August 2008

Leach's Top-10, Let's Get Started! edition

My 10 best teams in the country, regardless of schedule…

1. Ohio State. So much experience, so much depth on the lines and at the skill positions. Fearsome team.

2. Oklahoma. See tOSU.

3. Georgia. Of course, even if they are the best team in the country, they could go 8-4 with that schedule.

4. Florida. Injuries are a major issue, but at full strength, who can stop them?

5. USC (west). Defense is scary good, and I believe Sanchez can get it done.

6. Clemson. Just beat the teams they’re supposed to beat and they’ll contend for the big prize.

7. Missouri. Color me skeptical, but willing to be won over.

8. Wisconsin. Same as it ever was.

9. South Florida. My sleeper of the year. I like this team a LOT.

10. LSU. Gotta have a QB.

-M.

Monday tidbits: Barton to DL

Greetings, all…

* Brian Barton has been placed on the DL, and Nick Stavinoha has been recalled from Memphis.

* Joel Pineiro is still listed as available in the bullpen but will start Monday in Phoenix.

* Rick Ankiel is still limited to LF.

* Colby Rasmus is not expected to be among the September callups, even if he gets healthy quickly.

More to follow on the site, of course.

-M.

Shameless (last-minute) self-promotion

In exactly two hours and 49 minutes, I’ll be doing a signing at the Borders in Ballwin — 15355 Manchester Rd.

Come on down, and failing that I’ll see you at Bruce tonight!

-M.

(PS – Yes, I do still cover the team; I’ve been working on national stories all week, and I’ve got days off this weekend. But I’ll be back on the beat for the Milwaukee series)

Golden moment

Nothing — and I mean, NOTHING — comes before the game at hand for Tony La Russa. The man is absolutely obsessive about winning today’s (or tonight’s game). He’s relaxed, relieved and wiped out after a win, and bordering on unbearable to be around after a loss.

It is, I’m convinced, part of his success. Friends don’t want to be around him after even a regular-season loss, and I’ve heard plenty of stories of TLR breaking/skipping dinner engagements with old friends after a loss to the Pirates in May.

But on Friday, something else won out. Something was actually bigger.

We reporters walked in his office after the game just as the 100M butterfly final was about to start. Literally, we step in the office as they’re showing the lane assignments. And there’s not even a conversation. None is needed.

He’s faced away from us, looking at the TV, and he doesn’t even make a pretense of looking up at us. And none of us even thinks about asking a question. We watch the race. We watch the amazing race, the dazzling display of truly historic sports brilliance. A cheer goes up in all parts of the clubhouse — they’re clearly watching it in the main clubhouse, and in the lounge, and anywhere else where there’s a TV.

We all watch a couple of replays. We look at each other. We marvel. We all grin.

And then the interview starts.

-M.

(PS: About halfway through the interview, someone asks him what he thinks of Phelps, and here’s the response:

“I was nervous throughout our game. The first game of the series is very important. But I was more nervous during that almost a minute of that race than I was at any point in our game. and that’s saying something, because I almost vomited a couple of times during our game.
Phenomenal, to be able to close like that.”

Hear, hear.)

Friday evening tidbits: Carp, Waino, etc

Greetings from Cincinnati, where it’s a beautiful night.

* Carpenter was placed on the DL with a strain of the teres major muscle in the back of his shoulder. Brian Barton was activated in his place. Per Dave Duncan, they’re aiming for the Aug. 29-31 series in Houston for him to be back in the rotation.

* IF everything goes really well for Wainwright tomorrow night at Springfield, his next appearance could be for the Cardinals. IF. And still no official declaration on how he’ll be used.

* LaRue is starting tonight, but it’ll be Molina the next two games. TLR didn’t say this explicitly, but I seem to recall that they like the way LaRue and Thompson have worked together.

* Ankiel in LF again tonight. TLR: “I think he’s still running with some restraints. I think when you see him in center field, you’ll know he’s 100 percent.”

* If you haven’t heard “Stay Positive” by The Hold Steady, go find it. Wow. My favorite new album in months — dating back at least to the Foo Fighters late last year and honestly I’d say even longer than that. Just killer.

* T-minus 13 days till college football kicks off. I’ll have a full top-10 in a few days, but I think my preseason No. 1 is Ohio State. Georgia is pretty awesome, but I can’t see any weaknesses on that tOSU team. Scary, scary bunch.

-M.

Carp to DL, Barton activated

Cardinals placed Chris Carpenter on the 15-day DL and activated Brian Barton. Details to follow.

-M.

Friday afternoon tidbits: Anks out again

Greetings from Wrigley, and I wish you all could be here. Absolutely perfect weather, pennant-race baseball, life is good.

* Rick Ankiel is out for one more day, but tomorrow looks like the target day. He worked out before the game, and there were actually two lineups posted in the clubhouse — one with him, one without. One player cracked that it was the “Double Secret Ankiel Lineup.”

* Joe Mather is leading off for the second time in his career.

* Springfield manager Ron ‘Pop’ Warner will be managing the Peoria Saguaros in this year’s Arizona Fall League.

* And in case you’re wondering why Isringhausen hasn’t been quoted anywhere recently, he’s not doing interviews at all. I asked him again today, and he was civil about it, but he said he’s not talking.

-M.

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