It’s about that time

After another long, cold winter without baseball (ok so it wasn’t exactly cold in StL) tonight our boys of summer return to the field!!  The Cardinals are playing in Miami against a team to keep your eye on this season – the newly renamed and renovated Miami Marlins.  I’m pretty excited, are you?  The Marlins have a new stadium and we will break it in this evening at 6p to officially kick off the 2012 MLB season!!  (Technically the Mariners and A’s already played 2 official regular season games in Japan last week, but lets face it – no one actually considers that to be the start of the season!! The other 28 teams still had a week of Spring Training left to play!!)

I spent close to 2 weeks in Florida during Spring Training and made it to 7 games, seeing a total of 9 different teams play, and I gotta say – I’m excited for this season!!  Here are my predictions for what we can expect to see this season.

AMERICAN LEAGUE:

The EAST division is going to be a tough one, like usual.  Arguably the best and toughest division in baseball.  The Yankees have a good chance at ending up atop the heap again, especially with the addition of Michael Pineda, who they got from Seattle for something like a few subway tokens and a pair of seats from old Yankee stadium.  But other teams out east may make it challenging for them.  Players being a year older makes most of the Rays old enough to drink, and that extra bit of maturity and experience will likely show up on the field.  They’ve had good pitching, as long as their bats can provide run support they have a fighting chance to contend.  Of course the Red Sox have a shot – if they stay in the dugout and focus on the game.  And don’t count out the Blue Jays who have a lot of upside coming into this season.  From the CENTRAL I think we can expect to see the Tigers, who have added Prince Fielder to their infield.  He will more than adequately replace Victor Martinez.  In my opinion they are the stand alone division winners, but anything can happen!!  Out WEST the Angels are the team to beat, having added our beloved Pujols and CJ Wilson!  Signing Albert gives them a ton more runs, RBIs and HRs, and adding CJ not only improves their rotation – but they took him away from their closest divisional competitor – the Rangers.  Texas replaced him with Yu Darvish, who has the potential to make an impact.  Having said that – Japanese pitchers have not historically made the expected splash in their American debut.  Either team could claim that title.

NATIONAL LEAGUE:

The Phillies will likely reign again in the EAST as they have lost nothing but gained Jonathon Papelbon.  The Marlins are jumping leaps and bounds over what they typically do, and their new ownership seems to want to actually KEEP good players instead of selling them in order to help other teams win titles!  Fans and players alike must be completely confused!!  Ok so they probably won’t take out the Phillies, but they have a shot to be a great team this year.  The Nationals, too, are setting big goals.  Their manager said that if they can’t make the playoffs in ’12, he has no business managing the team.  Those are some pretty big words…..  And let’s not forget the Braves – one of the best teams through August last year.  Unfortunately for them, they share the division with Philly so it’s unlikely they’ll get very far.  The CENTRAL division is obviously going to be taken by the St. Louis Cardinals!!  There’s no reason to think we aren’t still the team to beat after losing Albert Pujols.  We have plenty of bats left in our lineup to carry us to the top.  In fact – we were in 1st place last year while El Hombre was on the DL!  Adding Beltran and having Wainwright back are pluses and Carpenter will only be out 6 weeks or so.  The Reds could make some noise for us having added Matt Latos and Ryan Madsen but I still think we got this.  Milwaukee lost Fielder and I think they did little to compensate.  They could be tough, but probably not tough enough.  The WEST has Arizona, who can likely repeat their incredible 2011 season with their very talented and very young pitching, but the Giants will put up a good fight with the return of Buster Posey.

In the end – I think the Angels, Tigers and Yankees will top the AL divisions, while the Diamondbacks, Cardinals and Phillies will be the leaders of the NL.  The wild cards (there should be 2 in each league this year) could go to Rangers, Blue Jays or Rays in AL; Giants, Braves, or Reds in NL.

AGREE??  DISAGREE??

No matter what the outcome – I’m just happy because it’s finally OPENING NIGHT!!  162 days of fun in the sun (plus playoffs of course)

[OOPS!!  It was just made aware to me that Ryan Madsen is having Tommy John surgery, so obviously he will not make any appearances for the Reds this year.  Bummer for them – great news for Cardinals fans!  (Although I never consider a player’s injury to be a good thing)  Anyway – just a little FYI]

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It’s December 25th so…

Just wishing Happy Holidays to all of my roughly 7-10 dedicated readers!!  🙂  Hope everyone has a great holiday with loved ones and a prosperous and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!  The Cardinals got Carlos Beltran….what did you get?

And in an effort to include everyone:  FELIZ NAVIDAD/Happy Hanukkah/Happy Kwanza/Happy São Tomé/Happy Boxing Day and of course MERRY CHRISTMAS!!


Pujols left us; it doesn’t mean he didn’t love us.

For 11 seasons Albert Pujols graced St. Louis with his talent to crush a ball into the upper deck of a stadium (or in the case of Brad Lidge – into orbit) and his ability to handle his glove with finesse.  Both a silver slugger and a gold glove recipient, Pujols’ talent pool runneth deep.  He is considered one of, if not THE, greatest player of all time, while also receiving much deserved praise off the field for his family values, religious beliefs and charitable works.  After about an hour-and-a-half in the minors, he came up and wowed the world of baseball with his raw talent.   Pujols is an icon already, and a legend in the making.

But I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.  In St. Louis the name Albert needs no surname.  In fact, you could simply refer to him as #5 and no one would be confused.  Everyone here knows who he is, what he does, how much he loves God, that he’s a family man, and that he loves giving back to the community.  For 11 years this had been common knowledge, and the city of St. Louis had loved him unconditionally.  Until, in a matter of minutes, things changed.  “Unconditional” love found its sole condition:  Don’t leave.

For the first time in his unbelievable career Albert became a free agent, a day Cardinal Nation had been dreading, and desperately hoping to avoid.  For 2 years the team tried to negotiate a deal in hopes of evading free agency, but in the end it didn’t get done.  He tested the market and chose to sign with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for 10 years, $254 million.  Media has listed the Cardinals’ offers all over the board – ranging in years from 5-10 and in dollars from $195 – 220 million.  Unfortunately, the Cardinals lips are sealed, so no one knows for sure what the final offer really was.  And it’s almost irrelevant, because  he didn’t take it.

The response has been, in my opinion, disgusting.  I understand that Cardinal’s fans are hurt, heart-broken and feel betrayed.  Once I got over the initial shock I felt that way too.  But instead of being hurt, I went into defensive mode – because I was hearing and reading such horrible things I couldn’t help but defend the poor guy.  Ok, insanely rich guy, but still.  People are burning his jersey for crying out loud!  C’mon people that’s absurd!  (Besides – the Astros are who got screwed the worst in this deal jajaja) First of all – he’s not a traitor or a back-stabber or a hypocritical, greedy S.O.B. who has no loyalty.  Second of all – IDIOTS!  Whether he’s a Cardinal or an Angel – he’s one of the greatest of all time and that stuff will increase in value with every bomb he hits!  Aghhh, I’ve never been so disappointed in Cardinal Nation.  We’re supposed to be the Best Fans in Baseball, but the way people are acting – well I feel like I’m in Philly.

Mostly, it seems that people are upset because he has said for years how much he loves StL, wants to play here forever, wants to retire a Cardinal, can’t imagine playing anywhere else, and so on, and so on.  But then he leaves us anyway – so obviously he’s a liar and a hypocrite, right?  Well, by definition yeah I guess that would make him a hypocrite.  But I don’t see it so cut and dry.  My parents lived in a house for close to 30 years.  They loved that house.  They built a home and raised a family in that house.  They spent more than half of their lives, and basically their entire life together in that house.   They probably said – on more than one occasion – that they would have loved to stay there forever.  But yet – they moved.  LIARS!! HYPOCRITES!!  Or maybe everything they said was true, but in the end it’s just not how it worked out.  They found something else that better fit the needs of their future, even if it meant leaving behind a beloved piece of their past.

I believe both Albert and Deidre Pujols when they say they love St. Louis and everything about it.  I believe them when they say they never wanted to leave.  And I’d be willing to bet that accepting an offer that wasn’t the Cardinals’ was one of the hardest decisions they’ve ever had to make.  Albert was raised in baseball here, it’s close to “home” in Kansas City, they have a restaurant, their foundation and a loyal fan base of THE best fans in baseball.  They’re already rich beyond their dreams…..why WOULD they want to leave?

Well – I’ll tell you why I think.  If the Cardinals tell me that I’m part of their long term plan, that they want me to be around for years and years to come, and yet they’re not willing to guarantee anything beyond 5 years – I’d be a little skeptical.  If they say that what they truly want is to keep me for the long haul – then what’s the hold up in committing to it now?  (Obviously I don’t know for sure how many years were part of the final offer – but Deidre said 5, and the Cardinals haven’t denied that.  It’s always “sources say…” so I’m assuming that their silence confirms it, because if they HAD made the final offer for 9-10 years, then why won’t they say so?)

The Angels, on the other hand, said they wanted him as part of their long term plans for the organization, and they put their money where their mouth was.  They locked El Hombre in for not 10, but 20 years!  After the end of his 10 year playing contract, they included a 10 year “personal services” contract which can consist of him organizing events, appearing before key games and/or speaking at team related public events.  It also prevents him from being able to work for another professional baseball team during that timeframe.  Smart move, LA.  According to the Pujolses, the Cardinals didn’t seem to like the idea of a personal services contract, while the other side of their mouth was still saying – “but we want you long term, we want you part of the Cardinal’s family”.  Well, which is it?

I’m sad that he’s gone.  I feel a little betrayed and a little like I’ve been tossed aside without concern, but I know it wasn’t intentional.   If anything, I think the Cards dropped the ball here, not Prince Albert.  If they didn’t want to go to 10 years or cross the $200 million mark, that’s their right, because it’s their money.  I personally wouldn’t have wanted them to go beyond 7/8 years, being a National League team.  What bothers me – is that they were contradicting themselves by talking about long term but not offering it.  (Again – this is based on various reports of Cardinals’ offers and what the Pujolses have said.  To the best of my knowledge nothing has been confirmed – or denied – by the Cardinals organization.)  A 7 year contract with a club option for the 8th year and a personal services agreement to begin at his retirement might have shown Albert that they meant what they said.  I actually believe Deidre when she says they were as shocked to be leaving St. Louis as we were.

Another thing I want to talk about is the idea that Pujols leaving the Cardinals makes him disloyal.  NEVER MISTAKE A PLAYER FOR A FAN.  We are Cardinals fans.  Our loyalty is to the Cardinals no matter who owns, manages, coaches or plays for the team.  This hasn’t changed for over a hundred years.  In my lifetime, players have come and gone but my allegiance is always to the birds on the bat.  This is not true of a player.  They’re loyalty is to the team as long as they are employed by that team, because it is their JOB to be a good teammate, to earn the love and trust of the fans, and to give nothing less than 100% effort in doing whatever that team needs them to do.  When they stop being employed by that team, they’re loyalty goes first to their family and the future of their career.  While Albert would have preferred to stay here, in the end, he had to do what’s best for HIM, not what’s best for US.  We, as fans, don’t factor into his decision.  And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Albert gave us 11 amazing years of baseball.  He hit countless home runs.  He made great defensive plays.  He projected an image that parents can be proud to have their kids look up to.  He set records (and often went on to break said records).  He led us to 2 World Series titles and played a key role in hundreds of baseball memories that we will cherish forever.  He worked hard and he played with heart.  Everything that he was – won us over, heart and soul.  For 11 years we felt like we were part of an incredible love affair that was never supposed to end.  But it did.  He broke up with St. Louis and moved on so quickly, leaving us angry and hurt, wondering how and why this happened.  I feel it, too.  But we have no reason to blame him and he has no reason to feel guilty, because when he was ours, he gave us everything he had to give, and so much more.

I’d be a liar if I said I hadn’t gotten misty eyed once or twice over losing such a great player from our team and such a great person from our community.  But still, I wish Albert and his family nothing but greatness as they begin a new chapter in their lives, and I have high hopes for my beloved Cardinals as they begin a new era in St. Louis baseball.  Because after all, life (and baseball) goes on.


Late night coast to coast: 19 innings and a rolled ankle

Last night was a marathon of a game in Philadelphia.  It lasted more than 6 hours and included 28 hits on 135 at-bats and 601 pitches thrown by 16 pitchers.  (Including Wilson Valdez, a utility infielder for PHI, who closed the game in the 19th inning and got the win.)  Sheesh!  That’s an interesting game!

What’s more interesting is that 25 of those hits came in the first 10 inning with both bullpens allowing only 3 hits combined for the remaining 9 innings.

The Reds had a chance to do some damage in the 11th when Brandon Phillips was hit by pitch with one out.  Votto then walked, putting 2 on with one out and Rolen at the plate.  Phillips, however, was chatting with the Phillies shortstop as he wandered off the base for his lead, and was easily picked off by Romero as he was not paying much attention.  (He did hold himself accountable for his mistake; he even tweeted his apologies to Reds fans for not having his head in the game and possibly costing them a win.)  The game continued for 8 more innings when the Phillies, out of relievers, moved Wilson Valdez to the mound.  Facing the meat of the Reds order, Valdez needed only 10 pitches to get 3 outs.  Votto flied out to center, Rolen took first after being hit, then Bruce and Fisher both flied out.  With pitches in the upper 80s, Valdez was the first position player to pitch for the Phillies since 2002, and became the first position player in baseball to record a win since 2000.

If you watch the highlights of his outing, you’ll see how confident Valdez is in his pitching abilities.  Once Fisher connected on the ball, Valdez didn’t look up, didn’t even turn to see the catch!  He simply grinned as he trotted off  into the dugout.

Over on the west coast, the Marlins and the Giants were also playing late into the night.  The Giants never had a lead, and after tying the game in the 9th they played on for 3 more innings.  In the 12th, Scott Cousins reached base on a fielder’s choice bunt.  He advanced to 3rd on a single and after a caught fly ball in right field, he tagged up and headed home.  With Buster Posey blocking the plate – Cousins dropped his shoulder and collided into him.  As he toppled over backwards, his ankle rolled, or bent, or mangled….whatever it did it looked nasty.  He was helped off the field and x-rays and an MRI confirmed the teams biggest fear: it’s broken.

His agent is contacting MLB to push for a rule change that would prevent these kinds of collisions.  I don’t think Cousins was in the wrong, based on the current rules, but this kind of injury, or worse – concussions, just don’t seem worth it to me.  Yes it was the go ahead run and yes it helped the team get a win, but do you want to risk your career for one W?  I wonder what Mike Matheny’s answer would be.

At no other base can you stand in the basepath and block the bag, nor can you plow into the fielder attempting to hit him so hard he drops the ball.  You slide – get under the tag, around the tag, past the tag…not through the fielder.  Football players get fined for helmet to helmet collisions, why are baseball players allowed to play so rough?

Other stories worth noting – if Dodgers owner Frank McCourt can’t make payroll for his players next week, MLB will likely take full control of team.  Can you imagine being Matt Kemp or Andre Eithier and going to the bank only to have your MLB paycheck bounce!  YIKES!  Other ownership woes in NY as Fred Wilpon makes negative comments about his players.  Doesn’t he know he’s already in enough hot water?  He’s still looking to sell a good chunk of the team (as a non-controlling partner).  Who’s going to spend that kind of money to own a significant piece of a major league team and have zero say in day-to-day operations?  Idiot.  Which brings me to my last mention – Marty Brenneman.  A Reds broadcaster who felt the need to talk shit about the Cardinals, which was a classless move that only made him look bad.  LaRussa’s response?

“He earned the right to get into the Hall of Fame,” La Russa said. “And now he ought to keep earning that respect instead of abusing it.”

Now that’s a classy response.


I like interleague play

This weekend has been the first round of interleague games this year, with probably the most notable matchup being the return of the Chicago Cubs to Fenway. Regular season games between the two leagues began in 1997 and has drawn it’s share of criticism. I personally like interleague play, but I do agree that it could use a few changes.

The biggest complaints usually involve the Designated Hitter rule. First of all, American League pitchers don’t bat, so many will argue that it’s too risky having them at the plate with little or no experience. No one seems to have a problem with this during the World Series though, and maybe a little mid-season practice is helpful if their team is lucky enough to be playing in late October. Others argue that they simply don’t like seeing AL pitchers fumble at the plate or on the flip side, National League fans dislike the loss of certain strategies with a DH in the game. The only change I’d like to see involving the DH – is switching when it’s used. If the Red Sox come to St. Louis, I’d rather see Big Papi in the game than watch Clay Bucholz attempt to bunt. We miss getting to see some of the biggest hitters in baseball and the AL fans don’t get to see double switches and the occasional pitcher helping their own cause by getting on base. I say use the DH in NL parks, and not in AL parks, for interleague games.

There is also quite an imbalance in scheduling that can stir emotions. Teams play the “cross town” rival (which is usually just the team that is close, geographically) more often than others in the opposite league. For the Mets, this means they play more games against the Yankees than any other opponent in the AL. This affects the difficulty in a teams schedule, as I’m sure they’d prefer to play the Orioles or Mariners, which instead is left to teams like the Nationals and Padres. We play the Royals twice every year, one series in St. Louis and one in KC. Why not only have 1 series with the “cross towners”, and just switch cities every other year?

I love being able to see other teams and other players, but I also get impatient waiting for a certain team to come to town – another area of inconsistency in the scheduling. The Cubs are playing in Fenway this weekend and it’s the first time since the 1918 World Series that they’ve been there. Seems a little odd to me that in 15 years of interleague play this is their first trip to Boston. I used to think that the divisions were paired up; that over the course of 3 years you’d likely play every team in the opposite league. (For example, the NL Central could play the AL West this year, East next year and Central the following year, then back to the West and so on.) I know it can’t be an easy thing to put together a schedule involving 30 teams with so many games and specific matchups, but I’m sure a better balance is possible.

All things considered, I like it. I enjoyed sitting near the 3B dugout for the Rays games in ’08 and thinking “My God! They’re teenagers!” Cardinals fans love going to KC every year for the I-70 series. (To be fair, though, Cardinals fans love going anywhere to see them play!) I’m anxiously awaiting the return of the Rangers, and also the Yankees – who last played here in ’05 when I didn’t have field level tickets (and do now). On a shelf in my basement sits a ball that was tossed to me by Dallas Braden just weeks after throwing a perfect game for Oakland, and World Series rematches are always good fun the following year.

So while I’d like to see some adjustments made, all things considered, I hope interleague play is here to stay.


Let’s all do a rain dance for squeeze week

This week in baseball all 30 teams play on all 7 days, Mon – Sun, a scheduling oddity known as squeeze week.  There are no scheduled off days for any team in either the American or National Leagues.  Honestly, it means nothing to most people.  Fantasy team owners will be happy to know they won’t have any days with empty roster spots, and die hard fans will be thrilled to be able to watch their team every night.  Other than that, it’s meaningless.

It is, however, happening at terrible time, a time when the weather is not cooperating.  This year has been dubbed the year of the pitcher, but it’s also been very much the year of the rain out.  Weather related issues have forced many games to be postponed – 26 so far – and it doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon.  Horrible storms and possibly tornadoes are expected to hammer much of the midwest today and tomorrow – reaching as far east as Pennsylvania and as far south as Texas.  Being squeeze week, every team can potentially be affected by this, and with no days off there are less opportunities to make up games before get-away-day.

Rain outs are normal and every year there are plenty, but this season seems to be drowning in them.  So far we’ve had 26, and it’s only the middle of May!  Many of these games have already been replayed, but some teams have double headers scheduled in July and August or have lost a scheduled day off for make up games.  The real problem that we’re facing here is that come September some teams could be forced to bring up a guy from Triple A to pitch in a double header during a pennant race!  How much would that suck?

Total number of rain outs per year:
2007          39
2008          40
2009          37
2010          21
2011*        26
*Through Sunday, May 15

If this doesn’t stop, we may have the first ever Thanksgiving World Series due to a months worth of make up games.  So, I propose a league wide rain dance to chase away these storms so our boys can roll up the tarps and get back to playing ball.


Who blew the save?

Ok guys – this is a topic I was thinking about discussing anyway, and today’s Cardinals game gave me the perfect opportunity: Let’s talk about blown saves.

For those of you who didn’t see the game, let me give you the cliffs notes version.  Garcia started the game and carried a 4 run lead into the bottom of the 5th, where he gave up 3 runs.  With a score of 4-3, Motte entered the game in the 7th with a runner on second.  Thanks to a fielding error by Pujols, the runner scored and the inning continued with yet another run for Atlanta.  The Cards entered the 8th down by 1 run and promptly tied it up, and LaRussa brought in Franklin.  He pitched a perfect 8th, then Theriot made an error in the 9th that put a runner on base.  That runner soon-thereafter scored, winning the game for Atlanta.

Cardinals fans everywhere are crucifying Franklin for blowing yet another save.  Which is interesting since Motte was the one who blew the save.  Motte came into the game with a lead and allowed the opposing team to overtake us.  Franklin came into a tie game and allowed the winning run to score – a loss yes, but not a blown save.

Today’s game raised a few questions in my mind as to how some of these stats are decided.  First let me say that “Blown Save” is a stat that MLB does not recognize.  You’ll never see it listed on a players stats page.  Oddly enough – if you go to the box score on the teams official site (run by MLB) it does list which pitcher was charged with the blown save by noting “A. Player, (BS, 1)” exactly as wins and loses are noted, “A. Player (W, 3-1)”  Regardless of this contradiction, because it is not an official stat, the rules used to interpret a blown save aren’t always concrete.  Here are some interesting facts to consider:

  • The official scorer can assign a blown save to any pitcher who came in in a save situation, and allows the opposing team to take the lead, no matter what inning, even if his team then goes on to win several innings later.  It happened to Mets reliever Tim Byrdak last night, who threw a total of TWO pitches in the entire 14 inning game. 
  • As we saw in today’s Cards game, a pitcher is given a blown save even if the winning run scores due to a fielding error.  So another player F’s up and the pitcher gets screwed.  (It’s still recorded as an unearned run and therefore does not affect a pitcher’s ERA, you know, because it makes sense to say the run wasn’t his fault, but losing the game clearly was.)
  • Because of the definition of a “save situation” a pitcher will not get a blown save if he comes into the game with a lead greater than 4 runs and still somehow manages to give it away.  This is far worse, if you ask me, but no BS will be noted behind this pitcher’s name.
  • Similarly, a pitcher who enters a tie game and allows the go-ahead run to score is also not given a blown save, even though he took away (or made more difficult) his team’s chance to win.
  • If a pitcher blows the save in the top of the 9th and his team comes back to win it in the bottom – he is given a blown save and a win.  If a pitcher blows the save in the top of the 9th and the game continues, tied, and then another pitcher gives up the go ahead run in extra innings – well I have no clue which one would be given the blown save!!  How would you determine who to give it to?  Because if the second pitcher closes the game in extra innings and his team wins – he would certainly be awarded a save.  Based on that it’s only fair to assume the last pitcher would be given a blown save in the event that the the team loses in extra innings, but isn’t the pitcher from the 9th more to blame?  They wouldn’t even be playing extra innings if the first pitcher hadn’t blown it then!  Can you assign two blown saves?  [**CORRECTION** If a pitcher comes into a tied game, he would get a win or loss, not a save or blown save, if the game is either won or lost during any inning that he pitched.]
  • A pitcher can come into a game and give up any number of runs, allowing the go-ahead run(s) to score against his team, and will not be given a blown save if he did not record an out.  So if a guy can’t even get a single out before blowing it – he’s off the hook!

Whew!  I hope that isn’t as confusing to read as it was to write! LOL.

Blown saves certainly say something to a pitcher’s ability to pitch, but maybe it’s a stat that shouldn’t carry as much weight as it does.  I think you have to look at blown saves with a grain of salt, and consider with it ERA, WHIP and K:BB ratios.  Also consider the defense behind him, and the offense he has to work with.  If you look at a pitcher who has no blown saves and is backed by a team that makes few errors and scores lots of runs VS a pitcher with 3 blown saves and a team loaded with errors and low on offense, you can guess that the blown saves might not be a very accurate measure.  Who remembers Jason Isringhausen?  He would come into a game with a 3 or 4 run lead, load the bases, maybe even give up a run or two, then (after half the stadium had collapsed from heart attacks) he would get the outs and the Cardinals would win.  And he walked away with a save, despite allowing hits, walks and even runs to score.  His teams’ ability to score runs and keep the other team from crossing home plate too often gave him the ability to struggle through save opportunity after save opportunity and come out on top.

I have one more thing to mention on this subject – not in defense of Franklin or Motte specifically – but in defense of every player who has been blamed for singlehandedly losing a game.  (Can you say Buckner?)  There are 9 innings in a game, 27 outs per team, and a minimum of 9 players opposing at least 9 more, that contribute to every win and every loss.  (Not to mention managers and coaches who have complete control over who plays where and who pitches and when.)  There are certainly times where one player can be held mostly accountable for the outcome of a game.  But even a perfect game cannot be done without serious help from the other 8 guys on the field.  In today’s Cardinal’s game, if Franklin had not allowed that run to score, we certainly would have won.  There is no doubt about that.  OR if Theriot hadn’t made that error in the 9th, there wouldn’t have been a runner on base, and we would have won.  OR if Pujols hadn’t made an error in the 7th, we would have maintained the lead and probably won.  OR If Motte hadn’t given up back to back singles in the 7th, we wouldn’t have gone into the 8th down by 1, and probably would have won.  OR if Garcia hadn’t given up 3 runs in the 5th we would have held onto a much larger lead, and probably would have won.  Do you see where I’m going with this?  The closer gets “charged” with a blown save, gets a black mark next to his name, because he was the last player to make a mistake (or to be on the mound when someone else made a mistake) that contributed to the loss.

I get that a closer’s role is to go in and end the game without allowing runs to score, and to keep the lead in tact.  But a fielder’s role is to make plays without errors.  A starter’s role is to pitch the vast majority of the game while getting outs and allowing as few runs as possible.  Please understand that I’m not saying blown saves is a horrible stat, just that it’s inaccurate in many situations (most often when there isn’t one recorded).  Think twice before you crucify the next guy who “blows a save” for your team, and consider who else was a part of the losing effort.

For the Cardinals, I think closer by committee is the best way to go right now.  The argument can be made that we need to designate a closer so he “knows his role” – but seriously, a pitcher’s role is to go in and get outs.  No matter what inning, no matter what the score.  A save situation certainly adds a little pressure, and these guys are human and have insecurities, but this isn’t little league.  Bring in the guy who can get it done tonight, regardless of who did it last night or the night before.

(Funny side note – I had forgotten that Isringhausen was still playing, but then he came in to pitch for the Mets as I was writing about him.  Too funny!)