Jocketty to the Reds

So I get back from working out of the office and I see that our old friend Walt Jocketty is in the news again.  He’s taken a job with a divisional rival.

It’ll be interesting to see how this influences the Reds in the coming weeks.  Jocketty is definitely going to a situation where he can be comfortable.  He’ll have an established manager in Dusty Baker, which he’s used to.  It won’t be the same as his relationship with LaRussa, of course, but Baker and Jocketty will most likely think along the same lines.  Baker’s never been one to be overly obsessed with the numbers of the game.  (Especially that pesky pitch count one…..)

Apparently those rumors of the Jocketty/TLR move to Cincinnati that floated this summer had a little more basis than we probably thought at the time.  If I were Wayne Krivsky, I’d hope that the Reds got off to a quick start this season.  His seat just got a little warmer, and it was already on the hot side.


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.

Rounding Third

It’s not Cardinal baseball, but with little going on in that arena, it seemed fitting to take a little time out to recognize the passing of Joe Nuxall.

Sure, Joe was a player.  His first outing, famously, was against the Cardinals when he was just shy of 16–yes, 16–years old.  Not surprisingly, the nerves showed in facing players like Stan Musial and he was tattooed for five runs in the outing.

Eight years later, he made it back to the Reds for his real career.  He had success and failure, like most every other player.  He bounced around a little toward the end of his career, but he was always a Red at heart, being an Ohio boy.

While his playing background is well remembered, his legacy was on the radio.  Teamed with Marty Brennaman for 28 years, Marty and Joe were the background of Ohio afternoons and evenings just like Jack Buck and Mike Shannon were here in St. Louis.

My father-in-law is a huge Reds fan and listens to Marty and Joe on a daily basis.  I came to appreciate them from listening to him talk about their broadcasts.  There are a lot of sad people in that area today, as the ol’ lefthander has finally rounded third and has headed home.

Picking Out Tombstones

Yesterday’s game against the Cards was termed a “must-win” by some.  As you know, they didn’t win, as Pineiro’s luck ran out and those hard hit balls started dropping.  Mike Maroth’s ninth, even though it didn’t matter in the big scheme of things, should have been enough to guarantee he will be DFAd this offseason.  And the Brewers lost, so the Cubs are tied for first again.  Yuck all the way around.

Cincinnati helped us get well last time around, but can we really count on that happening again?  The Cardinals walk into a ballpark designed, it seems, for home runs and come in with really no rotation to speak of.  We’ve written off this team time and again.  Can we do it for good this time?

I think so.  First off, three games back.  I know there are still 4 left with the Cubs this weekend and three with the Brewers in a couple of weeks, but the Cards would pretty much have to go 15-6 in the last 21 to really make a dent, I think.  Maybe a little less, but in that area.  Right now, the team is in a four game losing streak, there are only three pitchers that are guaranteed starts, and Mulder is only one of those so they can get him ready for next year, not because they expect him to win every time out.   So that leaves Wainwright and Looper, and you never know when Looper is going to blow up like he did out in Arizona.

Couple that with the fact that basically half the lineup is gone for the season and it’s time to start picking out burial plots.  If St. Louis had a healthy Scott Rolen, Juan Encarnacion, Chris Duncan and an Albert Pujols that was more like 85% instead of 70%, maybe you think they can score the runs to stay in this thing.  Rick Ankiel, whether it’s because the story got into his head, he’s just in a slump, or people are starting to figure out how to pitch to him, is 1-14 since the HGH bit came out.  When your good luck wonder bat is slumping, you know you’ve got problems.

But think about this winter dream, not for 2008, but for 2009.  All the money saved this year and next is used to sign Johan Santana.  Put him in a rotation with Carpenter and Wainwright.  Chris Perez is closing.  The lineup has Pujols, Rasmus, Ankiel, Duncan, Rolen.  You think that team could win some games?  Hopefully ownership does……

Break Out the Brooms

Nice to see the Cardinals were able to actually take care of business this weekend. The Reds gave them some scares–I really was worried on Friday night that they’d blow their opportunity–but they battled through them and came out on top every day, with major credit due to Mr. Ankiel, who started it off again today with a home run and drove in another with a sac fly. With Juan Encarnacion out and with Ankiel hitting lefties the way he is, I’d say there’s a good possibility he’s going to be playing almost every day from here on out. And that’s likely a good thing from the Cardinals’ point of view.

As for Encarnacion, the news isn’t good from that horrifying incident from Friday night. It looks like he’ll be fortunate just to be able to see out of the eye again, much less play baseball any more. Hopefully it’s not as bad as they think it is, but that is out there. It’s amazing that, in the split second it took from the ball to leave Aaron Miles’s bat and hit him in the face, Encarnacion’s public perception took a 180.

Personally, I’ve never had a problem with Encarnacion. The biggest problem with him, I think, was his contract. Walt Jocketty signed him to a deal that was really more than he probably was worth, which is what got everyone really up in arms and let him slide easily into the Cardinal Whipping Boy slot recently vacated by J.D. Drew. All the other criticisms, in my mind, flowed out of the fact that we got him at above-market rates. If he’d been a bargain, a lot of the complaints levelled at him would have been shrugged off, I think.

Anyway, now if Encarnacion shows up at any Cardinal function, he’s about guaranteed to always get a warm ovation. It’s a little sad that it takes something as drastic as this to see and care about the person underneath, instead of the abstraction that we think of when we think of a baseball player.

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So, when does it become ridiculous?  When does it become crazy enough that Hollywood won’t make the movie, citing believability issues?  When does the man come back to earth?

Hopefully, a long, long time.  Because the bat and, in a different way than expected years ago, the arm of Rick Ankiel may be the only way that this team makes the playoffs.

Seriously, it’s getting nuts.  A grand slam, against a lefty, to give the team the lead?  What are the odds of that?  He’s hitting in the .330 range, even higher against the lefties that are supposed to give him fits.  He’s made some amazing throws from the outfield and played all three outfield positions.  And the team took off when he was called up.  That’s mainly from the good pitching the team got, but I believe he provided a bit of a spark as well.

Good pitching has become a little scarcer lately.  Anthony Reyes surely didn’t have it tonight.  It’s never good when the one big inning you are prone to giving up happens in the first.   A little help by his fielders would have been nice, but most of the problems could be lain at his feet.  He’ll have to improve somehow if he’s going to stay in the rotation, at least for 2008.  Another couple of rough outings and Walt will be actively shopping him in the offseason, I’d expect.

Thankfully the bullpen held the Reds in check, being credited with no more runs after Todd Wellemeyer came in to take care of Reyes’s problems in the second.  Hopefully Wainwright can give an ace-like performance tomorrow and help rest some of those arms.  The stretch run is really just starting, so we don’t need to blow them out too early, even if reinforcements are coming from the minors starting tomorrow.

And there has to be some serious concern about Albert Pujols.  He is limping around, not being able to really use his legs as much as he should.  Problem is, his bat is still too necessary to have him sit out a day or two.  But there may come a time where the team has no other option.

Congratulations to Tony for passing an all-time Cardinal legend, Red Schoendienst, on the all-time Cardinal win list.  I know that Tony thinks Red should have had the record for all time, but at least if someone was going to pass him, it’s a Hall of Famer to be.

Cubs lost, so the Cards move to two behind them again.  Milwaukee hung on to win, so they are only a game and a half back.  If the Cards can’t win this thing, hopefully the Brewers can!

The Big Red Machine

The Reds have never bothered me.  I’ve appreciated their tradition and always, if not cheered for them, at least didn’t cheer against them.  Then I married into the fandom.  My father-in-law is a big Reds fan, so we talk baseball a lot.  Since then, I’ve tried to keep an eye on the Reds, and them being in the same division has helped out as well.

Suddenly, though, the Reds are, if not in the race, at least within sight of it.  With the right combination of events, Labor Day could see the Reds within 4 games of the lead.  Who’d have seen that when the managerial change went through?  (Probably the same people that saw the Cardinals within 3 right now.)

A quick scan of the schedule shows the Cards are 6-3 against the Reds, winning 2 of 3 in each series.  In tonight’s opener, the Reds go straight for the Cardinals’ weakness by throwing a guy we’ve never seen before.  Tom Shearn was the oldest starting pitcher to make his first major league start for the Reds in around 50 years (according to my father-in-law, who was actually at the game) when he pitched against the Marlins Sunday.  He is a righty, so that hopefully will help out some.

The Cardinals send Anthony Reyes to the bump.   Right now, with Reyes, it seems if he could get past the one big inning, he’d be all right.  Hopefully he doesn’t make it three starts in a row with a grand slam.

Scoreboard watching:  Chicago hosts Houston this afternoon, so we’ll know before the game if St. Louis can make up ground or must win just to keep pace.  Milwaukee hosts Pittsburgh in a game that will run alongside the Cardinal contest.