The First Annual Cardinal Blogger Awards

The votes have been cast. Now let’s see who won!

First off, a comment from Kujo at Rockin’ the Red for a new title for the group:

How about Cardinals Bloggers United, in the likeness of the soccer hooligan firms in England?

That’s not bad. Those involved, what do you think? Or perhaps United Cardinal Bloggers would be more your style? If we are going to keep doing projects, we gotta find a name. And I do hope we keep doing projects.

OK, to the awards. I’ll post some quotes from those bloggers that elaborated on their selections.

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My Ballot for the Cardinal Blogger Awards

This is the first attempt at a Cardinal blogger collaborative project. I hope that the bloggers involved enjoy it enough to try doing more things together in the near future.

Those scheduled to post their selections today include Readin’ Redbird, Redbirds Fun, CardinalsGM, Rockin’ the Red, Redbird Ramblings, and CardinalsNationGlobe. Check all of them out (I’ll direct link to their post when they get them up) and then come back here next week for a consolidated ballot. (Future Redbirds has theirs up now as well.)

So, without much further ado, let’s see my selections for the CBA. My selections are noted in bold.

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The Men That Play The Game

In this internet-driven, video-game type of fandom that we see so much currently, it’s sometimes hard to remember that it’s not just automations out there playing games, but real human beings very similar to ourselves. It’s easy, from our padded chairs and in front of our big screen TVs, to question a person’s manhood or effort. And, to be fair, the players know what they are getting into when they get into this game and are well-compensated to make up for it.

But does that excuse us calling a player weak when perhaps he has pain so excruciating most of us would need a morphine drip, but he still shows up to play? Can we fault a player who may have the argument with his wife on his mind when he throws a pitch that winds up in the bleachers?

Or can we really be surprised that a player can go into a tailspin when his integrity and honesty is questioned, only to pull out of it when he gets that weight off of his mind?

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Seven Reasons The Losing Streak Isn’t So Bad

Really not a lot to say about yesterday.  Kip Wells danced around trouble for a while, but if you run through the raindrops long enough, you are going to get wet.  Albert (it sounded like, since I listened to the game via XM) had a number of balls hit to the wall.  A completely healthy Pujols might have had another three home run game instead of two sac flies and an out.  The team continued to battle, even if they did fall short once again.

So it’s seven in a row at the worst possible time (and they are on a nine game road skid).  But things could be worse.  Here are seven reasons this streak isn’t the end of the world.

1) This means that, odds are, the Cardinals will do well this weekend.  If they got swept, they’d be on an 11-game streak and that doesn’t happen in baseball all that often.  Granted the fact that they are fielding half of a AAA lineup and rotation may skew things a little, but in the way of baseball, long streaks are often followed up with some good wins.  I’d say that, in the flow of a baseball season, this means at least a split this weekend.

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So Close

Going into the game, you know that the Cubs are getting beat and the Brewers are getting pounded. First place is there for the taking, if you can just win. To not get it done is frustrating, but at least no ground is lost.

And you have to give the Cards credit. A lot of times in that situation, they’ve come out and just laid a total egg, getting routed. Last night, they took a lead on Brandon Webb, which is hard enough to do, before Wainwright just wasn’t able to hold it. If Miles doesn’t stumble trying to get the double play, maybe it’s different, but Chris Young was running and it was a high chopper, so I’m not sure they’d have been able to get it anyway.

The biggest question in the game, in my mind, was LaRussa sending up Branyan in the eighth with runners on the corners and one out. Branyan is a Three True Outcomes type of guy (walk, strikeout, home run–outcomes that have nothing to do with the fielders), which can be good in certain situations. If the Cards had been down by two or more, he’s a good fit there. You need the long ball possibility and one run might not be enough. In this situation, though, his propensity to strike out hurts you much more than his potential power. All you need is a sac fly to the outfield, though a hit would be nice as well.

Seems to me that you send up either Ludwick, if you want to retain the power possibility, or Brendan Ryan in that slot. Ryan would have to come into the game anyway to play third, plus he’s more likely to put the ball in play and should have enough speed to stay out of the double play. I think that’s where I’d have gone, but I’m sure TLR had his reasons. The man has managed a game before, as you know.

More on l’affaire Ankiel and today’s game after the jump.

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A Bump In the Road

I’m a fan of Harry Turtledove‘s alternative history books. (In fact, I’m reading The Grapple right now.) In those, as in most military books I’d assume, you get the feeling of the pushes of the lines into enemy territory and the falling back when the resistance is too much.

The Cards have been pushing, rolling through the NL Central to get to within two games, but last night they ran into the immovable object. After running those numbers yesterday, I was pretty sure that the game was over after one run in the first. After Houston was up 4-0, then you had to know it was fight again another day.

Kip Wells had another fairly rough start, though if the Cardinals had been facing a normal pitcher, he might have been able to hang in there and keep the team in the game. He’s been shaky the last two games, though, which is an area of concern. If the Cardinals are going to overtake the Cubs, the pitching has to be on a level with how it was most of August. It cannot revert to the mid-season ugliness.

Along with the loss, there was news out of St. Louis that Scott Rolen could be done for the year. That could be a blow since there’s no obvious long-term replacement. Brendan Ryan has played some good games over there, but I’m not sure that you want him there on a full-time basis. And there’s not much at Memphis to call up on Saturday when rosters expand. Excuse me if I’m not that excited about Miguel Cairo. Rolen’s bat has been shaky most of the year, but it has produced in spots. The defense, though, will be sorely missed. You can only hope that it’s not going to come back to haunt the team. Read the rest of this entry »

Continuing to Roll

OK, I ranted over the whole Joel Pineiro thing at the trade deadline. Granted, a large part of that rant was quickly rendered moot when they left Anthony Reyes in the rotation, but I still didn’t see the point. In case you’ve ever wondered why I’m not actually in the business of player acquisition, last night might have helped you understand.

I actually got to watch a lot of the game last night, at least through the seventh. Pineiro didn’t look just overly impressive to me, but he made the pitches he needed to make to get good results (something the staff hadn’t been doing much of until this current run of good pitching) and the defense, which has been shoddy at times this year and overall has not been up to Cardinal standards, was pretty golden behind him. Jim Edmonds made a nice catch in the first, then the Rolen-to-Eckstein-to-Miles force at second, then a nice grab by Rolen right after that and a strong throw to get the runner.

And the MV3 reappeared! Edmonds, Rolen and Pujols all hit home runs, Rolen has a four hit game (not letting Edmonds show him up from the night before) and the offense rolled. It’s always nice to see the team clicking on all cylinders, or at least most of them. Even when things could go wrong–a squeeze bunt with Molina at third and a high pitch to Brendan Ryan–they go right–Ryan gets the bunt, well, not down per se, but it did land before anyone could catch it and the run scored. It’s like they saved all their 2007 good luck/karma for the stretch. Which is as good a time as any to use it.

The team seems to have a buzz around it right now. I think the biggest thing, besides the winning, is the quality pitching. Having the offense work is great, but it did that in the McGwire years when the Cards weren’t really competitive and the buzz was more McGwire than team. But when you can get pitching that keeps you in games, that only allows 2-3 runs or so, even when you lose, you are encouraged. Since the San Diego series started, they’ve only lost a couple of close games, a 2-1 game against the Dodgers where it was 0-0 into the eighth and a game against Jake Peavy. Even the 1-5 road trip through Pittsburgh and Washington had glimmers of hope, since they could have easily won those series as well (though there were a couple of blowouts tossed in that they had no chance in).

As long as the pitching keeps up, people are going to stay excited about this team. Especially because this offense seems to have enough to score a few runs a night now, unlike the beginning of the season.

3 1/2 games back, 2 games behind the Cubs, and going for the sweep this afternoon with our de facto ace on the hill. Wainwright has pitched very well since May, compiling a 3.31 ERA in that span. I really had my doubts about Wainwright coming into the season. I was afraid that his pitches were better out of the bullpen than the rotation, even though he had always been a starter in the minors. Apparently I was wrong on that count as well and I’m glad that I was. He goes against David Bush, who was being touted in the offseason as a fantasy baseball sleeper, but who has basically stayed asleep (9-8, 5.07 ERA). Bush was rocked the last couple of times out, so hopefully the Cards can jump out to an early lead and continue the blowout win streak.

In the other game of note, old friend Jason Marquis takes on the Reds and Bobby Livingston. The Reds have won the first two games of the series (something that warms my heart doubly, since I have a big Reds fan for a father-in-law) and it will likely be another high-scoring game today at the Friendly Confines.

Both games will be basically going on at the same time (Cards at 1:05 CDT, Cubs at 1:20 CDT), so hopefully by this afternoon the Cards are one step closer to a divisional lead.