NL Champs

Publications
Post-Dispatch
BaseballProspectus
The Hardball Times
Baseball News Blog
ESPN Baseball
Baseball Library
Baseball Primer
Cards Home Page
Diamond Mind
Birds on the Bat
Fox Baseball
Baseball Almanac
Baseball Archive
Cardinals History
MattGunn.com

Cardblogs
Go Cardinals
Get Up, Baby!
Royalties/Cardinalate
Cardinals Link Blog
Pure Cards Obsession
Cardinal Nation
Redbird Reasoning
Cards Clubhouse

NL Central Blogs
Cub Reporter
The Big Red C
View From Bleachers
The Cubdom
And Another Thing!
Astro in Exile
Astros Daily
Reds Daily
Value Over Replacement Blog
Honest Wagner

Blogroll
Baseball Musings
Bronx Banter
Transaction Guy
Rich's BB Beat
Will Carroll
Mike's Rants
USS Mariner
Baseball Crank
For Rich or Sporer
Aaron Gleeman
Only Baseball Matters
Athletics Nation
The Raindrops
Dodger Thoughts

Stats
ESPN Stats
Baseball Reference
Retrosheet
THT Stats
M.L. Charts
Dugout Dollars

Columnists
Rob Neyer
Bernie Miklasz
Peter Gammons
Jim Baker
Tom Verducci
Ken Rosenthal
Jayson Stark

Best of RBN
Great Cards Moments Parts 1 2 3
Tony LaRussa
Parts 1 2 3 4 5
2003 Wrap-Up
Parts 1 2 3 4 5 6
Who's King
Parts 1 2 3 4 5 6
Jocketty's Trades
Redbirds: The Movie
Mike Shannon Tribute
Stan Musial Tribute
Lou Brock Tribute
Hub Kittle Tribute
Jim Edmonds Tribute
Cardinal Nicknames
Cardinal Uniform
All-Entertaining Team
Our Hall of Fame
Best Fans in Baseball
Best Names Ever
All-Hoosier Team





Site Meter
Syndication made possible by MakeRSS at baseballblogs.org
Weblog Commenting by HaloScan.com

Monday, June 30, 2003


MORE GAME NOTES, 49ers 5 Cards 1

• I agree that Dan Haren's performance was mostly encouraging. The only discouraging elements were that he was up in the zone a lot (which he often got away with because he's got good velocity) and he gave up several line drives right at people and deep fly balls that our capable outfield could run down. We really need this kid to be a second half surprise, because what are the chances that Tomko, Stephenson, and Simontacchi are all gonna establish themselves as credible members of a MLB rotation?

• Jedmond's 4th inning misplay was the only defensive mistake I ever remember him making on a ball hit in front of him, despite the risks he takes going after such balls on an almost daily basis. That's pretty astonishing to me.

• Wilson Delgado is a zero. And now Chris Widger's back. C'mon. There aren't 2 people we can pick up out there for the ML minimum who can play adequate defense and bat over .150?

• For the first time, Bo Hart looked totally overmatched against a ML pitcher tonight. Then again, so did Albert Pujols.

• Al Hrabosky is a nitwit.

• Joe Buck talked about how sorely we miss Eli Marrero, but I don't buy it. Eli's okay, but until he shows he can make a lasting improvement on a very lackluster OBP, I'd just as soon see Orlando Palmeiro and Eduardo Perez get most of his playing time.

• Albert Pujols may be baseball's equivalent of Tim Duncan.

• Esteban Yan can run. Seriously.


GAME NOTES, Giants 5 Cardinals 1

• This was one of those games you figured the Cards lost before the game started. With Danny Haren making his major-league debut vs. Jason Schmidt (in my opinion the NL's Cy Young so far), the game unfolded according to script.

How'd Haren do? Fine. After the first inning -- when Neifi Perez and Marquis Grissom hammered back-to-back doubles into the gap -- I thought he was in for a long night. But he settled down and gave a competent performance -- 2 earned runs in 6 innings, only one walk, and, as a bonus, he held Bonds hitless in 3 ABs.

• If I had to use one word to describe Haren, it's easygoing. He has a nice fluid motion, never seems ruffled, and gets by on finesse much more than his size (6'5", 220) would suggest. He looks so relaxed on the hill -- he's got that Orange County chic thing going, heavy-lidded, with Bill & Ted-era Keanu Reeves hair. You just know he's got an ankle tattoo, a beaded surfer necklace, and a bunch of Dave Matthews CDs somewhere.

• In contrast, Schmidt came out pitching like a cannon. His heater was just exploding out of his hand, and he made Bo Hart seem like an inspirationally scrappy ex-major leaguer. Schmidt's first inning reminded me that we haven't really faced a good quality starter in over two weeks. While feasting on the maggoty pitching staffs of the Brewers, Royals, and Reds, we probably forgot what good solid fastballs looked like.

• Wilson Delgado went 0-4 tonight to bring his average in at .176 (including 1 for his last 17). Wilson is now second in the majors in home runs, runs, rbis, and batting average among all players named Delgado.

• No real insight here, but Edmonds' misplay on Jose Cruz Jr.'s liner in the 4th inning just killed us. Well, maybe it didn't kill us -- we probably wouldn't have touched Schmidt tonight anyway -- but if Jedmonds catches that ball (which had a degree of difficulty of about 2), the Cards get a sure-fire DP, maybe even a TP, and the game stays 1-0 into the middle innings. Instead Jed took his eye off the ball, the ball sailed past him, and, well, that was your ballgame.

• During Bo Hart's at bat in the 6th, Joe Buck called him "ultra-selective at the plate." Bo doesn't seem ultra-selective to me, so I checked it out. In 56 plate appearances this year, Hart has seen 209 pitches. That works out to 3.7 pitches per AB, which is about precisely average.

• How much did tonight's game remind you of Game 2 of the 2002 NLCS, when Schmidt held us underwater for 8 innings, won 4-1, and the Giants left town up 2-0? The only difference is that this Giants club is more congenial than the '02 version. The 2002 Giants had, in my opinion, more assholes on their roster than any team in baseball history (perhaps excluding the 1890s Baltimore Orioles). Consider the bumper crop of anuses: Lofton, Kent, Santiago, Bonds, Livan Hernandez, Dusty Baker kinda, Reggie Sanders sorta, maybe even J.T. Snow (I know someone who went to high school with him and says he was King Cock -- he might be cool now, but I'm trying to build a case here; besides, if you're a jerk in high school sometimes that counts against you forever). Sure, there were plenty of nice guys on that team too (Dunston, Aurilia, Nen, et al), but I defy you to find another team with more assholes. The 1978 Bronx Zoo Yankees? No way. The 1986 Mets? Close, but no. Seriously, you can't do it.

• Speaking of the San Francisco Giants, you never hear about them as one of baseball's star-crossed teams. Maybe they're not as literarily poignant as the Red Sox, or as charmingly rumpled as the Cubs, or as sad-sackish as the White Sox and Indians, but they give each of those franchises a run for the money. I mean, they haven't won a World Series in their entire 45-year history.

• The Cardinals finished June 16-11. For all our agonizing losses over the past few weeks, that's not too shabby.


HAREN WATCH Redbird Nation can stop making notes about each of Danny Haren's minor league starts, as he's now in the bigs and going tonight against the Gints. I don't really like Haren being thrown into the fire like this -- by all accounts the 22-year-old isn't quite ready to move up; plus, now his free-agent clock will start ticking about a year earlier than expected. But realistically I don't know who else the Cardinals could throw in there after Calero's injury. Yet another byproduct of Jocketty's shallow talent base...

As for Morris, at least the Cardinals organization is giving a name (a tender elbow) to his troubles. I remain slightly skeptical that he'll improve just by missing one start (after all, just a week ago the Cardinals insisted that Matty's problems were not at all injury-related). But the elbow diagnosis does chime with what Will Carroll observed about Morris' delivery. After last Wednesday's start he wrote, "Matt Morris is having obvious problems with his shoulder. His motion is far from smooth and... he had serious problems keeping the ball low."

We need Morris healthy to make any kind of run into October, so I say baby him as much as possible right now. We still got two weeks of baseball before the All-Star break, and I wouldn't want us to ride Morris so hard in June that we lose him for September and beyond. Of course, we can always blindly hope that all of Morris' problems stem from interleague play -- he has a 10.18 ERA in his four starts against AL teams, 2.69 against NL teams.


Sunday, June 29, 2003


GIGANTIC You can bet that sportswriters will have a field day with Barry Bonds' recent comments about Bert Pujols. When asked if Pujols is the next Bonds, he replied, "He's not. He doesn't run. He has no position. He plays first base, third base. Pujols, to me, reminds me of Bobby Bonilla, but better. Bobby Bonilla played different positions, first base, right field. All the (great) players you're talking about had a position."

Well, I disagree with that last part (there are great players who played all over the diamond -- Pete Rose, Harmon Killebrew, and Dick Allen among them). And I halfway disagree with the opinion that Pujols "doesn't run" -- he doesn't steal bases and he doesn't have a ton of range in the field, but he's actually a fanastic baserunner. But otherwise it's the type of statement that sounds uncool but really isn't. Pujols needs to put up huge numbers for about 10 or 15 more years before he can be considered the next Barry Bonds.

Nevertheless, I'm sure Bonds' words will be blown out of proportion, because everything he says is blown out of proportion. And I'm sure Bonds will be intepreted as a real bad guy, because he's always interpreted as a real bad guy. I myself think Bonds gets something of a bum rap. Sure he can be surly, and a shit-disturber, and I can't stand when he stands at home plate admiring his doubles off the wall, but stictly in terms of demeanor I'd take him anyday over Jose Guillen or Kenny Lofton or, for that matter, Jeff Kent.

ALL'S WELL As any math geek knows, the world tends to organize itself along a bell curve -- a cluster of things around average, fewer and fewer things as you depart from the mean. But lately a number of social and economic phenomena seem to follow a different arc, low in the center and high on either side. Call it the well curve.

Take geopolitics -- we see both a rise in huge multinational federations (NAFTA, the EU) and tiny secessionist movements and small independent states. Or consumer culture -- screens small enough for cell phones and large enough for home theaters. Now check out the distribution of runs by the Cardinals since June 1st:

0-2 runs...5 times
3-4...........5
5-7...........0
8-9...........8
10+..........7

Okay, it's not a perfect well -- more like a well whose lip tilts to the left. But still, that's pretty wild. The Cards as a team average 5.97 runs per game, but they haven't scored 5, 6, or 7 runs once in the last four weeks. They're centrifugal, rather than centripetal.

Is this a fluke or is there some meaning to it? I would think that a team that relies heavily on one or two superstars (think the 2001 Giants) might fall prey to this feast-or-famine principle. The Cardinals' overall talent is immense, but not widely distributed, which may make us less likely to withstand off-nights from our top players. Just a thought...

EMAIL FROM MY MOM after Saturday night's game, when Jim Edmonds pegged Michael Tucker trying to score in the 7th inning: "Yesterday, Frank Cusumano (the KSDK sportscaster now that Mike Bush has left that position) said that when Jedmonds is hot, nobody other than Moses is more powerful w/ a stick. I liked the comparison but I’m wondering how Moses compares w/ the arm. That out at home plate was more than awesome. Moses, move over."


JUNE Check out who's coming in 9th on the list of NL OPS leaders in June:

1. J Edmonds 1.298
2. A Pujols 1.244
3. J Lopez 1.213
4. B Bonds 1.206
5. M Ensberg 1.147
6. J Guillen 1.071
7. L Gonzalez 1.055
8. L Berkman 1.045
9. T Martinez 1.044
10. R Hidalgo 1.036

Where's the love?


KIKO OUT Best wishes to Kiko Calero, who blew out his knee on Saturday and will miss the rest of the season. Calero was far and away the surest reliever out of our pen this year (excepting Ohme and Izzy, who haven't really gotten their licks in yet), so his loss raises even more questions about our ability to finish ballgames.

But, really, the injury is more unfair to Calero himself than it is to the Cardinals. As La Russa lamented, "Here's a guy that worked his butt off to finally get to the big leagues and he becomes an important member of the staff. Dog gone it, where's the justice?"

Indeed. And for anyone who argues that ballplayers are overpaid, try to remember Kiko Calero, who may well never return to pitching (he probably will, but he might not), who may well have few secondary skills, whose fleeting major league salary may well represent all the compensation he will receive for a job he did quite well.


Saturday, June 28, 2003


FROM WILL CARROLL over at Baseball Prospectus:

"St. Louis needs a new stadium. For the so-called 'Best Baseball City in America' -- the PA announcer’s words, not mine -- that they’re the last with an 1970s Ashtray-style ballpark is kind of sad. Cheering for Bo Hart like he just cured cancer and found Saddam Hussein is kind of sad too, but unlike me, people like those little gritty guys without much talent. I once got flamed seriously on my local radio gig for saying I’d want my son to grow up and be like Barry Bonds. Silly me for wanting a child of mine to try to be the best."

Re: the snide comment about our hometown fans: See post from yesterday.
Re: the snide comment about Bo Hart: Let's follow Will's thinking (and forget for a moment the contorted logic at the end there, where he assumes that a guy like Bo Hart isn't trying to be the best). "[U]nlike me," writes Will, "people like those little gritty guys without much talent." In other words, to him, grit means nothing without talent. I happen to know Will's a heck of a good guy, but doesn't he sound here like every asshole dad and every asshole teacher who fetishizes results over effort?

FROM BASEBALL PRIMER "Rumors persist that J.D. Drew will soon be traded. There are two reasons to believe these rumors might have a grain of truth: the Cardinals and their semi-official mouthpiece and co-owner, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, have never seemed to like Drew very much; and Drew is one of the only players with any actual trade value who is actually expendable. Despite the clamoring of Cardinals fans that Vina is now expendable, it’s very unlikely anyone would want him, even when he’s healthy. Tino Martinez and $7-million clubhouse leadership are unlikely to draw any interest. And Pujols, Renteria and Rolen are untouchable."

I don't know where these whispers are coming from -- the last concrete rumor, which had J.D. going to the White Sox, turned out to be totally unfounded. And, after needlessly letting Drew twist in the wind for years, the Cards' brass seems to be committing to him more and more these days. Suffice it to say we'd be idiotic to cast off Drew. Given his talent and his modest price tag, I consider him a commodity nearly as valuable as our pantheon of Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds, Morris, Renteria.

ROYALS TRIVIA #1 Last night Carlos Beltran stole another base, which increased his season totals to 19 steals, 1 caught stealing. For his career he's stolen 128 bases against only 17 CS (including years of 13-0 and 31-1), which gives him a success rate of 88%, the best of all time.

ROYALS TRIVIA #2 George Brett, one of my favorite opposing players, was the first player selected in the 2nd round of the 1971 free agent draft. The player selected immediately before him was Mike Schmidt. I just love quirks of history like that: the two best third-sackers of all time were taken back-to-back in the same draft.


Friday, June 27, 2003


GAME NOTES, Royals 6 Cardinals 3

• I wonder if a sore ankle was J.D. Drew's excuse for his giving such a lazy and uncommitted chase to Guiel's first inning line drive. It went beyond his losing it in the sun -- he looked totally immobile on that play, which is uncharacteristic of him, even though he generally handles balls that allow him to move side to side much better than those hit behind him.

• Mike Difelice swinging on 3-0 in the 2nd inning? A good, honest look in the mirror should prevent him from ever doing that again. Thank God he no longer plays for us. At this time next year, I hope to be thanking God that Joe Girardi no longer plays for us.

• Garrett Stephenson is a master at getting behind in the count. He's also pretty damn good at turning a lead into a tie or deficit within a half-inning of returning to the hill. That said, he pitched a pretty damn good game tonight, and our 7th inning breakdown could have been a lot worse if he hadn't made so many good pitches.

• Jedmonds' and Rolen's 4th-inning Yardbirds were both bullets, and absolutely gorgeous.

• On his 4th inning error on Ken Harvey's grounder, in which he may have had a shot at the guy going home, Edgar made that classic mistake of taking his eye off the ball. It was pretty surprising to see him do that.

• What a play by Guiel to rob Bo Hart of extra bases and an RBI in the 5th. And that was after Randa took a double away from Bo in the first inning on a diving play. Hart hit the ball hard 3 out of 4 at bats, but came up empty. Considered along with his crucial error in that horrific 7th, maybe the honeymoon's over. It'll be interesting to see how he comes out tomorrow night.

• Every Cardinal fan should celebrate the fact that it's such a freakish rarity to see Albert Pujols only hit the ball hard once in 4 at bats.

• I think maybe Darrell May just hit rewind on my TiVo and then replayed his performance from last Saturday.

• I think it's the first time this year that I've seen the Cardinals make 3 disastrous defensive plays in one inning – the 7th – on Perez's, Stephenson's, and Hart's misplays. All were concentration mistakes. Mike Shannon (I never get the chance to listen to him on the radio any more, so it was priceless for me to hear him on the Royals' telecast) said, "The Cardinals haven't acclimated themselves to this ballpark" and also mentioned that a bunch of guys "decided to take a relaxing drive up" from St. Louis today rather than take the plane last night. He seemed pretty disapproving without saying so pointedly, and the disapproval fits. Several of our guys tonight looked like they were riding shotgun all day, slowly but surely getting baked.

• Mike Schmidt, Robin Roberts, and Mike Shannon all agree that Scott Rolen is the greatest defensive 3rd baseman of all time.

• I have to see more, but I think Bo Hart's arm may suck. He had a relay throw home tonight that he could have bike messengered faster.

• I can never quite decide whether Steve Kline is really bad or just kind of bad. I think he's just kind of bad generally, but really bad a lot.


THE BEST The Birdinales travel to Kansas City this weekend, and if you haven’t heard, a KC sportswriter named Joe Posnanski recently needled St. Louisans for proclaiming themselves the Best Baseball Fans in America. Surprisingly enough, professional dolt Jeff Gordon handled Posnanski pretty well in his Post-Dispatch column yesterday, but we figured Redbird Nation should weigh in as well.

Posnanski’s piece essentially boils down to two main observations:


Posnanski
1. Cardinal fans are only 5th in attendance this year, which “doesn’t make them the best.”
2. Busch Stadium contains the same kind of inane behavior as any other ballpark, with a healthy share of ticket scalpers, drunkards, know-nothings, and late-inning skedaddlers; ergo, “baseball’s best” are actually more like “baseball’s usual.”

Let’s answer Posnanski’s points one at a time. As for attendance, it’s true – St. Louis draws the fifth-most fans in baseball. Last year we were sixth. The year before, seventh.

But is it really fair to compare St. Louis, with a metro area of 2.6 million people, with New York and Los Angeles, which attract fans from populations of 21.2 million and 16.4 million? Given our relatively tiny market size, St. Louis does spectacularly well in attendance. Here are the top per-game figures, averaged out over the last three years, among cities with fewer than 3 million people.

1. St. Louis 37,385
2. Colorado 33,588
3. Cleveland 30,670
4. San Diego 26,986
5. Milwaukee 25,758

(For the record, Kansas City is second last, just ahead of Tampa Bay.)

Or look at it this way – here are the top-drawing cities with their corresponding market size (cities with more than one team are adjusted accordingly):

1. New York Yankees…1st
2. San Francisco……… 19th
3. Seattle………….....……8th
4. Los Angeles……….…3rd
5. St. Louis……..……26th
6. Anaheim……....………5th
7. Chicago Cubs……… 9th
8. Arizona……………… 23rd
9. Boston…………..…… 4th
10. New York Mets…… 2nd

What’s that song they sang on Sesame Street"one of these things is not like the other…"? The only comparable cities to St. Louis are San Fran, a city of 7 million people, and Phoenix, which still has a larger market and fewer fans than we do.

Still not convinced? Then let’s put it yet another way (and let me know if we’re going too fast for you, Joe): if New Yorkers went to baseball games as frequently as St. Louisans, last year they’d have drawn 12,261,609 fans in Yankee Stadium. Actually, that’s not really fair, as the House that Ruth Built holds only 57,545, so figure instead that they’d max out at 4,661,145 fans, which would, of course, be the highest attendance figure of all time, in any sport.

At one point Posnanski notes sarcastically "the Cardinals are actually fifth in attendance this year… unless my math is off, that doesn’t make them the best." I’d say, Joe, that your math sucks, and that, in terms of available resources, our attendance is undoubtedly the best.

Let’s move on to Point 2, that Cardinals fans are as boorish and ignorant as fans all over the nation. Now, this is a tough argument to counter, not least because Posnanski’s reasoning is so poorly written that half the time I don’t know what the hell he’s talking about it. (I’m not kidding. Rather than embarrass the guy by pointing out some of his more disfigured sentences, I’ll simply assume that his copy editor had been recently hit by a bus.) But the other reason it’s hard to argue against Posnanski is that, well, he’s right – there are plenty of obnoxious, idiotic fans at Busch. Some come to scalp tickets, some come because it’s fashionable, some come to get farmer’s tans and get sloshed.

Now, let’s put aside the obvious (that no self-respecting baseball town would be without its bleacher bums and squealing teenage girls), and discuss the cheap journalistic trick Posnanski uses to make his point. He judges Cardinal fans not by their best, or even their typical fans, but instead by their lowest common denominators, their dregs. In other words, he submits us to a test that we’re rigged to fail.

Posnanski willfully overlooks examples of stellar fandom that sit right under his nose. He shrugs off the fact that the Cardinals have topped 3 million fans for more straight years than any team in baseball (you could look it up). He ignores the fact that three recent superstars (McGwire, Edmonds, and Rolen) chose to re-sign with the Cardinals at below-market rate, specifically because they appreciated the loyal, friendly atmosphere generated by our fans. He pooh-poohs the outpouring of Cardinal fans up in Fenway two weeks ago, which the local broadcaster deemed the best turnout for a visiting team he’d ever seen, including the Yankees. He dismisses the fact that Cardinal fans welcome not only newcomers (like when they gave Bo Hart a standing O in his second home game ever), but enemies as well (like this past April, when they gave a standing O to the Mets’ Mo Vaughn for a particularly majestic tater). And Posnanski really bends over backwards not to mention that the Cardinals consistently draw twice as many fans as his own Royals do. Yes, Joe, twice as many.

Here’s what I consider more reasonable comparisons for the Cardinals and their fans. The Yankees might have a larger nationwide fan base (after all, they’re the most visible team, and they sell more merchandise than anyone). The Dodgers might have higher attendance figures over the last 25 years. The Braves might have more TV viewers (the ratings for a typical Braves game on TBS are actually higher than ESPN’s games of the week, which makes them the de facto home team of countless fans ). The Red Sox devotees might be more zealous and bloodthirsty. The Phillies’ fans might get more vocal when their team loses. The Mariners' fans might turn out in bigger numbers, at least for the moment.

But I honestly think that Cardinal fans might have the best combination of all these attributes – loyal, numerous, knowledgeable, passionate. What do I base this on? Not much – a few conversations with other fans, some things I’ve read, anecdotal comparisons I make while watching games on TV, or when visiting other ballparks around the league. Maybe I’m blinded by self-regard, which, if you think about it, is exactly Joe Posnanski’s accusation about us Cardinal enthusiasts. Then again, you’d have to take a lot of pride in your hometown to call yourself America’s Best Fans, even if it’s a lot of self-congratulatory bunk. I mean, let’s face it, the only thing anyone in KC ever claims is that they’ve got the best fans in all of Kansas City.


Thursday, June 26, 2003


GAME NOTES Cardbirds 11, Redlegs 7

Tonight's game was so much like last night that there's not a whole lot of new stuff to add. A few points:

• Back on May 31st, Redbird Nation suggested that several of our top performers had maxed out and were bound to drop, or at least level off. We wrote: "Sooner or later, goes the rallying cry, we're going to turn things around. But who on our team is going to turn things around? Almost everyone is playing as well, if not better, than you'd expect. Pujols isn't going to improve on his .359/.420/.689 AVG/OBP/SLG." At the moment (after a four-hit barrage tonight) Bert sits at a Splendid Splinterish.394/.455/.718, and he doesn't seem to have any intention of flaming out anytime soon. His batting average is the same as Tony Gwynn's in '94, which also happens to be the highest BA in the last 62 years. Of course, Tony finished the year at .394 and Pujols ain't even halfway there. But it's still a pretty cool comp. Al Pujols: Tony Gwynn with a better eye and more pop.

• I thought both Bob Boone and La Russa turned this game into a spring training game too soon. Boone treated Jimmy Anderson like a Thanksgiving ham, leaving him out on the table until the Cardinals had picked every last shred of meat from his carcass. He finally left the game after 5 innings, 107 pitches, 11 earned runs and 15 hits. I thought Boone should have yanked him in the 2nd. Granted, the Reds have a tired bullpen (and with Gabe White on the shelf, they're short an arm), but that's no reason to concede the ballgame. The Reds did, after all score 7 runs and could have gotten closer if their manager hadn't let the game get out of hand. Not that I'm complaining or anything...

• Similarly, I thought La Russa stuck with Woody too long. Like Matty Mo last night, it was clear that Woody didn't bring his A game tonight -- his pitch count ran high, he couldn't put away batters with two strikes, and he ended the evening with 7 earned runs and 10 hits against only 6 complete innings. Why did La Russa stick with him so long? It was like running with scissors. The Reds actually brought the tying run to the plate in the 7th, this after carrying a 7-run lead into the later frames. Inexcusable, in my opinion.

• Josh Shulz has a wonderful post that assesses the long-term prospects of lightning-in-a-bottle Bodhi Hart (that's his real name, btw). Josh is skeptical without being the slightest bit downerish, which is the appropriate attitude to have about Hartmania, I think. So far, the guy Bo most reminds me of is Terry Pendleton. Remember when he came up in '84? He opened his career with a 7-game hitting streak and hit .482 (27 for 56) his first two weeks in the bigs (including 5 three-hit games). Pendleton was, like Hart, a so-so minor leaguer expected to stick around about as long as a punctured balloon. Then again, Terry P was 23 when he came up, whereas Bo Hart hasn't seen age 23 for several summers now...

• When Tino Martinez fails (about four times a night or so), there's no Cardinal I rail at more. But when he succeeds, like he did tonight, there's no Cardinal who fills me with more bemusement and gratitude. His good games are like little gifts, and his 3 bombs this series were like gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

• Speaking of gifts, we should get something nice to send to the D'backs and Brewers. Both teams handled our main division rivals this week to allow us to breathe the mountain-fresh air of first place for the first time in several weeks.


St. Freddie (with help from the Archangel Jedmonds)

While in St. Louis over the past weekend, I ran into some old friends who related the following story to me:

My friend’s sister-in-law worked with a young woman who tragically lost her voice to throat cancer five years ago. The cancer left her unable to speak without an electro larynx. Despite this, she was able to hold down a job and, like most twenty-first century office employees, she set up some decorations in her cube to help her through the day. There were pictures of family and friends but most of the stuff was Cardinals paraphernalia, especially photos and stories of her favorite player: Fernando Vina.

This spring a few St. Louis doctors offered the young woman a chance to speak again. There had been a new surgical development in Germany that involved using other parts of the body to help restore the larynx and make speaking a possibility again for people like her. The procedure was so new, though, that it had never been done in the United States. She was willing to give it a try, though.

In the weeks prior to the surgery, the young woman’s friends looked for ways to help her out and found one in an unlikely place. A good friend of the soon-to be-patient was in a local watering hole one night and recognized one James Edmonds doing his best to keep a low profile and have a beverage. Not wanting to bother the Gold Glover but too smart to let an opportunity like this pass her by, the woman asked Jimmy the best way to get in touch with Vina. Jedmonds obliged, giving her specific instructions.

The next day this good friend wrote to Fernando, telling him of her friend’s impending surgery. She was shocked a few days later when Fernando himself called her up to find out how he could help. After a few more calls Fernando paid a visit to the young lady in the hospital who was, by this time, recovering from her surgery. He brought some autographed items and spent a while visiting with her and wishing her the best. Vina also promised a follow up phone call. I am happy to report that Freddy delivered on that promise and added “Just let me know if I can do any more to help out.”

So, when our keystone sacker comes back and we renew the criticism of his uppercut swing and morbidly low OBP (which, as those with a deep emotional investment in the Birds on the Bat we rightly should), we should also keep in mind that non-publicized actions like this make him a pretty good guy. There are other players who have done similar things, I am sure, but I can verify that this story is the truth and I, for one, have a new perspective on #4. And #15, for he could have easily been no help to the woman who asked him for help in contacting Fernando.

We should all be so lucky to have a friend like the young woman who approached Edmonds. And, we should recognize that with all the attention paid to misbehavior on chartered flights, steroids, basebrawling, and the Pro Athlete Police Blotter which is updated seemingly several times a day, there are still plenty of good guys in the world of sports.


2B According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Cardinals and Padres have been having trade talks concerning journeyman 2B Mark Loretta. Loretta is hitting .299 this season with a .366 OBP. The paper adds that Padres P Kevin Jarvis is also on the block.


DON'T GET EXCITED Rick Ankiel is, I think, bound to end up one of those sad American folk legends, like Stagger Lee or Tom Joad. But damnit, it's hard not to get fired up by his pitching line in AA last night: 7 innings, 2 hits, no runs, 12 punch-outs, only 3 walks. That line looks an awful lot like the ones he was posting as a smiling rookie for the Cards in 2000. Let's hope it lasts for at least a little while longer...


In the month of June the Birdnals have averaged 9.2 runs in their 13 wins, but only 2.7 runs in their 9 losses. In each of their last 12 wins they've scored at least 8 runs. In other words, we've fallen into a nice, predictable, readable pattern -- when we score runs, we win; when we don't, we lose. Slugfests: good. Pitching duels: bad. So if the Cardinals are deadlocked in some low-scoring nail-biter after about 6 innings, you are hereby advised to switch the channel over to the Rockford Files. Last night's win was no exception -- as soon as we ambushed Paul Wilson in the early going, you could have filed the game into the happy bin.

But we did break one pattern last night. Look at these games against the Redlegs this year:

5/5 Reds jump on top 3-0 in the first, eventually win 5-4
5/6 Reds jump on top 3-0 in the first (on Austin Kearns' three-run jack), eventually win 6-5
5/13 Reds jump on top 5-0 in the first (two-run shots by Kearns & Dunn), eventually win 7-2
6/25 Reds jump on top 3-0 in the first (Junior's three-run jack), eventually lose 9-6

It was nice to see the Birds show some Hart and get back in the game. (Whoa, thank god for spellcheck -- I accidentally misspelled "heart.")

Surely some grad student out there is writing a doctoral dissertation on what the hell is wrong with Matt Morris. Sure, he picked up the win tonight, but he gave up 5 earned runs in six innings, which usually deserves a loss (okay, not always, but we're 6-7 this year when we allow 5 runs).

There are several ways to measure Morris' recent decline, but one handy way is to look at his game scores (which are defined here). In Matt's first 11 starts, his average game score was 63.9, good enough for second among NL pitchers. Since then his scores have been about as robust as erectile dysfunction: 56, 47, 22, 30, 35, 40. That's more than a statistical blip or an off-day. That's a bona fide trend.

So the question on everyone's lips -- what's the problem? Depends who you ask. Some say he's fatigued, others say he's mechanically wobbly. Some say he's mildly injured, other say he's merely unlucky. Some say he's psychologically preoccupied, others say he's simply facing stronger competition. (Morris himself claims his mechanics are off, describing himself as "spinning off" pitches with a resulting loss of arm speed. ) But I'll throw out a new theory for you. Is it possible -- and again, I'm just throwing this out there -- but is it possible that Matt Morris is, well... stupid?

Now, this isn't 100% conjecture. Almost, but not 100%. I've heard from someone close to the Cardinal organization (sorry for the shadowy, Deep Throat-like accusations, but I gotta protect my sources) that Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan are consistently dismayed by Morris' pitch selection and thought process on the mound. Indeed, Morris seems stubbornly reliant on his fastball, as he himself admitted after last night's game: "I tried to establish the heater today but I got into situations I needed to throw the curveball. I've got to stop being so hard-headed about what I want to establish. They pay the other side, too. And those guys are pretty good hitters... It's a matter of thinking a little better and executing pitches."

But Morris has had this problem for years, and the lesson doesn't seem to be taking hold. Just last week Redbird Nation pointed out Morris' problems putting hitters away after he gets ahead 0-2. A crafty pitcher will carve a guy up in the situation, keeping the hitter off-balance, changing location and speed. But it takes smarts to keep the other guy guessing, and with Morris, you may wonder if he's getting out-thought by his opponents. Is he, like Nuke LaLoosh, "a million dollar arm with a five-cent brain"?

I'm not sold. First of all, if Morris is such a numbskull, how has been able to pitch so well in the past? I mean, this is a guy who came into the season with a 3.18 lifetime ERA, who won 64% of his games, who went toe-to-toe with Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson in the last two NLDS (and no one would call those guys stupid). I have no idea how Morris would do on an SAT test (actually I bet he'd suck at reading comprehension), but you have to have at least some degree of mound smarts to pitch effectively in the bigs. (Although, as Billy Beane suggested about Lenny Dykstra in Moneyball, you have to have a little stupid in you too -- that's what allows ballplayers to shrug off their latest failures and look ahead.)

But still, I throw the question out there (after all, this is the web, and it's our duty to spread rumors now and again). While I wouldn't go so far as to call Matty Mo an idiot, I am curious about whether or not he's been able to maximize his potential on the mound. If it's a matter of simple brain deficiency, all we gotta do it hook him up to a transcranial magnetic stimulation device and we're all set. We'll win the division by 10 games (which, if you've looked at the standings lately, means we'll win somewhere around 86 games).


Wednesday, June 25, 2003


SCRAMBLE MODE From ESPN.com's Jayson Stark:

The Cardinals are out there looking for starting pitchers, but have no money to spend. They scouted Ismael Valdes in Texas last weekend, but Valdes blew up in a 10-hit, eight-run nightmare. So the Cards continue to look, but they have limited chips to deal. Scouts checking out their farm system have found a bunch of six-year free agents at Double-A and Triple-A, but few real prospects.

"They're in scramble mode down there," says one scout. "They have (right-hander) Dan Haren in Triple-A, and he's got a good arm. But he's not ready for the big leagues. Their system is so bare, you'd think they'd want to hold onto the prospects they've got, because if you keep trading them and get hit with injuries, it comes back to bite you. And they're finding that out now."

The Cardinals did hit the jackpot with one-time 33rd-round pick Bo Hart, who came up after injuries to Miguel Cairo and Fernando Vina to become the first player to get 12 hits in his first five big-league games since Mike Lansing did it 10 years ago. But a scout who has covered the Cardinals' system says Hart is "just another guy for me. He's just a little grinder."


FROM BASEBALL MUSINGS David Pinto weighs in with a preview of tonight's matchup:

"One pitcher who has been on the scrap heap for years starting to pitch well again. One pitcher, the star of his team, in a slump. I'm talking about Paul Wilson and Matt Morris. Wilson over his last five starts is 3-1 with a 2.94 ERA. In 33 2/3 innings, he's K'd 26 and walked 8. Meanwhile, Matt Morris has an 8.28 ERA over his last five starts. It's not clear why. He's giving up a lot of hits. And he's getting hit at the worst time. Before May 29th, opponents were hitting just .196 against Morris with runners in scoring position. Since then, they are hitting .312."


QUESTIONS FOR TONY

1) Why is Joe Girardi on our team? The guy isn't just an automatic out, he's an automatic two outs. With a runner on first and less than two outs, he will ground into a double play. Last night he made 6 outs in 4 at bats. And it's not like this is an aberration for Girardi -- he hit .226 last season. Plus he suffered a major back injury early this season -- that can't help when you're 38 years old trying to continue your career as a professional athlete. If he's so valuable in the clubhouse, make him a bench coach. LaRussa putting Girardi on the field for his leadership abilities is like Joe Torre asking Don Zimmer to run out there and play a little second base.

2) Why was Cal Eldred hitting for himself in the 8th inning of a tied game? Yes, he got a hit, but that's like winning the lottery. Why play the lottery in the 8th inning with all those rested hitters on our bench? It conjures up the painful image of Matt Morris hitting for himself in the 9th inning of the NLCS last year.

3) Why did Jeff Fassero walk the lead-off hitter in the 14th? Our strategy all game was to pitch around Adam Dunn (we walked him all three plate appearances, 12 balls, 2 strikes on 3-0 counts). I know the guy is 7 feet tall and is capable of hitting the ball five miles, but he's also hitting .205. And intentionally putting the lead-off hitter on in extra innings is beyond stupid. That's what leads to big innings, especially with the meat of their order coming up. Sure enough, Dunn scored the go-ahead run.

4) Why bring in Yan with the bases loaded? Level-headed Simontacchi is in the bullpen, rested and ready. And Yan has control problems (along with many, many other problems). As Yan trotted onto the field, Joe Buck and Al Hrabosky immediately started making jokes about whether Yan would throw the ball to the back stop on the first pitch or the fourth. Lo and behold, he gets ahead of Kelly Stinnett 0-2. Throw him some stuff outside, make him swing at crap, right? 0-2 pitch: Yan lays a fat-assed fastball right over the heart of the plate. Stinnett can't believe his eyes. He's so excited to get such a gift he swings early and almost pulls it foul. But it's not foul. 2 runs score. Game over.

In all of these situations LaRussa is playing against the odds. He does that a lot. It's a nice little set-up he's got: If he's correct, he looks like a genius (with a little help from George Will). If wrong, he looks like a manager who makes bold moves that don't always pay off. Truth is, the Cardnut would be better off with a robot managing us. Seriously. I'll take the odds every time.


Tuesday, June 24, 2003


REDS 7, CARDINALS 4 I have nothing to add...


WALLBANGERS The '93 Phillies were awe-inspiring, of course, but all great hoosier teams must pay homage to the holy beermaking trinity of Gorman Thomas, Mike Caldwell, and Pete Vuckovich. This troika was beatified by the great Bill James in his summary description of them..."quite a collection of men, all sporting mass murderer hair and third world teeth."


KRUK YOU I consider it my duty to point out that the 1993 Philadelphia Phillies already fielded an All-Hoosier team.


Hooze Yer Daddy?

A few honorable mentions for the hourgeois from one who grew up a lot closer to them than Mark……

Adam Dunn – ever see or read an interview with this guy? ‘Nuff said.

Randy Johnson – forget the logo-on-the-hat controversy for the Hall of Fame plaque with him. Just show the back of his head and the greatest mullet ever seen on a diamond.

Billy Wagner – grew up in and out of trouble with the law in Virginia. Tiny guy you just know would always be getting into fights playing Wiffle Ball by Hessler’s Pub in South County.

Kerry Lightenberg – burns o’plenty.

Kerry Wood – any moustache that you can only sort of see qualifies its wearer as a Grade A hooze.

Keeping an Eye on the Enemy: Cubs talent pool grows….

"I don't know exactly what that means, but it sounds impressive" –Cubs GM Hendry.


2003 ALL-HOOSIER TEAM
When I was going to college on the East Coast, I was introduced to a term for guys who slick back their hair, wear lots of gold jewelry, occasionally will sport a pair of suspenders, love Billy Joel and Bon Jovi, and are generally Italian-American in appearance. The term is "guido," and while it's really snide in a lot of ways, it also captures a specific stretch of macho American culture.

But where I’m from, St. Louis, we didn't have "guidos." We had "hoosiers."

Now, to most people, a hoosier is someone from Indiana. But to St. Louisans it means something very different. See, a hoosier (someone who is hooze) is a man or woman with a certain kind of low-brow taste. Think of Sammy Hagar or Tom Arnold or Kurt Warner: a little bit trashy, a little bit country, all ugly. Some tell-tale signs of hoosiers: Oakley sunglasses, two or more Jimmy Buffett CDs, bi-level hair cuts (also known as "mullets," but I will not make a mullet joke, even though I just kinda did), having extra-long sideburns, having no sideburns at all, a neon beer sign hanging in your house, any shirt without sleeves -- you get the idea.

I'll be honest: I have some hooze in me (I once wore a gold hoop in one ear and drove a Mustang). And I’m not ashamed of it. Let me say it loud and say it proud: there’s nothing wrong with being hooze. In fact, it’s a style of dress and behavior that’s uniquely American. What jazz is to music, hooze couture is to fashion. Denim shorts are Middle America’s John Coltrane.

So it is with a combination of derision and pride that I name the All-Hoosier team for America’s Pastime.



C: Mike Piazza. Mikey Pants is a little too fond of his facial hair. And those Prell comericals starring his flowing locks aren't doing him any favors either. Sure, he's a good guy, and a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but that doesn't mean he's not a total hooze.





1B: Jim Thome. This was tough, because Thome is a country boy, which means he isn't really expected to have fine taste. But he's been rich long enough to know better. Hooze-o-riffic. Runner-up: Jeff Bagewell and his breast-implanted ex-wife.




2B: Jeff Kent. Mega-hooze. The sunglasses, the moustache, the motorcycle chicanery. You just know he hangs his keys on a ZZ Top key chain.






SS: Nomar Garciaparra. A controversial choice. He's engaged to Mia Hamm, who seems kempt and clean and stylish. But, sorry, he's got some hooze blood in him. How do I know? Because once I saw him wearing a vest over a collarless dress shirt with no jacket.





3B: Fernando Tatis. Can non-Caucasians be hooze? Sure. Tatis has shown an astonishing lack of good taste over the years: his blonde-streaked head hair, his finely manicured facial hair, his stone-washed OPS.



OF: Matt Stairs. The guy looks like he should be working the door of a bar, telling drunk fat asses it's 2 am and the place is closing. Hoosier.





OF: JD Drew. The bracelet he's wearing should give you a hint: WWJD? Christian hooze.






OF: Larry Walker. Canadian. Have you ever been to Canada? It's impossible to be Canadian and not be hooze. The thing is, they don’t get the free pass that comes with being American. An entire nationality, ruined. Tragic, just tragic.







P: Wade Miller. Looks hooze, but also looks mean. Sorry to pick you, dude. Please don't cut me with your butterfly knife.






Closer: Rod Beck. Welcome back to the show, Beckers! You utter hooze.




Monday, June 23, 2003


Birdwatching 2003 – Home Nest

Like an unwitting sailor following a siren’s song I found myself gravitating towards the faint sounds of “The Second Verse”* on Saturday night as I returned to my hometown and my personal Mecca, Busch Stadium. As the crowd whipped itself into Bo Hart-mania I settled in and enjoyed the 8-1 stomping of the Royales with Cheese.

* Those who have been to Cardinal games over the last quarter centure have undoubtedly heard the song that Ernie Hayes plays between the Star Spangled Banner and the first pitch. A few years ago my cousin met Ernie at some organ-o-rama and asked him about that song. It is an original composition by Ernie and he considers it “The Second Verse” of the national anthem.

Some notes:

Joaquin Andujar looked to be in great shape as he took the mound for the ceremonial first pitch. He didn’t get as big a hand from Cardinal fans as he deserved, though. I suspect that most had trouble believing it was actually him. At any number of “Cardinal great” reunions, including last year’s 20th Anniversary of the ’82 Champs, One Tough Dominican has always been a no-show, citing “visa problems.” I will always remember Andujar’s comments in the champagne soaked and boisterous clubhouse after the Birds won the ’85 Pennant. In reference to the dramatic Game 5 homer by Ozzie “That little midget hit the ball as far as he can. I tell that midget he’s no home run hitter but he’s a tough little midget.” More good Andujar stuff right here.

The Royals came into existence in 1969. How long do you think it took for the Kansas City Star to exhaust headlines like “Royal Embarrassment,” “Royal Flush,” “Royal etc…”? Then, how long for the other AL cities to do the same? I said two months…

When Pujols gets a big hit at Busch (which is quite often, thankfully) the sound system pumps out the opening bass lick to the Fat Albert Theme Song. Hey, Hey, Hey! Fantastic.

The on-field ushers wear batting helmets. What, exactly, are they guarding against? Looking good?

Kansas City is to St. Louis as St. Louis is to Chicago. Discuss.

Quote of the weekend: Mike Shannon, after Bo Hart got his third hit on Friday night "Man that guy is a machine! He and Albert are going to have to become members of the Machinist's Union!"

#1 Development at the Stadium since my last visit – you can get Bud and Bud Light from the same vendor now. Apparently AB finally got that one past the Security Council.

And finally, my favorite piece of information overheard in the men’s room – “Some lady is suing the Cardinals because her girl got sick after a game and she claims it was from Fredbrid putting his beak on her head when that same beak had been touching all kinds of other heads.”

Please, let me be there when Fredbird takes the stand. He’s been there before.


DK57 ESPN's Sunday Conversation for Jun 22, 2003 was an interview with Darryl Kile's family, marking the one-year anniversary of his death. As I played with my son this morning, I listened to Kannon Kile tell ESPN that he still talks to his dad, and tells him that he loves him. When asked if Darryl ever talks back, Kannon said it's hard for him to hear, but sometimes he hears him in his heart. What does he say? I love you too, Kannon. If that doesn't make your eyes well up you're made of stronger stuff than I am.


Sunday, June 22, 2003


ROYALS 5, CARDINALS 2

Not much good to say about this game, although two quotes struck me.

Garrett Stephenson: "I was pitching good today, I don't care what anybody says. If anybody writes anything bad it's all because of the runs and not because of how I pitched, because I pitched awesome..."

Actually, G. Steve didn't pitch THAT poorly. He didn't walk anybody, which is a step forward for a guy averaging about 4.5 walks per nine innings. And most of the hits he gave up came during one rough patch in the 5th.

But Stephenson didn't pitch well, either, which makes his defensiveness all the more hilarious. This isn't the first time he's done this, either. I don't have the quotes in front of me, but several times over the past couple years Stephenson will follow a lousy outing with a righteous justification of his own awesomeness. What a buffoon.

The other quote is from the game-winning pitcher, Jeremy Affeldt: "They battled me and I battled them back and we had a fun time out there. It was an honorable victory for me.''

How noble is that! He sounds like a vanquishing samurai who bows and thanks his humbled opponent for allowing him to hone his skills. If I thought of baseball games the same way Affeldt does -- as a hearty encounter between worthy contestants -- then I might just feel a lot better about losing to the Royals, and about life in general.


Saturday, June 21, 2003


CARDINALS 8, ROYALS 1

Friday night's game was such a downer that we've taken a page from such masterworks as Don't Sweat the Small Stuff and 14,000 Things to Be Happy About and we're presenting ONLY things to make you feel warm and fuzzy. Nothing negative, nothing depressing, just 12 Things to Make You Feel Real Good:

1. Bo Hart His first 12 major league at-bats: 7 hits. 2 doubles, 2 triples. Busts his ass out of the box on every play. Standing ovation from the crowd before his AB in the 9th. Budding folk hero. AND his dad was at the game tonight with a camcorder.

2. Called strikeouts Woody had 6 of them tonight. The called strikeout is the 2nd most humiliating way to make an out (right after a foul pop-out to the catcher -- you just gotta stand there, helplessly, and wait til you're out).

3. Mike Matheny The guy's actually been getting xbhits lately -- a homer tonight, triple last night, a couple two-baggers and a four-bagger a few nights ago. His slugging percentage is now .380, the highest of his career.

4. The Red Sox bullpen For reminding us that, no matter how bad our pen gets, there's always a lower circle of hell. Did you see that Sox-Philly game today? The Beaneaters gave up a two-out homer in the bottom of the 12th to lose the lead, then a two-run walk-off homer in the bottom of the 13th. Brrzzghgh. (That was the sound of me shuddering.)

5. Woody Williams' stamina Two starts ago he ran out of gas in the 7th inning. One start ago he ran out of gas in the 6th. Would he collapse in the 5th inning tonight? Nope. He pitched a sturdy 8 innings, giving up only one lonely run.

6. Detente Dusty Baker named Tony La Russa a coach for this July's All-Star Game. There's a history of bad blood between these two guys, but in the spirit of refusing to sweat the small stuff, Baker asked him to join the big kid's table.

7. Albert Pujols For the usual.

8. Dontrelle Willis He's now won 6 straight starts for the Marlins and tonight lowered his ERA to 2.38. Why should we be happy for him? Because he's who the Cubs traded last year to get Matt Clement and Antonio "the Octopus" Alfonseca. Can you imagine a Chubs rotation of Prior, Wood, Zambrano, and Willis? I literally cannot.

9. 30 Wins That's how many games we've won in Woody Williams' starts since we acquired him in 2001. We've lost only 13 times.

10. Rick Ankiel He pitched for AA Tennesse on Friday night and walked only 2 guys in 5 innings. Sure, most of us have lost faith in Ankiel, but this was far and away his most disciplined game of the year.

11. The NL Central Standings After several weeks of trying, we finally chased down the Cubs tonight.

12. Joaquin Andujar He threw out the first pitch before tonight's game, and it's always heart-warming to think of One Tough Dominican (the other night Shannon called him "One Sweet Dominican"). Happiest Joaquin memory: Remember how Andujar used to take wild, murderous, helicopter swings every time he stepped to the plate? It was as if he was trying to hit a grand slam every at bat, even if no one was on base. Well on May 15, 1984, he came up with the bases loaded against the Braves, looked at the Cardinals dugout, gestured to the rightfield stands, then hit a grand slam into that very spot. Youneverknow.


THE FINLEY SAGA, EPISODE IX According to the Houston Chronicle, the Astros thought they were close to signing Chuck Finley, but Finley has decided he doesn't want to continue his career. So, the paper reports that Pat Hentgen and Steve Trachsel are among the pitchers the team may be interested in trading for.


Friday, June 20, 2003


LOSERS I don't think it's a major headline at this point to say that Jeff Fassero has no business in a major league uniform. Only a jacknut who thinks old age and experience automatically translate into an ability to get outs would keep him in one (much less pay him $1,250,000). Yet there he is, trotting out of our bullpen, night after night, giving up run after run. Unfortunately, he's not the exception in our pen. He's the rule.
Jeff Fassero


Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I feel a journalistic duty to inform the Nation about a reliever we let get away: Al Levine. Well, 'let get away' isn't accurate -- we dumped him after a cruddy couple of weeks in spring training (but we were still on the hook for $600,000). Makes sense, right? Let a guy go because of a bad spring? What's that you say? Jeff Fassero's spring was almost as bad as Levine's (7.00 ERA for Fassero, 7.20 for Levine)? Well, see, Fassero is older and has more miles on him. Therefore he's a keeper.

So what's Al up to now? He got grabbed up by the Devil Rays, where he's posted the following numbers so far this season:

35.0 IP 7 BB 20 K 1.54 ERA

A few of the guys we kept around?

Fassero 26.1 IP 12 BB 16 K 6.49 ERA
Hermanson 29.2 IP 14 BB 12 K 5.46 ERA
Eldred 27.0 IP 13 BB 26 K 5.67 ERA

And then there's the guy we sought out:

Yan 12.1 IP 6 BB 5 K 8.76 ERA

Walter Jocketty, you there? Might be time to go grab Levine back and eat a little crow.

(While you're enjoying your delicious crow, please dump Tino.)


GAME NOTES, Silver Dollar Cityers 10, Cards 4

• Morris didn't pitch terribly, but I think something is pretty clearly wrong with him, be it fatigue or that shoulder. His fastball hovered in the 85-92 range, when it typically runs from 92-95.

• I don't know why Calero isn't getting another start, considering how well he pitched in Milwaukee and that both Morris and Woody can use an extra day off for a round or two.

• Not only did Pujols go 0 for 5, but he didn't have a single good at bat. He's earned a few bad nights, though, I'd say.

• Matheny entered the game hitting .272 with a .330 OBP. And it's June 20. Nice.

• If Tino wasn't one of the slowest people on Earth, Bo Hart would have had himself a 2 out RBI on his 2nd inning double. Hart also hit the ball hard in every at bat but his last. Way to go, Bo.

• Fassero did some of his best comedy tonight. His bunt attempt in the 6th was the absolute worst I've ever seen, and that's not hyperbole. He also looked like a sorry shell of an old man when he lumbered over to get Tucker's swinging bunt down the first base line in the 7th and collided with him and lost the ball. And then there were all those home runs. As a MLB player, he's roughly as worthwhile as the Vietnam War.

• Esteban Yan might just work out as a setup man. TBD.

• Drew's finally starting to draw more BB this year, which is the one advantage the 2001 Drew had over the 2003 Drew.


BULLIES So the Pujolsinals took three of four from Milwaukee. That’s great, we’ll take three of four on the road any time right? Well, no. Not when the opponent is an AAAA Level bunch of misfit toys like the Brew Crew. The Red Unit should have swept the Sausage Kings. In fact, the games against teams like the Brewers are vitally important. Why?

Mike Shannon has never been shy about imploring his birdos to “beat up” on certain teams each year. “You’ve just got to pound on these teams” the Moonman has said many a time. Well, turns out he’s absolutely correct.

If you look at the 2000 through 2002 Cardinal teams, they posted three impressive victory totals: 95, 93, and 97 wins respectively. In those years they finished the season 28, 26, and 32 games over .500. Impressive, yes. But look closer at how they did it. The Cardinals, like most division winners, feasted on the lesser organizations. In 2000 they had fun with the Cubs (10-3,) the Padres (9-0,) and the Phillies (7-2.) Their record with these teams was 21 games over. So, their record against the other 12 teams in the league was a pedestrian 7 games over.

Same with 2001 when the McGwire Send-Off Tour was 14-3 against Pittsburgh, and 5-1 against the Mets and Padres. 19 games over on those three clubs and only 7 over against the rest of the league.

In 2002 the Cards had losing or even records against 6 teams but again had their way with designated bitches Pittsburgh, Houston, Chicago, Kansas City and San Diego, going a combined 26 games over against those sacks of dung.

The best illustration of this theory is the 2000 World Champion Yankees. They finished 13 games over .500 which, probably, won’t cut it in this year’s NL Central, but you never know. Anyway, the Bombers pasted the Rangers 10-2 and the Royals 8-2 in games that year. That’s 14 games over on just two teams. So, without those teams the Yanks are a sub-.500 team and don’t get to the playoffs where every break possible goes their way.

In sum, I’ll take the 2-4 trips to Fenway and the Bronx or a 2-4 season record against the Braves or Giants as long as Tony’s boys remember who’s boss when the Padres, Brewers, Mets, and other doormats come calling.


Thursday, June 19, 2003


HART TRANSPLANT Once again the Cardinals played like the Cardinals (or the Platonic ideal of the Cardinals, anyway), the Brewers played like the Brewers, and all is right with the world.

The big story was Bo Hart, a journeyman minor leaguer who finally made it to the Promised Land of Miller Park and responded with a rally-sparking double, a two-run triple (capped by a headfirst slide), and, for good measure, a handy little base on balls.

Now, it's customary to say something snide here -- some too-cool-for-school put-down about Bo Hart's flaccid minor league track record, or something about Tony La Russa taking down Joe McEwing's cleats from his office wall and fitting them on Bo Hart like they were glass slippers. How easy it would be to downplay Hart's achievement: "it was just one game," you might say, or "it won't last," or "two hits off Ruben Quevedo should be adjusted for inflation."

But you'd have to be a robot and/or Don H. Rumsfeld not to feel all warm and toasty for the kid. Sure, it's just one game, but to Bo Hart right now, that's everything. That's one game he can tell his grandkids about, one game where he knew he could play with the big boys, one game that he can fall asleep to over and over for the rest of his life.

Remember that scene in Bull Durham, where Crash is telling his teammates about his cup of coffee up in the bigs? "Yeah, I was in the show," he muses. "I was in the show for 21 days once -- the 21 greatest days of my life. You know, you never handle your luggage in the show, somebody else carries your bags. It was great. You hit white balls for batting practice, the ballparks are like cathedrals, the hotels all have room service, and the women all have long legs and brains."

Here's hoping Bo Hart digs into some of that tonight.

JEDMONDS missed his second game in a row after going hip-first into the right-centerfield wall in Miller Park on Tuesday night. It was a fantastic catch -- he went leaping into the air, prevented extra bases, and, naturally, earned kudos from the hometown announcers, who praised him as "a team-first guy" and a "gamer."

It was also moronic. The Cards were winning 12-3 at the time. It was the bottom of the ninth, no one on, one out. Would it really have made any difference if Edmonds had pulled up on that fly ball and played it off the wall? Well, the difference is this: he'd feel like a puss for about 15 seconds, then he'd go into the dugout after a 12-4 win, sleep easy, then haul his 19 homers and considerable OPS into the lineup the next few days. That's what it means to be "team-first gamer" kinda guy.

Staying in shape and avoiding injury is a skill, every bit as much as good baserunning and a good batting eye. There are a whole host of a players -- from Pete Reiser on up through Darin Erstad -- who didn't learn this, who thought they were playing some other sport (called, say, football), and paid the price. Let's not let it happen again, Jimmy.

[note: Will Carroll tells us that Jedmonds has a mere bruise and it's nothing to worry about.]

AND OH YEAH... The Cardinals are 1 game out of first.


TINO THE ROOK Tino Martinez got hit in the back intentionally Tuesday night, went nuts on the field and in the dugout, and reportedly grumbled after the game about Cardinals' pitchers not retaliating. The Brewers' Scott Podsednik got hit intentionally Wednesday night and said, "I wasn't expecting it. But after (Eldred) nailed me in the back, I knew it was intentional. That's the way it goes. That's baseball."

Who's the veteran and who's the rookie?


Wednesday, June 18, 2003


PHAT ALBERT Tallulah Bankhead once said, "There have been only two geniuses in the world -- Willie Mays and Willie Shakespeare." Since following baseball, I have seen only four Cardinals reach the elite level of day-in-day-out Shakespearean greatness: John Tudor down the stretch in '85, Jack Clark in the first half of '87, Mark McGwire in '98 and '99, and now, Albert Pujols.

The numbers are staggering, and I'm sure you're familiar with most of them (like tonight's 4-for-5 hitfest). But I'll add one more set of numbers -- my selected list of player salaries for the 2003 season:

Darren Dreifort, $12.4 million
Albert Belle, $12.4 million
Bobby Higginson, $11.9 million
Jeffrey Hammonds, $8.2 million
Rick Reed, $8 million
Damian Easley, $6.9 million
Fernando Tatis, $6 million
Bob Wickman, $6 million
Albert Pujols, $900,000


SORRY, MIGUEL I must apologize to Miguel Cairo for calling him shit the other day. He is mostly shit, but he bounced back very well from his atrociousness Monday, and got some key hits on Tuesday and Wednesday. And as crappy as Cairo is, Wilson Delgado is much worse offensively, I'm afraid. Defensively, I think Delgado's better. We'll see.

The salient point to make about Delgado, though, is that he looks like he's having less fun out there than any player who's ever worn the uniform. Seriously. I defy you to get a good look at his face when he doesn't seem at least slightly sad and angry about being on field.


NERD ALERT For stat heads: tonight Glendon Rusch threw 62 pitches in one inning (actually, he threw a bunch of them in the 2nd inning, but recorded no outs, so technically he only pitched one inning). I looked all over the place to find the record for most pitches thrown in an inning, but couldn't find anything.

My assistant Brian, however, found this factoid: In 1944, Boston Braves pitcher Red Barrett threw only 58 pitches in a 2-0 complete game win over the Reds. Tonight Rusch threw 4 more pitches in one miserable inning than Barrett did in an entire game. The next lowest known total for a complete game is 67.

Another stat Brian dug up: Tim Wakefield pitched a 10 inning complete game in 1993 where he threw a whopping 172 pitches.


MIGUEL CAIRO broke a bone in his hand on a pitch thrown by Dan Kolb. No timetable on his return, but we do know this: the Cards now turn to their third-string secondbaseman. That man is Wilson Delgado.

[My bet is that 73-year old Bill Selby stumbles into the Birdnut infield. Ugh. Well, he did hit three 2-run homers yesterday for Memphis. -- Mark]


FANTASTICAL The great Dr. Z, Paul Zimmerman, writes about football, but his issues with fantasy football apply just as well to fantasy baseball:

"Why don't I like it? For the same reason I don't like thoroughbred racing. Because I'm afraid of it. I'm afraid that if I ever became interested in either of these things, and got the charts working and sat down and doped everything out in scientific fashion, I'd be able to conquer these topics -- you know, the kind of things suckers are always saying. And the time all this would take would be stupefying; I mean, it would take over a good portion of my life."


Happy 64th Birthday Louis Clark Brock

Lest we forget…

1964 World Series .300, 5 RBI, 2 R, 1 HR, 0 SB
1967 World Series .414, 3 RBI, 8 R, 1 HR, 7 SB
1968 World Series .464, 5 RBI, 6 R, 2 HR, 7 SB
Total (21 games) .391, 13 RBI, 16 R, 4 HR, 14 SB

• In 1962 the Chicago Tribune sports section featured an article proclaiming Brock “the least talented outfielder in the major leagues…why they Cubs continue to allow him to hurt the team is a mystery…”

• History shows that the Brock-Broglio trade was viewed at the time as a coup for the Cubs

• One of only 4 men to homer into dead center at the Polo Grounds (Luke Easter, Joe Adcock, Hank Aaron)

• Stole 21 bases at age 40

• Great story of a Brock-Koufax showdown can be read here. I will recommend it to Valerio de los Santos and Constantino Martinez after last night’s buffoonery.

• Featured running on classic Sports Illustrated cover from the mid ‘70s: “Speed Kills”

• Proclaimed Don Gullet (current Reds pitching coach) the hardest pitcher to get a jump on. Reason – Gullet never ever threw over to first. His whole career Brock was worried that “maybe this would be the one” since he had never seen Gullet’s pick-off move.

• Got 3000th hit literally “off” Dennis Lamp after a brush back pitch (Mike Shannon’s call: “So typical of the man, Jack! So typical of Lou Brock!”)

• On “Lou Brock Day” at Busch in 1979 teammates presented him with a burgundy ’79 Monte Carlo; ownership gave him a boat named “Lou, Lou, Lou”

• Wife Jackie delivered the most rambling, confusing, confrontational, and loudest invocation of all time at Ozzie Smith’s Hall of Fame ceremony last summer

• Is apparently very nice to FedEx drivers.

• The mere mention of his name sends true Cub fans into twitches and convulsions.

• Endorsed 1975’s “105-Lou” shoes by Keds. This correspondent truly believed they made him run faster.

• Famously endorsed Brock-a-pop and the oft imitated Brock-a-brella

Happy Birthday to a thief.


REDBIRD NATION HAS TURNED INTO A BUNCH OF WHINERS The Cardinals lose on Monday night and we bitch and moan to no end. We win handily last night, good performances all around (even from guys like Cairo and Delgado and Stephenson), and how do we respond: dead silence. As if a win against the Brewers is no win at all. Real cool, guys.

So let's look ahead to tonight's game: Simontacchi vs. Rusch. Glendon Rusch is one of those junkballing, speed-shifting, arm-angle-changing guys who makes our team look goofy now and again. But we roughed him up real good in our second game of the season -- 7 runs and 11 hits in 5 innings. Rusch was so scarred by the experience that he's gone on to be the worst pitcher in the National League.

The bottom 10 NL starters, ranked by Baseball Prospectus' Support Neutral Won-Loss Record (which measures a pitcher's record given league average support from the offense and the bullpen):

1. GLENDON RUSCH
2. Ryan Dempster
3. John Riedling
4. Jimmy Anderson
5. Pedro Astacio
6. Wayne Franklin
7. Kirk Saarloos
8. Clay Condrey
9. John Patterson
10. JASON SIMONTACCHI

So stock up on canned goods, board up the windows in Miller Park, drive the children far out of town, because a hurricane is about to hit Milwaukee.


Tuesday, June 17, 2003


FIVE ARTICLES you might want to read. One by my fiancee Rob Neyer, who sizes up Bert Pujols against the best young hitters of all time. And some more Albertica here, here, and here. The last article includes a glowing accolade from Gammons that concludes, "To compare Soriano and Pujols is laughable."

When you're done wallowing in Pujolsland, check out this fond tribute to Darryl Kile in USA Today. Flynn Kile talks about her late husband at length: "The last thing I remember him talking about... he said 'Look at me. I'm just some dopey kid that somehow figured out how to throw a curveball. I've got the perfect wife. I've got the perfect family. Now I'm going to have a terrific house.' That was the last in-person conversation we had."


BEHIND THE RED CURTAIN A longtime friend worked for years as an usher at Busch Stadium, during the heyday of Torreball in the early 90's. Redbird Nation recently asked him to share some of his memories from that golden age (and sorry, but we couldn't reprint the actionable stuff). Enjoy:



“A sampling of the wonder of Busch Stadium in its waning days of Astroturf-ness and multi-purpose glory --

Pedro Guerrero having gold-tipped shoelaces delivered just before game time; Cris Carpenter punting footballs in the outfield (he was a punter for U. of Georgia); Bryn Smith out of uniform sitting in the stands with Geddy Lee of Rush; Lee Smith’s wife – I swear to God she was as big as him and was always hollering at him about something; Jose Oquendo carrying large pink soft-sided baby bags every night while his wife pushed his twins, Carolyn and Marilyn, in a stroller with a stuffed Cardinal on top; Lee Smith on Sunday mornings, being driven around in a golf cart with a China plate of bacon on his lap… Picture that again: Lee Smith, in baseball pants and a T-shirt, riding shotgun on a golf cart through the bowels of Busch at 11:00 AM on a Sunday with a mound of bacon on a plate in his lap. No drink, no eggs, no biscuit, just bacon. Lee Smith – Castor, Louisiana (he lived on a farm with 54 cars).

John Tudor – my favorite player of all time. When we would sit outside the “ushers locker room” we would see all the players walking to their cars. They walked right in front of us and almost all of them acknowledged us with a wave or something. Tudor always cruised by in the manner of a high school nerd rushing down the hallway, avoiding eye contact with the jocks, on his way to the sanctuary of the library, where he could relax. Nothing aloof at all about the guy. He would grin nervously at us, but he certainly wasn’t comfortable basking in the stares of the usherfolk. Johnny T. also distinguished himself with his “anti-playa” wardrobe. Lots of non-designer jeans (no belt) and polo shirts (not even real Polo, but that dumb little Fox or whatever it was JC Penney sold.) Compared to the other players, he looked like a guy wearing Eddie Bauer in a Miami nightclub.

Friendliest players - #1 by far (so friendly they retired his number) – Ozzie Smith. It’s true, the guy had a chip on his shoulder and maybe it was all BS, but he always slowed down and asked “Everybody going out tonight?” or “Did you have a good break?” He would also remember if somebody was out for pregnancy or something. The guy truly was nice to the lowly usher staff.

Also friendly – Dan Quisenberry (’88-’89) – would walk past us with a friend and have fake conversations where he would say, really loud, “Yeah, my spitter was fucking awesome tonight!” He would also high-five you unexpectedly if you happened to be in the concourse during a game when he was going down to the pen.

Terry Pendleton - loved to give the peace sign and the fist pump.

Pagnozzi - he’d buy you a beer at what was Alligator Alley on 7th Street, but wouldn’t talk to you really. Just providing the alcohol, dude…

Oquendo - waved and smiled and let the girls play with his babies but didn’t say much.

Willie McGee -“Hey man, thanks. OK.” – He always said that, no matter what anybody said.

Rich Batchelor - he was the guy acquired when they traded Lee Smith to the Yankees. He was pretty much the same age as all the ushers and seemed like he felt more at home with them than the players – he actually hung out with the trash guys for the six weeks he was with the team.

Torre – he is exactly like you think he is: a guy who is nice but you don’t want to piss off.

Todd Zeile – laid-back Todd. “Hey dude, thanks….” Hot wife. (Hard for me and my group of friends to really like him due to his lack of performance. Our nickname for him – “Mr. Warning Track”)

Jerks:

Mark Clark – big dumb country boy who acted like he was Roger Clemens (that is, an asshole) when, in fact, he was 5th-starter Mark Clark.

Bernard Gilkey – probably worn out from having everybody he ever looked at in high school asking him for tickets and money, but still, you could be civil to the groveling ushers…

Gregg Jefferies – never ever spoke to the ushers working on the field, not even to acknowledge their praise

Mark “Bones” Donahue – never heard of him? That’s because he wasn’t really a player but the bullpen catcher, which is, I think, the greatest job in the world. Why is he a jerk? Because he lost sight of the fact that he was the bullpen catcher and his head got too big for his mask. After 7 years with the team the Cards cut him once word got out that he was representing himself as an actual player at bars and clubs. Seems the real players don’t like that…

For no real reason…Best cusser on the team: Red Schoendienst, by a landslide. He was also “Master of All Things Fungo.”


Monday, June 16, 2003


MORE GAME NOTES, Brewers 9, Half-Great/Half-Shit 4

• One of the Brewers' announcers introduced Pujols as "the man who may be the greatest playing the game of baseball right now." He's probably right. Barry Bonds could put in a claim. I don't know who else.

• Calero's numbers as a reliever are very respectable, and they surprised me as I looked at them before the game -- I guess it's because he's given up some untimely homers.

• I've seen Eduardo Perez take pitches to the body for his team a couple times this season, and I appreciate it, especially since he's been slumping.

• In the 1st, Wayne Franklin appeared very afraid to throw J.D. Drew anything over the plate. In the 3rd, Drew showed why.

• How do you explain what Mike Matheny manages to do against the Brewers?

• Among all the other things Pujols does exceptionally, he's an excellent baserunner. I've seen him be overaggressive a couple times, but the times he's picked up bases by being smart and aggressive far outweigh those. He got around the bases very quickly on Edgar's 5th inning double. The Brewers had a crappy relay, but he got a great jump and they would have had trouble getting him at home regardless.

• J.D. Drew covers more ground than any RF in the game right now.

• The Cards' fans have shown up in force everywhere on this road trip. Makes me proud to be a St. Louisan.

• Calero stayed ahead in the count on almost everybody tonight, and his slider is terrific. Team that with his low-90s fastball, which has some formidable movement, and you see why the Brewers' hitters couldn't figure him out. Because his stuff is so good, nothing seemed flukish about his performance tonight (although I'd feel better if he developed a nice change to accompany the slider and fastball). I had visions of him being for us this year what Simontacchi was to us last year, and that hope is still intact, but our relievers and Cairo reminded me that you can't have half a great team and half a shitty team and expect to win a championship (and probably not your division) in MLB. We have the best nucleus in the game, offensively and defensively. But it hardly matters, because Jocketty and La Russa have surrounded Drew, Pujols, Jedmonds, Rolen, Renteria, Morris, and Woody with clowns like Cairo, Fassero, Eldred, Hermanson, Kline, Tomko, Robinson, Taguchi, and Girardi. We've spent so many years watching other teams, with less dedicated fans, win championships. It's not fair that they fill our bullpen and bench (and to La Russa, nearly every bench player is a part-timer) with this shit. The owners have done their job by shelling out for our big name guys, but Jocketty has failed miserably by not acquiring a professional supporting cast, and La Russa continues to fail miserably with strategic sins and simply by not knowing when, why, and how much to play these guys. I don't think every Redbird Nation writer would agree with this, but I think we'd be best off putting this nucleus into the hands of a new regime. How many more years are the owners gonna cast a blind eye to Jocketty's leaving us with some area of glaring weakness, or to La Russa making costly, mind-boggling blunders both in the regular season and in the playoffs? I'm scared by the prospects who might succeed them, but it's all about winning championships and we're consummate also-rans. I'd rather throw dice than run in place.

• Whew. Now that's off my chest...

• I've been hard on K-Rob lately, but he came up with what could have been a clutch hit before Cairo deflated us. By the way, when's the last time a Cardinal had as crucially poor a game as Cairo did tonight? He committed both the back-breakingly lousy defensive gaffe of the game and the back-breakingly lousy hit of the game. Eldred was atrocious, but at least he didn't hit.

• I'll be watching and rooting like hell for us tomorrow.


GAME NOTES, Brewers 9, Cards 4

• The Cards just endured a grueling road trip to the unfriendly confines of Fenway and Yankee Stadium. Surely they'd relax and have a little fun at the expense of the Brü Crü, right? Think again...

• We got a miracle performance from Kiko Calero, who dispatched the Brewers lineup with 9 K's and 1 run in 5 innings of work. We had to win with a start like that, right? Nope...

• Mike Matheny -- yes, Mike Matheny -- played pinball in Miller Park, cranking out 4 hits, a double to each side of the field, a no-doubt homer to left. You know you've got the W when Math goes nuts, right? Not so fast...

• We had a fairly comfy 4-2 lead going into the 7th inning. The Brewers have scored only 19 runs in all the seventh innings for the whole year (a span of 67 games). With Osik, Clayton, and Kieschnick due up, the 7th was a cakewalk, right? Well, not exactly...

• Osik hits a fluke homer and the next two guys reach on lite singles. EY Young is up bunting against Eldred. Cal lays it in there, right? He couldn't possibly walk a guy looking to bunt, right? And he'd never ever do it on four pitches, right? Right? [Silence...]

• All right, so the Cardinals get themselves in deep trouble. Bases loaded for the Brewers, no one out, Kline summoned from the bullpen. You figure we'll sacrifice the run for the double play, try to keep the game under control, right? Wait wait, you're telling me La Russa brings the infield in? You're telling me he risked everything to try to prevent one run from scoring -- with plenty of time left in the game? And then Posednik skipped a picture-perfect double-play grounder to Cairo, but he was playing too far in, so the ball gobbled him up? Which opened the floodgates and let 6 more runners score in the inning? This couldn't possibly happen, right? Our manager can't be that suicidal, right? Umm....

• But we at least made a valiant comeback, right? When we loaded the bases with no one out in the 8th, we managed to push a couple runs across, keep things tight, right? No chance -- Cairo bounced into a 1-2-3 double play. Game over.

The Cardinals are now 22-12 at home, a woeful 13-21 on the road. To give you an idea how ominous things are getting, just yesterday I made a backup plan and picked a team to root for in October, in case the Cardinals didn't make the playoffs. Go Mariners.


LISTEN TO THIS SHIT Will Leitch of Black Table writes this report re: the Yankee Stadium crowd:

"Went to all three games this weekend. High/lowlight was during Saturday’s rain delay. I was roaming around the park, just trying to stay dry, and I drifted into a box section in right field, overlooking the bleachers. A bunch of Cardinals fans were sitting there, watching the bleacher bums being morons (they were sliding headfirst along the bleachers and cheering each other on). The bleacher folks noticed a bunch of Cardinals fans watching then, turned and started cheering “DAR-YL. KI-LE!” over and over.

Very classy."

Now, I know you can't judge a town's fans by its lowest common denominators, but as a thought experiment, try to imagine it's 1979 and some Yanks fans come to visit Busch Stadium. Some bleacher fans start chanting at them -- "THUR-MON MUN-SON" -- over and over. It just wouldn't happen.

AND MORE HUGS FROM SOX FANS A good guy named Jason Fournier from BinaryToybox.com shares his experiences from the Sox-Cards series: "...the Cardinals fans I saw and spoke to were polite and I was polite back. I spoke to two guys in their twenties who were seat-hopping towards the end of the game. We talked about their need for a rally monkey and the lack of dependable ones in Boston (this is going to be the year, rally monkies be damned!). We then moved on to some good-natured teasing about the Rams, and when the game ended we shook hands and wished each other safe trips home. On the subway I saw other Cardinal fans wearing jersey's and hats. I didn't notice anyone giving them a hard time."

Looks like the Asshole Fans of the Century Award has been taken away from Boston and given to New York. Those damn Yankees win everything.


FORT APACHE THE BRONX Alex Belth has this first-hand account from last Friday's game:

"Clemens had his 300th win. Rocket came back out on the field, and got the royal treatment from the fans. All of the Cardinals fans I saw were standing clapping.

"Unfortunately, the game ended on a sour note for me. Pedestrian traffic is a nightmare for a New Yorker, and between all of the out-of-towners and suburban Yankee fans, it was an ugly scene. Too many drunks, too close together. Of course, we filed out hearing the usual chants: "Cardinals suck, Cardinals suck." Now I know that even when the Sox are in town, most of these seemingly mean-spirited taunts are meant in good fun. But I just can't get with it. Why chant that somebody sucks? Why not say, "We're great!" instead? Anyhow, it's par for the course, and groups of drunken Yankee fans jumped all over any wearing Cardinals gear. The lowest was, "Cardinals take it up the ass, do-dah, do-dah." It's bad enough that this kind of thing goes, on but when you can't escape these mooks, there is an edge, a mob-like intensity to the scene which makes for a particularly uncomfortable experience.

"Not only that, I was personally embarrased to be a Yankee fan. And this is how we act when the Yanks win. Can you imagine if we had lost? (I can only imagine how ugly it got by Sunday afternoon.) I was also ashamed as a New Yorker, but you know what? Although there are plenty of obnoxious Yankee fans from New York, most of the morons are distinctly suburban---dudes from Long Island, Jersey and Westchester.

"I felt so badly about it, that when I finally made it to the subway, I apologized to the first St. Louis fan I could find. The kid I spoke with didn't seem to think the abuse was all that bad, or at least nothing that wasn't expected, so perhaps I'm just sensitive to that kind of thing. Still, Yankee fans could learn a thing or three from Cardinals fans about class and respect, that's for sure.

One of Alex's readers wrote in with this counter-example:

"We were sitting amongst a bunch of Cardinals fans who had first gone to Boston and then came here. We were talking about the difference between a Boston and New York crowd, and I took pride in being informed that "Red Sox fans were easily the biggest assholes ever." These were all people in thier late forties and fifties, with families, and obvious baseball fans and they said everyone they spoke to in Fenway was rude. They also couldn't get over the fact that there were at a Boston vs. St Louis game, and all anyone chanted was "Yankees suck!" In comparison they were impressed with how nice everyone at the stadium (NY that is) was to them. And they felt the tribute we gave Roger was one of the greatest things they had ever seen. "


Home