Thursday, August 30, 2007

My Weekend Got Progressively Better Until It Actually Blew My Mind

Good grief, I take a few days off and look what happens! The NL Central is a mess! The Cubs are in first and hanging on to a precarious 1.5 game lead over Milwaukee, the Cardinals have charged within 2 games of the lead and even jumped into second place for a brief minute yesterday, the Astros fired Phil Garner, Roy Oswalt did that thing he does by shutting out the Redbirds in his return on Wednesday, Carlos Zambrano warmed the cockles of my heart by blowing another game, Alfonso Soriano returned quietly to the Cubs lineup on Tuesday, Adam Kennedy had knee surgery, Scott Rolen missed a few games because of that nagging shoulder injury of his and amongst it all, I made my annual pilgrimage to St. Louis for the Braves series and what would turn out to be one of the greatest weekends of my summer.

When I left on Friday the Cards had just taken two of three from the Marlins and were 3 games back in the division. Spirits were high, my gas tank was full, my iPod was charged and I was ready to go! Upon arriving in St. Louis it became clear that Mother Nature wasn't NEARLY as excited about baseball as I was. It rained and rained and poured and stormed for what felt like an eternity before the game actually started. And then it only got worse as the Birds fumbled around committing a handful of errors and failing to generate nearly enough runs to support an average Kip Wells performance. Plus, a big obnoxious Cubs fan was sitting directly in front of me. Seriously. It's like these people follow me around or something. What are the freakin' odds? But anyway, my Dad and I were Crabby McCrankypants when we left Busch Stadium after that hot mess.

Fortunately, things got better on Saturday. The weather cleared up considerably, Joel Pineiro pitched well and we were able to put together a strong inning against Tim Hudson and squeak by with a 5-4 win. Plus, our seats were a little bit better and the game got over with early enough that we could go out partying with Missouri's finest until the wee hours of the morning. We even got our picture taken with Captain Morgan and saw a woman wearing a banana clip. A BANANA CLIP! I don't think I've seen one of those since 1986! Beautiful stuff, I tell ya.

However, it wasn't until Golden Day Sunday that I became positively euphoric. Those Cardinal Club tickets I mentioned a couple weeks ago? Yeah, they were the coolest seats I've ever sat in. It was physically impossible to eat and drink all the free food and beverages that were being offered and we were close enough to the field that my Mom was calling balls and strikes. If I were so compelled, I could have confessed my undying love to Albert Pujols and he would have been able to hear me. The weather was perfect, Adam Wainwright looked awesome, Jason Isringhausen didn't give me a stroke and Juan Encarnacion even hit a homerun. It was quite literally a perfect day and I don't throw that term around loosely! Add that to a couple Cubs losses over the weekend and I actually wanted to cry. If I would have been crushed by a Clydesdale that night, I could have died a happy woman. Plus, we got to pose with Fred Bird! I dare you not to be jealous.

In summary, I'm high on Cardinal fumes right now. Also, I'm kind of thinking that after Sunday, my wedding and the birth of my first born have a lot to live up to. Make of that what you will!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Was It Good For You?

Well, we finally won a game against the Scrubbies yesterday. There were homeruns (Ankiel, Pujols), solid defensive plays (Ankiel, Pujols), some reasonable relief pitching (Franklin, Isringhausen) and a great all around performance by Scottie Rolen (3-4, 3 RBIs), yet somehow it all felt a little bit anti-climatic to me. After the emotional roller coaster I rode off the tracks on Saturday, the Monday afternoon contest left me asking, " that it?" I think this reaction is a solid testament to how different these things are when you're actually there in person or otherwise 100% engaged in the action. When you are watching each and every pitch and muscle twitch surrounded by others that are just as emotionally invested in the results as you are, it changes things. Suddenly, that particular game becomes infinitely more important. A win provides unparalleled jubilation, while a loss makes it feel like you had your insides removed, rearranged and stuffed in backwards. I think this is why it's been so hard to watch the Cardinals play games at Wrigley Field over the past few years. I've had seats at four of them and watched another handful among the ticketless in Clark Street watering holes. (Which is practically like being at Wrigley Field anyway, except the beer is marginally less expensive.) Of these, I've witnessed just one victory and I'm telling you, I've never wanted to win SO BADLY as I did on those days. (In the regular season, anyway.) It has been utterly GUT WRENCHING to keep getting that same result every time I venture out on the Chicago streets in my Cardinal red. It goes so far as to skew my perception of the team and its abilities when I ONLY get to watch them lose and merely read about the wins on the internet. No matter how talented the sportswriter, there's no way to relay the intensity of any given inning. Baseball is meant to be watched with full and undivided attention because it's just more awe inspring that way. The magic gets lost in translation otherwise.

This extends to games at Busch Stadium, as well. Instead of being something that would be kind of nice, winning games I'm physically there for becomes something I NEED! I'm gearing myself up for this, as I drive down to St. Louis on Friday afternoon for the weekend series against the Braves. Do those particular games, win or lose, become any more relevant to the team then the ones played earlier in the year? No, absolutely not. But dammit, they matter more to me! And I think we all know that's what TRULY matters.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Stop Raining, Dammit!

After Saturday's game was delayed and then interrupted by rain, the skies continued to unleash the fury yesterday causing game three to be postponed before the end of the third inning. This was great news for people that didn't want to have to sit through three hours of watching Carlos Zambrano scratch himself, but not so good for those hoping to see him accidentally drown in a puddle. I, for one, am sort of grateful for the day off, as it's allowed my anxiety levels to return to normal. Being out in Wrigleyville on Saturday in my Cardinals attire probably increased the likelihood of my eventual institutionalization by about 85%. I swear on my life, if one more person told me to "GO HOME, CARDINAL!" I was going to snap and flatten his face with a bar stool. I AM home, you ignorant morons! Last I checked, you didn't have to automatically abandon your intelligence and become a Cubs fan in order to become a Chicago resident. Add that to the game itself, and I was even saltier then normal by the time it was all said and done. (I'm refusing to comment on the details of the actual baseball contest, because I'm not even close to being over the many things that angered me in its duration.)

Anyhow, it's raining again here in Chicago, so expect a soggy ending to today's finale. Nothing lifts the spirits of baseball fans like three consecutive days of rain delays! WEEEEEE!!!!

Sunday, August 19, 2007


He was SAFE!!!!

Aside from that, I have nothing to say. Except expletives. Lots and lots of expletives.

DAMMIT!!! Dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit.

Friday, August 17, 2007

This Is Supposed To Be Fun, Right?

Sweet mother of Jesus, that sucked. I'm not even necessarily upset about the loss, because let's get serious for a's only one game. I just have a tendency to overreact emotionally to these things and I HATE losing the close ones. To be fair, we held our own. It isn't like it was a giant blow out, because Braden Looper threw one hell of a game. Unfortunately, so did Rich Hill. My saving grace is the fact that my boss did not end up giving me the tickets to today's game. My blood pressure would have skyrocketed out of control if I'd had to see that in person. Plus, knowing my luck I would have been seated next to the same people that were at the game yesterday. Twelve year old girls that manipulate the volume of their screaming based upon how "hot" they think the Cubs players are is more annoying then one can even begin to imagine. Is Matt Murton that sexy?? I had no idea.

Anyhow, I'm really not too terribly discouraged. Generally, we don't play well against the Cubs. I have no idea why and it drives me absolutely BONKERS, but we don't. So, even though we gave those bastards a half game and a share of the lead in the division, I'm not totally uncomfortable with it. I don't think I could even find a Cubs fan that wouldn't agree that today, it came down to luck. Stringing together runs is impossible in a true pitchers dual and today was nothing if it wasn't that. Sadly, Albert had no one on base when he hit his monster and Jacque Jones did. Done and done. One pitch cost us the game. So goes it. Tomorrow, Anthony Reyes will try and redeem us. Until then, I'm going to try to RELAX. Because this is actually supposed to be enjoyable, right? I forget that sometimes.

I Might Vomit

Okay, I was not AT ALL prepared for this.

I acknowledged and subsequently succumbed to the Cardinals' mediocrity WEEKS ago, convinced that no further joy could be gleaned from a season thats only consistency has been it's inconsistency. Just when I'd come to terms with the fact that my Redbirds wouldn't live to see .500 this year, they came out of absolute nowhere and RUINED EVERYTHING! As a result of Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina finishing off a sweep of the Brewers, we have now won five games in a row, seven of our last eight, eight of our last ten and six in a row against Milwaukee. (It's obviously unnecessary to point out, but this is the most substantial hot streak we've had all season.) Wainwright was positively TERRIFYING as he cruised through seven scoreless innings and Molina slapped two homeruns to provide the only offense that was necessary. After a five run attack on the Brewer bullpen in the ninth assured Jason Isringhausen another day off, Troy Percivel fanned two straight in the ninth to complete the shut out. Thank heavens for that, too. The good news helped me stomach having to sit through a nauseating beat down of the Reds pitching staff yesterday, as it combined to give up 20 hits and twelve runs, including seven scored in the 7th inning alone. I was encouraged early when Jason Marquis gave up a four run lead in the third, yet sadly it was not meant to be. It just so happened that today, Cincinnati's pitching was worse then Chicago's. Tough break, really.

Anyhow, I think I'm actually going to pass out. I'm reminded once again of how stressful it is to be in contention. Losing is easy, because you sort of become numb to it. Once you know the playoffs are entirely out of your reach, those losses don't hurt so much anymore because they don't really matter anyway. At that point, what does it matter if you end the season five games below .500 or twenty games below .500? No wonder Cubs fans are always so happy to call themselves the "lovable losers". The poor bastards are practically sedated by sucktitude! Everything changes, however, when it becomes clear that just a few more notches in the win column could potentially propel us into the postseason. Going into this four game series against the Cubs this weekend, I'm a total nervous wreck! I've been on the verge of an anxiety attack all morning, because low and behold, this series actually MEANS something! Not even a little part of me was expecting this. Dear god, someone get me a ventilator. And a barf bag. And maybe some muscle relaxers. I don't think I can take it!

Regardless of my unstable physical and mental condition, Braden Looper and Rich Hill are going at it right now in the series opener. I will more then likely be hiding under something heavy for the remainder of the afternoon.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Step #1: Closing The Gap

As the dust has cleared and the Rick Ankiel buzz has started to die down a bit over the past few days, something has become painfully evident. I'm afraid to even say it for fear of jinxing us, but our starting pitching has been...GOOD! Braden Looper, Adam Wainwright, Joel Pineiro, Anthony Reyes and even Kip freakin WELLS have come out of the woodwork over the past week to toss games that make it look like they're all competing for the Cy Young award. I don't know where this has been all season, but I don't even care! Because of this collective effort, the Cardinals appear to be a reasonably functional baseball team and rest only 4.5 games out of first place behind the Brew Crew and the Scrubbies. To be honest, it kind of freaks me out.

Regardless, last night's victory inched us ever closer to the playoffs and represented the fourth straight game the Redbirds have taken from the Brewers. Not only that, it was also the third come from behind victory St. Louis has put together against Milwaukee in their last two consecutive series. After Wells gave up three runs off of two early homers by Prince Fielder and Geoff Jenkins, St. Louis rallied for six runs in the 5th inning and Wells retired twelve straight to yield a final score of 12-4. Jimmy Edmonds was 4 for 6 and Albert Pujols got on base five times via three singles, a walk and getting hit by a pitch. Rick Ankiel was relatively quiet going 1 for 6 with three strikeouts, but it hardly mattered. Hell, Mr. Kip Wells himself went 2 for 3 and drove in two runs! Add to that a valiant loss by Chicago to the Reds and we have ourselves an interesting scenario. With two more games against Milwaukee and then a four game series at Wrigley this weekend, it would be BEAUTIFUL to see the Birds take advantage of the apathy in our division and start elbowing our way into contention. Despite how dire this whole season has been, it's actually a legitimate possibility. Until now, I thought the Cardinals had as much of a chance getting within striking distance of the Brewers as Carlos Zambrano did of successfully completing anger management therapy. Oh, how things change! Joel Pineiro takes the mound again tonight to try and gain some more ground in the NL Central and if he plays like he did against San Diego, it shouldn't be difficult to pull off. (And yes...that sentence felt incredibly weird to write.)

The strangest part of this whole progression of events is that I'm actually enjoying baseball again. I don't think I've had a homicidal/suicidal/infanticidal thought in DAYS! Not that I expect this to continue of course, but I should be able to resist pushing drunk Cubs fans in front of oncoming traffic for at least a couple of days. I am heading to Wrigley tomorrow with my grandparents, however, so these assurances mean absolutely nothing. My emotions are very fickle, you know? For the safety of everyone involved, it would probably just be best if the Cubs lost. Let's not tempt fate, shall we?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

What's This Business?

Don't look now friends, but the Cardinals of St. Louis are a mere 5.5 games out of first place and have somehow found themselves in the middle of a playoff race. WHA???? Yeah, I know. I didn't take it seriously the first time I heard it either, but I'm starting to wonder if MAYBE it could POSSIBLY be true. Rick Ankiel seems to have provided the spark our beleaguered boys needed to realize that, HEY! Winning stuff is FUN! He had two more homeruns on Saturday along with a single and a breathtaking catch out in right center field that once again served to overshadow an impressive starting pitching performance, this time by Braden Looper. I know Juan Encarnacion isn't all that pleased with his reduced playing time, but this is absolutely INSANE! Can one man single handedly turn a team around? I sort of doubt it, but I'm having fun with our new found confidence nonetheless. That spanking the "Memphis Mafia" gave the Dodgers on Sunday was one of the most fun games I've watched all season. Did we actually have anyone from our regular starting line up playing that day? For crying out loud, Ryan Ludwick shelled one into Big Mac Land and three of the guys that started weren't even on the roster at the beginning of the season! All of this has been assisted, of course, by the fact that neither Milwaukee or Chicago seem all that interested in convincingly taking the division. I mean, what is with these guys? Either one could have easily run away with it all weeks ago, but no one seems to be in any particular hurry. I suppose it could all be strategic, but somehow I don't think Lou thinks that way. And by "that way" I mean AT ALL. (Because he's a hot head, you see.)

Anyhow, we start a pretty important series tonight against the Brewers and if anyone's interested in gaining any more ground, I suggest we just keep doing what we've been doing. Kip Wells, that means you buddy!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Welcome Back, Rick!!

Congratulations to Rick Ankiel today after his triumphant return to Major League Baseball last night. In his first start since 2004, Ankiel slapped a three run homerun 384 feet over the right field wall to put the Cards ahead 5-0 and secure the win. Not bad for a (former) pitcher, huh? Disney couldn't write a better feelgood comeback story then this one, although I doubt Joel Pineiro feels quite as thrilled about it. His impressive performance was largely overlooked, despite pitching seven shutout innings, striking out four and not issuing a single walk. Maybe next time, Joel.

In other news, it appears as though Scott Spiezio is being placed on the restricted list as he is treated for an undisclosed substance abuse issue. I wish him the best in his recovery, although I'll honestly be a little disappointed to find out he's addicted to anything other then red hair dye.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

He's Baaaaaaack!!!

I'm going to preface this post by saying that nothing here is going to sound even remotely intelligent. (By which I mean it's worse than normal.) I went to the White Sox game last night for a work related event and might have sampled too many of the suds. The sacrifices I make for my job, right? Siiiiigh.

Anyhow, I do feel it's important to note before I get carried away that Kip Wells pitched last night and didn't suck. In fact, he was pretty damn dynamite! He gave up only 6 hits and 1 run with 4 strikeouts and 0 walks. (Imagine me scratching my chin and screwing up my eyes like I'm thinking real hard.) What to make of this? No freakin idea. The guy's like Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. He defies logic or reasonable thought, which considering my mental state today is probably a good thing. I don't want to have to think too hard or I'll hurt myself.

Speaking of improbabilities, it is with great surprise that I report the return of none other then Rick Ankiel to the Cardinals roster. He's in the starting line up tonight as an outfielder after having his contract purchased from Memphis today. Whoever woulda thunk it? I'm genuinely excited to see how he does and am pulling for him to do some damage. After the roller coaster of a career he's had it would be poetic justice to see him exorcise some past (i.e. 2000 NLDS) demons.

In other news, there's been lots of good stuff going on since my last written assault on your senses. For example, we went on a BLAZING HOT five game losing streak, including a sweep by the Nationals over the weekend. (Thank god I was wandering around Grant Park and completely ignorant.) That's kind of neat, right? Then they put our recently acquired future hall of fame hurler Mike Maroth on the DL with tendinitis in his elbow. Thankfully, our rotation is so deep we don't really need to worry about minor setbacks like this. Whew!! (Please note my sarcasm. I truly believe that at this point we could probably just throw one of the grounds crew guys up there and no one would even be able to tell the difference.)

The coolest thing the Cardinals have done this week, though, is provide with me with one of the most visually stimulating half innings I've ever seen. ESPN was gracious enough to cover our win against the Padres on Monday night so I got to see that 10 hit, 10 run 5th inning with my very own eyes. Good thing, too, as I would never have believed it otherwise. I would have assumed the media was lying to me and that it was just some far reaching conspiracy cooked up by my mom to keep me from hanging myself with a garden hose. (I wouldn't put it past her.)

Even more spectacular for me personally was the little package I got Monday from our company headquarters in Springfield. It held four tickets to both the Saturday and Sunday Cardinal games I'm going down to St. Louis for at the end of the month. Why is this so awesome, you ask? Because the Sunday tickets are the Club tickets my company has behind home plate. Basically, this means I'll be chilling with Jimmy Edmond's mom all day in the VIP room eating free hot dogs and guzzling free beer. There's even a buffet before the game starts! Does it get any better then that?? I don't think so, my friend. And if you do, you are definitely wrong and probably also retarded.

Lets see...what could I possibly be forgetting? Oh yes, of course! The Cubs have lost four in a row and six of their last seven. It's a team of destiny, I tell ya! I've been saying it all along!! THE CUBS ARE GOING TO THE WORLD SERIES!!!! (I'm evil, I realize this.) It does seriously blow for them that Soriano's got a flat tire and Ramirez might be out for a few days with a bum wrist. It's tough to win games when your entire team is on the DL, just ask Walt Jockety. But Kerry Wood's back and throwing a few pitches, so I'm sure that pretty well cancels out all that bad stuff.

Editors Note: This has just been the strongest attempt at empathy I've made towards Cubs fans all season and quite possibly, well...ever. Turns out I'm not great at it. Directing sarcasm and bitter vitriol towards them, however? I'm like Carlos Zambrano at a baby eating competition. By the way, it really wouldn't be right if I didn't point out that he lost yesterday. I'd be pretty pleased with myself if it weren't for this stupid hang over. Damn miller light drafts will get you every time, especially when you chase em with vodka. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Week That Was...

Before I get carried away with my long weekend at Lollapalooza, I just want to make some comments on the major plot points from the past week.

1. When it was all said and done, our dynamite winning streak coming out of the Brewers series ended at four games. While not impressive to most baseball fans, I believe this is the longest winning streak we've had all season. So...there's that. WEEEEEE!!!!! Of course, we followed that up with a blowout 15-1 loss to the freakin Pirates last night thanks to Braden Looper looking the exact opposite of awesome. In how many games have we given up 10+ runs this year? Whatever the number, I'm sure it's positively disgusting and I'm better off not knowing. (SIDE NOTE: Speaking of the Pirates, what is up with making our old pal Matt Morris the highest paid pitcher in their starting rotation? Matt Morris? REALLY???? Isn't he in a nursing home by now?)

2. I was in an AWESOME mood on Monday night. The Cards had the night off, so our beautiful three game winning streak was intact and I had happy visions of a playoff run in my head. I also got invited to accompany a friend to the Cubs game that evening and had the fine pleasure of watching them lose pretty convincingly to the Phillies. The best part was doing so surrounded by drunk Philadelphians in the bleachers. I really have to hand it to east coast sports fans. They are totally batshit CRAZY. It made for an entertaining evening to say the least.

3. I could not sleep early Tuesday morning. I woke up at 5 AM for some ungodly reason and couldn't fall back asleep because I was feverishly strategizing the Redbirds' late season comeback. I think that suggests I might have a legitimate problem/obsession. However, Tony and Walt should really give me a call, as I think I pretty much got everything figured out. Early bird gets the worm, you know?

4. The Cubs are tied for first place, BLAH, BLAH BLAH. Tell someone who gives a damn. And for the love of everything holy, stop whining about it. If I hear one more person say to me, "We've been bad for so long, just let us have it!" I'm going to stuff their teeth down their esophagus. Did I say anything? I don't think so. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've avoided discussing the Cubs lately because they put me in BAD MOOD. I can't argue with statistics, folks. The Cubs have won more games then we have this year. What do you want from me, a goddamn cookie? My humble opinion is that everyone should save all their blowharding until the team actually does something significant like, oh, I don't know...make the playoffs.

5. This weekend is going to be awesome. I'm going to give my baseball passion a couple days off in order to focus on another. (And no, I don't mean drinking, although I'm sure there will be plenty of that!) Lots of good shows to be seen and if I'm lucky, the Cards will start another four game winning streak tonight while the Cubs fall victim to a Mets sweep and Tom Glavine's 300th win while I'm on hiatus. I guess I'll find out when I sober up on Monday. Cheers!