April 2006

Lazybones, call me lazybones

Believe it or not, I’m coming up on some more time off. Am I slack or what?

This one is badly needed. Last week, even though I wasn’t covering games, I traveled on two of the three days I didn’t work. This weekend will be lazy — sleeping, watching some ball on TV, watching some playoff hockey and basketball, and of course the Nextel Cup boys at Talladega. I don’t really care much about the NFL Draft, except insofar as it’s a chance to talk a little college football.

I love this time of year, not so much sports-wise but beacuse it’s time to start looking ahead to summer. Summer concert tours, summer movies, summer weather, etc etc etc. The new Pearl Jam disc is coming out soon, the Black Crowes are touring, Lollapalooza has a cool lineup. And, of course, SNAKES ON A PLANE.

Suppose I don’t have much to offer right now, but I didn’t want to go a full week without posting. In the interim, check out some of the links over on the side. There’s a lot of good stuff out there, particularly in the Cardinal blogosphere.

Now playing on the iPod: Simpatico! by Velocity Girl. Underappreciated band.

-M.

Albert Unplugged. Again.

One of my colleagues in the press box tonight basically said that we should all take a pay cut tonight, because Albert Pujols did our work for us. Actually, this scribe said that he himself did the work, by asking the questions that sent Pujols on his way, but either way. I respectfully disagree — especially since my game story was about So Taguchi, and I just cranked out a little sidebar on Pujols.

Anyway. For those who are interested, here are Pujols’ comments, in their entirety, on Oliver Perez and the bat-flip issue. Some great stuff in here. If Pujols is really turning into a quote machine, life on the beat is going to be a lot better this year.

"If you look at it, he struck me out last year and he did
all his dancing and all that stuff, and I remembered that. That’s what happened
in Pittsburgh. I hit that groundball back at him and he did his little dance
again, and I got really upset. I went to the video room and I told my guy Chad,
‘I’m going to hit the next ball and I’m going to hit it a long way. But don’t
look at the ball. Look at where the bat is going to land.’

"Because I respect
this game just like everybody else. And when I see a guy like that, with the
talent that he has, disrespecting the game — that might be the way that he
pitches, but I don’t care. I don’t care what you do out there. But when you
start pointing and looking at the guys at the plate when you strike somebody
out, that’s disrespecting the player. I probably shouldn’t have taken it to
that level, where I threw my bat like that. But at that moment I was pretty
pissed off.

"I don’t care what the media or whoever said something in Pittsburgh
last week. I don’t care because they don’t know why I did that. Now I’m glad
that I got the opportunity to say it. That’s what I say. I think that he got a
little cocky out there, and so am I. I think anytime, you have it 50-50. You
have it 50 percent that you can take somebody deep, and he can strike you out. But
if he does strike you out, he needs to respect the game and not try to show
people up.

"Same thing happened with Jerome Williams, two weeks ago,
Opening Day in Chicago. He struck me out on that Sunday night baseball game and
did a little dance, and I didn’t appreciate that. I almost did it over here and
threw the bat, but I didn’t want to take it to that level. I respect this game
so much. And I’m sorry if I disrespected the game that day, but that’s the way
I feel.

(follow-up question: so were you making a point by being so matter-of-fact
about it tonight?) "He paid me back, and that was in Pittsburgh. I don’t think I
need to show him up again, if he doesn’t do it again. If anybody in the game
shows me up, be ready, because I always remember that. That happened last year,
it happened this year when I hit a groundball back to him, and that might be
the way that he pitches.

"But I don’t care what you do out there. I just believe
that if you do it, don’t try to look at the player, don’t try to look into the
dugout, just do your thing and be over with it. sometimes you take a guy deep
and everybody gets real mad, and that’s when trouble starts. You hit another
guy, you hit this guy. You don’t want things happening like that.

"I heard a couple of people say something yesterday about
the home run that I hit against him in Pittsburgh. They were talking about it. My wife was actually the one that brought it to my attention, and I told her
why I did it. I told her why I did it that day. And that’s it. I need to drop
it. I hit one tonight against him and I ran the bases like I always do. I
probably shouldn’t bring it down to that level like I did last week, but I
showed today that that’s not the way I play the game. At the same time, I need
to respect my teammates. Because I don’t want any of my guys to get hurt from
me doing something stupid like that.

(another follow-up — did anybody on the team say anything to you?) "Rolen mentioned something, but he knew why I did it. He
knew I was pretty upset the way the guy is, but he was one of the guys who told
me, ‘Hey, you’re a better player than that. You respect this game so much.
Don’t bring it down to that level, because you are the one that is going to
look stupid.’ Which I did. I looked stupid. That was my fault. I’m human. I
make mistakes. Drop it like it’s hot. That’s it."

Now playing on the iPod: The Cure, Acoustic Hits

-M.

Sending good thoughts

I don’t know Aaron Gleeman. Never met the guy in my life. I read his blog every day, because it’s a very good read, but that’s the extent of it.

But Aaron and his dog, Samantha, are going through stuff nobody should have to go through. Please send both of them some well wishes, or prayers if that’s your thing, because this is pretty awful. It’s horrible when anyone who matters to you suffers. But somehow, there’s something extra hard to swallow when it’s a pet — they depend on you so much, and they can’t at all comprehend what they’re going through, and you can’t help.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go home in a few hours and make sure my little family — wife, dog and cat — know how much they mean to me.

One other thing — I’m off for the Cubs series (long story), so I may not post over the weekend. So in case I don’t get this up on Thursday, let me say it now, 70 or so minutes before the day begins — Happy Birthday to my mom. I love you and I hope it’s a spectacular day. Thank you for everything.

Playing on the iPod: Bachelor No. 2 by Aimee Mann.

-M.

Wainwright and Hancock

If I knew how to do trackbacks, I’d do this a different way. Obviously I’m still something of a blogging newbie.

But Ryan VB at Cardinals Diaspora raised an interesting point about last night’s game, something I thought about myself. Why was it Josh Hancock, rather than Adam Wainwright, pitching the long relief?

The Earl Weaver Method — which, in my estimation, is about the best justification for ANY strategy — of developing young pitchers is that you use them in long relief. You use them in games just like last night, when you get stretch them out and get them 3-4 innings without giving them the pressure of a start. (By the way, if you’re a baseball fan and you’ve never read Weaver On Strategy, go find a copy and read it. Seriously.)

But as Danup suggested in the comments, the reasoning is that Wainwright’s stock has gone up quite a bit. He’s not a guy they want pitching mop-up. They want him as an integral part of the bullpen, a guy who can get big outs in games where the outcome is in doubt.

I asked skipper La Russa this morning about using Hancock rather than Wainwright, and here was his response:

"He (Wainwright) is going to have plenty of innings. He’s going to have
plenty of appearances. The thing we want to do is preserve him where you’re not
— right now he’s one of our better weapons out there. You don’t want to waste
him in a game like that."

I followed up, suggesting that sometimes you want to get a young guy innings. His response:

"That’s if he
was in a different category. Right now he’s pitching effectively and we need
him to do his thing."

Encouraging both for Wainwright and the team, I think.

Now playing on the PNC Park PA system: Elvis Costello, "Peace, Love and Understanding." Great tune. They’ve played some fantastic stuff this week.

-M.

Warm and Fuzzy

So this is the one-year anniversary of MLBlogs, and I’m pleased to have been a part of it. Obviously what I do here doesn’t really fall under the purview of what blogging was meant to be, since I don’t do a lot of links-and-commentary, but I have a great time on this site and I hope you do too.

So, in short, thanks to everybody for reading not only OYNAG, but my work at MLB.com. And thanks very much for your thoughtful comments. I appreciate that the tone of conversation pretty much always stays civil, and you guys have given me some things to think about.

I’m incredibly fortunate to have this job, where they pay me to do two things I love — come to the ballpark and write. And I’m additionally fortunate to have this extra outlet, where I can put a little more of myself into it. I love talking ball, and this is basically another place to talk ball.

So thanks to everyone. Keep visiting, keep reading and keep commenting.

And while I’m at it, keep reading all the other great Cardinals blogs, as linked off to the side here. There’s a ton of good stuff out there.

-M.

Albert Pujols, unplugged

Albert Pujols has obviously done a lot in five years in the big leagues, and he’s established himself as basically the face of the Cardinals franchise. One thing he hasn’t done a lot of over his five-plus years, however, is speak for the team to the media. He’s bright and interesting, but interviews are far from his favorite thing.

The reason I preface this entry with the above is that I think it’s admirable, and a step forward, for Albert to say what he said tonight. He hasn’t often been the guy to step forward and take the heat off his teammates, or to say the hard things that need to be said. That’s not a failure; it doesn’t mean he’s not a leader or that he’s not a bad teammate, but it is something you’d like to see the face of the franchise do. It’s what Jeff Bagwell has done in Houston. It’s what Derek Jeter does for the Yankees.

I asked him after the game how big a deal it was for Jason Isringhausen to come in and nail down the save, and Pujols ran with the question. He took the opportunity to stick up for two of his teammates who have heard it from the fans. Whether or not you think it’s OK to boo these guys, whether or not you were actually booing them, I hope you appreciate Pujols stepping forward and being the leader, being the face, sticking up for his guys. Here’s his answer, unedited, uninterrupted and unaltered, to my question. There were no follow-up questions. This is all one statement from Pujols.


"It’s good. It’s good to see. I told him to relax. It’s a
long season. Everybody goes through some slumps. Same thing with Juan Encarnacion.
I’ve seen these guys for seven years in the league, and they know how to do it.

"For the fans in St. Louis to be
booing Encarnacion, I don’t think that was right. I didn’t say anything the
other day because I respect our fans, but I think that’s not our fans, booing a
player like that. Because he’s trying just as hard as we’re trying to win
games. The thing is, you’re booing a guy right now, but when he gets his
approach, everybody’s going to love him. And I don’t think that’s right.

"I got
really mad at our fans the other day for booing Encarnacion. Because the guy is
frustrated right now. The guy is trying to do as much as he can to help us out
to win, and the last thing you want to do is have our own fans, 45,000 people,
booing a poor guy like that. I know he’s going to get out of his slump.

"Same thing
with Izzy, they were booing him at our place, and I’m telling you, I don’t know
what’s going on with our fans, but I don’t think that’s the right way to
approach it. It’s a long season and that’s why you play 162 games, so you can
make your adjustments. We’ll win some games. That’s the key."

Now playing on the iPod: Better than Ezra, Before the Robots (hi, Erin!)

-M.

Four observations and a link

I sometimes grouse about going to Pittsburgh, but only because my history here hasn’t been very good. I’ve had way too many bad driving experiences here, and my first time here, I stayed at an awful, awful motel. So I have nothing against the city, but it’s not been a trip I look forward to — despite the lovely PNC Park.

Anyway, four observations upon my arrival in Pittsburgh.

1. They love their Stillers. Love ‘em, love ‘em, love ‘em. I saw more Steelers gear in the airport today than you even see Cardinals gear in St. Louis. Good stuff.

2. When you are coming out of the terminal area at the airport, and going down to baggage claim, you see a pair of wax statues next to one another. They are, and I cannot make this up, statues of Franco Harris and George Washington. Awesome. What a great combination.

3. Taxis here have a meter rate of 23 cents per 1/7 of a mile. I’m not making that up. $1.61 a mile, and it clicks off at the rate of 23 cents, seven times a mile.

4. They’re very friendly here. I love that. Not many cities this far north are this friendly.

One other thing… My friend and colleague Derrick Goold blogged at much more length than I did about the Hector Luna question over at the Post-Dispatch’s site yesterday. Derrick is a little less of an H.Luna backer than I am, but we’ve both pondered the same things, and he definitely did the topic justice. It’s worth reading — as Derrick’s blog tends to be.

-M.

In praise of Hector Luna

Hector Luna is truly a confounding player in a lot of ways; he’s a difficult player to assess. Because the Cardinals selected him as a fairly raw player in the Rule 5 Draft, the notion existed that he might develop into a star. Luna’s already 26, though, so it’s more like he’s entering his prime than in his early developmental years.

He’s performed poorly at Memphis, and he’s had some rough Spring Training showings, and it’s frustrating to think of a guy who "turns it on" for the regular season — especially a guy who hasn’t established himself as a star. But then he does turn it on, hitting well in his exposure in the Majors.

Luna’s a tough guy to get a read on, in a lot of ways. But even with all that, and even with the lack of game-in, game-out consistency and hard-nosed-ness, he was a productive hitter in 2005, and his early showings in 2006 have been more of the same. Luna, in 2005, his .285/.344/.409. Admittedly it was in 137 at-bats, but that’s a pretty fine offensive line for a second baseman.

For his career — and remember, this is a guy who jumped from AA to the Majors, so there was a definite adjustment period at first — he’s hit .271/.326/.396. If he’s a legitimate 270/330/400 hitter, that’s a guy who won’t hurt you in 400 at-bats at second base. If he’s, say, a 280/340/430 hitter, that’s pretty tasty at second base.

I hope we get to see what Luna can do in 400 at-bats, because I think he would be an offensive asset.

-M.

Close enough?

First, thanks for all the responses, positive and negative, to my previous post. I’m glad y’all are reading, and delighted to get so many comments.

Anyway… I think the fine folks over at The Birdwatch are onto something. Not on something — onto something.

It looks to my eyes like the radar gun at new Busch Stadium is a little slow. Now, mind you, this is progress from the gun at the old place, which would give you readings anywhere from 40 mph to 111 mph to 9.12 farthings per parsec. But still, it’s odd.

Either basically every pitcher on the Cardinals staff has lost about 3 mph off his fastball, or the gun is slow. Carpenter and Marquis have both routinely read about 89 mph on the gun, and that just seems off.

Any thoughts?

-M.

You cannot be SE-rious!

Sorry, folks, but in my eyes you can’t call yourselves the "best fans in baseball" if you boo Jason Isringhausen that mercilessly after two bad games.

It’s one thing to boo a guy who isn’t putting forth the effort, or who is making bad decisions, or whose head isn’t in the game. But a guy who’s giving all he’s got, and isn’t getting results, it’s bad form to boo him.

Isringhausen is struggling. He’s not right. There’s little doubt about that. But this is two bad games. He had a rough one in Philly but didn’t give up a run and got the save. Isringhausen ranks second in franchise history in saves and has been the closer here for three playoff teams in four years. There’s no denying his effort, no denying his desire. It’s not as though he’s dogging it. He’s just off right now. It happens to everybody.

If you want to boo the manager for the decision to bring Isringhausen in, well, I don’t even think that would really be fair, but even that would be more defensible. To boo Isringhausen himself as he comes in the game, and then loudly and roughly as he leaves after a tough game, I can’t see it.


Now playing on the iPod: Pearl Jam’s Riot Act.

-M.

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