Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday Lightning 10.11.2009

  • You didn't miss the Cardinals 2009 post-season, you only blinked:

On paper the Dodgers three-game sweep of the Cardinals looks like a total whitewash as if the Cardinals walked in and were bounced before they even knew what hit them. In reality, they should've won game 2 if not for a fluky play of Matt Holliday losing the final out of the game in the lights. It happened; there's nothing that can be done about it.

People will point to the shakiness of Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin and his lack of control, but he'd made the pitches he needed to make to close out game 2 and send the series back to St. Louis even at 1-1, it was a freak thing that cost the club the game. I didn't think the Cardinals were going to win the series anyway (I had Dodgers in 5), so that one game only postponed what I felt was the inevitable anyway.

Aside from Adam Wainwright, the combination of the Cardinals vaunted starting pitching sprung leaks; and Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday didn't hit. These circumstances caused the Cardinals to be packing to go home rather than packing for the NLCS. Chris Carpenter didn't look right from the beginning in game 1; and the ballsy decision by Dodgers manager Joe Torre to walk Pujols in the first inning of the first game with runners on second and third set the tone. Either Holliday was going to come through right there and then and prove that he was the lineup-bodyguard the Pujols needed, or he wasn't. Holliday looked petrified at the plate and struck out. Things got gradually worse from there.

In short, the Cardinals hit a slump and played in bad luck at the wrong time and their season----which held such promise a month ago----is over. Now the questions begin for their future and the answers might not be what the Cardinals players and fans want to hear.

  • What happens now with the Cardinals?

It seemed that the Tony La Russa faction had won the inter-organizational battle between the stat zombies and old-school baseball men with the decision to trade top prospect Brett Wallace to the Athletics for Holliday; and the trade of Chris Perez for Mark DeRosa. The Cardinals were openly discussing their intent to keep Holliday and it seemed fait accompli that La Russa at least----and probably pitching coach Dave Duncan as well----would remain in the Cardinals fold no matter the cost. Now, the entire organization has a lot of questions to answer as to their future.

More important than anything else is what happens with the free agent manager. Such as they are, the stat zombies in the front office led by Jeff Luhnow might take the fact that they were blasted out of the playoffs as an opportunity to regain their sway. The argument (specious as always) would be that they made the aggressive moves for veteran players and it didn't work, so why allow the manager to demand that he be appeased when it failed anyway. Naturally, they'll conveniently forget the widely held belief (just as silly) that the playoffs are a "crapshoot" because it suits their efforts at regaining power. It's going to be fascinating to see what the club does.

Having believed that La Russa had "won" the war, I felt there was no chance of him leaving; now I'm not so sure. It would of course be a mistake for the Cardinals to let the best manager of this generation leave because his team faltered at the wrong time, but I can absolutely see both sides going in a different direction. The talk that Reds owner Bob Castellini was intrigued with La Russa and Duncan should not be dismissed out-of-hand. Already employing former Cardinals GM (and longtime La Russa cohort going back to the A's days) Walt Jocketty, it would be a logical move for Castellini to hire La Russa and Duncan. The Reds are on the verge of contention and La Russa and Duncan would at least lead them into the playoff mix immediately.

Don't be surprised to see La Russa leave; and trust me when I say it would be a disaster for the Cardinals that they'll regret for years to come.

  • Whither Matt Holliday?

Unless the free agent market crashes as it did last season and Matt Holliday is forced to scramble for a contract even close to the Rockies 4-year, $72 million deal he turned down before he was traded to the A's, he won't be back with the Cardinals; and after this odious performance in the NLDS, I'm not sure the Cardinals fans even want him back.

Much like Carlos Beltran made himself an extra $20-30 million with his playoff magnificence at the plate and in the field for the Astros in 2004, it's conceivable that Holliday cost himself at least that much money and possibly more. It's unfair to take three games and decide that a player isn't worth what was initially thought, but it's more in line with Holliday's abilities to be back in the range of the Rockies offer.

I do not think Matt Holliday is an elite player.

He's a good player who wants great player money and we've seen the danger in overpaying for a certain guy because he's perceived to be the "best available". I'm not comparing Holliday with Vernon Wells, but it would be in the same realm if Holliday was overpaid due to panic. He's in for a rude awakening this winter.

  • Saner heads prevail in Philadelphia:

I dunno if it was the cold weather, the postponement or the panic regarding the potential nightmare a Pedro Martinez start would've been in the frigid tundra of Colorado that caused the Phillies to change their minds for game three and give the ball to J.A. Happ, but Phillies fans should breathe a sigh of relief.

Never mind that the weather would've been more apropos for the Vince Lombardi Packers vs the Tom Landry Cowboys in Green Bay; the fact that Pedro is a mere shell of his former self and is dealing with the ravages of age should've precluded the very idea that he get the start. In the warm weather it takes Pedro a couple of innings to get his blood flowing, his muscles/ligaments loose and his command. Had they put him out there in Colorado in the cold, they might've found themselves five runs down before they had time to get the bullpen hot. No matter what happens, Happ was the right call for game 3 and the postponement saved the Phillies from a huge personnel gaffe.

  • Viewer Mail 10.11.2009:

Ted writes RE the Yankees win on Friday:

PAUL, I have seen it all, but last nights' Yankees game was something out of the ordinary. Teixeira will be remembered in the mind of every Yankees fan, and might be enshrined in every Twins fans' mind as well. What a game.

ARod's homer was actually bigger that Teixeira's.

The Twins shouldn't blame the umpires; nor should they lament Teixeira's homer. If they want to blame someone, they should blame themselves for not being able to close out the game; for running the bases haphazardly; and for not being able to score with no outs and the bases loaded. The Yankees beat the Twins in game 2, but only because the Twins contributed mightily by beating themselves efficiently.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes:

You're comparing Posada to Sheffield now? OK, I'll have to use my weapon of last resort: "Not. One. Word."

The "not. one. word" thing: A) was a freak occurrence and blip on my radar screen; and B) doesn't work over the interwebs.

Speaking of empty threats, I vaguely recall one Jane Heller threaten (promise?) to spank one Paul "The Prince of New York" Lebowitz if he continued to write pithy and hilarious vignettes of Posada's antics in the midst of his tantrum for not being in the game 2 starting lineup. I continued to write said vignettes and the punishment was never meted out. It seems that such empty threats are inherent with the Yankees and their fans and are indicative of a larger problem that should be addressed for the good of the club.


She-Fan said...

My threat of a spanking was not carried out because it seemed easier just to ignore your Posada rants. Well, that and the fact that - like your "not one word" thing - it doesn't work over the interwebs.

Jeff said...

The Prince of New York has opened himself up to public spankings from She-Fans? This could be an interesting off season.

As for Holliday... I can tell ya, Cardinal fans want him back. They do. You saw the ovation in Game 3 when he came back home... and unless your name is Gary Templeton, Cardinal fans are very quick to forgive and forget. Believe that. TLR will be back too. If not, expect a full scale riot under the arch.