August 2005

Quick Update: Eldred in, Mulder out

Just a quick update, and I’ll have a full story on it when my notebook goes live in a while. Mark Mulder is not starting today’s game for the Cards, though he’s making progress. He’ll just be bumped back to his regular next turn, probably Friday in Houston. Cal Eldred gets the ball, and according to Dave Duncan, the decision to go with Eldred over Brad Thompson came down to Major League starting experience more than anything. Thompson is expected to pitch in the game.

Nothing At All To Do With Baseball

Warning — those of you who don’t care what I have to say about subjects other than baseball, go ahead and skip this post. You won’t be interested. Which is fine; different people have different tastes. Anyway…

This irritates me.

(It’s the New York Times, so it requires subscription, but if you don’t feel like giving them all your data, there are ways to get around free "required" subscriptions. Not that I endorse such things.)

I have a lengthy rant on the music industry which I’ll save for another day, because ultimately it’s tangential even to this issue, which is not even tangential to baseball or the Cardinals. But seriously — the thought process here is staggering. "Customers are happy because of this business model. Let’s kill it!"

I only sort of have a dog in this fight. I’ve had an iPod for about 6-7 weeks now (thanks, Erin!!!) and I can scarcely imagine doing without it. But I don’t even have iTunes on my work computer, so it’s not like I spend a lot of time browsing the service. It’s just the whole idea.

For the first time in goodness knows how long, something has happened in the music industry that is bringing people in. People are happy, they get this setup. It’s good.

So, of course, two of the four major corporations want to make it more complicated and, ultimately, more expensive. I understand the desire to make more money. After all, these are businesses we’re dealing with. But this just seems to be further indication of the music industry’s disconnect with its consumers. You know, the people who spend that money that they bring in.

Apple’s not a saint here. There are some valid questions about their motivations and their approach within the article. But Apple is smart enough to understand that when you’ve got a raging success like this, you might want to wait a little while before you gut it.

I Had a Feeling

OK, it’s been way, way, way too long since I posted, so please forgive me a brief and self-congratulatory post.

Before the season started, I identified four "I Have a Feeling" teams — Major League teams that I wouldn’t necessarily predict outcomes for, but that i just thought would be better than they were getting credit for on a national scale. As of right now, I’m feeling pretty good about them…

Obviously there’s no proof that I liked these teams back in March, so if that bothers you, oh well.

* Phillies: I liked their offense a lot, though without Jim Thome and Placido Polanco, it’s not so good anymore. They’re near the bottom of the league in offense on the road, which isn’t good. But they have a nice deep rotation — not great, but solid — and a fine bullpen. Jimmy Rollins and his .306 OBP in the leadoff spot I’m not crazy about, but this is an interesting team. I liked them at the beginning of the year, so I’m sticking with them to win the NL Wild Card.

* Brewers: It’s not like I thought they were going to make the playoffs, but I saw a lot I liked with this team. And unlike the Phils, I got it right for more or less the right reasons — a decent rotation headed by the still-underrated Ben Sheets and an offense that can hit the ball out of the park. These guys are headed in the right direction and are a year or two away from being very interesting.

* A’s: A friend of mine and one of my favorite MLB.com colleagues picked the A’s for dead last in the AL West this year, and he wasn’t alone. They may not make the postseason, but a lot of people sold these guys short. They pitch, and they catch the ball (first in the Majors in defensive efficiency rating). They need some offense, but people saw Hudson and Mulder leaving and didn’t look at what they got back (Dan Haren, primarily, for 2005 purposes) and what they still had (beginning with the unbelievably good Rich Harden).

* Orioles: OK, this one doesn’t look nearly as it did a couple of months ago. Basically, I thought they were going to score a ton of runs — like 900-plus. Instead, they’re on pace for fewer than 800. Ouch. Talk all you want about the pitching, and it’s not that great (10th in the AL in ERA), but if this team were hitting like it’s supposed to, it would be in the mix.

For what it’s worth, I was dead wrong on the White Sox (figured them for a .500 team) and the Astros (sub-.500), more than any other teams.

-M.

Young Reyes

I’m not sure what I have to add to what I’ve already written about Anthony Reyes tonight, but here goes…

The upside of covering any baseball team is easy to see: I get to come to the park every day, and I get to talk and think and write ball all day long. I’ve loved ball since I can remember, so I’ve found pretty much the perfect job.

However, there is a downside of covering a baseball team that has an 11 1/2-game lead, and it’s this: as much as the players, and especially their manager, insist that you can’t look at the standings, it’s hard to invest too much drama in any one game. Cardinals win? The lead is incrementally bigger. Cardinals lose? It’s still huge. This isn’t a complaint — there’s still pretty much nothing I’d rather be doing than coming to the park and writing about ballgames.

However, writing about a team in a pennant race is just a different animal. I’m not a Cardinals fan, but I am trying to present the excitement of the game. If you weren’t at the park, I’m trying to make you feel like you were there. That’s my goal. Any night when I do that, I go home (or back to the hotel) feeling like I did my job. And it’s this simple: when there’s a pennant race, that’s much easier to do. Those A’s-Angels this week games can all be blowouts, but if you’re in the park, it’s exciting.

One thing that separates the best beat writers from the hacks (I’ll let
you decide where I fall on that continuum) is the ability to take a
game that doesn’t have that inherent drama, and find what’s unusual or
interesting or striking about it.

All of which relates to Anthony Reyes how? Because Reyes’ debut, in and of itself, is a story — and an exciting one. There was inherent drama in this game that there won’t be on Wednesday afternoon, at least from the Cardinals’ side of things. That’s not to say the game is irrelevant, or that the players won’t be giving all they have, or anything like that. It’s Ben Sheets for the Brewers, and I’d buy a ticket to see Ben Sheets pitch against the El Paso Diablos. So it should be an enjoyable day.

And fans, I know, live and die even with Wednesday afternoon games against third-place teams in early August. It’s a big part of the fun and agony of being a fan. But some games have more drama than others at the start. Tuesday’s game had it — win, lose or draw. Wednesday’s game will have to earn it.

But getting back to Reyes. He certainly held his own. I was a little concerned at the start. He took a couple of innings to get up above 91-92 mph, and he just didn’t look all that sharp. By the third, that had changed, and he was getting it 93-95 with impressive movement. He mixed in his curve and changeup for a nice arsenal. It was a lot of fun to watch, and it was fun to write about, and hopefully that shows through in my game story from tonight.

By the way, a big hello to my beloved fiancee, reading at home in St. Louis. You asked for a mention, now you’ve got it. Hi, Erin! (Ah, the perks of having my own blog)

Talk to you all soon.
-M.

Scenery1

This is part of the way up a rock formation I hiked up.

Jackrabbit Slim

OK, so that’s a Pulp Fiction reference. Sue me.

Anyway, first off, apologies for the dearth of postings recently. It was a pretty nutty week, with West Coast travel, the trade deadline, etc. etc. etc. I’ll talk ball again soon, but for now I wanted to give a little non-ball insight.

The San Diego-Los Angeles trip is usually one of my favorites of the year, because the weather is always gorgeous, both ballparks are nice… and so on. The one thing that was missing this year was the customary day off in between San Diego and L.A., but life goes on.

I still managed to squeeze in my favorite SoCal activity. After Thursday’s day game in San Diego, I drove out to Palm Desert and spent the night there, then went hiking in Joshua Tree National Park before heading in to L.A. It wasn’t too brutally hot, and the scenery was typically spectacular — though the main park road was closed due to, I believe, flooding.

Anyway, here are some photos of the day, assuming I can master the photo-posting element of this interface. I had a close encounter with a jackrabbit, a less-close encounter with a coyote, and saw quite a few lizards and birds. If this stuff bores you to tears, apologies. I promise a baseball post before the end of this homestand.

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