Diamond Diaries

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Tag Archives: Tony LaRussa

Diamond Diaries’ 2011 Stories of the Year

The United Cardinal Bloggers take part in many different activities throughout the course of the year. Many of these projects can be found on our site (search ‘ucb’ in the search tab at the top to find more). The last project of the year comes on the next to the last day of the year, and it is a time for reflection. What were the big stories of 2011? This is our list – what’s yours?

1. First and foremost has to be the #11in11 World Series win! This was a team that was left for dead, then came back and fought their way through a thrilling October run. You would be crazy not to appreciate what going out on top meant to Tony LaRussa, and now that he whose name Erika has forgotten is gone off to the West Coast like Tony did, the 2012 team is going to have a much different feel to it. But that doesn’t sour this win at all for us! The wild ride to the postseason, the extended series’ wins in the wildest of ways, the dramatic home runs and the dominant pitching performances. Yes, this was a postseason we will never forget!

2. Oh David Freese. Your glass ankles made me unsure that you would ever reach the potential Erika and I hoped you would. Your hot start to the season was derailed by your hit-by-a-pitch broken wrist on May 1. The .356 batting average cooled, but your solid play did not. Going in to the postseason we did not factor you in as a major player, but your wrote your name in the recordbooks over and over, thrilling us with clutch hits and home runs that no one expected. Your NLCS and WS MVP trophies must be getting dirty from having to lug them around on the talk show circuit. We would gladly offer to shine them up for you! :)

3. Erika’s favorite, Matt Holliday, had a strange year. What’s stunning is that despite having played in 34 fewer games than 2010, his counting numbers were still relatively in line with his career averages. Appendicitis in the first week of the season? One week out, no big deal. A moth flies in his ear and becomes lodged mid-game? Whatever, pull it out and stick it in a jar. Sore muscles, hurt fingers, Holliday was this year’s Freese in terms of strange injuries. Despite it all, he had a strong enough season to garner an All-Star selection and was even selected in the home run derby competition (I know, that feels like an incredibly long time ago!).

4. At the beginning of the year, Bill Ivie had a Diamond Diaries night on the UCB Radio Hour. Since it was the beginning of the season we were asked to make various predictions on how the season would go for various players and the team as a whole. While I was still licking my wounds about Adam Wainwright’s season-ending Tommy John surgery and Erika was wondering what would become of David Freese’s glass ankles, Bill threw us a curve and asked what we thought about the Lance Berkman signing. I was trying very hard to be optimistic. It was a shot in the dark signing, hoping that he could reclaim some of his former All-Star glory, while still knowing that even if he didn’t show much, it wasn’t a break-the-bank signing either.

Did anyone see an All-Star selection and a 7th place finish in the MVP award voting? Anyone?

Lies. You didn’t. We didn’t. We tried to predict counting stats – .280 batting, 20-25 home runs, 75ish RBI were the numbers I tossed out – wording our predictions with “If he could get here, that would be awesome!” He went above and beyond all of our expectations, while also adding that ever coveted “clubhouse presence” that was missing for the past few years. Just for kicks, he also picked up two NL Player of the Week awards. Take that!

5. Why not round out our top 5 with a little bit of silly? Every playoff run needs a theme, and this one appeared to be all about the squirrel and Torty Craig and Happy Flight. It gave fans something silly to smile about, fake Twitter accounts to interact with, merchandise flew off the shelves, and despite all the silliness the Cardinals still found a way to win.

Also, we didn’t have to deal with that ridiculous “Beast Mode” theme. So there’s that.

Make sure to check out the United Cardinal Bloggers site to catch all of this year’s top 5 countdowns.

Happy New Year Cardinal fans!

Euphoria

World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals.

Roll that around for a bit in your mind. See how it feels on the tip of your tongue.

Who-da-thunk.

I haven’t been around lately. Since the last time you saw me here, I have moved across state lines, started a new job, coached my way through a volleyball season, and lived and died with the Cards. I cheered for them, I cried for them, I laughed with them. I just wasn’t here.

That’s okay, the Cardinals almost weren’t here either.

I live in Missouri now. My coworkers and I daily chatter about baseball. I’ve watched games with family and friends that I haven’t been able to watch games with in years. For the first time since the 2004 World Series, I watched a playoff game while living in the state of Missouri (Okay, I was at game 3 of the 2009 NLDS. That shouldn’t count. It was pathetic).

I almost quit this team. I actually had a thought one day about what I would do with all my free time in October. That day was in August. I couldn’t fathom what else could happen to this team – random injuries, snatching losses from the jaws of victory, drama with the manager and a team that I felt was listless.

I couldn’t quit this team. Most of you couldn’t either. Suddenly I felt a shift. Games started falling the other way. Call it regression to the mean or getting breaks to fall your way or whatever you want to call it, this team looked different. They almost had… wait for it… swagger. Not in the Phillies’ pitching staff of doooooooom. Not in the Brewers’ “Beast Mode.” Not in the Rangers antler clash. The just had this childlike, sneaking a cookie from the cookie jar determination that they were just going to do this. It was going to happen.

They did it. Allen Craig randomly appeared here and there to hit home runs like they were no big deal. David Freese found a way to have every big hit. Chris Carpenter pitched with a bulldog mentality on short rest. Jason Motte closed the door. Tony LaRussa smiled.

Cardinal fans rejoiced. I sit here, a full 14 hours since the game ended, still feeling speechless as to how to describe this game.

But these pictures say it better than I ever could. Enjoy it Cardinal fans – especially those of you that couldn’t quit.

Game 6 Winner

Game 7 Winner

Daydream Believer

Pinch me.

It’s the postseason and my St. Louis Cardinals have conquered the unconquerable, done the unthinkable.

This team, who was 10 ½ games out of first place in the NL Central during the last week in August put on the turbo-boosters and raced into October, beating the odds-favorite pitching monsters of the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Division Series and then moving on to snuff the mighty Brewers in the National League Championship Series.

Pinch me.

This is the team who lost their “Ace” Adam Wainwright to Tommy John surgery during Spring Training, whose veteran closer fought a prolonged and painful struggle to “get it right” through a good part of the season before finally hanging up his cleats, whose bullpen woes and injury bugs peaked early and haunted faithful fans.  This is the team who failed to reach a contract extension agreement with their legendary (pending free agent) first baseman before the start of the season, leaving a cloud of doubt over the future of the club. This is the team whose manager battled SHINGLES for what seemed like an eternity.  This was the team nobody expected to be here.

And yet, here we are.

The Cardinals are heading back to the World Series, five years after another of their unexpected (and victorious) runs through the postseason.

The Texas Rangers are the bulldogs waiting for us in the final showdown.  The Cardinals are (again) the underdogs, facing a powerhouse lineup that should strike fear in the hearts of any opposing pitching staff.

Except this team is the 2011 Cardinals, something unexpected, something… special.  This is the team with the power trio of Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, and Matt Holliday.  This is the team with Golden (glove) Boy, Yadier Molina anchoring the battery.  This is the team of David Freese, whose superhero powers apparently magnify in the postseason.  This is the team of churlish veteran Ace Chris Carpenter, the wise-beyond-his-years lefty, Jaime Garcia, and the resurgence of Kyle Lohse. This is the team with an MVP bullpen (Fernando Salas, Jason Motte, Mitchell Boggs, Lance Lynn…), a work in progress throughout the entire season, rich in talent and tuned to perfection under the mad genius of Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan.

This team exemplifies the saying:  The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  The midseason trade for shortstop Rafael Furcal added a potent combo of game-changing glove and switch-hitting hot bat.  The Colby Rasmus trade, initially flunking all seemingly rational baseball criteria, now shines with the luster of La Russa brilliance (isn’t hindsight incredible?) as pitchers Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski have all contributed handily to the magic of these rally Cardinals with Jon Jay in centerfield, making Rasmus’ absence (dare I say?) forgettable.

As I sit here composing this ode to what looks more and more like a team of destiny, I am finding it difficult to know where to stop.  So many players up and down the bench, the bullpen and the rotation have contributed to get this hot surging team to the magical summit: Allen “Do It For Torty” Craig, Nick Punto, Adron Chambers, Skip Schumaker, Daniel Descalso, Ryan Theriot… the list goes on and on.  When you stop to think, it is beyond belief:  the timely talent really does run that deep, this team has surpassed every expectation.  But don’t tell them that.  They have momentum and their eyes on the ultimate prize.  They are aiming for the top.

This is not a team of superstars, this is a TEAM.  The light-hearted frivolities: Puma suits, rookie hazing costumes, the “shredder”, tortoises, rally squirrels, “Happy Flights” and sprinkles have combined with an underlying burst of what can only be described as a perfect storm of “Do It or Go Home” mentality.

Game 1 of the World Series starts tomorrow…. and it starts at Busch Stadium.

Pinch me.

Go Cards!  ;)

Welcome to the Bigs, Kid. Good Luck With This.

Could someone explain to me when Tony went from the one that doesn’t trust rookies and young guys to the one trying to kill pitchers arms and spirits a la Dusty Baker?

First of all, the Cards have got an inordinate amount of infielders (or outfielders being used as infielders) on this team. So why is the backup catcher starting at third base? Why on a team boasting 7 guys that have played infield this year (and 4 of which have started or played third) was that at all necessary? This was one of those starting lineups that Tony pulled out of a hat, wasn’t it?

Poor Lance Lynn. Making his major league debut starting on just 3 days rest. He was actually very efficient, throwing only 64 pitches in his 5 1/3 innings of work. However, when he was getting lit up in the sixth, and the crack team doing play by play for Fox Sports Midwest kept repeatedly stating that there was no one warming up in the bullpen, I got frustrated again. Now, I know I ranted yesterday about how the starting pitchers are having issue lately getting deep into games, and the bullpen looks worn out. That issue has obviously not changed since then. So the team says, “Hey, let’s bring up another arm and have 13 pitchers, thereby allowing guys to get a breather!’

Solid idea, right? Well, I’m actually never on board with having 13 pitchers on the roster. Ever. However, in the last seven games…

Brian Tallet has 4 appearances and 3 innings pitched.

Eduardo Sanchez has 3 appearances and 3 2/3 innings pitched.

Fernando Salas has 3 appearances and 3 1/3 innings pitched.

Ryan Franklin has 3 appearances and 5 2/3 innings pitched.

Jason Motte has 3 appearances and 4 innings pitched.

Miguel Batista has 3 appearances and 5 1/3 innings pitched.

Trever Miller has 4 appearances and 2 2/3 innings pitched.

Individually it doesn’t seem like a lot, but add it up. Over 7 games the pen has taken on 27 2/3 innings, and that doesn’t even include the 2 that Maikel Cleto took on last night (I’ll get to him). So the pen has handled almost 30 of 64 innings (counting extras) over the last seven days. I can understand the feeling of needing an extra arm for a few days. So what does the team do?

Call up Maikel Cleto. Force a kid to skip AAA and run straight to the bigs despite the fact that there are 4 arms in AAA that are on the 40 man, including 2 (Mitchell Boggs and Jess Todd) that have big league experience. Makes perfect sense. The book on Cleto is simple – he throws the ball fast. Caveman style. Me throw ball fast. He has no idea where it’s going, and, when he’s at all worked up, excited, or even just thinking about what kind of food is going to be on the postgame spread, he has even less of a clue. He just winds up and throws it. Fast.

Hey kid. In the bigs? They can hit fastballs.

It was setting him up for failure in a big way. I don’t like it. He showed us something big in being able to calm down and come out for a solid second inning, but wow, was I cringing to see him get run back out there.

This makes two posts in two days from me… both of the ranting variety. I should cut it out or you’re all going to think I a) like writing and b) need to get out more.

Thankfully we are finished with the Giants for the year. Up next are the boys from the north side – the Cubs. The boys in blue have lost their last three (to the hapless Astros no less) and are 3-7 in their last ten games. Old friend Ryan Dumpster Dempster takes the mound for the Cubbies, while Jaime Garcia looks to bounce back from arguably his toughest start of his career. Gametime is at 7:15. Go Cards! :)

An Epiphany Of Sorts

So early in tonight’s game, as I stared in disbelief at Albert Pujols hitting into his seventh double play of the season, I had an epiphany, courtesy of friend of the site Bob Netherton (@throatwarbler). He threw out this thought…

To put this in perspective, Jack Clark hit into 179 double plays in his 18 year career. 6 of those were partial years. Albert 209 in 10. In 2 1/2 years in St. Louis, Clark only hit into 19 double plays. That shows you what the running game can do. 

Hmm… the running game. Of course, seeing a hit and run executed by Kyle McClellan and Yadier Molina of all people makes me chuckle even more, but also makes me think. Obviously, the Cardinals are not a strong running team. Not. At. All. Why should they be? Enough of the players have pop in their bats (Pujols, Holliday, Rasmus, Berkman) and are capable of putting one over the wall, so why put runners on the move and risk easy double plays or chances to double guys off?

Umm, because the entire team is hitting into way too many double plays?

Why not try it Tony? Guys are getting on base in front of Pujols. Let them run. Let them dance on the basepaths. Get the pitchers distracted, because distraction = mistakes and mistakes = long, beautiful home runs leaving the park.

Just a thought. Don’t mind me… ;)

Where There’s Smoke…?

Fact: There is something wrong with the 2010 Cardinals.

This season has gone horribly wrong.  It is more than just bad luck, more than an injury-prone roster. Yet nowhere have I read a good enough explanation for this season’s unbelievable Redbird slump.  My faith in this team is deep, but my concern is taking over.  Call it woman’s intuition or just blame it on an imagination run wild, but even I am beginning to wonder what horrible secret could be at the root of this Cardinal demise.
Yesterday breaking news from the Cardinal clubhouse insinuated bad blood was again boiling as Felipe Lopez was given his ‘unconditional release’ from the Cardinals.
For being late.
I am well aware that the public is not (and should not) be privy to all team dynamics.  However we are the ones left watching as the Cardinals systematically dismantle a team BEFORE the season has ended.  The organization recently attempted (and failed) to sweep escalating troubles between Colby Rasmus and Tony LaRussa under the rug. Then last week management announced it was shutting down pitcher Jaime Garcia early, as a precaution.  (The fact that Twitter found out before Jaime himself knew of the decision looks to be another symptom of a much larger illness plaguing the club.)
David Freese
Brad Penny
Ryan Ludwick
Jason LaRue
Sure, we lost some vital components in the Cardinal machinery through the season.  However the ‘leftovers’ are hardly scrubs.
Albert Pujols
Matt Holliday
Yadier Molina
Adam Wainwright
Chris Carpenter
What is becoming more and more obvious is that this team is no longer having fun.  The spark is gone.  But why? I am certain every player has been through bad baseball seasons before.  Most of these guys are experienced professionals.  They know the ups and downs of a season.  Afterall, baseball is a crazy game.  Sometimes the ball drops in the gap and sometimes the hits just won’t come.  Luck has something to do with it.  Attitude has more.
Unlike some writers and bloggers I have read, I am not blaming the boys for giving up.  I truly believe they care.  The Cardinals are a GOOD group of GREAT guys, and I will defend (most) of them with every breath I have left.  However, it saddens me to see these proud, talented guys struggling (and here is where the supposition starts…) under some invisible weight that seems larger than the sum of its parts.
Back to that intuition (aka:  lack of facts, but saying it anyway).  I get the feeling there is something larger looming in that clubhouse. It could be anything.  Tempers may be flaring and the guys may be fussing.  However I have to say I am worried it is something deeper.  Bad calls and misfortune at the plate may have played a part in some hard luck losses, but I fear something else is eating at this team from the inside.
Have the players lost confidence or respect in their skipper for some yet unrevealed reason?  Do the boys know Albert is on his way out the door?  Are they too assuming that LaRussa will be calling it quits after this season?  Would those rumors be enough to dismantle the dedication of an entire club of professionals?  I would hope not.
I am trying to keep my imagination in check.  But speaking as a fan who loves the players as much as the game, it is heartbreaking to see the joy leave the field.
I know the superstars are getting paid exorbitant amounts of money to do a job, but my baseball-loving heart wants to believe that ballplayers continue to go out there on the field every day, dedicated to a career they enjoy and a game they are still passionate about.
Wins are nice, but happy ballplayers are my ultimate viewing pleasure.  I miss my energetic and fun-loving Cardinals.  Something just isn’t right with the 2010 Cardinals and I hope – whatever it takes- that they cure the problem and get back to the love of the game.

So…
To the Cardinals:
I am willing to help. Homemade cookies? A listening ear?  I’m your gal!  Just let me know!  My heart is breaking here boys.  Tell me how we can fix this!  It isn’t about the playoffs anymore.  I just miss true “play like a Cardinal” baseball and the sight of you having fun on the field.


Colby Rasmus is (not?) JD Drew

I don’t want to talk about the team today. I did plenty of that yesterday over at i70baseball, and everything I said then still stands – the team needs to quit playing at the level of their opponent.

Based on the title, you can see I’ve been bouncing around an idea in my head. It started yesterday morning, when I saw that someone (I apologize that I do not remember who or where) had made a statement to the extent of ‘perhaps Colby Rasmus is becoming somewhat of a JD Drew type.’ I almost spilled my cereal because I was upset at just the thought of that.

Let me rewind for those of you that need a refresher course: Drew was drafted in the 1st round of the 1997 draft by the Phillies, but did not sign, instead choosing to play in the Northern League for a year (I did not know the whole saga about that – now I do). The Cardinals then drafted Drew again in the first round of the 1998 draft, and he did sign (For those that want to know, yes, his agent is Scott Boras). Drew received an insane bonus of $3 million and major league contract worth $7 million.

Yes, he did appear to be just that good. Drew spent almost no time in the minors and was already in St. Louis for a September cup of coffee by the end of the ’98 season. In his rookie year of 1999 he was installed as the center fielder and played in 104 games, putting up a good-but-not-great line of .242/.340/.424. He was projected to be a star. He was supposed to be the next big thing. He had a long way to go.

His 2000 season showed a climb – playing in 135 games and hitting .295/.401/.479, tossing in 18 HR and 57 RBI just for good measure. His next three seasons are where it starts to get painful for me. Drew did not go a full year in St. Louis without landing on the disabled list for one reason or another. Leg, arm, shoulder, whatever… he had it, and it wasn’t working the way it was supposed to. Eventually Tony LaRussa quit making excuses and started saying what he really thought. In the book Three Nights in August, Tony is quoted as saying that Drew decided to “settle for 75%” of his talent. Fans turned on Drew, referring to him as ‘Nancy Drew,’ ‘DL Drew’ or ‘AH (Always Hurt) Drew.’ Ouch.

After the 2003 season the Cardinals sent Drew (along with Eli Marrero) packing to Atlanta, in exchange for Jason Marquis, Ray King, and some skinny minor league pitcher named Adam Wainwright (Think the Cards won that deal?). This was the first deal I remember vividly, and I was absolutely excited. Drew is the first player I really just did not like. Support? Yes, I supported him. He wore the birds on the bat. But like Todd Wellemeyer in 2009, I just did not like him. He copped an attitude, was always injured, and just never played up to that star potential, at least not while he was in St. Louis. I spent all of middle school and some of my high school years as well just disliking everything about JD Drew.

I don’t want Colby Rasmus to be JD Drew redux.

If it wasn’t obvious before yesterday that Colby and LaRussa just do not get along, it is crystal clear now. On his radio show yesterday morning, LaRussa stated that Colby needs to do more than show up – he has to play well. He is streaky, gets homer happy, and sometimes does not play smart baseball. In the same hour TLR made a comparison to Jon Jay, noting that Jay positions himself better in the outfield, takes better routes to the ball, adjusts better to pitchers adjusting to him, and despite Rasmus having better raw talent, Jay is farther along in playing all aspects of the game.

I’m not talking about Jay here, so move past that. Tony is obviously frustrated with Rasmus right now, so much so that after originally listing him in the lineup for yesterday’s game, he changed his mind and pulled Colby out, instead shifting Jay over to center, moving Skip Schumaker into right and dropping Aaron Miles in at second. At first when I found out about the switch I had thought it was that Colby was just not quite ready to play yet from his injured calf that has been bothering him for the better part of the last two weeks. It was then passed through Twitter by Matthew Leach and Joe Strauss (among others) that the switch was made because of a manager’s decision.

Yikes. That is not a good sign for the young (okay fine, he’s the same age as me) center fielder. Now my wheels are spinning. Over the course of two hours, I pondered every possible excuse I could for Colby, then promptly blew holes in every one of them. I didn’t want to, but it happened.

  1. Colby spent three+ full years in the minors. For a potential star, that is not too small of a number. If he was that good, three years isn’t horrible. However, no college baseball. There’s a big jump from high school to the majors. Could a player make that jump in three years? Sure. He obviously did. But LaRussa states over and over again that teaching doesn’t happen at the major league level, and Colby seems to still need a bit of training sometimes.
  2. Colby has the skills. His home runs go a long way (I saw his 483′ bomb in Kansas City first hand – ridiculously far), he’s quick on the bases (yet doesn’t steal… WHY?!), he makes some nice catches in the outfield… and he strikes out a lot, has been caught stealing one third of the time, and is currently running in the negatives on zone rating in the outfield.
  3. Colby is a team… okay I can’t even finish that one. I don’t think he is a team player. I’m starting to feel like he cops an attitude. I understand being frustrated, but after being inserted as a pinch hitter last week after it was made clear by TLR/staff before the game that he was unavailable, Rasmus stated that he didn’t know why he was thrust in the game, dropping a lovely, “I just work here,” line. The word ‘entitlement’ was dropped about things like that, and I think I’m starting to agree. Please please PLEASE, do not let me start seeing mentions of Colby faking injuries while trying to get out of the lineup. I don’t want that at all.

 

The opinions are out there. Some argue Colby would be better off with a different manager and consistent playing time. Others think he needs to be sent packing via trade in the offseason. Honestly? Right now I just want him to get healthy and play. He needs to play like he knows how, and do the things he does well. He has yet to arrive in the bigs. His numbers are good-not-great, and he has the potential to be great.

Another thing – Colby, quit waiting for Tony to pat you on the head. It will not happen. Brendan figured it out, and he is finally playing better. Affirmation rocks, but Tony doesn’t give it. But whatever happens, please do not turn into another JD Drew.

Thanks to friend of the CDD Bob for bouncing this idea around with me yesterday afternoon. He definitely helped me get the dots connected for this piece. If you haven’t read Bob’s stuff, head over here to his blog, or look for his premiere post on i70baseball.com tomorrow!
Also, if you want a second opinion on this subject, azruavatar has a different perspective over on Viva El Birdos… link here! Dan Moore also takes a crack at the top five TLR Clubhouse Rifts… not pretty.

Basebrawl: Boys Being Boys

Wow.  First, I cannot believe how long it has been since I’ve blogged here.  My last post was in July?!  A lot has happened – including our week-long blog hiatus while we Diamond Diaries gals met up in St. Louis to watch our boys plays some ball.  Fun trip.  Absolutely amazing!  I finally met Angela and Chris in person -plus a few other great Cardinals fans we knew from our Twitter baseball watch parties.  The trip was wonderful even if the Cardinals gave up two games to the Astros and the devastating news broke that our hop-a-long hotcorner David Freese would have season-ending surgery to rebuild his ankle.   But enough about that….

Yesterday we learned the penalties imposed on the players and managers for their actions during the mayhem that erupted during the 1st inning of Tuesday night’s game between the Cardinals and the Reds. (Chris disected the basebrawl details in yesterday’s Diamond Diaries post. and Viva El Birdos has broken the entire fight down into an amazing must-see video and picture sequence here.)



MLB’s disciplinary actions targeted 5 players and both team managers:

Johnny Cueto, Reds pitcher – 7 game suspension plus fines
Managers Tony LaRussa and Dusty Baker – 2 game suspensions each
Cincinnati players Russ Springer and Brandon Phillips – fines
Cardinal players Chris Carpenter and Yadier Molina – fines

With one glaring exception, I found the penalties acceptable.  MLB made a point with the managers, and 4 of the 5 players did not deserve anything worse. Johnny Cueto was the only player in the melee who went berserk – violently kicking Chris Carpenter in the back and Jason LaRue in the head and ribs with his spikes, leaving Jason with a mild concussion and stitches in his lip.  Cueto’s actions were reprehensible and thankfully LaRue was not more seriously injured.  In my opinion, this was where MLB dropped the ball.  Cueto’s repeated thrashing of his spikes at the heads and bodies of players posed such risk to every player in that mobbed backstop that I believe he should be jailed for assault.

Baseball fights are definitely their own creature, much as baseball has its own personality.  The fact that baseball’s unwritten rules extend to benches-clearing, emotion-driven pushing-and-shoving matches leaves me smiling at this sport I have fallen in love with.
Sure, these grown men got all riled up and acted like a bunch of gorillas, but (with the exception of Johnny Cueto) they were civilized gorillas. 
Not a fan of fights, I do not enjoy hockey. Ultimate Fighting makes me sick and boxing horrifies me.  But Tuesday’s brawl between the Cardinals and the Reds was different – mostly because baseball fights, while full of bravado, are rarely violent, but also because I understood and appreciated the underlying emotions behind the furor.  Reds 2nd baseman Brandon Phillips rudely and intentionally insulted the entire core of the Cardinal organization and catcher Yadier Molina took exception to Phillips’ attempt to gloss over his comments. 
Don’t run on Yadi and don’t insult his baseball family. 
Sure, Molina could have let it go.  He could have just ignored Phillips and excused him as the publicity-seeking big mouth that he is.  Instead, Yadi took a stand, and with that confrontation (punctuated by a heroic retaliatory homerun in the next inning) Yadi ignited what will in all likelihood be the turning point for the 2010 Cardinals.
These Cardinals have been hungering for a unifying moment to ignite the type of fire that drives a talented team forward, and this sweep of the Reds – in the midst of the Phillips’ comment controversy- did just that.

The Cardinals won much more than a sweep in this past series against the Reds.  Their bond as a team is now iron-clad.  Conversely, the Reds lost more than just these 3 games and 1st place in the NL Central.  Cincinnati may now be playing as a team divided.  With proud former Cardinals Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds in Reds’ uniforms, Brandon Phillips’ comments make him an unpopular teammate, and Johnny Cueto’s conduct was a disgrace.   

Could we have just witnessed the downfall of the 2010 Reds? Time will tell. But the Reds will only have themselves to blame for sinking that ship.
Today the Cardinals take on long-time rival Chicago Cubs with the Cubs seeming much more like that pesky neighbor kid that wastes your time than a bitter adversary. Tony LaRussa serves his two-game suspension at the start of this Cardinals-Cubs series, and our Cardinals have some well-earned momentum. 
So, Let’s Play Ball!    …  and play nice.  =)



And if you happen to be looking for more baseball reading, I wrote a story for i70baseball earlier this week about Surviving August Baseball.  You can check it out here.

First by Force

The Cards are back in first! Just writing that sentence brought a smile to my face. But that fact alone is not the best part.

Happy Cards! Our favorite!
Getty Images

The Cards are back in first… and they deserve it! The team has been on fire the first four games out of the gate after the break, sweeping a Dodgers team that is duking it out in the brutal NL West and kicking them out of town in style with a late inning comeback win that featured tough pitching, smart baserunning, key hits and solid defense. We haven’t seen this much of a cohesive unit since I don’t know when.

What’s brilliant is that on his Sunday morning radio show Tony LaRussa admitted that this lineup has basically been triaged together. Can I just say that I love listening to the Sunday morning chats on KTRS? Tony takes every question, and the people that suck up to him with a ‘Thank you Mr. LaRussa, you’re a great manager and I hope you stay here for a real long time,’ always make me laugh. This week’s best caller tag has to go to the guy that requested that TLR not have any more C-team lineups. Tony was trying not to laugh when he said that although he didn’t think there had been any such lineups this year, the caller might not appreciate the lineup for that game. Oops!

People were ready to fight when they saw a lineup that had no Colby Rasmus, no Albert Pujols, no Yadier Molina and no Tyler Greene, but the truth of the matter is that every one of those guys is dinged up, battered, bruised and all around not feeling great! Matt Holliday almost didn’t make it into the lineup yesterday either after fouling a ball sharply off his ankle on Saturday. It was definitely a patchwork lineup that no one expected to play tough, especially not with Jeff Suppan on the mound. I’ll hand it to Sup though, he pitched a very nice game yesterday. (Someone better write that down, because I don’t say things like that often.)

The fact of the matter is that the team isn’t back on top because the Reds finally started to fizzle. In all honesty the Reds just got better by bringing back Edinson Volquez from the disabled list. They have more starting pitching than they know what to do with, and the Cards are running a M*A*S*H unit in and out of the training room. These Cards have been battling lately, and fought tooth and nail to make it back on top. They weren’t handed first, they took it by force. That’s what we like to see.

I wonder what will happen when we get all our boys back? Last I heard Ryan Ludwick is very close and David Freese is still a week or two away. Maybe when they return some of the unwelcome veterans on the team will be given one way tickets to the retirement home (oh, I was going for no snark today… sorry).

Chris has challenged all of us to be Mo and make some plans for the rest of the year. So check it out and make your voice heard!

Speaking of voices, tonight is the second broadcast for i70baseball.com. It starts at 10PM, and for some unknown reason the team has invited me to be the chat host. Head over to BlogTalkRadio and hang out in the chatroom!

Photo Thursday

So… the last two games. They happened. The great thing about baseball is that we have another game to look forward to. Today. 2:10. Chris Carpenter vs. Ubaldo Jimenez. It promises to be a pretty fantastic match-up!

On to the week in pictures (Sorry, no sadness here)!

Ang wants a Brockabrella. No really, she does.
Who can make it happen?!
Scott Rovak – US Presswire
The Baby Birds are coming BACK! Tyler Greene doesn’t plan
on leaving anytime soon!
Scott Rovak – US Presswire
See? Even Matt Holliday is happy to see him back!
Scott Rovak – US Presswire
Now this? This is just an awesome picture.
Would you run on this face? Not a chance.
Scott Rovak – US Presswire
It’s not every day a B-52 flies over before the game!
Scott Rovak – US Presswire
More Baby Birds! How about Jon Jay -
back in business in St. Louis!
Scott Rovak – US Presswire
¡Vamanos!
Scott Rovak – US Presswire
We admire the hustle from Jason Motte, but…
yeah.
The Canadian Press
Ho hum, another complete game for Adam.
We don’t like – we LOVE these games!
Dilip Vishwanat – Getty Images
‘Oh! Look at it go!’
Best picture we’ve had yet? Probably!
Dilip Vishwanat – Getty Images
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