January 2007

Revisionist history

Anybody else amused by the shifts in perception of Jeff Weaver over the past six or seven months?

When the Cardinals picked him up, most of the email I received referred to it as, at best, shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic, and at worst, making a bad situation even more dire. Nobody viewed this guy as a difference-maker. The most optimistic folks (and I was among them) were cautious, essentially taking the view that the acquisition couldn’t hurt and had a chance to help.

Even after the deal, Weaver didn’t win anybody over for quite some time. People called for him to be booted from the rotation. This is forgotten in the postseason afterglow, but Weaver had a 5.18 ERA as a starter in St. Louis. He made it through the sixth inning four times in his first 13 Cardinals starts. He turned it on at the end, but it took quite a while.

So then Weaver goes out and throws some very nice postseason games. Unexpectedly, I might add. And now a whole lot of people are convinced that it’s a huge loss that the Cardinals didn’t bring him back. Either that, or they view him as some sort of traitor, because he was never worth a **** and then with the Cardinals he was great and by golly he owes them hugely because without the Cardinals he’d still never have been worth a ****.

I think it would be wise to take a step back and look at this rationally.

Weaver, for most of his career, has been a pretty good pitcher. Not great, but pretty good. Prior to 2006, he had an ERA better than the league average in six of his eight full seasons. He’s pitched 199 2/3 innings or more five times. For the most part, he’s been a durable, slightly-above-average pitcher. That’s before he ever got to St. Louis. But save for a few playoff starts, he’s never been great. Not even as a Cardinal.

The point is this… Weaver is a pretty good pitcher. He was a pretty good pitcher from 2000-2005. He is likely to be a pretty good pitcher again for Seattle in 2007. He likely would have been a pretty good pitcher for St. Louis in 2007 if he had signed. But he wasn’t an awful pitcher in the past (save for that brutal start to 06), and he’s not a great pitcher now.

-M.

(currently playing: The Joshua Tree. I’m old. We’ve been over this before.)

In Vino Veritas

So Mrs. Dude and I took a little anniversary trip last weekend. Yep, we survived the pivotal one year, so congrats to us! Anyway. I had planned to do a full travelogue of our travels (and, occasionally, travails) through Napa and Sonoma Valleys, but it may not happen. So in the meantime I wanted to offer a little tip of the cap to one particular place that welcomed us warmly.

Before we called it a night tonight, we opened a newly-arrived bottle of 2004 merlot from Miner Family Vineyards, located on the Silverado Trail in Napa Valley. I believe the exact town is considered to be Oakville,  but they’re really not in any town. They have a gorgeous, open tasting room with a spectacular view that I wish I had a photo of.

Anyway, after a couple of days mostly spent at the big names — we visited Rubicon Estate (formerly Niebaum-Coppola, aka Francis Ford Coppola’s winery, aka the place where you can see Vito Corleone’s desk), and we visited Robert Mondavi Winery and we visited Domaine Chandon — we wanted something a little more off the beaten path. So we hit the Silverado Trail, which is more of a secondary route. Visited ZD Wines, where we had a nice experience, and overheard another couple telling yet another couple what a wonderful time they had at Miner. So we took the advice, not even directed at us.

Best move of the trip. From the start, we felt welcome. The wines were fantastic. I don’t like Chardonnays, and I liked theirs. I hadn’t had a Merlot I’d enjoyed all weekend, and I liked theirs. And everything else was great too. We went through their tasting, liked everything and basically decided that rather than ordering a bottle or two, we wanted to join their club.

About that time, we were introduced to a fellow who worked there who hailed from STL. And he wanted to talk food, and wine, and home. And he set us up. Gave us a taste of one bottle after another, all really tasty. Gave us a (very good) dinner recommendation. Asked us for tips for where to go these days in STL. And just generally made us feel welcome.

So anyway. Big thanks to Miner Family, both for a great experience and for a tasty wine that we started to enjoy tonight. And if you’re in the area, go check them out. If you’re out there and from STL, tell them, and if the gentleman (whose name, horribly, we never did get) is there, he’ll probably take care of you too.

-M.

A plea

Hola, all…

I have a request for anyone and everyone. Please don’t email me about All-Star tickets. There hasn’t even been an official press release from MLB about the game. MLB hasn’t even announced a 2008 game site yet. There is no ticket info yet. There almost assuredly will not be until sometime in 2008.

Thanks much.

-M.

(the somewhat overdue 2006 music review will be coming in the next few days)

currently playing on the speakers: Regina Spektor, Begin to Hope (yes, Mrs. Dude, when you arrive home there will be some new music in the house :-))

Mulder, three others done deals

Mark Mulder signs for two years with 09 option.

Ryan Franklin signs for one year.

Rick Ankiel re-signed, Jolbert Cabrera receives Minor League deal with NRI.

More details to come soon.

-M.

"Do NOT disrespect David Veres!"

Apparently, in a truly unexpected development, it’s turning into Dave Veres Week in the Cardinals blogosphere. Veres is attempting a comeback with the Rockies, and I hope he makes it. If I recall correctly, he needs only days in order to reach 10 years service time and thus receive a pension. Not that he’s poor, but I hate to see guys fall just short of that. Anyway. I wanted to share my recollections and appreciate of Veres from what was a very challenging season.

I only covered Veres for a year — his last year in St. Louis was my first year on the beat. And after that year, I will always pull for him, admire him and respect him. I didn’t get to know Veres well, obviously, but he was greatly helpful and classy.

My first year covering the Cardinals was the year Darryl Kile died. I had been on the beat for exactly four months when I heard the news. I actually wasn’t with the team in Chicago — I was in Omaha, covering the College World Series for MLB.com. I headed home, and then to Chicago, and got to Wrigley a few hours before the Sunday night game the next day.

Over the ensuing days, and even weeks, there was more and more to be written about Kile. It was an extremely unpleasant job. These guys have all just lost a friend and teammate, and we have to pry and ask about it. I never have held it against any of the guys who didn’t want to cooperate. People grieve in different ways, and talking to a reporter is not high on many people’s lists of ways to cope.

For Veres, however, it was apparently helpful. He told us stories of him and Darryl, of his family and Darryl’s family. They were dear friends going back several years. The families lived right next to each other and celebrated holidays together. DK had some good friends on that team, but I don’t know that anyone, even Matt Morris, was closer to him than Veres was.

So Dave would tell us about Darryl. He’d patiently and graciously answer every question. It was a great show of dignity and class, and respect for us as well as his friend. I will never forget that. So thanks, Dave, and good luck.

One side note: the title of this post refers to a TLR outburst. One night in his office after a game, someone asked a question about a rough night for Veres, and TLR — who also had great respect for him — responded with those exact words. I’m not sure why it was funny, but it’s a line some of us still throw around in the press box to this day.

Side note 2: After a hard-fought Sunday night game in Atlanta in which Veres gave up a game-winning (game-ending, actually, I think) home run to Gary Sheffield, he gave one of my favorite quotes. The pitch was a splitter that dove. It was down, out of the strike zone, legitimately a good pitch that Sheffield just crushed because he’s Gary Sheffield. We had to go talk to Veres, and we had to come up with a way to ask him about the pitch.

So my question to him was: "Dave, it seemed like that was a pretty decent pitch. Was there anything more you could have done?"
His response: "Yeah. Check his bat."

Gallows humor is better than no humor at all.

Now playing: Pearl Jam, live in Milan 6/22/2000.

-M.

Contest!

The fine folks at A&E Home Video have provided me with three copies of the complete World Series DVD set — that is, the set with all five games — to distribute to you folks, the fine readers of OYNAG. So here’s how I’m going to do it. Please read the rules and guidelines carefully. And in the event of any dispute, I am the sole arbiter of who gets the sets.

I have three prediction questions. Each prediction question will yield one winner of the DVD set. The first correct answer for each question that is posted in the replies to this post AFTER NOON CENTRAL TIME ON MONDAY JAN. 8 will win one set. You may only enter once, and you may only win one set. So if the first person to post after the designated time gets all three questions right, then we will go on to the next person to get question 2 for the second set, and the next person to get question 3 for the third set.

The questions are as follows:

1. Who will be the first five pitchers to start games for the Cardinals in the 2007 regular season? It does not have to be in order. I just want the five names. Not necessarily the first five GAMES, since with off days there’s a good chance somebody will go more than once in the first five games. But the first five pitchers to start one game in the 2007 regular season for St. Louis.

2. Who will record the first save of the regular season for the Cardinals?

3. On Opening Day, who will bat in each of the following spots for the Cardinals: second, sixth and seventh? Name the player AND the spot. Just having the right three players is not enough. You must have them in order.

Please DO NOT POST YOUR ANSWERS until after noon Central time on Monday, Jan. 8. You may only post one set of answers. I will contact the winners seeking their addresses. Good luck, and have fun.

-M.

Dear TV Network…

Dear TV Network Which Is A Partner Of Major League Baseball:

As a college football fan, I am greatly appreciative of the money and exposure you have given the BCS. A couple of the games that had a bit less juice going in, you pumped and pumped and helped make into bigger events. For this, I am appreciative.

HOWEVER…

A couple of hints, from someone who watches tons of CFB and loves the game.

First, please do make sure you don’t miss, you know, the SNAP OF THE BALL. This happened twice in the Sugar Bowl, including once on a play where a touchdown was scored. Seriously. Less than 1/3 of the time in a football broadcast is taken up by the ball being in play. Please do make sure that you don’t miss any of that 1/3 of the time. Additionally, there was another moment in last night’s game when the camera cut to cheerleaders while the ball was still in play on a run up the sideline.

Second, with no insult intended toward the broadcasters who have called these games, it would be lovely if you could find a way to use people who know college football to call them. Someone referred to Joe Tereshinski as a "star" at Georgia — he’s the backup QB. There seemed to be lots of these moments, times when it was clear that the people doing the games were out of their element. It’s a testament to them that they have been as knowledgable as they have, but really — these are the biggest games of the year, let’s get people who’ve been following the sport to call them.

Thanks much.
-M.

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