball in general, especially those of an age that can remember some of these names and players from their parents, will find it enjoyable as well.
But what about the guys that weren't so dominant? The guys that may have not necessarily made their indelible mark on a franchise that is so deep in characters and memorable players. There are guys that may have been big when they were here, but have faded in popular memory. Or perhaps they were guys that weren't ever a "name" guy, just a bit player that captured an imagination or two.
Today, the United Cardinal Bloggers are talking about some of their favorite players that don't reside in Cooperstown or resonate throughout the ages with Cardinal fans. You'll find no Red Schoendiensts or Dizzy Deans in this group. Hopefully, though, you'll find players that you remember hearing about, remember watching, or players that you need to read up on a little more to deepen your knowledge of Cardinal history. One way or another, it's going to be a wonderful treat.
After the jump, I'll talk about my selection, a pitcher that was indispensable for the Redbirds after the turn of the century but one we don't talk much about these days.
The Cardinals finished up a 6-1 home stand. Yes, you read that right. No 4-3, no win one, lose one, an actual good run of baseball. Let's talk about the last two games before we get into whether we can expect it to continue.
Hero: Fernando Salas. Salas has struggled often this season but finally looks like a reliable option out of the bullpen again. He's allowed one run in his last ten outings and pitched crucial innings in this one, throwing scoreless frames in the 11th and 12th before being rewarded with the win.
Goat: Rough night for Jon Jay. 0-4 with two strikeouts.
Notes: Rafael Furcal was in the running for Goat until he got the game-winning hit in the 12th. This would have been a very frustrating game to lose, taking the lead in the fifth to give it right back up in the sixth and only being able to tally six hits all night long.
Also huge kudos to Lance Berkman. Up there basically like Kirk Gibson, looking rough on swings due to his throbbing knee, he was able to stay alive enough to draw a walk which turned out to be the winning run after Joe Kelly pinch-hit (and had his adventures on the basepaths again--no wonder Berkman termed him Baby Giraffe!)
Another stellar performance by Kyle Lohse. Seven innings, two runs will win you a lot of games and thankfully the Cards didn't make him a hard-luck loser this time around. Lohse continued the streak of starters going at least six innings, a streak that reached 21 on Thursday. There are starting to be discussions about whether the Cards should bring Lohse back next year--which is mindboggling when you think of all the grief Lohse got during this contract when he was hurt.
Hero: Matt Holliday. Two for four with a home run and, as noted in the game story, a key baserunning play that helped the Cardinals regain the lead.
Goat: When you scatter 18 hits around the lineup, it's definitely a day where the Goat isn't as bad as you normally find. Going to go with Furcal just because he only had one hit, didn't score or drive in a run, and left three on base.
Notes: This is the kind of game they'd have lost even a week ago. Grab a two-run lead then let the Dodgers immediately score four? That'd usually be about the time that the bats went quiet and we have a quick rest of the game. Instead, they immediately responded and took the fight out of the opponent for once.
Wasn't Jake Westbrook's best game, but it really wasn't completely his fault that he gave up four runs. One was unearned, for one thing, and some defensive miscues went along with a number of singles, so he wasn't beat around. He went seven innings, meaning that treacherous step from the sixth to the eighth was avoided as well. Solid work for the man.
So, as referenced earlier, is this sustainable? Are we finally starting to see the team that we've been wanting to see all year long?
Winning six out of seven is (without looking it up) probably the best stretch of games that the Cards have played since April. The Cards get the Cubs again starting today, then out to Colorado and home against Milwaukee before hosting San Francisco. It would appear that the Cards are in good shape to pile up some wins and then see how they measure up against another strong team in the Giants.
So often we think they've turned a corner and they fall back the next day. Yet there seems to be a little different feel to these last few games, like they've gotten their focus and they are really tuned into it. I'm hopeful that they'll carry that through these next few series and (if the Reds could ever lose) put some pressure on the teams in front of them.
The trade deadline is fast approaching, but with the resurgent play of the squad it seems less and less likely that a deal is going to get done. I know Joe Strauss continues to mention an interest in James Shields and I have a hunch the Cards have some statistical backing in the front office that makes Shields look even better than he normally would (save this slump he's in). However, he won't be a buy-low option with Anaheim and Texas going after him as well, so I don't think the Cards wind up spending the talent needed to get him here.
Other than that, what would the Cards do? The bullpen is looking good again, though we still haven't seen Brian Fuentes pitch. The starters are rocking and rolling. The only offensive place you'd question is second, and Skip Schumaker is doing admirably there. You even have a pretty solid bench due to the whole carousel of players that play the same positions. I'm not sure what you do that really improves this team, though getting some depth could be nice. Even there, you have Jaime Garcia looking like he's on target for a mid-August return, so that helps as well.
One year after the Colby Rasmus deal, it seems unlikely any such shakeup is coming today. However, they will play a ball game in Chicago and the Cards will have to be careful. It's Ron Santo Day in Chicago, which means the baby bears could be playing with some emotion and dedication today.
Lance Lynn will get the chance to shut them down, just like he did last weekend. Lynn threw six shutout innings against the Cubbies on Sunday and hopes to do more of the same today. He's beaten Chicago three times this season and has an ERA under 1 to show for it, so there's at least a strong possibility he'll get his wish. The numbers:
Brian LaHair still seems to have his number, but other than that Lynn's done pretty well against this crew, as you'd expect from those season numbers.
Travis Wood takes the ball for the Cubs, just like he did Sunday when he was touched for seven runs (six earned) in six innings. His ERA has jumped from 3.05 to 4.33 in his last two outings, so we'll have to see if he can continue that downhill slide or if he's back to his early season form.
Lots of small sample sizes and mainly the work of Sunday, but you can't feel good about that if you are Wood.
Early start time today as the Cards play in the second of their four straight afternoon affairs. Hope you've got other plans for this evening! Come back in a little bit as I'll be posting my submission for this month's UCB project.
Going into last night's game, the Cardinals had faced Cy Young winners eight times this year. Those pitchers were 5-2 with an ERA under 2.00 against this squad. Clayton Kershaw was a part of that with his shutout earlier in the season and it didn't seem like things were going to be much better in this one.
Instead, the Redbirds had another uprising, scoring in only two innings but again making one of them huge, as they beat up on Kershaw 8-2. The win kept the Cards six back of Cincinnati, who seem to be doing their imitation of the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers as they rally in the ninth against Houston to win yet again.
There's no doubt that Adam Wainwright gets the Hero tag for this one. Not only did he keep the team in the game on the mound, he had an RBI double for St. Louis's first run and drew a bases-loaded walk in the next inning for his second ribby. Wainwright admitted to a lapse of concentration after being down 2-0 and with a leadoff runner on in the fifth, but used a mantra on the mound to get him focused.
"All day and all night. I'm gonna be here all night. I'm not quitting. There's no quit in me tonight. I'm going to make pitch after pitch after pitch and be here all night."
That's why, no matter what the situation, Wainwright is the ace of the staff. We talk about people "willing" themselves to make the plays, to get the outs. It's not that easy to do, because if it were, everyone would be doing it. A lot of times, this game is about focus and concentration and it's great to see Wainwright pull himself together to dominate the opponent.
Even so, those two runs he allowed before getting focused could have been the difference in the game. It's a credit to the Cardinal hitters that they were able to do so much damage off a guy that's been so good in the past.
And, on the day when we found out that the players call Allen Craig "Amazing Whacker Guy" (a name that totally needs more play), Craig capped the scoring with a two-run double off of Josh Lindblom. Again, the Cards had a highly concentrated dose of offense, but it got the job done.
In fact, the only person who didn't participate in the fun was Yadier Molina, who went 0-4 with two strikeouts. Then again, it was 103 at game time, so it's not surprising Molina might have been a little sapped when going to the plate.
The Cards were able to pick up another game on the Pirates, who fell for the second straight night. St. Louis is now 3.5 behind Pittsburgh, who made a big deal yesterday to get Wandy Rodriguez from the Astros. You'll remember that I looked at Rodriguez for the Cardinals a month or so ago and didn't think it was much of a fit. Still, I'm not that excited about him staying in the division as he's been a Cardinal killer in the past.
With Rodriguez off the board and the news out that Cole Hamels is going to sign his extension with the Phillies, the trade market for pitching is starting to get very defined. Whether that works to the Cardinals' advantage or not, I'm not sure. There's no guarantee that they are going to do anything at all trade-related, perhaps being content with what they have. That's a risky strategy in my mind, but they could be going that way.
There was a report yesterday that the Angels had asked about Marc Rzepczynski. Somehow the talk was that the Cards would get back outfielder Peter Bourjos in that deal. A number of people got excited about that deal, feeling Bourjos is a quality outfielder that is having a rough year. They were people smarter than me so I'd defer to that, but Bourjos wouldn't be that helpful this year and I'm not sold on Brian Fuentes being a legitimate LOOGY type yet either. Still, it's probably moot since the Angels were talking about including him for James Shields anyway.
(By the way, exactly how ticked are Marlins fans now? Brand new stadium, huge spending spree in the offseason, and now they've traded off Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante in one deal and Hanley Ramirez, the face of the franchise before this season, in another. That stadium is going to be a sinkhole of money, isn't it? I guess we'll see Ramirez in the series finale, though it's not out of the realm of possibility he'd be in the lineup tonight.)
Chris Carpenter was back in the clubhouse yesterday. Unfortunately, not to suit up, but it was his first appearance since thoracic outlet syndrome surgery. According to him it's too early to tell, but the doctor was optimistic and didn't find anything strange or disturbing when they opened him up. Carp, in theory, will be at full strength come spring training and we know better than to bet against him if there's something he wants to do.
Lance Berkman may have to swear off playing the Dodgers. After getting seriously injured in the games out in LA, Berkman took a pitch off the same knee yesterday, causing him to be removed from the game. He's day-to-day, which probably means it'll be Friday in Chicago before we see him again as more than a pinch-hitter. Seems safest, anyway!
Cards try to keep the good vibes going tonight and they have the right guy on the mound for that. Kyle Lohse has been putting together great start after great start lately and comes into this matchup having thrown nine straight quality starts. While the bar for a quality start isn't extremely high (six innings, three runs), Lohse has exceeded those standards, almost always going seven innings and giving up just one or two runs. He did give up three runs in 5.2 innings to the Dodgers earlier in the year and they have done well against him in the past.
I would hope that this better-pitching Lohse would be able to get Adam Kennedy out, but he seems to take it up a notch when playing his old team.
Dodgers counter with Aaron Harang. Cardinal fans are familiar with Harang, who pitched for years with the Reds before moving to San Diego and then Los Angeles. Cardinal hitters are familar with him too.
This weekend, the Cardinals at times looked every bit the dominant, outstanding team they are supposed to be, that they should be. Unfortunately, it seems the Cubs weren't the best mirror to use. Let's recap.
Hero: Kyle Lohse. Lohse was poised, handling the unexpected circumstance of an actual lead with style. He went seven innings, struck out four and allowed only one run. Remember when people wanted to run him out of town on a rail? Now there's talk of resigning him, and I don't think that's a ridiculous notion at all.
Goat: Tough one, as all the starters had a hit and the pitching was fine. Rafael Furcal made an error but he got two hits. I'll give it to Matt Carpenter for striking out in his pinch-hitting slot with one out and runners on second and third, but that was in the 8th with a three run lead. Not exactly the most crucial of situations.
Notes: Matt Holliday had two hits, including a home run, and has reasserted himself as the offensive force to be reckoned with on this team. There are others that contribute, but right now Holliday is the man. Nice to see an uneventful outing out of Jason Motte as well. Just the way it should be!
Hero: Lots of options, but I like Allen Craig in this one. Pinch-hits during the big inning and gets two doubles, two runs and an RBI. That's what I call being a pinch-hitter!
Goat: Lance Berkman. Sure, he went two for five. Nice night and all, but he's the only person (besides Tony Cruz, who pinch-hit and ended the inning) not to reach base in the 12-run seventh.
Notes: I said earlier in the week that the Cards weren't scoring often enough. I'll retract that if they want to score 12 runs in an inning each game. When you factor out that inning, it was a scoreless duel and the Cards only got six hits. There were a lot of good things this weekend, but there were a lot of the same problems that were masked by this inning and the fact that they were playing the Cubs. Also, kudos to Jake Westbrook who pitched another outstanding game and finally got rewarded for it.
Also, and we'll talk more about this later, but you have to wonder about Mike Matheny's bullpen usage. After this huge inning, he sends Barret Browning out to the mound. Fine and good. Browning's been a very solid addition to the 'pen since his arrival from Memphis and has shown that he can get lefties and righties out. Up by 12, not much damage can be done here anyway, right?
So Browning gets two outs and then he walks Tony Campana. Then Matheny takes Browning out of the game. Seriously? You are going to play this like a one-run game? I know that players have to have that mentality, but managers can't. Victor Marte comes in, gets the last out (which, granted, is something we can't be assuming lately) and then Trevor Rosenthal works the ninth. That's an extra use of an arm that, frankly, has been used too much in Marte. I don't think even Tony La Russa does that one.
Hero: Jon Jay. After worrying about when Jay's offense would come back around, he goes 4-4, drives in the first two runs of the game, and puts the Cards on their way to the sweep. Very good to see such an outing from Jay.
Goat: Tyler Greene. Whatever defenders Greene had--and I will say I was one that wanted to see what he could do--he's pretty much lost them with this season. An 0-4 dropped him to .214, though he did get an RBI on a sacrifice fly. It seems pretty obvious that if Greene's going to be a major league player, it's not going to be in St. Louis.
Notes: Lance Lynn continued to show that the bump in the road he had before the All-Star Break is behind him. His command wasn't perfect--he did walk three--but he went six strong innings and didn't allow a score. Another great game by Holliday and good to see him and Carlos Beltran going back-to-back.
Hero: Trevor Rosenthal. It's not one of my regular picks, but I wasn't enamored with anyone else. Beltran had the big home run, but it just cut the lead in half and he struck out twice in the game. Rosenthal, though, went two innings and didn't allow anything. The Cards need a guy to go multiple innings in games and, so far, Rosenthal looks like he might be able to do that.
Goat: Victor Marte. Again, Matheny seems to overthink his bullpen usage and keeps the early season Marte in his mind rather than the more recent vintage. Both Fernando Salas and Browning give up a hit but get an out, but instead of letting Browning stay in after he struck out Bobby Abreu, he goes to Marte who gives up the two-run double that is huge when Beltran goes yard in the next inning.
Notes: Another day, another sputtering team. Joe Kelly didn't get the best defense behind him in the first and that haunted him when he allowed the long ball. That was all she wrote, because this team again showed that they have issues offensively for some reason, even though Chad Billingsley was just coming off the DL and isn't one of the elites of the game.
I've often said that this team reminds me of 2010, a strong start followed by middling play. I don't think we go back far enough there. When was the last time there was a really good team here for an extended period of time? 2005? Last year's team was great for six weeks and then the playoffs and we'll love them forever for that, but we spent a lot of time talking about their inconsistency then as well. 2009? I remember a strong couple of weeks after the Holliday trade, but seems like the second half of that year was listless as well save for that time. I think we have to go back to the powerhouses of 2004-2005 to get a really consistent Cardinal team.
Maybe that's just because we follow them more closely now than we did then. Perhaps some of those teams had weak play and stretches of frustration. (However, when you are winning 105 and 100 games, those stretches have to be pretty small.) There have been so many changes in that time, yet we still see a lot of the same type of thing. Lots of talent, but not necessarily the results that talent should bring.
Berkman said it best when it comes to the players:
You come and you try to play hard every day. Nobody wants to make errors. Nobody wants to not pitch well. Nobody wants to not hit well with runners in scoring position. You go out there and play as hard as you can and you hope it happens. Fans might be concerned. But we're not concerned.
Perhaps they should be, though. I mean, we've heard the song and dance about being better than this and playing better and there's a lot of time left and for the most part, it's true. However, we can't let the amazing 2011 season blind us to the fact that comebacks like that are called miracles because they don't happen every year. There's no script here. This isn't Major League or any other baseball movie where the team magically comes together and wins the title at the wire. It doesn't happen that way often and expecting it to happen two years in a row is ludicrous.
Adam Wainwright says this team is championship caliber and I don't disagree with him at all. This team should be a threat to win it all, they should be keeping an eye on October. That said, they are six games behind the Reds now and 2.5 out of the last wild card slot. I don't think the Cards want to put their season on a winner-take-all game, do they? Is just making the playoffs good enough? If given a choice between losing the wild-card game and missing out entirely, I'd probably take the latter and save myself the stress.
Yogi Berra said (allegedly) that "it gets late early out there." It may not be August yet, but it's getting late real fast for this team.
Couple of notes. Looks like Berkman may get the short end of the musical chairs that he and the rest of the first base/corner outfield types are playing, but he's good with that. Berkman's swing is looking better of late, so he will be a strong bat to come off the bench those days he doesn't play and provides insurance in case someone like Craig starts to slump.
Brian Fuentes, barring setback, will likely in St. Louis by the weekend. You would expect that Marte would be the one leaving the bullpen, as most everyone else has been effective of late. If I recall correctly, Marte got promoted from the minors when Scott Linebrink was hurt at the beginning of the season, so he should be able to be sent to Memphis without any issue.
It doesn't get any easier for St. Louis tonight as they have to go up against a Cy Young winner in Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw's in that conversation this year and he shut out the Cardinals earlier in the season. Judging by the numbers, it's going to be another rough night for the bats.
It should be a fun pitching duel to watch, though, because Adam Wainwright goes for the Cardinals. He's not had the same success against the Dodgers, but if he's on (which is a significant qualifier) he should be able to shut down a team that is one of the worst in the majors offensively.