Happy New Year!

Hope everyone is having a great 2008 so far.  We are creeping closer and closer to spring training, which means that the Cardinals should start picking up the pace on transactions pretty soon.

Here are some predictions for 2008.  Some are serious, some aren’t.  (The ones that don’t happen are the non-serious ones, in case you can’t tell.)

*The Cardinals will win between 73-76 games.  The only chance for a contending season, in my mind, is a fast start somehow, then hanging on until Carpenter gets back.  The Cardinals would need Mulder to start strong from the get-go for this to happen, I think.  Still, even with another sub-.500 season, we’ll have a lot to talk about and enjoy.

*Albert Pujols will hit .300 with 30 HR and 100 RBI.  In other news, the sun will continue to rise in the east and set in the west.

*Scott Rolen will not be traded.  After he starts off the season closer to his normal form, his attitude improves and he’s much more able to tolerate LaRussa.  With his increased performance coupled with the lack of an immediate successor, Mozeliak decides to keep him on, though rumors will fly close to the trading deadline.

*Jim Edmonds gets at least two standing ovations in his first game back in Busch Stadium.

*Even with the rag-tag nature of the starting rotation, the team will post a better team ERA than they did in 2007.

*Colby Rasmus will be on the major league roster by the middle of June.  He’ll struggle at first, but will show the form that has everyone excited by mid-August.

*The Reds will surprise people, coming in a strong second to the Brewers in the division.

*The Red Sox will not win another World Series title.  Boston has to return to losing sometime.  (Doesn’t it?)

*Brian Barton will play all season in the majors and become a fan favorite off the bench.  He will get some starts, but TLR will not overexpose him.

*Chris Carpenter will not pitch in the major leagues until August.

*The Cardinals make a big splash in the 2008 free agent pool, signing an ace for the rotation and temporarily shutting up those that question ownership.

*I’ll keep blogging away on a regular basis.

Got your own predictions?  Let’s see them in the comments.

A Blog Rundown

There’s not much to say today that other people aren’t saying better, so let’s see what they are saying.  Of course, all of these topics can be discussed further at your local Cardinal message board.  I know the Clubhouse has threads on just about all of them.

*Molina loses out on a Gold Glove.  Bird Land really lays out the unjustice, and I have to agree.  Any catcher that stops the running game like Yadier does, that makes the first base pickoff a legitimate option, has to be the Gold Glover.  I don’t think I’d ever seen a 1-3 pickoff until Molina, and now it’s almost a regular occurrence.  Others talking about this: Bernie’s Extra Points, Deaner at Cardinal Nation Globe, and a diary at VEB.  Pujols was denied a glove as well, which was in and of itself an injustice, but nothing compares to Molina not getting one.  Hopefully next year they’ll both be able to take home the hardware.  The tough 2007 Cardinal season continues, it appears.

*Tom over at CardinalsGM gets you ready for next year’s fantasy season (because, in my mind, you never start that early enough) with a look at the top players.

*The Cardinals have declined the option on outfielder So Taguchi.  Pip at Fungoes has a mixed take on this one.   I’ve appreciated what So has done here in St. Louis, but it probably is time to move on, especially since outfield is a place the team is deep at.  Stan Musial’s Stance has a fitting tribute to the outfielder.

*Along with the daily prospect report, Erik at Future Redbirds is already looking forward to next year’s first-year draft with his projection of who the Cards will take.

*Dan at Get Up, Baby! looks back at Scott Rolen’s lost season and discusses why not to trade him right now.  I’m a Rolen fan and I’m of the opinion that he’ll be an asset for the team next year.  As Dan says, though, even if you aren’t sold on that, you can’t trade him now because his value is so low.

*Readin’ Redbird has the news that Curt Schilling is going back to Boston.  That’s not a huge surprise–a one year deal for a guy that’s legendary in the organization and wants to retire a Red Sox?  Even the traditionally unsentimental Theo Epstein had to go for that one.  And, as I’ve said, it doesn’t bother me that he’s not coming to St. Louis.

*And Whiteyball is doing a link post.  What kinda cop-out is that?

That Was Quick

And, again, an American League team celebrates on foreign soil.  You’d think they’d start losing the All-Star Game so they could party at home, don’t you?

As for this whole “AL is dominant” stuff the major media keeps spewing….unfortunately, there may be something to that.  Since the strike year of ’94, the AL is 43-26 in the World Series, including five sweeps.  The closest the NL has gotten to a sweep was the Cardinals’ win in 5 games last year.  Right now, when coupled with their streak of winning All-Star games, it’s pretty apparent the AL is the top league, even though it’s painful to admit it.  These things are pretty cyclical, though.  A lot of the good young talent is in the NL, so they should be making some strides in the next few years.

Somewhere out there, a seven year old has seen two Red Sox championships and no Yankee titles.  Who’d have thought that’d ever happen?

A-Rod has already opted out of his deal.  However, I’m wondering if that might not come back to bite him.  The Yanks have been adamant that they aren’t going to deal with him.  The Cubs are in ownership flux, so they probably can’t go out and put together a record-setting package.  The Red Sox just won the title and they’ve said that they want to resign Lowell, so I’d be surprised if they made a major run at Rodriguez.  The Mets have been floated about, but they have Reyes at short and Wright at third.  Where would they put him?  It may just boil down to the Angels, and if they think they are the only ones in the race, there’s no way they’ll go $30 million per.  We’ll see how it pans out, but I think with the Yankees uninvolved, Rodriguez doesn’t get as much as he thinks he will.

Should be a busy week in baseball.  The Cardinals should announce their GM soon and the Yankees their manager.  The free agent market opens in two weeks.  While the season is great, the off-season has become a lot of fun in its own right!

Short Series?

The Rockies gave it a valiant effort last night, but they came up short again, which puts them in a large hole, as I mentioned yesterday.

It did give me something to think about, though.  Ever since the whole “this game counts”/All-Star Game determining home field fiasco (don’t get me started on it, I’ll go all day), the American League has won home field advantage.  The downside to that is that no AL team has clinched the Series on their home field since 1999 (pre-ASG change) when the Yankees swept the Braves.

In 2003, the first year of the changes, the Marlins won in Yankee Stadium.  2004, the Red Sox swept the Cardinals and celebrated, movie stars and all, in Busch Stadium.  2005, the White Sox did the same to the Astros.  And, of course, in 2006, the Cardinals got to involve the home fans by clinching at home.

Can the Rockies force the Series back to Boston?  Sure, they can.  But will they?  I don’t know.  Baseball has a way of evening things out.  You’ll see long winning streaks followed up by a few losing streaks during the season.  21-1 wasn’t sustainable, obviously, but the pendulum may be swinging the other way.

I hope that if the Rockies are going to lose it, they lose it in Colorado.  Red Sox Nation can be obnoxious enough without them tearing up Fenway in celebration.

Quick Hits

Sorry for the short posts, but I’m out of the office this week doing an audit and trying to get these in before I head out.

  • Josh Beckett is just about untouchable.  Give him a run in the first, and it’s basically over.  He’s given up 4 runs in 30 post-season innings this year.  The first inning he threw in the 2003 NLCS, he gave up 4 runs.  In the rest of his post-season career (71.2 innings), he’s given up 11.  He’s never lost a post-season game.  There’s a reason he’s up there with Christy Mathewson and Mariano Rivera in post-season ERA.
  • The Rockies have to win tonight.  It’ll be tough with Schilling on the mound, but you can’t afford to get down 2-0.  You assume Beckett would win game 5.  That means, if the Rox lost tonight, they’d have to win every other game in the Series.  And winning two elimination games in Fenway would be very tough, especially since they could bring Beckett out of the pen for a couple of innings if they had a slim lead.
  • The Cardinals released Mike Maroth.  I don’t think that was a huge surprise.  He seemed like a great guy on a personal level, but save that first start against the Reds, he never showed anything that made you think, “Hey, he can turn it around.”  Even Kip Wells gave some hope now and then.

Not So Surprising

A few days ago, I wrote this:

“Problem is, the ALCS isn’t over yet. If the Sox could pick a pitcher to keep their season alive, it’d be Josh Beckett. He’s looked great this postseason, and he’s already beaten Sabathia once. Put that with the fact that a lot of this team remembers climbing out of the 3-0 hole in 2004 and it’s not like they are going to roll over and play dead.”

And that’s just what happened.  When the Indians weren’t able to solve Beckett in Game 5, I knew Cleveland was in trouble.  Carmona had shown he had trouble pitching in Fenway, and that flared up again in Game 6.  Then you get to a Game 7, when anything can happen.

This is very reminicent of the 1996 NLCS, Cardinals vs. Braves.  It was the first year of LaRussa in St. Louis and the Cardinals had made it to the postseason.  They swept the Padres out of the way and got up 3-1 to the Braves.  However, the Braves had the better pitching setup for the last three games, and their bats just pounded the Cardinals.  They outscored St. Louis 32-1 in the last three games and went on to lose to the Yankees in the World Series.

While Cleveland didn’t lose quite that badly (they were only outscored 30-5), it was pretty darn close.  And Cleveland has to wait another year for a chance at a title.

Rockies and Red Sox.  You’ll hear a lot of Todd Helton talk, since the two teams almost made a deal involving him in spring training.  Hope he has a huge series and Colorado takes the title.  Unfortunately, I’m afraid that it’s getting close to midnight on Cinderella’s dance.

Passing the Time

Just not a lot going on right now, so some general thoughts:

  • The Cardinals say they have extended the time frame on the GM search. Also, LaRussa is getting daily reports on what’s going on, who they are talking to, etc., so it’s pretty obvious that Tony will be back for another year. The only way that extending the search turns out to be a positive thing is if the Cardinals bring in someone like a Chris Antonelli who is involved in the playoffs. If they take this valuable time and then just let Mozeliak have the job, they are really putting themselves behind the eight ball when it comes to things like contacting free agents, setting priorities, etc. Because, reasonably, Mozeliak can’t be planning all that far in advance since he doesn’t know if it’s his job or not.

    That said, what is the new GM going to think about having a manager already in place, and not only a manager, but a Hall-of-Famer who has the undivided attention of management? If they want to get their own guy in there, even if it’s next year, do they have the freedom to let Tony go? When push comes to shove, who is DeWitt going to listen to? To get top talent in that job, DeWitt is going to have to assure them that they outrank the field manager. That could be hard for him to do.

  • Josh Beckett is proving to be the next John Smoltz. It’s amazing how well he pitches in big games. I wanted Cleveland to win last night, but I knew when they got down 2-1, it was probably over. The only thing that gave Cleveland some hope was his response after the Lofton incident. He seemed to be overly pumped after that, having a little trouble with location and the Indians got two on with two out, but couldn’t convert. Then the Red Sox started tacking on and that was that.

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