Flirting With Disaster

Isringhausen says that the key to being a good closer is to not let anything bother you.  At least we know that Izzy will sleep well tonight.

Most scribes, as they rush to defend Isringhausen, are quick to forget that Izzy also had a terrible spring.  I’d rather rush to defend Adam Wainwright, a guy who held the line while the Cardinals bats tried muster something. 

I wonder where the Cardinals were, this offseason, when clubs were giving Dan Kolb away for free.  Kolb has surrendered only a hit over 3 innings worth of work.

The Cardinals should see if Anthony Reyes can close.  He’s got great stuff, and he’s been shown to not be able to go 200 innings in a year without injury.   

La Russa made an interesting move this afternoon.  When the Cardinals came to bat after Carlos Lee unloaded on Jason Isringhausen, Aaron Miles reached on four straight balls.  So La Russa asked #3 starter Jason Marquis to go out and drop a sacrifice bunt to move Miles into scoring position.  In years past, La Russa would’ve gone down and got an Eddie Perez or a John Mabry, guys that La Russa undoubtedly feels that can give him a game-winning HR.  This year is asked a guy to drop a bunt?  Don’t get me wrong, I like the smallball.  I love the smallball.  But it’s very un-La Russa like.  Maybe he feels that he really is trying to work with nothing this year, and when the Cardinals ownership starting pinching pennies on payroll last winter in the face of unprecedented revenue streams, he was left to "fill the holes" with guys like Skip Shumaker and whoever at 2B.  No, the Cardinals as presently constituted are not a championship-caliber club.

The 1993 Phillies/Darren Daulton

Here’s a link to an article that a friend tipped me off about:

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2006/writers/franz_lidz/02/16/darren/

It covers Darren Daulton’s insights into the universe, including a theory that everything revolves around the number 11, the strategic positioning of pyramids, the end of the world in 2011, etc.  Daulton makes Wade Boggs look sane.  Maybe Daulton and Carl Everett can have a symposium for crackpot theories.

The article also reveals that Daulton was a career .245 hitter.  I was shocked to hear that.  I thought he was closer to a .260 man. 

The article also reveals something about the nature of that Phillies club of 1993.  Those guys were into all kinds of stuff that nobody knew about, apparently.  This only begs the question I’ve been asking for a while now: What was the clubhouse dynamic like with that 1992 Phillies club, that featured these guys, and Good-Guy Dale Murphy.

The Kirk Gibson HR–1988 WS

Here’s something a friend sent me this afternoon.

I just finished watching "Beyond the Glory" on Kirk Gibson’s homerun.  It was pretty good stuff.  First off, that Gibson was okay.  They brought him to L.A. to regulate on the sissies that were a bunch of losers.  His whole philosophy was to play as hard as possible until your body broke, then get fixed and commence to breaking it again [kind of like the ‘Lather, Rinse, Repeat’ approach to baseball].  The most interesting aspect, however, involved the role scouting played in that most dramatic homerun.  A Dodger scout had watched Eckersley and realized that when he would get to a full count against a left handed hitter, he favored going to a backdoor slider.  When the count went to full, Gibson called time, stepped out, and smiled.  He was sitting on that pitch.  A fastball would have struck him out easily.  I just found it very ironic that the work of a scout proved so pivotal in that moment — and that it came against the Oakland A’s.  I’m not saying that an iBook wouldn’t have revealed that, but it does seem to be a powerful argument for the presence of scouting.

What’s Been Happening

I just got back in town, so let’s see what’s been happening:

1) The Brewers are on fire!

2) The Pirates are not.

3) I can’t wait to hear an impassioned defense of Jason Isringhausen, on how loading the bases and giving up a grand slam was all part of his master strategy.  It was because he thought his "out" was Matt Murton.

Eat Your Heart Out, Bronson Arroyo

The Ballad of the Atlanta Braves

A few years back, I wrote and recorded a song to celebrate the achievements of the Atlanta Braves organization.  It’s only a demo.  But I just put it on the server of a friend of mine, so you can download it and check it out if you want.  You can download it here.  If you just want to listen to it, click on the afforementioned link.  If you want to download it to your computer for you to cherish for all time, right-click on the link and choose "save target as." 

What’s that?  You think this is weird?  It is weird.  I wrote it when I was much younger than I am now, and I had much less going on in my life. 

Jason Isringhausen

It looks like the new, smarter Jason Isringhausen is no more effective than the old, stupid Jason Isringhausen.  "Izzy," true to the form he’s displayed the last few years, was handed the ball in the ninth inning of last night’s Cardinals/Phillies contest, where he promptly issues a couple of hits and a walk to load the bases.  Who says there’s no poetry in baseball?

La Russa, walks to the mound and points with his right-index finger, as if to say "Give me Isringhausen."  Isringhausen, wearing a determined scowl, makes his way from the bullpen to the mound.  They exchange a few words and then La Russa hands him the ball.  Isringhausen pulls the bill of his cap down over his face.  He is ready.  He won’t be rejected.  Not here.  Not tonight.  What’s his out pitch?  The cutter, of course.  Every other pitch he uses builds around getting to his cutter.  But the hitters realize this.  They know that Isringhausen won’t serve up a fat pitch because he’s looking to use his cutter.  So they watch.  And wait.  Ball one is a curve ball, just missing off the corner of the plate.  Ball two is a four-seamer outside.  Now he has the hitter right where he want him!  The next pitch is a fastball called strike on the inside corner; a pitch the hitter can afford to watch because he’s ahead in the count 2-0.  Isringhausen executes his pitch.  Now the count is 2-1.  He’s still behind the hitter.  What to do?  He can either go back to the breaking pitch, or go to his cutter earlier in the count than he’d like to.  Yadi Molina flashes the signal for the cutter.  They agree.  And the batter strokes the pitch for a single, setting up a hectic ninth for the Cardiac Cardinals.

The details of this pitch-sequence may not be exactly accurate, but it IS poetic!         

Ballparks and More

Washington Ballpark

In today’s Wall Street Journal, architecture critic Catesby Leigh hammered plans for the new Washington ballpark.  He writes:

What we get with the Nationals’ current design is a ballpark bowl enclosed by banal buildings with limestone (or precast concrete, depending on budgetary factors) unimaginatively framing vast expanses of glass.

and:

The design goes from banal to pretentious at the ballpark’s south end, where a triangular volume derived from I.M. Pei’s National Gallery East Building is awkwardly appended to emphasize, and indeed exaggerate, the nonperpendicular intersection of South Capitol Street and Potomac Avenue.

I am no expert in contextual architecture, but I do know a good-looking ballpark from an ugly one.  In my opinion, the plans for the new Washington park definitely belong to the latter; these designs make it look like a converted office park.

Busch III

The new Busch Stadium in St. Louis was showcased last night in a game between the AAA club in Memphis, and the AA affiliate out of Springfield, MO.  The new Busch is stunning.  I still hate the fact that tickets are terribly expensive, you can’t find any to buy, the average fan got priced out, the people that get to afford games now are the passively interested customers of some client who is in town on business.  I hate the fact that much of it was built with faux brick.  But from an aesthetic perspective, the new facility is stunning. 

Ryan Freel

Chewing tobacco notwithstanding, Ryan Freel is OK in my book.  I just saw him single-handedly make Dusty Baker concede third base as "stolen" because Baker didn’t want his guys to move out of position, in an attempt to take out the hit-and-run.  He’s a guy that will play a lot of positions for you, which leads me to question: Why don’t we respect these guys like we respect the multi-faceted football player?  Wasn’t Kordell Stewart nicknamed "Slash"?  Troy Brown of the Patriots and Neon Deion Sanders were great two-way threats.  To be fair, Jose Oquendo was nicknamed "The Secret Weapon," but that’s about it, as far as clever nicknames for utility guys go. 

Tim Wallach

That being said, today we honor the legacy of Tim Wallach.  Tim Wallach is a guy who was not unlike Oquendo, in that he played every position (except catcher), but unlike Oquendo, Tim Wallach never had a great nickname (as far as I know).  Therefore, I propose Tim "Eli" Wallach after the actor that was in "The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.  Eli Wallach was the Ugly.  Tim Wallach pitched a total of two innings over the course of his major-league career.  His ERA from the first game, in 1987 was 0.00, which is very GOOD.  His ERA from the second game, in 1989, was 9.00, which is very BAD.  His career ERA is 4.50…not good, not bad, but UGLY.   

Bonds on Bonds

I want to like Barry Bonds.  I really do.  Nothing would make me happier than to be able to root for him this season to pass the Babe and later Hank Aaron.  But I can’t. 

I just caught the highlights from the first episode of "Bonds on Bonds." 

1) Why would we expect to see the real Barry Bonds?  Do we think we saw the real Bobby Knight on "Knight School"?  I don’t think so.  This whole show is Barry’s design on how he wants to be remembered.

2) Barry keeps promising to stop talking to the media, but all I’ve been seeing lately is Barry in the media.  He says he doesn’t like the cameras, but everything I’ve seen really suggests that he loves the cameras.  He wants to be a movie star when he’s finished, right?  Why would he choose a second career, possibly the only career, where there are even more cameras?  Maybe he actually likes the cameras after all.

3) From the highlights I saw, it appears as if Barry is trying to run a very neat trick on us.  He weeps in front of the camera, about how much everything weighs on him and the like.  But I don’t know whether or not I can believe him.  If I should ask him "Barry, how can we believe you?  How can we believe you about steroids and not eating dinner at Ken Griffey’s Jr.’s house and everything he would likely look in the camera and say "I don’t give an ‘f’ whether you believe me or not."  And therein lies the problem.  Barry has no credibility and he is not willing to try to build any.  Derek Jeter has credibility.  Ken Griffey Jr. has credibility.  Dale Murphy had credibility.  Mark McGwire has none.  Raffy Palmeiro has none.  And Barry Bonds has none. 

There are some racist people in the world that hate Barry because of his skin color.  For that he has my deepest sympathy.  I also saw Ken Burns’ Baseball, the final chapter, in which he interviews Hank Aaron.  Hank showed several letters that he received of the same type, death threats, racist propoganda and the like.  The implication that Barry attempts is that to question the validity of Barry is to side with the racists.  And nobody wants that.

He said, through tears, that he would "like to walk away, but he can’t." and that "he doesn’t need the money."  So the money means nothing to him?  Is that what I hear him saying?!?!?  That goes against everything I’ve ever read about Barry Bonds.  Remember that thing in New York a couple of years ago, when you could pay several hundred dollars to hang out with Barry for half a hour?  Both him and ARod participated, although ARod donated his share to charity.  Barry donated his share to Barry. 

All these things aside, I would like to root for Barry, I really would.  Steroids or not, he’s still one of the greatest players I’ve ever seen.  But then, this magical thing happened: He started to hit more home runs as he got older; something that has never happened before.  Maybe it was his ego, his pride that made him do it; I don’t know.  Maybe he is completely innocent, and all of these things (leaked grand jury testimony, Book of Shadows, etc.) have him all wrong.  But Barry surely isn’t going to tell me.  Oh well.  Maybe he’ll at least say some things about Jeff Kent, another guy I’m not particularly fond of.