Batman is Freesing HotI am really trying hard to not be horribly complacent or obnoxiously cocky about the Cards’ good start but as “colleague” Bernie Miklasz pointed out today, who is going to challenge us in the Central? No one, really – we have the best pitching in the division.
For me, the Cubs seem to have the most upside – Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells, and even Tom Gorzelanny have been pretty effective. Carlos Zambrano will pull his head out of his nether regions probably sooner rather than later. Their offense is really starting to heat up so I expect the Cubbies to be playing some .550 ball for a good portion of the summer. Alfonso Soriano is having a big rebound year so far (hitting homers five and six on the season today). Fukudome and Marlon Byrd are raking (but how can that last). Anyway, the pieces are there and they’ll make some noise. The comment that scared me the most about the Cubs this spring was, everything went wrong for them last year and they still won 83 games.
The Reds series opener was an exercise in frustration. The Reds continually were given a strike six inches outside to lefties meanwhile, pitches at the knees and over the plate were called low, apparently, for Brad Penny. Despite this, the Cards held a lead until the rain started coming down in earnest, and even though Penny stood on the mound shrugging his shoulders to the umps (i.e.: “What do you want me to do – I can’t even grip the ball”) play continued until the Reds were allowed to take the lead in a downpour.
Penny deserved better as did Kyle Lohse who had his first truly brilliant start of the season, but a blown save denied him a win. The rubber-match of the series between Aaron Harang and Chris Carpenter was fairly predictable – a 6-0 win by the good guys.
Colby Rasmus cooled off so fast this week that I was afraid he would shatter like the T-1000 from Terminator 2. On the flip side, David Freese more or less carried the offense for the club and we’ll start there on…
The Hard Nine1. I’m…Batman – So Freese is slightly superstitious. He puts on a lucky Batman mask before the games. Let us bask in that weirdness for a bit. Meanwhile, he’s a man on a mission – his six-RBI game this weekend was a wakeup call for the league. If Matt Holliday ever gets on track, this train will really pick up steam.
2. “Yes, officer, that’s my Kryptonite.” – I hope this is what Jaime Garcia’s answer would be if pulled over by one of Philadelphia’s finest as the Cards visit to begin a four-game set with the Phillies. He starts opposite enigmatic lefty Cole Hamels. I really think Garcia has what it takes to stymie this scary-offensive club. But enough about their hygiene, those guys can also hit the baseball very well. I will giggle like a little girl if the over-paid, over-rated Ryan Howard strikes out 3 or 4 times tonight.
3. Mr. Rolen, Professional Baseball Player – There was a really interesting tidbit shared during the game yesterday; a quote by Dusty Baker that Scott Rolen has changed the way the Reds take batting practice. They’ve adopted a more business-like approach and that seems to be carrying over into the games. My question is: the idea of showing up and doing your job as a ballplayer has been absent from the Reds clubhouse until now? That might explain your last 10 years of futility.
4. ROY Garcia or ROY Freese? Maybe neither in a league that includes Braves phenom Jason Heyward who, at 20, is easily Atlanta’s #1 offensive threat. But Freese and Garcia will give Rookie of the Year voters something to think about at the end of this year.
5. Quote Quotient - "I don't direct anything to anybody unless they disrespect me, my teammates or the game, but this game is really, really important to me. It's done a lot for me. It's done a lot for my family. As much as I've been through, I don't take any start for granted, 'cause I never know when it's going to end. And I love doing it. I really do. And I love everybody in this clubhouse and I don't like anybody I play against when I'm between the lines. That's just the way it is. It's super, super important to me." - Chris “Mad Dog” Carpenter
6. Power Up – The Cards are #1 on ESPN’s Relative Power Index. They are also the #1 rated team on CBS Sportsline’s player rankings. Infield is 8th, Outfield is 4th, Starting Pitching 1st, and Relief is 9th. Top ten in all categories in all of baseball.
7. Law of Averages – The Cubs team batting average is a robust .278; The “offensively challenged” Giants, .277; St. Louis, .260, but climbing. Just to further point out, the Cubs and Giants are scary as well as Philadelphia and Arizona for their pure slugging prowess.
8. Les Canadiens de Montréal – I’m on the bandwagon. Halak, Montreal’s goalie, has been incredible. I don’t even want to know his first name. I just want him to go by “Halak” from now on. They have evened their series with the talented Pittsburgh Penguins at one game each.
9. My Neuroses – The first half of last year, Pujols was the Cards’ offense. Then we picked up Holliday. This year third base is no longer a waste of an at bat. I often wonder if Albert prefers having the entire offense rest on his shoulders or if he truly likes the balanced attack.