Posted on: October 11, 2011 7:04 pm
ST. LOUIS -- Back at Busch Stadium for Game 3 on Wednesday night, and you know what that means. ...
Cue theme from The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show. ...
Yes, it's time for the Busch Squirrel to come speeding out across the field at any moment, isn't it?
"The squirrel is the squirrel," an unusually relaxed Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said during Tuesday's off day, before continuing: "I think it's good. The fans are having fun. And I really believe that this is not old school, and I know I am in many ways, but I think there's so much attention and pressure on the players that sometimes they show their unhappiness. ..."
Wait. La Russa thinks something is fun?
Hold your breath, that's not all.
"It's been fun, our fans are having fun, Milwaukee, it's fun for them," he said, referring to the whole Brewers' 'Beast Mode' act. "Let everybody enjoy it. Just don't cross the line."
La Russa smiled after he said let's "just don't cross the line", and the dilemma there, of course, is, where is that line? Because La Russa, in the heat of competition, sets those lines where he feels fit.
But it was all fun and games as the clubs worked out in St. Louis on Tuesday, to the point where the Cardinals announced a guest star who will appear on the 40,000 rally towels they will pass out to fans attending Game 3: The Rally Squirrel.
Yes, you read that correctly.
Both clubs only hope that the fans won't need to use the towels to wipe away raindrops. The run of gorgeous autumn weather in the Midwest is predicted to continue through much of this week, though there is a chance of rain in St. Louis around game time Wednesday night.
Most interesting thing about that is, despite Chris Carpenter's brief three-inning outing in Game 2 of the Division Series in Philadelphia on his first-ever start on three days' rest, La Russa said he will not hesitate to use Carpenter again on short rest if rain shuffles this NLCS.
"I know that Milwaukee and St. Louis do not want to get rained out [Wednesday] and pitch any one of our guys on three days' rest," La Russa said. "That being said, I wouldn't hesitate if he comes out of it and is healthy.
"After watching him in Philadelphia, it was all about his delivery being off. He warmed up right, he had good command and he went out there and ... [was] out of whack.
"We want to play this game [Wednesday] if we have to be here all night, and I'm sure Milwaukee does, too. If Mother Nature takes over, I have no hesitation pitching him on three days' rest."
Likes: Great cheeseburgers at Elsa's on the Park in Milwaukee. The aged Wisconsin cheddar was delightful (hmmm, you would expect that in Wisconsin, wouldn't you?). ... Stephen Colbert's line about ESPN dropping Hank Williams Jr. from Monday Night Football: "Not hearing that song left me dangerously unprepared for some football." Funny stuff. ... Netflix comes to its senses.
Dislikes: Lucinda Williams playing St. Louis on Wednesday night instead of Tuesday. Meaning, opposite Game 3 instead of on the off night before the series. Darn.
Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day
"How can you have any pudding
"If you don't eat your meat?"
-- Pink Floyd, Another Brick in the Wall
Posted on: October 3, 2011 12:02 am
PHILADELPHIA -- This is a trick, isn't it? The way the St. Louis Cardinals are setting this up, it looks suspiciously as if it might be a referendum on how smart the rest of us are.
We wrote them off once, back in early September when they were 8 1/2 games out of a playoff spot.
You and the Atlanta Braves know what happened after that.
Now, after they blew an early lead in Game 1 of this Division Series and then fell behind by four runs against Cliff Lee in the second inning of Game 2, yes, just when it looked as if it was safe to write them off again ... BAM!
The Cardinals undressed Lee, a tag-team of six relievers redeemed Chris Carpenter's awful start and Tony LaRussa's gang swiped one from the Phillies, 5-4.
This was a game made for LaRussa. He used four different pitchers in the eighth inning alone. And it worked.
The Cardinals have to feel great about this one, and not just because of the win. But because of how they earned that win.
Rafael Furcal chopped a leadoff triple in the first ... but his teammates failed to score him.
David Freese drilled a leadoff double in the second ... and never moved as St. Louis blew another early opportunity against Lee.
St. Louis was 0 for 6 alone in the first two innings with runners in scoring position. And Carpenter was so off that LaRussa ripped plate umpire Jerry Meals during his mid-game television interview for having two different strike zones for Carpenter and Lee. Blatently untrue.
But somehow, Phillies mustered just two baserunners against the not-so-vaunted Cardinals' bullpen over the last five innings. The Cardinals drove Lee from the game in the seventh.
And they drove this series back to St. Louis even.
Posted on: June 2, 2011 4:54 pm
Edited on: June 2, 2011 5:24 pm
Short hops, backhanded stops and quick pops:
-- The Brewers have climbed into second place in the NL Central thanks to ... their own beds? All that bratwurst? Milwaukee is 21-7 at Miller Park, the club's best home record EVER after 28 games. But at 9-19 on the road, the Brewers are the worst in the NL. Manager Ron Roenicke is not yet a believer in the trend, figuring "if we go three months into" the season and things don't change, then it's a problem. One reason the Brewers' road mark could be skewed: They opened with 21 of 34 games on the road, including an 11-game trip and a 10-game trip during a cold and wet spring. Assuming they stay in contention, look out for the Brewers in September: They finish with 14 of 25 games at home.
-- Milwaukee right-hander Shaun Marcum, though stuck with a no-decision in Cincinnati on Wednesday night (and though teammate Zack Greinke has received more pub for fewer starts), has pitched like an All-Star. He's allowed one run or fewer in six of his 12 starts. "He wasn't under my radar," Roenicke says. "He's the same guy I've seen pitch in Toronto. He was in the toughest division in baseball, for me. That league can flat-out hit. If you can pitch in that division, you can pitch anywhere."
-- Maybe if a team can get through the early part of a game without genuflecting to the big, bad, Yankees, it'll have a chance: New York has pummeled opponents 83-44 over the first two innings of games this year, according to STATS LLC. The Yankees are outscoring their opposition 43-16 in the first innings.
-- Clint Hurdle for manager of the year? Pittsburgh winning its 17th road game on Wednesday night ... matching the Pirates' total for all of 2010 (17-64). They're 17-14 away from PNC Park so far in 2011.
-- Kirk Gibson for manager of the year? When Arizona moved into first place in the NL West after being 6 1/2 games back through April 30, the Diamondbacks became the first team in major league history to take sole possession of first place in their league (before 1969) or in their division (since 1969) during May after starting the month at least 6 1/2 back.
-- What's up with St. Louis' Chris Carpenter, an annual Cy Young candidate who is 1-5 with a 4.52 ERA over 12 starts? "I've been up and down all year," he says, pointing to one basic element for a pitcher that he's still battling: Fastball command.
-- Lance Berkman on his experience with Cardinals manager Tony La Russa this year: "Love him. He's great. He's such a players' guy. When you think of Tony La Russa, being a players' manager is not the first thing that jumps through your head. At least, not from watching him from the other side. But he's got a bunch of guys here who will run through a wall for him."
-- One significant difference between this year's Cardinals and last year's: The clubhouse atmosphere is far better in 2011. The stuff with Colby Rasmus has blown over. The presence of Berkman, in addition to that of Matt Holliday, has really helped. "He's unbelievable," Cards GM John Mozeliak says of Berkman. "He's a gentleman and a class act. I've really enjoyed getting to know him."
-- That the Yankees' Russell Martin currently is the AL All-Star leader at catcher is attention-grabbing. But the fact that Martin actually is deserving of consideration speaks more toward the dearth of quality catching than it
-- Most productive designated hitters: Red Sox (.315 combined average, 34 runs scored, .565 slugging percentage), Royals (.302, 31, .394 on-base percentage) and Indians (.299, 27 runs, .510 slugging). Least productive? Yankees (.185, 21 runs, .350 slugging), White Sox (.234, 21, .383 slugging) and Mariners (.242, 15, .328 slugging).
-- At 17-37, the Twins are 20 games below .500 for the first time since the end of the 2000 season (69-93).
-- So what is retired Braves manager Bobby Cox doing? He spent a nice summer's evening last week at the Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band's Atlanta show on the Welcome to Finland tour.
Likes: Former big leaguer Darin Erstad taking the job as head baseball coach at his beloved alma mater, Nebraska. ... Ian O'Connor's new book, The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter. ... Also, for you Giants fans, Worth The Wait, written by Brian Murphy and largely photographed by Brad Mangin, is beautifully done. ... The story on how Roger Ailes built the Fox news fear factory in the current issue of Rolling Stone. ... Professor Longhair's Rock and Roll Gumbo.
Dislikes: If it's anything like this, Michigan's "throwback" jersey for the night game against Notre Dame this Sept. 10 might make the game unwatchable.
"Good luck had just stung me
-- The Band, Up On Cripple Creek
Tags: Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves, Bobby Cox, Brian Murphy, Chris Carpenter, Clint Hurdle, Derek Jeter, Ian O'Connor, Kirk Gibson, Lance Berkman, Milwaukee Brewers, Nate McLouth, New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, Professor Longhair, Ron Roenicke, Russell Martin, Shaun Marcum, St. Louis Cardinals, The Band, Tony La Russa, Zack Greinke
Posted on: July 2, 2010 9:11 pm
If American League manager Joe Girardi chooses to start Tampa Bay's David Price in the July 13 All-Star Game -- a very real possibility given that Price led the AL in ERA (2.44) and wins (11) on Friday -- the coast is clear.
And if National League manager Charlie Manuel gives the nod to Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez -- which seems a slam dunk -- that should work, too.
In the first season in which baseball will deem ineligible any starting pitcher working on the Sunday before the All-Star break, the view from several days out looks pretty good.
Of the top AL starters, only the Angels' Jered Weaver (who leads the majors with 124 strikeouts), Tampa Bay's Jeff Niemann and the Yankees' CC Sabathia currently are projected to start for their clubs on that Sunday.
Among the NL's top starters, only the Mets' Mike Pelfrey is slated to start on Sunday, July 11. But depending on what manager Jerry Manuel does with his pitching on the club's off-day on Thursday, July 8, that could change.
Price, a serious candidate to start for the AL, is scheduled to make his final pre-All Star start for Tampa Bay on Wednesday, which would leave him plenty rested for the Anaheim game. And if Girardi looks in a different direction, Seattle's Cliff Lee (last first-half start next Friday), Boston's Jon Lester (Friday) and Clay Buchholz (Tuesday), the Yankees' own Phil Hughes (Friday) and Texas' Colby Lewis (Wednesday) all should be eligible.
Jimenez makes his final pre-All Star start on Thursday and, assuming good health, should be a foregone conclusion to start for the NL in Anaheim.
As for the rest of the NL's top starters, things are setting up very nicely for Manuel: Florida's Josh Johnson (final first-half start slotted for Wednesday), St. Louis' Chris Carpenter (Friday), Adam Wainwright (Saturday) and Jaime Garcia (Thursday), Philadelphia's Roy Halladay (Saturday), Atlanta's Tim Hudson (Friday or Saturday), Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo (Friday), the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw (Thursday), San Diego's Mat Latos (Wednesday) and San Francisco's Tim Lincecum (Wednesday) and Barry Zito (Thursday) all should be fresh for the game.
Likes: Great move by Texas acquiring catcher Bengie Molina. Look out, this is the strongest team the Rangers have had in several years. ... The wheels came off the wagon horribly in Arizona, but make no mistake: Fired general manager Josh Byrnes and manager A.J. Hinch are good people. ... New Arizona manager Kirk Gibson's first game in the dugout, of course, is against the Dodgers. Who else? ... The All-Star break just around the corner and Texas, Atlanta, Cincinnati and San Diego in first place. ... The new concert DVD from Bruce Springsteen and the E St. Band, Live in Hyde Park. Very, very good. Great song selections, tremendous playing and some breathtaking camera work of both the band's work and the crowd in Hyde Park. ... Quaker Oatmeal Squares for breakfast. ... Ben & Jerry's Milk and Cookies ice cream.
Dislikes: It's July, so here comes the July 31 trade deadline, a time that you would think would get a baseball writer's juices flowing. And it does mine, too -- it's fun to see the moves as they're made -- but it's also become one of my least favorite times of the year because there is so, so much wrong information that will be produced this month. And ferreting out the truth from the fiction is next to impossible. The sad, simple fact is the journalism bar at times is lowered today, and this is one of them.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
-- The Cars, Magic
Posted on: May 27, 2010 10:01 pm
Right now, even with a rotation that ranks second to San Diego's in the National League with a 3.03 ERA, the warning signs are flashing.
While the Cardinals figure to get right-hander Brad Penny back when he's eligible to return from the disabled list June 7, there is no timetable -- yet -- for Lohse's return.
And though rookie Jaime Garcia (1.14 ERA, 11 consecutive scoreless innings) has been sensational, he underwent Tommy John ligament transfer surgery in September, 2008, and only pitched a total of 37 2/3 innings combined at three minor-league levels in 2009.
Which all likely will put St. Louis in the market for more starting pitching at some point this season. Seattle's Cliff Lee, Houston's Roy Oswalt, Cleveland's Jake Westbrook and possibly even Oakland's Ben Sheets are all among the names expected to become available between now and the July 31 trade deadline, though La Russa -- whose club acquired John Smoltz last year -- isn't allowing his imagination to run wild at this point.
"I think it will come from within [the organization]," La Russa said of any eventual pitching reinforcements. "Mo [general manager John Mozeliak], can answer that better, and maybe differently. But I haven't heard anything different than from within."
It isn't that the Cardinals are anywhere close to trouble now, even with Lohse headed into unknown territory to undergo surgery for an injury to which there apparently is no precedent in major-league baseball.
"I think we'll get Penny back [when his DL stint is up]," manager Tony La Russa said Thursday. "That means we'll have four solid guys. There's a question mark on Lohse. But everybody has problems."
Until the Cardinals get Penny back, they're down two-fifths of their rotation. As La Russa said, for one thing, that gives an opportunity to rookie P.J. Walters, who made just his second career start on Thursday in San Diego.
The kid stepped up to the challenge, throwing five shutout innings. He allowed four hits, struck out four and walked two.
Saturday in Chicago's Wrigley Field, Adam Ottavino, the Cardinals' first-round pick in 2006, is expected to make his first major-league start. Another opportunity.
Garcia, 23, certainly has made the most of his. He's worked six or more innings and allowed two or fewer earned runs in each of his first seven starts, and the last rookie to do that was named Fernando Valenzuela, back in 1981.
The issue is, if Garcia continues pitching this well, it's hard to see how there won't be a breaking point when he reaches a certain number of innings. What are the Cardinals going to do, allow a prized kid less than two years off of Tommy John surgery to, say, quadruple his innings-pitched load from last year? He's at 55 1/3 innings pitched so far in 2010.
"You can't speculate," La Russa said. "All you can do is watch closely. He never really forced it ... you really have to wait and see how the season develops. We're going to be really careful with him."
Lohse was diagnosed this week with exertional compartment syndrome, an uncommon, exercise-induced neuromuscular condition that causes pain and swelling in the legs or arms. As St. Louis Post-Dispatch beat writer Joe Strauss reported, it is most common in marathon runners and motocross drivers. Athletes in those sports generally have resumed activity within six-to-eight weeks, though, as a pitcher, Lohse is expected to take a longer.
La Russa said Thursday he figures Lohse will return "this year. Other than that, we just have to wait."
Posted on: January 5, 2010 11:15 pm
Did St. Louis vastly overpay slugger Matt Holliday in his spiffy new seven-year, $120 million deal?
Are the Cardinals headed for serious turbulence given their colossal Holliday commitment when The Franchise, Albert Pujols, is hurtling toward free agency himself (his contract is up after 2010, the Cards hold a 2011 option on him)?
Is there impending doom just around the corner?
Legitimate questions, all.
But, man, are the 2010 Cardinals going to have some fun.
With a middle-of-the-order containing Holliday and Pujols, Lethal Weapons I and II, and with a top-of-the-rotation featuring Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, Tony La Russa again will be managing a Disneyland of a club.
The Cardinals just became heavy NL Central favorites. Yeah, yeah, the Cubs will be leaner and meaner having purged themselves of Mr. Oversized Baggage, Milton Bradley. Milwaukee still can score. Cincinnati? Pittsburgh? Houston? Please.
La Russa and general manager John Mozeliak are playing for keeps, and though this isn't a perfect team -- the Cards remain light at shortstop (Brendan Ryan) and rookie David Freese currently is the Lone Ranger on the depth chart at third base -- there is too much else to like. Besides, even with Mark De Rosa off the board (signed with San Francisco), the Cards will scoop up someone. Otherwise ... Ryan Ludwick, Colby Rasmus (who now comes with a year of seasoning), Yadier Molina and Skip Schumaker ... and did I mention the Holliday-Pujols tandem?
Yes, the richest contract awarded this winter seems somewhat excessive, given the fact that the Cardinals' chief competition in negotiations for Holliday at this point seemed to be the Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars. Once the Mets signed Jason Bay, there essentially was just one chair left for Holliday, and it was in Pujols' clubhouse.
That said, for Holliday to earn an average annual value of $17 million, exceeding Bay's $16 million a year, is just one more feather in the already overstuffed and plumed cap of superagent Scott Boras. How does he keep doing this?
Mozeliak fretted some at the GM meetings in Chicago two months ago at the prospect of attempting to squeeze both Holliday and Pujols into one payroll. In the end, clearly, he decided the alternative -- losing Holliday -- was worse.
There will be lots of tightrope walking ahead, especially when negotiations open for an extension for Pujols. But you know what? That's another problem for another day, and there is every chance that Mozeliak and Co. will work around that and figure it out.
To all those who already are worrying that the Cardinals won't be able to afford Pujols down the line, I ask you this:
If the Cardinals don't make moves like they did Tuesday to retain Holliday and the team gets worse, do you think Pujols will want to stay in St. Louis then?
Play it too conservatively, don't field a World Series contender, and there's no guarantee Pujols stays.
Play it too aggressively, commit a ton of dough to Holliday ... and there's no guarantee Pujols stays.
Which way would you rather go?
The answer is obvious: Try to win while you figure out a way to keep Pujols.
Sure, eventually, the Cardinals may live to regret it. They now become one of only three big league clubs to employ at least two players making $100 million each -- the others, of course, are the Yankees (CC Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter) and the Mets (Johan Santana and Carlos Beltran). Sometime in the future, maybe they may find themselves looking to trade Holliday in order to keep Pujols. Maybe in the interim, they win a World Series, too.
At the risk of sounding overly naïve, the future will take care of itself ... and if need be, Mozeliak will massage and adapt and figure it out.
As for the present, the Cardinals made the right move.
Posted on: January 5, 2010 6:32 pm
St. Louis and slugger Matt Holliday have agreed to terms on a seven-year, $120 million deal that allows the Cardinals to cross a major item off of their winter to-do list, CBSSports.com has confirmed.
The deal, a major score for Holliday in that the Cardinals really didn't seem to have much competition left for his services at this point in the winter, also includes a full no-trade clause. It also should re-establish St. Louis as NL Central favorites, given the powerful one-two punch of Holliday and Albert Pujols in the middle of the lineup and co-aces Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright atop the rotation.
A return to St. Louis also will give Holliday the chance to re-write what would have been a highly unsatisfying ending to his stay with the Redbirds following his crucial error in left field during Game 2 in Los Angeles last October in the playoffs. The botched play helped position the Dodgers to sweep in three games and largely contributed to a stunningly premature end to the season for a team that had serious World Series hopes.
The Cardinals, of course, probably wouldn't have been in that position in the first place without Holliday, whose bat sent them on a torrid second half run after they acquired him from Oakland in late July. In 63 games with the Cardinals, Holliday batted .353 with 13 homers and 55 RBI.
Posted on: December 7, 2009 7:57 pm
INDIANAPOLIS -- He isn't Matt Holliday -- that situation is still pending -- but the St. Louis Cardinals did bag a starting pitcher Monday, agreeing to terms with free agent Brad Penny on a one-year deal, sources with knowledge of the talks told CBSSports.com.
The deal, pending a physical examination on Tuesday, will pay Penny a base salary of $7.5 million, with $1.5 million in incentives attached.
The big right-hander spent most of 2009 proving he again was healthy after battling a sore shoulder for most of 2008. In 34 starts for Boston and San Francisco in '09, Penny went 11-9 with a 4.88 ERA in 173 1/3 innings pitched.
The Giants were hoping to re-sign Penny and made a concerted effort but were informed Monday that he had decided to sign elsewhere. The Cardinals are hopeful that the news will become official by Tuesday evening.