It just happened a little while ago, I haven't really formed all my thoughts on it yet, but Tony La Russa decided to call it career while he's on top. And more power to him. I've never been a big La Russa guy, but he wins games* and has three world series rings. He's clearly a titan in the dugout and deserves to go out as a champion and to be celebrated as such.
*Good for third all time, and he would have moved into second all time if he had come back this year. But, come on, even if the Cardinals were to repeat, the run wouldn't be half as magical as this year.
Other than that, I don't have much baseball stuff. I didn't watch any hockey or football this weekend. No, instead I hauled my fat, terribly out of shape body to Minnesota to spend the weekend playing a disc tournament. We got an alumni team together, and it was glorious. We didn't really know what we have, and honestly, we were one of the least athletic teams out there. But, we had a few guys still in shape, added in enough veteran savvy, and came away with third place. For all the years in college, the best finish we'd had was fifth. A very successful weekend. I played terrible the first day, but I got back into the swing of things on the second day and played fairly well.
We came within a whisker of the championship game. In the semifinal, we fought back from an early 4-1 hole to tie the game at 6. The game pretty well stayed tied up to 11-11, where the time cap forced us to sudden death. They started with the disc, which is a pretty big advantage, just like taking the kickoff in football. We did get them to turn the disc over, though, so we had a shot, which we turned into a very good look at the endzone. Unfortunately, the throw was too low and maybe a bit ill-advised. That would be the last time we would have the disc in that game.
Still, that was the only game we lost the entire weekend, which was amazing for what we had. Ten alums, most of which had not played a game in at least a calendar year (if not longer), most of which were definitely not in the same shape they were in when we were playing a tournament just about every week. It was a very impressive showing, and it was a very, very fun time. Hopefully we'll be doing this again next year, minus about fifty pounds of me.
What a game. I could recount everything, but that has been done on various other news sites. Even Nick "The Shredder" Punto's destruction of David Freese's Hall of Fame-bound jersey has been covered. It doesn't leave a lot of room for fresh analysis.
I can tell you how tense that game was. I couldn't sleep for hours afterwards. The game was over around 12:30 AM Eastern. I didn't fall asleep until about 3 AM. True, I am excited about the big tournament this weekend,* but I don't think that caused the insomnia. I think it was the pressure of the game (even my wife, who is not a baseball fan, was getting anxious) and the resultant exhilaration of the walk off homer by the local kid that just kept my adrenaline pumping all night. Like Lance Berkman, I was ready for Game 7 last night.
*I'm not as thrilled about not being able to watch the game and the resulting celebration tomorrow, especially after last night. I feel a bit robbed of that because of the rain delay. I do have it set to record, though. I'm still going to try to listen to the game on the radio, though.
Was it a perfect game? No, not at all. A few ugly errors on both sides is enough to prove that. As a side note: never let pitchers throw to a base. It will always end in tears. But that's okay. If it were played perfectly by robots, it wouldn't be fine. It would just be predictable. No, last night was the perfect illustration of when baseball goes right, even when the game might not be by definition "right." I don't know how many times I gravely texted my brother that the magic had run out and finding myself more bummed than I probably should have been as a Cubs fan. And every time, the Cardinals found a way. Sometimes with help from Ron Washington and the Rangers pitchers, sure, but you still have to do your own part. Especially to come back that many times, and that late in the game. Just amazing.
For Game 7. . . well, geez. I'm not going to pick a winner. I can't. There are examples of amazing games like that were the momentum carries the day (and the championship), there are times where the team in the Cardinals shoes have shot their wad and are done in Game 7. I've picked the Rangers all year, and they haven't disappointed me so far.
But fuck it. With Darth Carp on the mound, the Cardinals will make it 11 in '11.
The original plan was to write about last night's game, of course. As you're no doubt aware, that game didn't happen. Unfortunately, I don't really have a Plan B, so here goes nothing.
The Blues were probably the most thankful people in St. Louis that last night's game was postponed. Maybe not quite as thankful as if the game were at the Scottrade Center, but still, there would have been a precious few people in St. Louis (or probably all of Missouri, if we're being honest) that were going to watch the Blues over the Cardinals last night. Actually, upon further reflection, the Blues might have actually benefited more from being on the road. I'm sure most people that had bought World Series tickets weren't going to go out and buy a hockey ticket because they just had to watch some live sports on a Wednesday night. With Glee taking over the FOX airways, though, it would be pretty easy to punch in channel 671 (on DirecTV, anyway) and watch the Blues kind of embarrass the sitting Presidents' Trophy holders.* The Blues look like they may be playoff bound this year, which would be good for the city. I don't have the numbers, but I wonder if the Blues are more popular than the Rams. They've certainly won more over the past few years.
*This will be the first full hockey season for this blog, and I'm sure not all my readers are the most hockey-savvy. So, just in case we have anybody looking to start hockey from scratch due to the lack of pro basketball this year, I'm going to go out of my way to explain just about everything. The Presidents' Trophy is given to the team with the most regular season points, which was the Vancouver Canucks last year with 117. You get two points for a win, one point for losing in overtime (or shootout). As you might have heard, the Bruins won the Stanley Cup. That's always been the case. The trophy has been given out since 1985-86, and that winner has gone on to win the big prize all of seven times. Not a great percentage.
Speaking of football, the Colts put Kerry Collins on IR yesterday, ending that whole experiment. I didn't like that pick up from the start, really. I tried to talk myself into it, but I thought they should have at least given Curtis Painter a shot to start from the get go. Of course, I'm also a Purdue fan, so maybe I wasn't the one to ask. Here's to hoping Peyton Manning will have a chance to groom Andrew Luck into the next Aaron Rodgers.
Even though it sucks for me, I think this rain delay is the best thing that could've happened to a Cardinal team on the ropes. If they win tonight (which I think they will), they give Carpenter another shot. Carpenter has been an absolute stud this post-season. I would feel pretty good putting the ultimate game in his hands. As it stands, the penultimate game will be Colby Lewis (who has been a cast-off for most of his career, but reinvented himself after a stint in Japan) and Jaime Garcia (who might have saved the Cardinals season by stepping up huge to start the year) will pitch this one out. Should be a good one. Here's to hoping I'm listening to Game 7 tomorrow on the road.
This picture apparently is what the weather is supposed to be like in St. Louis tonight, putting tonight's game in jeopardy. I heard on the radio this morning a decision is supposed to be made early about whether or not to try to play tonight or give everybody an extra day.
The extra would be beneficial to both teams, maybe slightly moreso to the Cardinals. It would give all the pitchers another day of rest, and would set up Chris Carpenter to make another start in Game 7 on full rest. It would also give Derek Holland another chance after his shut out, though I'm less confident in his ability to replicate that performance than I am in "Darth Carp."
For me, a rain out tonight would be terrible. I do think the Cardinals will win this first game in St. Louis regardless of when it's played. If there's a rainout, that means Game 7 would be played on Friday, and that just wouldn't work for me. I'm heading to Minnesota straight from work to play at Hallowinona (an ultimate disc tournament). It's a seven or eight hour drive, which means there's no way I'll make it to the hotel to watch the game. This happened in 2006 when the Cardinals won the World Series, and it was a bit unsatisfying, so I'm really hoping they get Game 7 in on Thursday.
As far as disc is concerned, I'm in terrible shape and I haven't thrown a lick, so it will likely be embarrassing for me. The only thing I can hope is, being an alumni team, a lot of the other guys will also be out of shape so it won't look so bad on me. I'm sure there will pictures posted here of my costume, though, so you can have that to look forward to.
Then again, I always had trouble hitting a breaking ball. I pick it up better from the stands than I do at the plate. Anyway, here's my tale to explain the slight schedule slip.
The good news: I got to spend most of Friday and all of Monday at home. That was fine by me. I love being at home and doing whatever I feel like doing. The bad news: I was there because I was suspended two days from work. Why? Well, that's why there's a tale.
As most probably know, I got married in August. That was one of the reasons for my little hiatus. Because of the wedding, we moved to Crawfordsville, as that's about halfway between our jobs. My daily drive went from fifteen to twenty minutes to more like forty to fifty minutes. I actually don't mind it all that much, it's all interstate. But it's something that makes me want to look for work closer to home. Combine with that the fact I really, really don't want to be answering phones for a living. I would love to wake up in the morning and be excited to get to work and love what I'm doing instead of the struggle to even open my eyes every day. So, I'm looking for a new job, preferably in a new industry.
That, I think, has gotten back to Watchfire. Watchfire does a lot of things right, but it is notorious for not tolerating employees looking for other work. I would have believed that reputation to be earned before this whole ordeal, but I believe it even more now. I had a call which wasn't great, but it really wasn't too bad. That led to me apparently being a problem for some time, which was news to me. Suddenly I'm getting a written warning and the suspension. It felt to me at the time and even moreso since that they are looking to get rid of me, I'm assuming because somebody called for a reference or something along those lines. I definitely feel like a dead man walking at this job now. Hopefully I can at least hang on until I get the last of the wedding bills paid off,* by which time I'll either have found new employment or at least can leave on my own terms.
*The bills are very manageable, for the record. They total under $3,000, which is my credit card balance and the wedding band. If things go right, everything will be paid off by the end of the year.
So, that's how I spent my weekend. I did watch all the baseball, of course. The Cardinals seemed to be cruising along until La Russa, well, went all La Russa on the situation. Sacrifice bunting and hit-and-running all the time. Great way to score one needed run, but playing that way for an entire game is a great way to leave a metric ton* of runners on base, which is exactly what has happened. That is not how you win ball games. Ron Washington had his own quirks, like intentionally walking Pujols with two out and nobody on, but by God, he wasn't going let The Machine beat him, which I can respect a whole lot more than La Russa's fumbling and sheer determination to take the bat out of his historically great hitter's hands.
*According to ESPN, the average weight of a St. Louis Cardinal is 212 pounds. The Cardinals stranded twelve. That comes out to 2,544 pounds of Redbirds left out to dry. A metric ton, Google helpfully tells me, is 2,205 pounds (rounded).
We're sitting a three games to two in the Rangers favor. Off day today, and then it's back to St. Louis. I'm still thinking Rangers in seven as I predicted at the start of the series, but don't be shocked if St. Louis can pull out two wins at home.
Torty Craig can still be happy, because Master Allen came through in the pinch again, but the Rangers won (as predicted) in a dramatic 9th inning that featured Jason's Motte weakness: no second pitch. When you're entire repertoire is just throwing the ball as hard as you can in the direction of the plate, hitters are going to notice. Especially when they see a lot of you, like in a long series. This is my worry for the Cardinals. Even so, the Rangers would most likely had lost that game if Ian Kinsler had not been able to swipe second.
I said yesterday and I stand by it today: you aren't going to win this series by running on Yadier Molina. That's a good way to take yourself out of an inning. Kinsler made it on that play, but don't blame Yadi. That was all on Motte and his slow delivery. Even with that, I thought Kinsler was out at full speed. Replay showed the umpire got it right, but the fact it was that close is a huge testament to just how awesome a catcher Molina is. Ron Washington either has our lovely picture of the day, is very stubborn, or very crazy. Maybe all three in some level. And it worked. It might have turned the whole series around. Maybe not. That remains to be seen. But it made all the difference last night, and that deserves to be saluted.
I won't be writing tomorrow, so I guess I need to pick a winner. My gut is saying the Rangers take this one, although I must admit I don't know who's pitching. Doesn't matter. I'll pick the Rangers for Saturday, and the Cardinals for Sunday. We'll wait until Monday to pick that winner.
Happy weekend, folks.
No, really. He tweeted it and everything. In a very good game, the Cardinals eked out a 3-2 win on the back of an Allen Craig (or Master Allen, if you happen to be his pet turtle) pinch hit single. I really thought Cruz had come up with it when I was watching it. It took me a second to find the ball on the ground. On replay (and as Tim McCarver said), the Rangers are very lucky it wasn't a triple or worse. It turns out Cruz made an excellent kick save to keep the ball around him. He probably couldn't stop a liner on the run (and on a bounce) like that again in a hundred tries.
In other highlights, Chris Carpenter does a decent amount of swearing (or at least cursing) on the mound. And Fox has wonderful on field mics. I don't know if it was the sort of gold from Kerry Wood in 2003 against Atlanta, but it was a nice bonus. He also made a great play that tells me that his elbow must be just fine. I'm also shocked he didn't get stepped on. I don't think anybody would have blamed Andrus if he had stepped on Carpenter while he was draped across the entire base. Nothing malice, just very hard to avoid. And yet, he found a way. Good on Elvis.
I'm not sure we learned much from last night. La Russa is the better manager, Wilson and Carpenter are both good, and both bullpens are solid. The Cards just edged the Rangers on this night. One thing I didn't so much care for was all the small ball. There are times for it, but it seemed entirely overused last night. Ron Washington was tried to run on Yadi Molina, which ended about like you'd expect. La Russa sacrificed the bat right out of Pujols hands, and also set up a double play for a line up that really loves to ground into double plays.
They'll go at it again tonight, again at 8 on FOX. Colby Lewis vs. Jaime Garcia. I'm going to say the Rangers take this one, although I think Garcia is the better pitcher. Just going with my gut on this one.
WTF, WGN? The biggest reason I have DirecTV is for the normally excellent sports coverage. If it wasn't for that, I would probably have basic cable if I had TV at all. Keeping that in mind, when my handy printable Blackhawks schedule that I have on my cubicle wall helpfully tells me "Tonight's game is on WGN!" I would really love to be able to flip to channel 307 and be watching hockey. Instead, I'm watching Tom Bergeron doing whatever it is he does on AFV.* It's very upsetting.
*Okay, that's not really fair. I have watched my fair share of America's Funniest (Home) Videos over the years, and Tom does a solid job of hosting given the material.
The problem, I'm told, is DirecTV carries WGN America. You are probably aware WGN, like TBS used to be, is a superstation. That means WGN America is the national feed, whereas WGN is the local feed. Apparently, the only time that makes a difference is when the Blackhawks play. For some reason, due to some sort of non-compete clause with NBC and Versus (which is now owned by NBC), the national feed can't show NHL games. Chicago Sports Net can, though. I'm assuming that's because you have to be in the Chicago region to see CSN, or subscribe to Center Ice, which obviously the NHL is cool with.
I suppose what I don't understand is why I can't be shown the local WGN feed when DirecTV knows I live in the Chicago region. It's very disappointing. But, after getting this off my chest, I can feel better knowing the World Series starts tonight. It may be sacrilege, but I'm pulling for the Cardinals, even though I've picked the Rangers. I'm all for NL Central solidarity.
Sounds so official, doesn't it? Anyway, the big show starts tomorrow in St. Louis. Should the Cardinals really have home field advantage? No, not at all. I'm sure most Cardinal fans would concede that. But, that's apparently how baseball wants it, so that's what we're going with.
I've picked the Rangers from the get-go, and I'm officially going to be sticking with that pick. Nolan Ryan thinks they'll get it done in six, which is definitely believable. I think it will be a seven game series, though.
If had told me in July that this is the World Series we'd see, I would have called you crazy. St. Louis didn't have a bullpen, Pujols started off slow, then got injured just as he was getting back on track, and there was no way Lance Berkman was going to keep it up. Plus, how were the Braves not going to hold on to their lead? Now, Pujols is red hot, Berkman is still doing okay, and the Braves, well, sorry Atlanta. That's tough. As a Cub fan, it makes you a little sick that not once could the Northsiders catch lightning in a bottle to make it this far in sixty-six years. And yet, just five years after winning the whole thing and seven years since getting swept by Boston, here is this Cardinal team that was supposed to be done in when Adam Wainwright's elbow said "Peace Out" in spring training.
As for tomorrow's game, I am going to say the Cardinals win. They're in Busch Stadium, and if you haven't noticed, Chris Carpenter is a beast. Even on an off day, he's giving his team and chance to win. And the Cardinals have been doing this more or less without Berkman and Holliday. Of course, when Pujols is right,* he counts for about three bats with the production he puts up. The much-maligned** David Freese, though, has been a godsend for the Redbirds, and Allen Craig has been pretty darned good himself. The bullpen was able to hold down a Milwaukee line up that scares me more than the Rangers (though the Rangers are still plenty scary). The Cardinals might pull this thing off, no doubt.
*And he is definitely right at the moment.
**Not necessarily because he doesn't have talent (though his glove is, um, suspect), but because he can never stay healthy.
The Rangers starting pitching has not been great. The Cardinals didn't get a quality start in the NLCS, but I think that has a lot more to do with La Russa and his "four pitchers to get through an inning" strategy than how their pitchers are doing. Still, as good as the Cardinals have been, I do think Texas has the better line up, and must improved pitching over Milwaukee. Surely CJ Wilson can't be this disappointing the entire postseason, can he?
I'm going to keep picking game by game, which might influence my decision after seeing this teams against each other. But, for now, I'm going to say the Rangers in seven in a great, great series.
The World Series is set. The Texas Rangers will play the St. Louis Cardinals starting Monday for the World Championship. I saw the Rangers coming. The Cardinals not so much. I will talk more in depth about it tomorrow, but it didn't quite seem appropriate today after the passing of Dan Wheldon.
I took the picture from this page, which is full of people who actually knew Dan talking about him after the accident. I, unsurprisingly, did not know Dan Wheldon, but the accident still left me profoundly sad. I can't really explain why it hit me so hard. I remember Dale Earnhardt's passing very well. That elicited little more than a shrug from me. Wheldon, though, was different. It didn't bring me to tears or anything, but it stirred me.
I'm not a racing fan. That is well known. I do pay a lot of attention to the Indianapolis 500, though. There are a few reasons for that. The biggest is being from Indiana and always looking to promote the state and Indianapolis, as that's where most of the big sporting events happen. Also, as has been mentioned here, I listen almost exclusively to 1070 AM out of Indy, where they predictably cover IndyCar Racing a little closer than most stations, so I paid a little attention to that series. I didn't watch any races, really, but I paid some attention to who was doing well and that sort of thing.
Wheldon was on the radio a fair amount. Part of that was being a two-time Indy 500 champion. Another part was him being very available this year. He was not in a full-time ride this year, instead doing work on Versus and doing a ton of work helping develop the new IndyCar, which is set to debut next year. So, he wasn't as busy gearing up for a race every week or two and in Indy anyway. It certainly made me feel like I knew him a little bit from hearing him talk on the radio. That in turn made me feel like one of his fans, or at least as much of a fan as I am of any race car driver.
He always struck me as very easy-going with a good sense of humor. He obviously could drive like few others could. Look at his track record at Indy and it becomes very clear. I'm sure he knew the risk every time he got in the car, though. It came to a painful and unfortunate end, but hopefully some solace can be found in going out doing something he loved. I'm sure we will hear much, much more about Dan Wheldon come May, where he sadly will not be able to defend his 2010 Indy 500 title.