Sorry for my long absence. The end of the postseason and the beginning of the offseason pretty much demanded all my time, but I intend to post more than ever as the winter goes on. Hopefully 3-4 times a week, maybe more.
In the meantime, congratulations to the White Sox, who did a lot of things well on their way to winning a ring.
Check back tomorrow.
Yes, it’s the baseball postseason. That won’t deter me, or plenty of other scribes, from keeping track of what’s going on on the gridiron on Saturday. What a great time of year in sports — baseball playoffs, the NFL is under way, college football has really heated up, the NHL is back, and NASCAR is going down to the wire.
Anyway, here’s my top-10 going into the weekend…
- USC. What else can be said? I think they throttle Notre Dame, which is simply not a top-10 team in my book. (or in my poll)
- Virginia Tech. It’s sort of a tossup between them and Texas, but I think they’re a little more solid, a little less likely to have a bad game.
- Texas. This is a trap game this week. If they come out, play focused and lay the smackdown on a decent Colorado team, it will say a lot.
- Georgia. I saw an interesting theory that none of the SEC teams this year are THAT great, and every time one beats another, we make too much of it. Even so, I like this team a lot. And Pope, their tight end, is an absolute monster.
- Florida State. This weekend would be a much scarier game if UVa weren’t underachieving so much. I think the only way these guys get a scare before the Florida game is if somebody really comes out throwing and challenging their DBs.
- Alabama. I thought these guys were interesting, but I didn’t see that Florida win coming. I’m still not sold, but they’re undefeated. I’m watching.
- Penn State. They’re undefeated, they beat a good team, what the heck. Like Alabama, I’m not sold. But they bear watching.
- Miami. Beat somebody, already. UM-FSU would be a very different game right now, eh? Probably more likely 20-17 than 10-7.
- UCLA. See Alabama and Penn State. Undefeated, with one very nice win, but I want to see them do it again.
- Boston College. I think this team is very strong. They’re physical, they play defense and they can move the ball. There’s a good chance they could finish the regular season 9-2 with both losses coming to undefeated, top-5 teams.
Game of the week: I know I’m supposed to say SC-ND, but that game is just overhyped. ND doesn’t really impress me. Instead, let’s go with Louisville-West Virginia, because believe it or not, one of those two teams is almost certain to get an automatic BCS berth. Ouch.
Teams to watch: Colorado, Auburn, the Wisconsin-Minnesota winner, Texas Tech (see above, "Beat somebody, already!")
This is not a shot at the Cardinals, because it seems to happen everywhere.
But does anybody get the feeling that when they announce a home run’s distance, visiting players are always docked about 10 percent? Reggie Sanders’ shot in the first inning tonight landed in about the third row behind the visitors bullpen. It was a monster homer, and the 445-foot destimated distance was likely accurate.
Chris Burke’s homer in the seventh, however, looked to MY eye to be even more massive. It banged off the facade in left field, just below the lower deck and just to the left of the Big Mac Land sign. That’s a rocket shot, my friends. And the estimated distance? Four hundred twelve feet. C’mon. Something tells me that if the names on those homers had been reversed, so would have been the estimated distances.
Again, this isn’t a Cardinals thing. You see it everywhere. I’ve seen it in the reverse direction at other parks. And besides, I may really just be imagining it, and there may be a chart that shows that those two HRs were exactly what they were announced to be.
But it makes me suspicious.
Postseason workout days challenge writers in many ways — coming up with clever story angles when there’s not a game, making your travel arrangements work so as to be there for early afternoon starts, etc. etc. This is not a complaint, as I absolutely love the postseason. It’s just that workout days are more of a challenge than game days.
But this is the big one: food. You arrive at the park late morning or very early afternoon, and you’re there until the evening. And there just. is. no. food. The popcorn machine? Turned off. Peanuts? No way. The box lunches that we get on game days? Ha!
So veteran scribes know to be creative. I bring a little bag of munchies — today a granola bar and some potato chips, sometimes some fruit, whatever. And then there’s the sad case of one out-of-town writer, who arrived at Busch Stadium with a tasty burger and fries. He sat it down, turned to speak with another writer, looked back — and his fries were gone.
This, friends, is just wrong. Just plain wrong. I hope they cause great indigestional distress for the person who swiped them.
Now, you’ll have to excuse me. I need to go home and have some dinner. I’m starting to fade a little bit — nothing but a granola bar and pringles since this morning, y’know.
Hope y’all don’t mind a flood of posts today. Just one more thing on yesterday’s clincher — a few things I observed in the midst of the celebration yesterday.
- At one point while Reggie Sanders was talking to reporters, he was jumped by a slew of teammates chanting "M-V-P" and dousing him. Unfortunately there is no MVP award for a Division Series.
- Throughout the celebration, there were little groups that appeared like champagne flash mobs. You’d see one guy signal to 3 or 4 or 5 others, and suddenly they’d all be on one unsuspecting teammate. Funny stuff. Dave Duncan was one of the main victims.
- Maybe the funniest moment, to me, came when Jeff Suppan and Jason Marquis were near each other. One said to the other — wish I remembered which — "let’s get a picture of the Game 4 starters!" And a photo was taken of the two of them.
So, just a few odds and ends and thoughts on the wrapped-up Division Series…
- Cardinals starters were really impressive. Mulder has been excellent, Carpenter had a fine game and Matt Morris may have impressed me most of all. He wasn’t perfect, but he consistently hit 93-94 with his sinker and mostly kept it down in the zone, and he had a better curveball than I can remember seeing from him in quite a few starts. Very encouraging going forward.
- The bullpen concerns are valid, to an extent. I personally expect Ray King to have a strong LCS, and Randy Flores has to be considered a plus at this point. The right side misses Al Reyes, and Julian Tavarez’s difficulties against Houston seem to be an issue.
- However, the offense is really a plus at this point. Albert Pujols quietly had a fine series, and his "supporting cast" nearly all did good things in the Div. Series. It’s easy to forget just how much the Cardinals missed having Reggie Sanders and Larry Walker at full strength. Those guys are essential.
- The Cards should greatly benefit from some time off. Watch the Mulder situation closely; if he throws a bullpen Monday or Tuesday, that will be good news. Walker can almost certainly use a couple of days after being hit by a pitch and tumbling over the wall.
- I don’t expect the roster to change significantly for the LCS, though I wouldn’t rule out a small tweak or two.
I’m in San Diego right now, heading back to STL on Monday. So greetings from "America’s Finest City." Can’t wait to be home with my bride-to-be and our dog and cat. Even in an beautiful city like this, there’s a lot to be said for home.
Just a quick note…
There was no top-10 this past week, basically because I saw no college football last week. Thanks to Saturday’s 4 am start in San Diego, however, I was able to see lots of pigskin this week. So the top-10 will return, with much love for Georgia and Penn State.
Just wanted to get that out there.
Here’s a quick update on the Cardinals’ Division Series roster. I’ll have much more in my notebook, which will be on the site shortly after the game starts.
Position players: C Yadier Molina, 1B Albert Pujols, 2B Mark Grudzielanek, SS David Eckstein, IF Abraham Nunez, OF Reggie Sanders, OF Jim Edmonds, OF Larry Walker, C Einar Diaz, IF/OF Hector Luna, IF/OF John Mabry, OF John Gall, OF So Taguchi, OF John Rodriguez. Scott Seabol and Skip Schumaker are not on the roster.
Pitchers: Chris Carpenter, Mark Mulder, Matt Morris, Jeff Suppan, Jason Marquis, Randy Flores, Ray King, Jason Isringhausen, Julian Tavarez, Cal Eldred, Brad Thompson. Marquis is listed as a bullpen option for today. Suppan threw a side session yesterday and was not listed on the lineup card as a reliever for this game.