Saturday, July 28, 2007

Brief Baseball Blogging

Now that the second half of the season is already two weeks old and counting, I figured it an appropriate time to jump in with my mid-season thoughts, hopes and predictions.

- It's rumored GM Walt Jocketty will leave after this year. Which would be a shame, because over the past 13 seasons, he has been responsible for assembling teams that have won one Wild Card, six Division winners, two NL Pennant winners and one World Series winner. Not a bad resume.

If he's leaving on his own terms, then Happy Trails. But if he's being slowly pushed aside for sabermetric guru Jeff Luhnow, who in my opinion has been hand selected by ownership to replace Jocketty, then I want to vomit up phlegm.

Not because Luhnow isn't good, because I have no idea, but because my biggest fear is that Cardinals ownership is about to get incredibly cheap. Luhnow can probably play "Moneyball" better. Do more with less dough.

The timing of which makes no sense. Money is pouring in from winning a championship. Merchandise sales are through the roof. The stadium is sold out almost every night. And the Cardinals owners are looking to cut payroll and expenses to make the bottom line even more gigantic. That sucks. I feel phlegm in my throat.

Prediction: Walt Jocketty's disposition at the end of the season will determine whether the above ownership statement is true or not. If he stays, then the ownership cheapness rumors are not true. If he resigns
or is fired (little chance of this), then be prepared for some mighty lean years to end the '00s.

- Tony LaRussa is completely spent in St. Louis. With the talent he's been given by Jocketty, he has done well. Not great, but he has been successful. But nobody likes him. And he seems to do everything in his power to make sure that happens.

At the end of last season, after finally getting the monkey off of his back by winning a championship, he has blown it. It should have been a reprieve. He should have been much more relaxed and jovial.

Instead, not only do we get Mr. Surly back unchanged, but he has proceeded to completely wipe away any good will most fans had left at the end of 2006. An idiotic feud with his 3rd baseman went on all winter long, he gets busted for a DUI in the spring, he gets in to it with CF Jim Edmonds, leaves the best player in the NL on the bench in the All-Star game, then bristles at Albert Pujols for actually wanting to play in the All-Star game.

On top of that, he has continued his bone-headed strategery during games, his handling of the starting pitching and bullpen have been a mess and the Cardinals, barring Walt pulling off a big trade, are going to miss the playoffs for the first time in 4 years. But I will say something good about his on-field managing. He's good at the squeeze play. Which is nice the 3 times during the year when it's used.

But the biggest factor is that I think this team was never ready to start the season. In fact, I'm still waiting for the season to start. The team has been sparkless, sluggish and difficult to watch. And that hasn't changed this entire season. Injuries to key players have undoubtedly contributed to my perception, but if we aren't going to win, then doggone at least give me a team that is fun to watch.

Prediction- It all depends on Jocketty. If he exits, then LaRussa won't be too far behind. But I can't imagine him wanting to end his tenure in St. Louis like this. He'll be back one more year.

- Albert Pujols remains incredible. Just put some half-way decent guys around him and you'll have a .500 team.

- The starting pitching has been criminal. The blame for that falls on Jocketty and on LaRussa and pitching coach Dave Duncan. Jocketty put this team together, LaRussa has completely botched using it, and Duncan, the so-called miracle worker, must have had a short circuit. No wonder the team is lifeless. When you are consistently down 5 or 6 runs in the 2nd inning, it gets to you after awhile.

- The offense, which started slow, has been passable. But the hitters are not nearly as patient as they were before Hal McRae arrived as hitting coach 2 years ago. Even Pujols at times has seen anxious. Just take some pitches sometimes, guys.

- The bullpen has been overworked and misused. However, collectively they have overall done the best job on the whole team.

- The defense has been horrible, almost as bad as the starting pitching. Hey Tony, So Taguchi CANNOT play centerfield. He's a terrible outfielder. Why can't you get it?

- Player predictions: Scott Rolen will be traded. David Eckstein will be lost to free agency. Jim Edmonds will retire. Jason Isringhausen will be traded. And next year is going to be a long one.

- Divisional predictions:
National League East- Mets will outlast Phillies.
National League Central- Cubs. The Cubs do this every few years. They win a slew of one run contests in the same year, and everyone jumps on their bandwagon. Then for the next 4 or 5 years they return to normal and lose all those one run games, often in hilarious fashion. I will say this, though- I think the Cubs have a harder schedule than the Brewers. The Cardinals? They will finish 4th behind the Cubs, Brewers and Astros.
National League West- Padres. Although it should be wild to watch. And the trade deadline, which looms large, could tip a team over the top.
American League East- Yankees. Don't laugh. I believe they are poised for a run.
American League Central- Indians. I'm not just saying that! The Tigers faded the end of last year and will do so again this year.
American League West- Angels.

- Wild Card predictions:
National League- Milwaukee.
American League- Boston.

- Pennant predictions:
National- Mets.
American- Boston.

- World Series:
Boston over Mets.

- There is no dominant team this year. Making it all kind of up for grabs. Too bad the Cardinals won't be in the mix. Because, as was shown last year, all you need to do is make it in. Then it's a crapshoot-

anything can happen!

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