The Price of Oscar Taveras

“These were the lovely bones that had grown around my absence: the

connections -sometimes tenuous, sometimes made at great cost, but

often magnificent-that happened after I was gone. And I  began to

see things in a way that let me hold the world without me in it.  The

events that my death wrought were merely the bones  of a body that

would become whole at some unpredictable time in the future.  The

price of what I came to see as this miraculous body had been my life.”

Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones

I came late to the party with this post.  Many beautiful words have been written about the tragic death of Oscar Taveras in an automobile accident in his home country of the Dominican Republic yesterday.  I do not attempt to replicate what has already been spoken.  I mourn along with the rest of baseball for Oscar and his girlfriend, Edilia Arvelo, for their families and friends, for the teammates, coaches, manager and all who are in the Cardinal organization whom Oscar left behind.  I grieve for the dream of what Oscar Taveras might have been.

I instead look to what is to come.  To the lovely bones that will grow around his absence.  As Cardinal Nation and the baseball world move forward, how will Oscar’s absence affect us all?

I spent yesterday dealing with a different death on a personal level.  My mother passed away four days ago, and as I sat and listened to the pastor who spoke at her funeral, it occurred to me that the rituals that we engage in when a loved one passes away are really intended for the living.  It is the living who remain that must take the memories and the experiences with the deceased loved one and create the life moving forward.  We create the body that will become whole from the events that occur after death.  That body that we create is the price of the life that left us.

As it relates to the Cardinals, I ask this question:  What body will Oscar’s teammates, coaches and his manager create from what Oscar gave to them in his brief life?  What is the price of Oscar Taveras?  Perhaps the answer will become known to us at some time in the future.  Will there be changes that we can visibly see?  If so, what will those changes be?

As fans we mourn for what we will never see.  The promise that is left unfulfilled.  Most of us never knew Oscar on a personal level, but we can draw from the memories and experiences we took away from our enjoyment of his baseball play to create the body that will become the price of his life.  How we interact with each other can be the foundation of that body we create.  Being more appreciative and less judgmental of those players and staff left behind can be a building block as well.  That doesn’t mean we can’t be critical or have opinions that differ.  Accepting that there is value in those criticisms and differences of opinion can go a long way in creating a body that is foundationally strong.  The price of Oscar’s life must be a better understanding of what it means to be a fan.  An understanding that fandom is not a cookie cutter; that our individual values and viewpoints should not be projected onto others as a marker of a “true fan”.  Oscar was a unique individual who loved life, and baseball, and brought his own experiences into how he played the game.  There is room for differences and we must accept those differences as we move forward.  Baseball and baseball fandom is not and must not be monolithic.

What is the price of Oscar Taveras?  I surely hope it is a fortune of understanding.

Thank you for reading.

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Not a Good Start to the Offseason

You know, just when you think you know something, the universe has a way of showing you that all is not what it seems.  I got schooled in that fact yesterday when Mike Matheny and John Mozeliak held a press conference to discuss the 2014 season and plans for the offseason and 2015 season.  Nothing Mike Matheny said surprised me because I have come to expect inanities, bromides, and motivational speaker babble as his primary method of communicating.  He is a Tony Robbins wannabe in a baseball cap.  Expecting anything of substance from him would be like expecting a Taylor Swift song to be edgy.

However, I was knocked off my feet by the approach taken by GM John Mozeliak.  Mozeliak has always been more circumspect, more a creature of hedging rather than speaking in absolutes.  So imagine my surprise when he announces that Jon Jay has been anointed as the starting center fielder for 2015, before the World Series is even concluded, and 4 months before Spring Training begins.  Quite surprising considering the first deal Mozeliak made in the offseason last year was to trade for a replacement for Jay.  Mozeliak must have been blown away by all that slap hitting of singles and the “hey, I can catch the ball now” defense of Jay’s in 2014.   That is rather snarky of me I know; Jay had a very good year, I am not discounting that.  But baseball players are notorious for putting up great years and then tanking the following year.  Look at Allen Craig.   Did we learn nothing? So automatically proclaiming Jay CFer for the next season before he has even taken an AB in Spring Training seems like a teeny bit of Fate Tempting to me.

But that little bit of news was only a small part of the festivities.  We also learned that Randy Choate is on the trading block because he can’t do the thing he was never signed to do in the first place, the bench is no place for young players trying to establish themselves— old guys are better, and once again so you don’t forget, Oscar Taveras is fat and oh yeah, he doesn’t have passion for defense.  Maybe in a few weeks we will learn that Oscar kicks puppies and is a closet Cubs fan.

I can’t even talk about the prospect of more Daniel Descalso next season.  It’s too painful.

You want to know how I really feel about the presser?  Imagine Mike Matheny as Edgar Bergen and John Mozeliak as Charlie McCarthy.  If you are old enough to know what I am talking about you will get the rest.  If not, google it.

Part of me wants to believe the whole thing was a giant troll by Mozeliak.  Maybe it was just an exercise in damage control after the beating Mike Matheny took in the media for his awful managing in the NLCS.  If it was, couldn’t a statement by Mozeliak have done the trick?  Did we have to be subjected to that nauseating spectacle yesterday?

If all of it was legit, then I don’t know what to say except that I am hugely disappointed in John Mozeliak.  I don’t have a good feeling about the Cardinals going forward if this is the kind of handling we are to expect in the future.

Thank you for reading.

My Winter Wishes: Hot Stove 2014-2015

In my last post I stated that I would write another post regarding possible off season transactions (or non-transactions) that the Cardinals should make.  This is that post.  I am just a fan, not any sort of expert, so my suggestions are nothing more than an amateur opinion.  I confess right now to not having much insight into the trade value of any player, major or minor league, or any idea of what the market is going to be.  These are all just shots in the dark.  They are also, admittedly, tinged with some personal bias on my part.  I will do this by naming a current Cardinal player first and then stating what I think should be done with that player.  I will talk about arb-eligible players as well as free agents and even some not yet arb-eligible players.

 

FREE AGENTS:

1.  Jason Motte—-This will be Motte’s first foray into free agency.  Motte is one season removed from Tommy John surgery, a season where predictably he was not very effective.  Motte has always been a pitcher who relies primarily on his fastball velocity and that velocity was down this season.  At 98-99 mphs Motte is effective.  At 95-96 mph not so much, because he has no secondary pitch of any substance to offset that.  Yes, he has a cutter, but it is too much like his fastball to make a difference.  Now, whether Motte’s fastball velocity will return to his pre TJ numbers is anybody’s guess.  However, I don’t think it matters, because the Cardinals already have hard throwers Rosenthal and Martinez on the roster, with several others waiting in the wings, such as Sam Tuivailala.  Relievers are very fungible, so I would expect Motte has pitched his last as a Cardinal.  Good luck to him.

2.  Pat Neshek—Part of me would like to see Neshek return to the Cardinals on a one year deal.  The bigger part of me realizes that:  (a) Neshek can probably get a better deal somewhere else; and (b) because relievers are fungible and there is no guarantee that Neshek can replicate his 2014 success, the Cardinals should let him move on.

3.  Mark Ellis—I thought this was a good deal when it was made.  Ellis is an above-average defender at second base and it was worth a shot.  It didn’t work out.  I wish him well in his future endeavors.

4. Justin Masterson—It was worth a shot to see if Masterson could bring some short term value.  It didn’t happen.  I still don’t think the trade was a bad idea, because I was not that high on James Ramsey to begin with (we have better outfield prospects) and we traded from depth.  You win some, you lose some.  Masterson taught Shelby Miller to throw a sinker, so he had some value after all.  Bye Bye.

5.  A.J. Pierzynski.  I was not a big fan of this acquisition when it first happened, but he grew on me.  He is the other free agent, along with Neshek, that I have a moderate amount of angst about losing.  Not so much for his baseball skills, but just because of his personality.  I think we need someone like A.J in that milquetoast atmosphere the Cardinals call a clubhouse.  A little too much buttoned up sanctimony and inbreeding for my taste.  Having John Lackey back may help, but A.J. would be ideal.  Alas, we could really use a decent back up catcher and A.J. just isn’t that guy.  Neither is Tony Cruz, but that is covered below.  See ya, A.J.

 

ARBITRATION ELIGIBLE PLAYERS:

1.  Daniel Descalso—This guy is on the top of my list of players who have to go.  It’s not personal, but he has little to no value on the roster.  Can’t hit, can’t field.  He is also one of Mike Matheny’s favorites, which is reason enough to let him go.   If no one will take him in a trade, then he should be non-tendered.  Do it Mo.

2.  Tony Cruz—I actually like Tony Cruz, but my liking him doesn’t mean he should remain on the team.  We need a new back up catcher, one that can hit some.  I realize that Mike Matheny has this thing for never pinch hitting the back up catcher, but that needs to change.  It’s really stupid.  The Cardinals have a history of valuing defense more than offense in their catchers, and there is nothing wrong with that.  However, if you can find a good defensive catcher who can also hit, he is probably a starter.  A hitting catcher on the bench would be a nice change of pace.  So, I suggest the Cardinals look for one, and Tony Cruz be either traded or non-tendered.

3.  Shane Robinson—Good ole Shane is not without value (he is a pretty good outfield defender and has some speed), but not enough value to keep him with all the outfield depth the Cardinals have.  We have other options for a 4th OFer, which is all he has ever been.  Trade or non-tender.

4.  Lance Lynn—Can you spell extension?  Like the Cardinals should really give him one.  If not, obviously he should be tendered a contract.  He is going to get a substantial raise in arbitration, and he deserves one.  Right now I see him as the Cardinals #2 starter.  This is a no-brainer.

5.  Jon JayThis one and the next one are going to get some folks’ dander up.  I don’t care.  Trade him.  Jay’s value is never going to be as high as it is now and his arbitration salary is going to approach 6M, which in my opinion is too much for a 2nd year arb player whose only really good skill is hitting a lot of singles and getting on base.  He’s also going to be 30 years old in March.  Can you spell decline?  His defense was better this year,(it was terrible last year), but how many people have in the back of their mind that only happened because he had some very stiff competition named Peter Bourjos?  A player worth paying 6M to shouldn’t have to be motivated by outside forces to play his best.  Moreover, that throwing arm is a train wreck and he is the worst base runner on the team in terms of making outs on the basepaths.  Get something of value for him before his value goes down.  My suggestion?  See: Tony Cruz, above—a hitting back up catcher.  How about Evan Gattis?  The Braves are likely to trade him, Gattis can really hit, and the Braves could use a center fielder who isn’t B.J. Upton.

6.  Peter Bourjos—What you saw this year in terms of offense is not the real Peter Bourjos.  Trust me, this is my 4th season of watching him play.  Is he a .300 hitter?  No.  But he has the ability to be a .270ish hitter with regular playing time, and with his defense and speed that makes him better than Jon Jay.  He also has a little pop in his bat.  The only reservation I have about keeping him on the team is that he has to play for Mike Matheny.  As we have seen with Oscar Taveras, if Matheny has taken a dislike to Bourjos, he will find any excuse he can to not play him.  That means Randal Grichuk as the every day center fielder (assuming Jay is traded).  Randal Grichuk is not the defensive center fielder that Bourjos is, he isn’t as fast, he strikes out more than Bourjos does, and he can’t hit RHP consistently.  He is an inferior CFer to Bourjos in every way,  which means that Matheny will play him and not Bourjos.  Without some intervention from Mozeliak it will be 2014 all over again.  Which isn’t fair to an elite CFer who deserves to play every day.  So, keep him if Mozeliak can some how force Matheny to play him.  If not, then give him the opportunity to play every day somewhere else.

 

NON ARB PLAYERS:

1.  Oscar Taveras—There are some Cardinals fans who think Oscar Taveras will or should be traded.  That is incredibly, monumentally dumb.  Oscar Taveras did not play enough in 2014 for ANY fair evaluation of his skills or future potential.  Those who make judgements about players based on small sample sizes just annoy the hell out of me.  Maybe he has some work ethic issues.  Maybe he has some conditioning issues.  Maybe he is only 22 years old and folks need to chill out.  Maybe Mike Matheny should spend less time criticizing Taveras and more time making sure he is getting the help that he needs to improve in these areas.  Oscar should still be a Cardinal in 2o15.

2.  Randal Grichuk—I want to like Randal Grichuk.  Until Mike Matheny decided he was the anti-Taveras, I actually did.  Not as a starting OFer, but as a 4th OFer to hit against LHP and be a defensive sub in the corners.  If Jon Jay is traded and Mozeliak makes Matheny play Peter Bourjos and Oscar Taveras every day then Randal Grichuk as a bench player is perfect.  Otherwise, he needs to go, either back to Memphis or to another team.  The bottom line is that we can’t have another repeat of 2014.  The Cardinals as managed by Mike Matheny cannot have Jay, Bourjos, Taveras and Grichuk all competing for playing time again.  Matheny can’t be trusted.

 

I am not going to address those players who are on the fringes of the big league club, like Tommy Pham, Greg Garcia, Pete Kozma and Xavier Scruggs.  How or if they are incorporated into next year’s team will depend on what moves Mozeliak makes in the offseason. It is entirely possible if Daniel Descalso is gone from the team, Kozma or Garcia will take his place.  Tommy Pham could be in the OF mix depending on offseason moves as well.  I just don’t have a good read on how they fit in so I am leaving them out. Assuming Motte and Neshek don’t return, there could be additions to the bullpen as well.

I am sure there are many who would like Mozeliak’s biggest offseason move to be firing Mike Matheny.  While that idea is not unpleasant to me, I believe it is extremely unlikely.  We are stuck with him.  I just want Mozeliak to minimize the damage he can inflict by making the roster as Matheny proof as possible.

Let’s hope 2015 begins and ends better.

 

 

Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

 

The End of a Love and a Season

I decided to wait before I wrote a post about the end of the Cardinals’ season.  I was very angry, and when I am angry I tend to say things that I later wish I hadn’t.  I also waited to see how the rest of Cardinal Nation reacted, as well as the rest of the Baseball World.  Maybe my perspective was skewed.  It turns out it wasn’t.

Mike Matheny is being pilloried for his managing of the NLCS, more specifically his managing of Game 5.  It isn’t undeserved.  That was one of the worst managed games many of us had seen all season, and that is saying quite a bit since Matheny has managed many games badly.  We Cardinals fans bear the brunt of it because we see it on a daily basis.  The postseason gave the rest of baseball a front row seat to our misery.  This season has been especially  bad, more so than the first two of Matheny’s seasons. If baseball players can regress, I don’t know why managers can’t do so as well.  Matheny certainly did.

I liked Mike Matheny as a player.  When it was announced that he had been hired as the Cardinals’ manager, I remember thinking that his lack of experience was a little worrisome, but his other qualities might make it a decent hire.  Matheny was anathema to the prior manager, Tony La Russa, in terms of personality.  La Russa was querulous and prone to quarrels and public clashes with some of his players.  Ozzie Smith, Scott Rolen, Colby Rasmus, to name a few.  Matheny was much more introspective and less prone to bouts of churlishness.  He was more likely to bond with his players than quarrel with them.  What I didn’t understand was that bonding would create problems of its own.  I also didn’t realize how stubborn and old school Matheny was.  I foolishly thought that being younger, he would be more open to modern baseball thinking.  I was dead wrong.

What happened this season is anyone’s guess.  Perhaps two years of success reaching the postseason went to Matheny’s head and he thought he was infallible.  The signs of what was to come really began in Spring Training.  There were young players vying for spots on the big league club.  Highly touted players like Oscar Taveras, Kolten Wong, and Carlos Martinez.  In addition, GM John Mozeliak had brought in new players to add to the mix.  First, shortstop Jhonny Peralta was signed as a free agent amid controversy over his suspension for PED use the year before as a part of the Biogenesis investigation.  Peralta was brought in to replace Pete Kozma, who though an above average defender, was woefully inadequate with the bat. This signing, despite it’s controversial beginning, was met with much joy by Cardinal Nation, as Peralta’s bat was seen as a vast improvement to what had been experienced with Kozma.  Furthermore, no other viable candidate for the shortstop position was to be had within the ranks of the Cardinals’ minor league system, so the transition was seamless and without disputation by Matheny.  Not so with the second new player.

Mozeliak also made a trade in the offseason to bring in center fielder Peter Bourjos from the Angels.  Bourjos was an elite defensive center fielder, widely considered the best in the game at his position.  Bourjos had had mixed results with the bat, posting a final line of .271/.327/.438 in his first full season with the Angels in 2011.  The next two seasons were tough for Bourjos; he was put on the bench in 2012 due to the emergence of phenom Mike Trout, and a desire by the Angels front office to give playing time to grossly overpaid for his skills Vernon Wells.  His final line for 2012 was a woeful  .220/.291/.315  in 195 PAs.  After Vernon Wells moved on in 2013, Bourjos was back in the starting lineup, pushing 2012 center fielder Trout to left field.  Unfortunately for Bourjos, a couple of unlucky bouts with injury put him on the sidelines for much of 2013.  Despite that, Bourjos posted a final line of  .274/.333/.377 in only 196 PAs, one more PA than in 2012.  Mozeliak had made it clear that Bourjos was brought in to improve the defense in center field, and the implication was that Bourjos was to replace incumbent Jon Jay in that position and relegate Jay to the bench as the 4th outfielder.  Jay had had a below average year in 2013 as a defensive center fielder and his weak throwing arm had always been a source of consternation.

When Spring Training rolled around, Matheny made statements to the press that seemed to suggest that he had other plans for his outfield than what Mozeliak had indicated.  Despite this, when the regular season started, Bourjos, not Jay, was the starting center fielder, at least for the first two weeks.  Bourjos had a slow start with the bat (being in a new league and seeing all new pitchers is not an easy thing for many major league hitters; Curtis Granderson had a similar slow start with the Mets).  However, by the time the Cardinals played their home opener, Bourjos had started to hit.  On April 8 in a game against the Reds, Bourjos went 3 for 4.   However, by April 15 Bourjos was relegated to the bench in favor of Jon Jay, who had hit a home run in that series in Milwaukee, but who was hitting worse than Bourjos at the time.   Bourjos had a short stint in May when he started regularly for about 3 weeks, but then again was benched in favor of Jay.  Bourjos never again regained his starting slot.  Matheny did what he had hinted at in Spring Training ; played the incumbent Jay, who went on to justify his manager’s choice by having a career year at the plate.  There is no way of knowing what kind of numbers Bourjos would have put up had he received the playing time it was initially indicated he would receive.  He ended up with a final line of .231/.294/.348 in a sporadic 294 PAs.  Bourjos’ defense, however, turned out to be exactly as advertised.

Young prospect Kolten Wong had a similar start to the season as Bourjos.  Wong, who was favored for the starting job at second base as a result of the offseason trade of David Freese and the movement of Matt Carpenter to take his place at 3rd base, had his share of issues with Matheny.  The Cardinals had signed veteran Mark Ellis as an insurance policy for young Wong, but Ellis started the season with injury.  Wong was holding his own as a starter in April, but many of the rest of the veteran players were struggling.  For some reason we will all likely never know, Matheny suddenly benched Wong and recalled Ellis from his rehab in Memphis after only one start and installed him at second base.  A few weeks later, John Mozeliak, seeing that Wong was not getting playing time, sent him to Memphis so that he could play regularly.  Wong tore it up at Memphis and was brought back up weeks later and reinstalled at second base, where he remained more or less for the rest of the season.  Matheny had bouts of yanking Wong to play Ellis or Daniel Descalso, bouts that most of us never understood.  We also never got a reason for the sudden displeasure by Matheny for Wong back in April.  The only explanation we received was that Wong needed to “face adversity” whatever in the hell that meant.

There was another controversy of sorts that occurred in Spring Training regarding the starting rotation.  It was reported in the press that  there would be a competition for the final rotation spot between incumbent starter Joe Kelly, and the young Carlos Martinez, who was a starter in the minor leagues but had been brought up in 2013  to pitch out of the bullpen.  It turned out that Martinez pitched much better in Spring Training than Kelly; but when rosters were announced at the end of it, it was Kelly who was given the starting spot over Martinez.  Again, Matheny acted in a manner that was contradictory to what the media and the fans were led to believe was the case.

The signs were there that this season was not going to be free from frustration and contention.  Matheny had shown his willfulness cards in Spring Training and in April.    The loudness of Matheny’s willfulness became a cacophony in the matter of Allen Craig.  We all know how that played out and how it ended.  But the willfulness of Matheny didn’t end there.

So what is the bottom line in all of this churning up of past events?  It is to demonstrate that Mike Matheny had his own plans that he stubbornly stuck to, no matter what the end result.  The Bourjos/Jay controversy ended up working out for the team and for Jay(not so much for Peter Bourjos). The Allen Craig debacle did not.  The team struggled for 3 1/2 months with Allen Craig flailing away at the plate with no end in sight until John Mozeliak stepped in and ended it.  But the stubborness, the rigidity in thinking that Matheny had displayed continued on.  Matheny would play the players that he wanted to play, in situations where they were not suited. Marginal players like Daniel Descalso and Tony Cruz were placed in situations where they were not the best options available, time and time again.  Better players like Oscar Taveras and Peter Bourjos were left to rot on the bench, or were brought in in the least optimal circumstances.  Rookie Randal Grichuk, known for his propensity to strike out and for his inability to hit right handed pitching with consistency, was given a starting role at the end of the season in favor of better options. Number one prospect Oscar Taveras, for whom the Allen Craig trade was made to give him an opening to start was again benched in favor of another inferior player.   Favoritism became one of the buzz words for Matheny’s managing style.

All of Matheny’s quirks, the farcical bullpen management, the misuse of personnel, the nonsensical double switches and the endless, unnecessary giving away of outs by bunting incessantly, these foibles became known in Cardinal Nation as “Mathenaging”.  By the time the postseason came around, the rest of the baseball world would  become aware of Mathenaging, and they would be dumbstruck.  It all culminated in the disaster that was Game 5 of the NLCS, the game that ended the Cardinals’ season.

As I said at the beginning of this post, the criticism is not undeserved.

What do we have to look forward to for 2015?  I don’t know.  Matheny begins a 3 year contract extension in 2015 so he will still be the manager for the next 3 seasons, barring anything unforeseen.  Will we have 3 more years of Mathenaging?  I think that question is in the hands of John Mozeliak.  What he does or does not do in the offseason will probably give us an answer.  In a future post I will lay out what I think some offseason moves should be, but this post has gone on quite long enough.

I am not as angry as I was.  I am more resigned and sad.  Goodbye 2014 season, you had your good points, but you ended badly.

Thank you for reading.

Mathenaging: NLCS Edition

That was a fugly game.  No two ways around it.  I didn’t expect the Cardinals to walk all over Madison Bumgarner , but I did expect something approximating a playoff caliber team effort.   I didn’t get it.

Let’s start with a very poor start by Adam Wainwright.   Then add some bad defense, lackluster offense and then top it off with a sizeable dose of Mathenaging and you have a suck sandwich.   Not very appetizing I must say.

For starters,  Randal Grichuk should not be batting second;  he really shouldn’t be starting at all, at least not on a regular basis.  The lovers of small sample sizes are just never going to get it are they? Apparently 2012 Pete Kozma taught these folks nothing.  Mike Matheny I am talking to you too. Oscar Taveras may not have lit the world on fire in his small sample size time in the big leagues, but at least he has several years of minor league numbers and the opinions of a whole lot  of smart baseball people that say he is better than Randal Grichuk. Heck,  even if playing Oscar is not palatable,  Jon Jay in RF amd Peter Bourjos in CF is way better than Jay/Grichuk any day of the week.   At least Peter Bourjos can catch the damn balls and hold onto them.

It was clear in the 2nd inning that Waino was a bust.   But Matheny had to keep him in until he gave up 3 runs.  What were his other options you say?  Well there is this guy named Michael Wacha on the roster, and if he is on the roster shouldn’t he like, you know,  be available to pitch?  I know it’s a difficult concept and all, this roster thing, but work with me here.  And if he is not available to pitch in these kind of situations then WHAT THE HELL IS HE DOING ON THE DAMN ROSTER?   Sorry for the screaming but my patience is being sorely tested.

Then, to put the cherry on top of the Mathenaging parfait,  he brings out Tony Cruz to pinch hit in the 7th inning with runners in scoring position and a chance to put some runs on the board.  Tony Freaking Cruz.  Um, was Peter Bourjos dead?  I don’t get what Matheny’s problem is with Bourjos. Did Peter spit in his Cheerios?    Even Oscar Taveras against the lefty  Bumgarner was a better option than Tony Cruz.  I swear I don’t know how John Mozeliak’s head doesn’t explode when Matheny pulls dumb stunts like that.

Matheny didn’t blow this game all by himself.  That would  be too easy.  In addition to poor pitching by Waino we had some defensive non-gems by the aforementioned Randal Grichuk, Kolten Wong and Matt Carpenter.  And in an encore of What Else Could Go Wrong delights, there was a Balk That Never Was that was missed by a grand total of 6 umpires who apparently were looking at the babes in the crowd at the time because it was so obvious even Helen Keller would have seen it.

Madison Bumgarner pitched a great game, there is no question about it.  You have to give credit where credit is due.  But with an offense that has consistently made Clayton Kershaw want to cry in the postseason, one would think a few runs could have been scored.  I think most people certainly expected a little better showing by the Cardinals.  This is the postseason after all, and even though the Giants have some Magic Postseason Pixie Dust of their own, the Cardinals are no slouch.

I certainly hope for better things in tonight’s game.  I don’t think losing pitifully to the Giants in another NLCS is something I want to experience again.  I have enough misery in my life to last me three lifetimes, thank you.

Ugh.

 

 

 

Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

Playoff Thoughts and Ruminations

This post is a little delayed.  I have some family issues going on that will keep me from posting as often as I would like.  I don’t know how many games I will be able to see for the rest of the postseason, but I will keep up as best I can.

I didn’t see the last game of the NLDS.  I have watched highlights and I have a general idea of what went on.  What stands out to me is the proliferation of home runs in these playoff games.  It seems almost as if the offense has been sandbagging all season, doesn’t it?  Well, even if that were true, I hope they keep up the offense, it is surely going to be needed.

Matt Carpenter has been a beast.  He has an ability to turn it on when he needs to that I have not seen much.  I really think the guy has been a treasure.  He certainly gives the opposition fits, which is quite a weapon to have.  Clayton Kershaw probably never wants to see him again in his life.

I have made no secret that I intensely dislike Mike Matheny.  However, he has so far not screwed things up as much as I feared.  He seems to have let up (for now) with all of the interference and has let his players just play.  I am not entirely pleased with his lineup choices, but as long as they win, I will keep my complaints to a minimum.  Not having to put up with Daniel Descalso starts has kept me calmer.

Playing the Giants has me quite nervous, considering the Cardinals’ past experience with them in playoff games.  What might appear to be a lesser team has a Cardinal-like ability to take it to another level in the playoffs.  Their offense is not scary by any means and their pitching, outside of Madison Bumgarner, is not particularly imposing.  That doesn’t mean this series will be easy.  This is the team that took the Washington Nationals, considered  by many to be the best team in baseball (on paper, at least), to the woodshed in 4 games.  Of course the Cardinals did the same to the Dodgers, another on-paper superior team.  I think these two teams match up quite well, which will make it an interesting series.

The weather forecast has quite a bit of rain in it for the next several days.  I haven’t heard what the contingency plans are for rain outs in this series.  The possibility of rain outs could prove key to the pitching rotations of both teams.  If either or both of the first two games are rained out it might get interesting.

However it all turns out, I can not help but smile at the idea that all of the “powerhouse” teams in the playoffs have been eliminated (unless you put Baltimore in that category.   I don’t).  It must  be making the national media crazy that all of the big market teams and media darlings are gone.

As for the proliferation of Cardinal hate, I will say what I have said all along.  It doesn’t matter.  I ignore it all.  Please understand, Cardinal Nation, that you feed it when you pay attention to it and respond to it.  The teams that play the best are the ones that make it, and if there are teams that just play better in the playoffs, well so be it.   There are no rules that say the same teams can’t be in the playoffs every year.  Baseball is not a socialist institution.

It’s a great time to be a baseball fan.  GO CARDS!

Thank you for reading.

The Hilarity of Playoff Baseball

The first game of the Cardinals postseason didn’t disappoint.  It also didn’t do much for the long term health of Cardinals’ fans either.  A game that had the promise of a great pitching duel, was anything but.  Who would have thought that a pitching match up of the two best pitchers in the National League would end up to be a slug fest?  Or that the best pitcher in baseball would leave the game looking like he had just fought a major military campaign.  I can’t help thinking that Clayton Kershaw probably never wants to face the Cardinals again for the rest of his life.

I have to be honest, I went into this thing believing that the Cardinals were going to be carved up like a Christmas ham.  For the first 6 innings of the game, they kind of were, sans two solo dingers from Randal Grichuk and Matt Carpenter.  Although those two shots were rather uncharacteristic of Kershaw, they didn’t portend, for me at least, what was to come in the 7th inning.  Adam Wainwright had pitched uncharacteristically as well, uncharacteristically bad, so the feeling of doom was not abated at all.

What happened in the 7th inning will likely be the subject for debate for a while.  The first batter up, Matt Holliday, hit a hard single to center field.  A single from each of Jhonny Peralta, Yadier Molina, and Matt Adams rapidly followed.  Then it looked like Kershaw was going to escape his fate when he struck out Pete Kozma, but Jon Jay followed with another single.  Two runs had scored, bringing the game lead to within two.  Once again, Kershaw regained form and struck out Oscar Taveras.  Then, Kershaw saw the thing of his playoff nightmares, the thing that makes him break out in a cold sweat, the thing that sealed his fate.  This thing coming to the plate was…….(begin playing that shark music from Jaws)……no, it wasn’t Albert Pujols…….it was…….Matt Carpenter.  Yep, skinny Matt, with the patience of Job and the peskiness of a gnat flying in your face.  Matt Carpenter, who only a year previously had been the catalyst for Kershaw’s last playoff caststrophe, the 12 pitch AB in the 2013 NLCS that sparked the game winning and pennant winning rally for the Cardinals.

There he was, looming, ready to yank the scab off the old wound.  Was this the picture that was in the mind of Clayton Kershaw at that moment?  Did he have PTSD flashbacks?  You have to wonder.  Whether he did or not, the result of that meeting at that moment was like being in a scene from the movie Groundhog Day.  After 7 pitches were thrown, Carpenter tattooed the eighth pitch, a fastball, into the right center field gap for a bases clearing double that gave the Cardinals the lead.  That was the last pitch Kershaw would throw in the game.  His manager came and got him.  His relief then promptly walked Randal Grichuk and then served up a 3 run home run to Matt Holliday.  All total, Kershaw was tagged with 8 ER in the game.

Now all this sounds like great drama, but the reality is that despite last night’s results and the NLCS disaster of last year, Clayton Kershaw is still the best pitcher in baseball.  Putting all the narratives aside, these results prove nothing about Kershaw as a playoff pitcher.  He has had very good results against the Cardinals in other games, including playoff games.  Things like last night and Game 6 in 2013 just happen.  It’s the randomness of baseball.

What isn’t random, however, is the bad feelings that exist between these two teams.  Apparently there are some member of this Dodgers squad that believe they are too special to be subjected to the natural order of baseball.  That what happens to other players on other teams shouldn’t happen to their special selves.  I’m referring to the all too common hit by pitch.

Last night Adam Wainwright threw an errant fastball that hit Yasiel Puig in the back.  He took his base, like he was supposed to.  He wasn’t injured, he wasn’t traumatized, he was just a victim of one of the garden variety occurrences that happen from time to time in the game of baseball.  Except in the vaulted minds of some Dodgers.  The same thing happened to another Dodger, Hanley Ramirez, in the NLCS last year, when he was injured by a errant pitch from Joe Kelly.  Now, let’s keep in mind that Hanley Ramirez gets injured a lot, and I mean A LOT.  He should wear a sign that says “Touch me and I’ll break like a piñata”.  Many Dodgers and their fans believed that the hit was intentional. Many Dodgers and their fans are delusional.  Joe Kelly is famous for his lack of control.  If someone didn’t get hit while Joe Kelly was pitching, it would be a cause for a front page headline.

So the hit by pitch on Yasiel Puig last night got the Dodgers going again.  Because, you know, they’re SPECIAL.  Adrian Gonzalez was the next up to bat after Puig, and Gonzalez likes to shoot off his mouth, so he decides to shoot it at Yadier Molina.  BAD IDEA.  A scrum ensues, as they are wont to do when players behave this way.  Adam Wainwright, as he is wont to do, attempted to bring peace.  He took Puig aside and said, “My bad”.   Wainwright did not intend to hit Puig.  He isn’t that stupid.  I can’t say the same for Adrian Gonzalez.

The scrum appeared to spark a rally for the Dodgers.  It didn’t do them any good ultimately because the 7th inning happened.

Narratives, narratives, about this game.  Harold Reynolds says the Cardinals were stealing signs.  Harold Reynolds is a moron. Adrian Gonzalez says Wainwright hit Puig on purpose.  Ditto.

What happened is this.   Baseball.  End of story.

 

 

Thank you for reading.

 

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