July 2006

Ronnie? yes — UPDATE

UPDATE– This deal is happening. Straight up, Luna for Belliard. Announcements are expected soon.

According to a couple of different reports, a Cardinals-Indians deal is imminent that would send Ronnie Belliard to St. Louis, possibly for Hector Luna. Guillermo Mota might also be involved in a deal if it happens.

I don’t think a deal is DONE as of this time. I was just told by someone in the front office that there is "nothing to report at this time." I do think, however, that the number of different reports, and the people making them, indicate that something is shaking.

I don’t know that Belliard is a huge upgrade. Frankly, I think he’s a pretty similar player to Luna. But we shall see.

I’ll let y’all know what I know.

-M.

Pujols out

Albert Pujols has a hyperextended right elbow and is out of today’s game. He’s considered day-to-day and TLR hopes he’ll be able to play on Tuesday. Scott Spiezio is in at first base and Scott Rolen is batting third.

Additional details to follow in my notebook.

-M.

Lucky Seven

Here’s Lucky Seven, back again after a week away. Coming to you from the press box at Wrigley…

1. Who is your favorite Cardinal to watch play ball? Why?

2. Who is your favorite non-Cardinal to watch play? Why?

3. Who is the best leadoff man in the National League? What makes him your choice?

4. If you could bring back one, and only one, of the Cardinals’ free-agent starting pitchers next year, who would it be?

5. What do you expect the Cardinals to do regarding Jim Edmonds next year? Pick up his option? Decline the option and let him walk? Find a way to work out a new deal? What should they do? The option is worth $10 million, but the buyout is a hefty $3 million. So you only save $7 million by just letting him go.

6. What city has the best pizza in America?

7. What’s the NEXT movie you’re dying to see?

Currently playing on the iPod: The Libertines (self-titled).

-M.

Today's update

It’s steamy and muggy at Wrigley, and there’s bad weather in the area. So here’s hoping we get a game in tonight.

In the meantime, here’s the long and short of today’s news:

* It sounds as though Mark Mulder will face hitters on Tuesday. His bullpen yesterday was very encouraging. I’ll flesh this out in much more length in my notes this afternoon, so please do check back then. Mulder will throw one or two more bullpens over this weekend, then is expected to face hitters in a simulated game situation before going out on a rehab assignment.

* Duncan is starting in LF, despite the lefty on the mound for the Cubs. For what it’s worth, Duncan went 2-for-5 with a home run and two strikeouts against Hill in Triple-A last year. TLR said he did not take any experience Duncan might have against Hill into consideration.

* Luna is at 2B and Edmonds is batting sixth, per the normal layout against LHP.

 


* Lots of Minors news today, so I’ll have a bunch of Minor League tidbits i n my notebook. I won’t touch on them all here, because there are quite a few and none of them are earth-shattering, but if you’re the sort who follows the farm teams, be sure to check that out.

One other thing, apropos of none of this. A reader sent me a link to some photos he took of new Busch Stadium at night, and I think they’re cool stuff. Worth a look.

I’ll bring back Lucky Seven tomorrow.

-M.

On the Road Again

Spending extended periods of time away from home can be draining, even exhausting. And it can be disorienting at times — "Now WHICH city was I just in last week?" 

But it has its moments, too.

I come to you right now from Midway Airport in Chicago, where I’m about to greet my beloved bride. She was able to get free for a few days, so during the parts of this weekend that I’m not working, we’ll be having a little working vacation. (So please, cross your fingers for no rain delays or extra innings!)

During my weekend in Denver, I found a terrific coffee place, though immediately upon finding it, I also learned that it will be closing within the week. Bittersweet, but I’m glad I found them for at least a couple of delicious Americanos.

And then there was this morning, in Denver, when I saw sights the likes of which I had never seen before. At about 6:15 a.m., heading to the airport to catch my ungodly early flight, I first saw ligthning in the eastern sky. Not quite the-world-is-ending lightning like we had after the storm the other night, but cool stuff to see nonetheless. Then the sunrise started to get going in earnest. So you had lightning in the dark in one direction, and bright orange pastels rising in another.

Then, a rainbow. One that you could see from one end to the other. And as the day gradually brightened, the rainbow grew a little more defined. And as I stopped to fill up my rental car with gas, a faint second rainbow emerged around the first one.

Just incredible stuff. And if it hadn’t been chilly, and raining, and blowing wind at about 40 mph, I would have tried to take a picture of it.

All things being equal, I would have rather still been asleep at 6:15 a.m. But if I’d been sleeping, I would have missed something I don’t figure I’ll ever forget.

I’ll have some baseball blogging for y’all over the weekend, I promise. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go over to gate A9 and surprise someone who is expecting to be met at baggage claim, not at the gate.

Currently playing on the iPod: Doves, The Last Broadcast.

-M.

Other sports do exist

Just a couple of links about the two other sports that I get all geeky about, besides baseball.

First, I’m with these guys. Out of all the various preseason college football predictions I’ve seen, CFN is closest to what I think. Miami’s being vastly underrated in a lot of places. They’ll have a terrifying defense and a ton of offensive skill. They’re a top-5 team. And USC is my No. 1. Ohio State has a nice team, but I don’t expect them to be as good as some people think. FWIW, I have my Seminoles in the second half of the top-10. But I’m an eternal optimist.

Second, while I can’t stand the tone of this piece, I think Jason Whitlock’s underlying point here is excellent. Open-wheel racing in the U.S. looks like it’s just about to explode (in a good way). If Danica wins some races — and I believe she will win next year — and they keep some of the young talent they have in the IRL (Wheldon, Hornish, Marco Andretti), that’s going to be a series people care about. And then if they can actually merge, look out. I think Whitlock’s right — I think guys like Stewart might find their way over that way. Not immediately, but down the road a few years.

Thoughts?

Currently playing on the iPod: My Bloody Valentine, Loveless.

-M.

Albert's day off

Albert Pujols has a day out of the lineup today, with TLR saying he’s not really battling anything specifical physically, it was just a good day to get him a day. Every left-hander and switch-hitter is in the lineup, as lefties are hitting .326 against Aaron Cook.

Spiezio is in at first, Miles at second, Bennett catching, Duncan in right and batting second, Rodriguez in left. Rolen is in the No. 3 spot in the order.

Pujols, Encarnacion, Luna — not a bad set of bench options.

-M.

Briefly

1. I’m back, and will be blogging at a brisker pace again starting tomorrow. Sorry about the delay, but we were without power from the storm last Wednesday night until this afternoon.

2. Our power is back on. Hallelujah!

D. Scott Rolen is very, very, very good and ridiculously fun to watch. That may be the best play I’ve seen him make.

9. Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter are no slouches either.

V. From the list of things to notice from tonight’s game: Randy Flores. Swing-and-misses on both his fastball and his slider. I’ll have more on this tomorrow.

&. The Falling Rock Tap House in Denver is one of America’s finest beer bars, and Denver is one of America’s finest beer cities.

Currently playing on the iPod: Pearl Jam, Lost Dogs.

-M.

Skipper speaks out

Because it was a topic of discussion in the press box last night, as well as among fans last night and today, we had to ask TLR about the decision to leave Marquis in to take a beating last night. Clearly, he was expecting the subject to be broached, and he gave a lengthy, thoughtful answer during the pregame briefing with reporters. Rather than chopping it up, I felt hte best way to handle it was to run it in its entirety. The exchange took a full five minutes. It began with me asking whether it’s a tough thing for him to have to put a guy through that.

"Well, I mean, if you just take one game at a time, when aguy is struggling, you’d like to get him out. But if you can remember, there’s
at least two, maybe three other games where Jason gave up runs early and hung
around to the sixth, maybe the seventh inning, and the last two or three
innings, he didn’t give up anything. So it isn’t like he hadn’t struggled
before, and it isn’t like it hasn’t been good for him. Hanging in there,
pitching through it, maybe he discovered something. But there’s no doubt that
the day a guy is getting beat up, you wish you could do something else.

"I listened, only because of the place that I went, they
had the FOX (Midwest) thing and somebody called in and asked, and the guy was
explaining — and I told the guy to change this freaking channel — the guy was
saying that I was trying to make a point to Jason.

"When I see him, I’m going to make sure I talk to him. The
point I made was that he started the first game of the second half, right? And
when he struggled, he still got the ball. Those are the points that you make.
We’ve got confidence in you. It’s just, he’s been the guy twice who has
followed the game to where we were really vulnerable. And this is something I
should have, I thought about this later when I came in, and I told Joe to tell
Derrick to get it in the article, that circumstance, for any club, like us, if
you count it, it probably happens six, eight, 10, 12 times a year. Where the pitcher
takes the mound and he knows the bullpen is short and you’re vulnerable as
****. What you hope is that it happens on the road. Because on the road, the
home team is having fun and they don’t give a (flying leap) if you don’t make
changes. You get home, it’s a tough place to give it up like that.

"It’s not routine, because if it happens too often, you
don’t have a very good club. But even on a good club, you have days where your
bullpen is short. I’d say more often than not, when the starting pitcher goes
out there with that burden, it’s usually good for him. And the guy focuses
more, competes better and he gets deeper in the game. It’s just that, the
Chicago game, Jason did exactly what he did yesterday. When he missed, he
missed. And when he threw the ball over for a strike, it had so much of the
plate that…

"But like I said, which I wish had been repeated, we went
into that game with four innings of relief if we had a chance to win, and three
innings if we were behind. That’s what we had. And it’s not because there’s an
off day Thursday. It’s because of what we’ve gone through, and what we’ve got
today. The off day Thursday is going to give every one a chance to go ‘whew,’
and then we go to 10 in a row. That’s what we had. There wasn’t any way else
around it unless we walk into today’s game with nothing."

 (Follow-up question from another reporter: Was it as much a factor of the extra-inning games over the weekend as the rough one from Weaver on Monday?)

"However we got to that point, that’s what we had if you
didn’t want to take a chance on breaking that bullpen. Which I don’t see the sense in.


"The other thing that I look at, if you just take those
two games out, Jason’s ERA is… that’s not his strongest argument going into
his free-agent year. His strongest argument is he’s got his wins, and he’s
taken the ball regularly, and his stuff is good. So these two beatings, what
have they cost him? A point and a half?

"But when it got to be the fifth inning, you think, can he
get through the fifth? I wish he could get us through the sixth. But you could
tell that he was just fried. So it’s very difficult to put a guy through it.
Even guys that I don’t like, and there isn’t anybody that I can remember that I
don’t like that you would want to go through that. And I like Jason."

Take 'er easy, Dude

I’ll update this in some more depth this evening in my notebook, but John Gall has been released so that he can go play in Korea.

From a baseball standpoint, it’s not necessarily a huge deal, as Gall didn’t appear to figure much in the organization’s plans. Personally, I’m delighted for Gall.

It became quite clear that he needed a change of scenery, and I found myself hoping he would be traded — not in order to get anything in return, but to give him a fresh start somewhere. This should do the trick. He’ll make some money in Korea, hopefully hit the ball well and have another line on his resume for when he comes back.

I don’t ever expect Gall will be a big league star. He may not even be a starter. But I think he’s good enough to have a spot on a Major League roster, and I hope he gets it.

-M.

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