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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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.

More Walt Reflections

As the surprise starts to wear off of Wednesday’s removal of Walt Jocketty from the GM position he held for 13 years, more thoughts and reflections.

First off, there’s no doubt that Walt’s tenure in St. Louis should be termed a success.  I mean, there’s a new World Championship banner, which could give validation to just about anyone.  Toss in two 100-win teams and seven post-season appearances in that span and his name will be in the conversation when it comes to legendary Cardinal GMs.

His ability to get the best end in a deal will be remembered, even if that trait took a damaging hit with the Mark Mulder trade.  He was able to send prospects for established stars until the game caught on.  Save the franchise-changing trade for Mark McGwire, his fleecing of the Angels to get Jim Edmonds for a pitcher that was coming off an obvious career plus an untested rookie is probably the high water mark of his wheeling and dealing, though the Drew/Marrero for Marquis/King/Wainwright deal has potential to be big as well.  But even his lesser deals, bringing in players like Will Clark, Darryl Kile, Woody Williams and Larry Walker came up golden.

It just doesn’t seem like things have been the same since the Mulder deal and its obvious disadvantages.  I’m sure that the deal will be rehashed again and again—personally, I think the debate has been done to death—but after that, whether he was gunshy or just under different ownership imperatives, Walt didn’t seem to have the same flair.

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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……

Ankiel! (Redux)

OK, let’s hit the good stuff first. I still want to know where the phone booth is in the Cardinals clubhouse, because apparently Rick continues to duck in there to put on the Superman outfit. Two home runs yesterday, one of which gave the Cardinals the lead after Maroth (more on him later) had let Pittsburgh tie it up? 7 RBI? From a guy basically learning at the highest level how to hit? It’s absolutely amazing and really has perked up the team, I believe.

In today’s day and age, however, no great story seems to go unchallenged. It was disappointing to log on this morning and see the ESPN headline about Rick and HGH. When I read the story, though, and got past the sensationalism and the impression that he had shot up right before hitting yesterday, I saw that, even if he took them (which does seem probable), it looks like he stopped in ’04, before the MLB ban on the substance.

Does it meant that it was OK to take the stuff? No. Though he had a prescription for it, apparently, some other places are noting that it is and was illegal unless you had a specific need, none of which would seem to fit Rick’s case. But does that taint what he is doing now? Again, I say no. If he’s not taken any for three years, it’s not likely it’s doing much for him now. So in that case, it’s really not much of a story. (Though today’s story at VEB does seem to indicate it was possible Rick would have gotten it for rehab and that it would be legal with a valid prescription. If that’s true, it puts a whole new light on things.)

Some people were comparing the reaction to the Rick story at CCH to Barry Bonds and saying the reactions should be consistent. I’m not sure about that. For one thing, the situations are very different. Bonds was already at the top of his game and actually starting the decline phase when he allegedly started taking steroids. We don’t know if and when he stopped taking them, though he has never failed a drug test. The major circumstantial evidence for his using was that Bonds was improving at an age when normal players are declining.

Ankiel is improving at an age when players are supposed to be improving. He’s 27–this should be the beginning of his prime. According to this story, he stopped taking things before he really became a prospect, so most everything he’s done has been natural, as it were. It’s natural that fans come to the defense of their players more quickly than they would for others–see Mark McGwire, who still has defenders (and I probably would be considered one) in St. Louis–but the situations are a bit different and do call for different responses. (EDIT: Actually, he’s 28 (7/19/79). Point still holds, though.)

As for the claim that the media should “leave him alone,” well, that’s just nuts. This is a story, it’s not them rehashing the 2000 playoffs. You can’t expect the papers and press not to follow up on this. It’s not a personal vendetta, it’s just news. Granted, there are going to be columnists that probably go overboard on it, but that goes with the territory.

(EDIT2: Great story on this at Deadspin.) 

OK, enough of that. After the jump (a little blogger lingo there), more on yesterday and this weekend.

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Letdown

So the new-and-improved Mark Mulder made his debut last night and looked a lot, at least in results, like the old-and-ugly Mark Mulder.  6 runs in 4 innings was a tough thing to swallow, especially after Rick Ankiel–again!–hit a two-run shot to make up most of the early 3 run deficit.   Giving 3 more to the Pirates right after that really took it out of the team, I think.  I note that Duncan is saying he thinks Mulder would be better next time, and there were some good signs, but right now, all we can do is hope.

I mean, the Cards have a six-man rotation, but we’re not even sure who is in it and who is out.  Pitchers that were in it pitch their way out and vice versa.  Eventually, they are going to run out of pitchers to try and have to stick with someone that’s not named Wainwright or Looper, and that decision could be the toughest one TLR has to make this year.

And, of course, that blowup comes on a night where Milwaukee scores 14 and the Cubs score 8 and leave no doubt that this morning’s standings would look like:

Chicago —
Milwaukee 0.5
St. Louis 2.0

Then the Cards run out Mike Maroth today, not knowing what they are going to get from him.  Unless he’s made some major improvements from his first time around with St. Louis, there’s a strong chance they’ll lose this series, and a team that wants to stay in the race can’t afford to lose a series (especially a four-gamer) to the last place team in the division.

The Cards face Bryan Bullington in this afternoon’s finale.  He’s a rookie, so the Cards haven’t faced him (though he pitched 1.1 innings back in ’05, I can’t quickly see who they were against).  That leads me to my newest theory, that the Cards have taken on the personality of their manager.  TLR and Duncan are some of the most prepared people out there.  When they have the information, they pass it on to the hitters, and good things happen.

However, guys they’ve never seen or only seen a couple of times, they don’t have enough data to make conclusions.  Therefore the hitters are kinda “on their own” and not so good things happen.

Hopefully they’ll disprove that theory today.  He is a righty, so that does help some.  And that means that The Natural, as some have taken to calling Mr. Ankiel, should be back in there today to work some more magic.

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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