Friday, August 27, 2010

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart

  • Truths, hard and cold:

Reality is (or should be) setting in for certain teams that have to realize that their aspirations are unlikely to come true this year. They could've been for 2010; they could be for a bright future; or they could've been for long-term stability.

As the maladies are diagnosed and barring a drastic turnaround, a bitter pill could be on the medical tray to cure what ails them----if they choose to take it. That doesn't make the situation any easier to come to terms with; but truth is what it is. It has to be told.

It's a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it.

Let's take a look.

Something's still not right with the Cardinals.

With the way the Reds have shown such an ability to rebound----a must for any contending team----the Cardinals have to play better than this; they have to win games against bad teams; and they can't have their closer blowing games after his team took a lead in the ninth inning.

But that's exactly what happened with Ryan Franklin in the Cardinals 11-10 loss to the Nationals.

Franklin isn't an arsonist as a closer as are others----Huston Street for example----he's respectable enough and will rack up most of his save opportunities; but it's the high-profile gacks that have cost the Cardinals dearly this season. Most notably the bashing he took on July 6th in Colorado against the Rockies as the Cardinals blew a 6-run lead in the ninth inning and lost. Then there was last night's loss to the Nationals.

The most reliable closers blow games----even Mariano Rivera----but to be in the Cardinals position, fighting for a division title against a feisty Reds team whose confidence is rising by the day, these losses can mean the difference between making and missing the playoffs.

All seemed well after the 3-game sweep in Cincinnati as they caught the front-running Reds; then they won their next game against the Cubs to take a one game lead in the division; but they've staggered since by dropping 5 games in the standings in two weeks.

Something's off with the Cardinals. They were flawed at the season's start; very top heavy and reliant on question marks in important roles. Most importantly is the closer spot with Franklin.

Because manager Tony La Russa is credited/blamed for the use of players in their designated "roles", specifically in the bullpen, it's automatically assumed that he has a clear vision of who should be his closer. If you look at his managerial history, he's had some big time, reliable men for any and all circumstances like Dennis Eckersley; but for the most part with the Cardinals, he's had a relatively lesser-known and somewhat mediocre array of journeymen whom he installed as the closer by accident or because he'd run out of other options.

The Cardinals closers under La Russa have been: Eckersley (at the tail end of his career); Juan Acevedo, Jeff Brantley, Ricky Bottalico, Dave Veres, Jason Isringhausen and Franklin. The only one among that crew who could be considered top tier was Isringhausen and he was notoriously shaky having been removed from the role at various times in his career.

One can raise the question whether the Cardinals would have won their one title under La Russa in 2006 had they not been retrospectively lucky with Isringhausen getting injured; they were forced to stick Adam Wainwright into the role for September and into the playoffs. If Isringhausen hadn't gotten hurt, would they have made the playoffs at all?

For all the aforementioned criticism aimed at La Russa for his game-changing strategies, he's been the epitome of the "any guy can rack up the saves" strategy; he relies more on their mental capacity for doing the job than blow-away stuff. This is how Veres, Brantley and Franklin were trusted in the role.

Make no mistake about it, the Cardinals are in trouble because the Reds aren't afraid of them, the Wild Card isn't going to be an option and there's something off with the whole demeanor of the club. If they want to make a legitimate run back into World Series contention (and I picked them for the pennant this year), they'd better figure out what the issue is and fix it. Quick.

The Nationals are in shellshock on and off the field.

Reeling as an organization on and off the field, the Nationals are scheduled to discuss the Stephen Strasburg injury and his future later today (and it's coming out as I write this that he needs Tommy John surgery). There's an overall aura of devastation hovering around the club. It's understandable and made worse by the precautions that were taken with Strasburg's valuable right arm and that he got hurt anyway.

There's little that can be done about it now and no one to blame. All they can do is hope to have the pitcher ready for late 2011. The Nationals performed their due diligence in keeping Strasburg healthy, they treated him gently and with rules, regulations and usage guidelines. He was protected and got hurt. The only thing they can do now is wait and hope.

Too much hope was placed on Strasburg. The Nationals made some overly aggressive signings this season in the interest of running before they could walk. Jason Marquis was money tossed into the trash; they did quite well with their investment in Matt Capps as they got themselves a catcher for the future by trading Capps to the Twins for Wilson Ramos.

They played respectably early in the season, but a lack of talent in the starting rotation; overuse of the bullpen; and lack of depth in the lineup reduced them to what they are----20 games under .500.

Now they're in a holding pattern with Strasburg. It's hard to build an entire future around one player, especially a pitcher and the risks inherent with the strategy are coming to fruition now.

On another note regarding the Nationals, in what appears to be misplaced anger, broadcaster Rob Dibble invited the ire of GM Mike Rizzo with his ridiculous comments in relation to Strasburg pitching through the pain----Washington Post Blog.

This is weeks after Dibble offered an apology for some chauvinistic on-air statements about women attending games. You can choose to believe his apology if you want, but anyone who's paid attention to Dibble's career as a player and in various media capacities should know better.

Now, he's been given a few days off from his broadcasting duties. It would be a shock if he's working for the Nationals next season.

That said, what precisely did the Nationals expect from Dibble? He's not exactly the most thoughtful person in the world and he's only in broadcasting because he says outrageous things without thinking about them. He was a bully as a player and he's been a loose cannon as a broadcaster. That's what the Nationals hired and that's what they got.

Joe Girardi is flirting with the Cubs.

Amid all the other things they're dealing with, the Yankees can't be happy about the way manager Joe Girardi has refused to dismiss the rumors that he's the perfect fit for the Chicago Cubs managerial opening. It's a similar feeling as when then-New York Jets coach Herman Edwards was repeatedly mentioned as a possibility to take over the Kansas City Chiefs to replace the retiring Dick Vermeil; or as then-Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban was linked with the University of Alabama job----they brushed it away, dismissed it...and then took the jobs.

Does Girardi want to leave the Yankees? Would he feel more comfortable back home in Illinois with his original club? Is he tired of the constant questioning of his strategies and handling the egos in his clubhouse while being unappreciated and cast as a front office puppet who's easily replaceable?


Would the Cubs job be easier? Well, the expectations would be lessened and no one would give him a hard time if the team failed because they're so accustomed to it. This is partially a negotiating ploy; partially a homesickness; and partially Girardi being tired from the stress of managing the Yankees.

He wouldn't have the chance to win with the Cubs that he does with the Yankees; and he certainly wouldn't make the money he's going to make with the Yankees.

As I said days ago, Girardi had better be careful because in much the same way the Yankees under Brian Cashman, Hank and Hal Steinbrenner thanked Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui for their service and let them leave, they won't go crazy to keep Girardi if negotiations grow contentious.

They're probably not all that thrilled that he's even answering questions about the Cubs to begin with. It's hard to see him leaving, but it's not something to treat as impossible either.

  • Viewer Mail 8.27.2010:

Max Stevens at The Lonely One writes RE Adam Rubin, Omar Minaya and the Mets:

Your critique of Adam Rubin is excellent. One of the most interesting aspects of your piece today is that the more coherent case you make against Minaya and the Mets - even if only to show what a coherent case would look like - is spot on, and I found very little to disagree with. I agree with you that a lot of the Met bashing is over the top. Somehow, Met bashing started to take on a life of its own after the club got bounced in the 2006 NLCS. Since then, every little mistake has been magnified by the media, and the dominant narrative has become that the Mets are an organization that can't get out of its own way. Some of this is deserved, but a lot of it also seems like it's put out there to increase readership. Bad news and controversy sell.

It's sometimes worse when the Mets are playing well. You'd think that the bashers would have other objects of their vitriol upon which to jump. The Cubs are an easier target; the Angels have been as inconsistent as the Mets; the Dodgers floundering, the Mariners disastrous----why is it always the Mets who are the easy target?

I have to say this about Adam Rubin----he has my respect. He didn't respond angrily; he re-tweeted the link to my posting on Twitter despite my ripping him; and he didn't block me from following him like his weak brethren Joel Sherman and Jon Heyman; and he doesn't make snide private comments to me like Ken Davidoff has.

I never said Rubin was wrong to be angry at Omar Minaya. In fact, he rightly broke the stories about Tony Bernazard's inappropriate behaviors; it was only after the fact that people like WFAN's Ed Coleman came out publicly with his own "Bernazard stories".

Rubin was just doing his job in that respect, but there's a credibility gap when it's an out-of-context splay of machine gun fire at the whole organization.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Adam Rubin:

Ah, but look at how Rubin/ESPN got you to write an entire blog post about his three-part series.

I doubt he cares.

Jeff (Acting Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Adam Rubin and ESPN:

Adam who?

Worldwide Leader in what?

I don't even waste my time with them anymore.

I suppose it's a byproduct of absolute power corrupting absolutely. ESPN, the teams, the athletes and their agents and gadflies are in a mutually beneficial relationship which undermines any and all objectivity in reporting. No one says anything substantial anymore because they have a clear agenda.

Joe writes RE Jason Bay:

Actually there were legitimate arguments against signing Bay. But no one could foresee him struggling this much in year one. And of course the concussion could not be predicted either.

In a worst case scenario, bearing in mind the adjustment to New York and Citi Field, the Mets had to have accounted for at least 20-25 homers and 90-100 RBI from Bay. The Mets needed to make a splash; get a power bat; and accumulate some good will with the fans by bringing in a recognizable name. They did that. It hasn't worked out so far, but it's only year one. Carlos Beltran was a nightmare in his first year in New York as well; Bay can redeem himself with a better supporting cast and year under his belt in the city. His struggle isn't due to lack of effort.

The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger (Brooklyn Capo) writes RE Adam Rubin and the Mets:

Over the last two days Joel Sherman and Rubin decided they want to catch up with yesterday's news? That's my angle; especially with Sherman on Tuesday. I don't begrudge Rubin for lambasting the Mets in three parts. We all do it. All that stuff he said is on the record and duly noted. His content usage was debatable but his context was all wrong. I accept some of the things he said at face value, but it is really hard to ignore his vindictiveness towards Omar. I think you could have brought down the heat by one degree (just one)...but in Rubin's case I guess what's good for the Goose is good for....

I don't think I went over the top, but maybe you're right. Rubin's viciousness has been going on for a year now and is so obvious that it had to be addressed. He's going to get his wish and it's becoming clear that Minaya is going to be transferred in the organization to a different role.

Had he omitted the silliness like blaming the club for Dwight Gooden, Francisco Rodriguez and Johan Santana and presented his case, no one could argue with the conclusion that the team appears to be in disarray. Trying to fold everything into one giant cesspool is easy, but inaccurate. What he wrote may have been true in a sense, but it wasn't fair.

I was a guest eight days ago with Sal at SportsFan Buzz. You can click the link to Sal's site to download the Podcast or listen directly here. Also, check Sal's Facebook page here.

My book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and It's available for download as an E-book here. You can also now get it for less that five bucks on BN via download here.


She-Fan said...

Strasburg is having Tommy John surgery??? That's horrible news for him, for the Nationals and for baseball. So much hope was placed on his shoulders (literally), but he got people excited about the game and not just in the DC area. Very sorry to hear that.

Joe said...

Beltran was also a much better player than Bay.

Jeff said...

Even I'm upset by the Strasburg news. Watching him pitch this season has been a real joy. Now I have to wait over a year? NO!!!

And you're right about the Cardinals. Watching them every day has become a real chore; not only do they baffle with inconsistency, but they just don't look like a team with a purpose. They look like zombies.

Joe said...

They look like zombies, Jeff? They must really know their baseball then :)

Brooklyn Trolley Blogger said...

Dusty Baker is working with a new dynamic; a very young hungry team taking the lead with smart vets (Rolen etc) in support. That wasn't always the case with Dusty in S.F. and ChiTown. It's a new wrinkle for him.
Girardi? Hmmm. Ever get the feeling it's Cashman who isn't necessarily sold on Joe and wouldn't mind seeing him walk away?
I do. Cashman has gotten colder and bolder since he was able to delete Team Tamper in Tampa and convince BOSS his plan should be followed. I look at Cashman and Hal, and then I see Girardi being the odd man out.