As uaual, with an off day, I’ll discuss just a few random thoughts I’ve had lately and also get a chance to take a look around the league to see what other teams are doing. But before I get into all that, I want to look at how the Cardinals have fared so far this season. We’ve swept and been swept so I think you can safely say we’ve been on both sides of the baseball coin.
Let’s start with the Mets series. Are the Mets a good team? Absolutely. Is that why we lost to them 3 in a row? Definitely not. I don’t know if it was because it’s still early in the season or what the problem was, but the Cardinals were not playing simple, fundamental baseball. And with a team as good as the Mets are, you can’t afford to be off your game that much. They will make you pay. All in all, this lineup was essentially the same lineup we faced in October and we took 4 of 7 from then.
The reason why we were swept by New York is the same reason we were swept by Pittsburgh. Not executing good, fundamental baseball. It just wasn´t happening for us in the opening series with the Mets. But luckily, it didn´t take the Redbirds long to figure it out.
In the Mets series, the Cards committed four errros in three games. Inexcusable, especially because they were mostly routine plays for a Major Leaguer. In the Pirates series, only one error was committed and it was on a rather difficult play. Plus, a couple of very difficult plays were made. Pitches were executed. Runners were advanced. Guys took an extra bag when they had the opportunity. Fundamental baseball. Compare that to the Mets series where the pitchers struggled to close the door, even when the defense messed up and the offense just wasn´t executing at all.
Well, now it seems the Cardinals main objective is putting any and all closers out of business. I mentioned previously about all the runs scored off of Billy Wagner during the NLCS. Then, you have the Cardinals basically single-handedly causing the demotion of Brad Lidge from the ´Stros. And now the latest victim……Salomon Torres. 2 games, 2 save opportunities, no saves. So, closers, look out. If you value your jobs, don´t play the Redbirds. 🙂
Ok, on the rest of the NL Central. I know it´s way early in the season, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it looks like it might be more of the same for the Wrigley faithful. Honestly, I can´t imagine how anyone could have picked this team to win the division. They made a lot of good moves on paper, but until they can back it up on the field, I´m not willing to put them any higher than 3rd. It´s sort of hard to really enjoy making fun of the Cubs anymore because a rivalry becomes pretty much nonexistent when one team finishes on top and the other in the cellar. Nevertheless, the series with the Cubbies each year is always good for a little smack talk between the clubs. I´m still predicting a good year for the Brewers with a 2nd place finish, so I anticipate the Milwaulke-St. Louis rivarly will start to heat up more this year. Especially with Jeff Suppan now wearing a Brewer uniform. (Can´t wait to see him pitch Sunday!)
Other things in baseball. Everyone´s talking about A-Rod and the history he´s making in New York. 6 dingers n 8 games? Incredible. Still, I think this sort of thing is also the undoing of the Yankees at times. Because the Cardinals 3-2 game is just as much a ´W´ as the Yankees 10-1 win. The Yanks have scored 52 runs in 8 games this year while the Cardinals have taken 9 games to score 26. But guess what? The Yankees are playing .500 ball and we´re one game over.
Don´t get me wrong. I like the Yankees. And sure, it´s fun to watch your team´s sluggers bash the ball all over the park. There have been games when every bat in the Cardinal lineup is hot. But when all is said and done, it doesn´t matter how many runs you clobber your opponent by. Because eventually in October you will play 3 other great teams to win it all. And when the Tiger arms absolutely shut down your big bats, where do you turn? A guy like David Eckstein to shoot the ball into a hole somewhere and start a rally.
I still pick the Yankees to take the East over the Sox because they definitely have the offense and their pitching isn´t horrid, but unless they get a new gameplan and quick, I say by the end they´ll be watching the World Series from their couches. Though I would LOVE to see a Cardinal-Yankee World Series for sure.
And about those Red Sox. How are the beantowners feeling about ol´ Dice-K now? He´s pitched good in his first two starts, but he´s also now taken his first loss against Seattle Mariners phenom Felix Hernandez. (That kid´s amazing.) By the way, they´re paying him 420,000 this year for his services. I have no doubt that Dice-K will do a great job in the Majors….but I think there´s a lot of talent out there for a lot less money. Just one example. In his first game, he pitched 7 innings, giving up 6 hits and 1 run. Great line. But Wainwright copied it exactly in his first start, except he gave up just 5 hits. It is impressive that Matsuzaka struck out 10, but in his last appearance he only struck out 4, so obviously it´s not an every time thing. Wainwright has just as many wins and his ERA is under 2. And we didn´t pay 51 million to talk to the guy.
One pitcher off to an absolutey ridiculous start is Danny Haren of the Oakland A´s. In two starts his ERA is a tiny 0.69, but…..he´s 0-2. The A´s have scored a grand total of 1 run in both of his starts combined. How about a little run support here? Maybe they would be interested in trading him back to us for Mark Mulder? They can even keep the hot catching prospect. I kind of wonder if that trade isn´t why Walt is so gunshy about big names now. But that´s okay; if he can keep looking like a genius for getting major production out of the Kip Wells and Braden Loopers of the world, let the Giants have the Barry Zitos. Dave Duncan has got to be the best pitching coach in the world. Maybe more ex-catchers should consider the field of pitching coach.
I read a lot of negativity about the Cardinals in pre-season that basicaly said Dave Duncan can´t solve all our problems, he´s not God, etc. Well, maybe not, but I´m pretty sure he can do miracles at least. Because somehow the biggest question mark (starting pitching) of the off season, as well as the next biggest in spring when we found out about Kinney (relief pitching) has turned into our biggest asset. They´re getting wins when our big-time offense is not.
This has been brought to my attention lately, especially last Tuesday when I saw the pitching matchups around the Majors. Jeff Weaver (Mariners), Matt Morris (Giants) and (Jason Marquis) were all starting. Matty Mo´s been gone for a few years now, but Weaver and Marquis were key parts of the rotation down the stretch last year. Well, Weaver went 2 innings…yes, 2….and gave up 7 runs to sport a hefty 31.50 ERA. Marquis has pitched much better, but still remaine winless as a Cubbie. On the other hand, the Cardinals won by starting Triple A Memphis pitcher Randy Keisler. I really like irony of it all.
I´m interested to see what other fans think of Keisler. Is he a valid option to start for awile? And if so, how long? Does he only start if we find out Carp is going to be out for a short while? If it turns out Carpenter is gone for the season, do we start looking for more long term solutions? If so, who? Or is Keisler an acceptable long term solution? Any and all thought are appreciated and not just about that.
If you agree/disagree with any of my ramblings, I´d love to hear about it.
Well, I´ll probably preview the Brewer series tomorrow, but for now it´s late here and I must go.
Closing down closers,