Saturday, May 05, 2007

Little Drops of Poison

[warning -- I get a little heated below]

The Terrific Trifecta occurred last night the first time all year, or, in other words, all three of my teams won on the same day. Adam managed to bail out the Cards with a little help from his friends -- six innings, seven hits, two runs, an economic 88 pitches for Wainwright, a clutch two-run double from Pujols, and an inning and a third of stellar relief work from Isringhausen all added up to a 3-2 win for the Redbirds. However, they're already behind 7-0 to the Astros today after Kip Wells got bombed, and it's really looking more and more as if the Dave Duncan magic touch has not been able to resuscitate him from his Pirates suckitude -- he had one or two serviceable starts and then slid down the crapper. The Cardinals are lurching and stuttering along, trying to find just enough offense to win, but the bats with the exception of Albert's have gone quiet again and the rotation is suspect. While I did enjoy their win yesterday, I'm trying to fight off a feeling that those may be few and far between. All I can say for them is that they're going to have to find some way to figure this out before they disappear in the Central for the rest of '07.

And.... oh.... FUCKING. HELL. My worst-case scenario has officially come true. It was just announced that Carpenter needs surgery to remove the bone chips in his elbow and will be out up to three months. There were murmurings that he was about to come back, too. I don't know what to say, but this absolutely sucks. I think I'm going to call the division for someone else right now -- I don't know who, the Brewers could be a smoke-and-mirrors outfit, I doubt very much the Cubs will do it, the Astros are pretty feeble as well -- but as much as it pains me to say it, these Cardinals are absolutely lifeless. It's a terrible way to follow up a world championship season, but with your ace out until after the All-Star break, your offense dead in the water, and your morale already crushed, I think this team is about to take a nosedive. Maybe it will convince the front-office brass that they need to address the flaws of a team that did, in fact, only win 83 games last year, and may not even break even this year. I think that loyalty to their scrappy underdogs prevented them from really shaking up the status quo, but they need to be rebuilt. This Cardinals dynasty is done for, now let's ship out the most glaring holes (Taguchi, Wilson, Miles come to mind -- also, Jimmy Edmonds, although a fan favorite and a hardcore gamer, is really on the decline) and wait for '08 with a healthy Carpenter, a more adjusted Wainwright, and Pujols, of course. I'll wait them out, and next year should be better than this one, but.... oy. Oy vey. I think I'll just have to enjoy their wins individually, since they're doing a fine job of wrecking my prediction that they'd be strong enough to repeat.

Gaaah... well, that news just ruined my Saturday. Let's try to move on...

The A's also managed to eke out a win in what is traditionally a terrible month for them, against some antagonists who traditionally, and surprisingly, do bad things to them. The month is May, the team is the Devil Rays, and last night the A's beat both of them on the back of a three-run, ninth-inning, tiebreaking jack from Nick Swisher, who thankfully returned from injury quickly to hoist the A's to victory. Danny Haren turned in another stellar start -- the hairy prodigy leads the AL in ERA at 1.75, his next closest competitor is Tim Wakefield at 2.11 -- but naturally didn't get the win, as he was out of the game by the time Swisher did his thing. Huston Street, who thankfully has regained his freshman-year form and sports a shiny 2.40 ERA, whipped through a tidy ninth inning to seal the deal for the Elephants, 5-2.

Now, a few observations about the A's. For some reason, they're all made of china, and break when the wind blows hard, but this year more so than ever. They got good news yesterday when Mark Kotsay, expected to be out until close to the All-Star break, could instead return to the team around the middle of May, but for every one that stays healthy, three go down, until it's pretty much become an actual curse if you play outfield for Oakland. Ryan Langerhans, Chris Snelling, and Jack Cust are some of the names floating around as Billy Beane desperately attempts to patch the hole in the Titanic. The former two were traded for each other (Snelling being the current representative) and Cust's chief claim to fame is falling down while trying to score the tying run in a Yankees/Orioles game, crawling toward home plate, and being tagged out by Aaron Boone. Uhhhhyeah. The DL is long and getting longer, and A's fans have long suspected that the training staff has to bear some of the blame for this. The Yankees fired their conditioning coach after a rash of injuries, but the A's keep the same one and keep getting injured.

The A's also have one problem with the guys that are healthy enough to stagger onto the field and re-wind their bandages in between innings: they can't hit. You might say that this is an unfair thing to expect of invalids, but at least some of them have all their limbs in functional order and they still can't do it. Eric Chavez, for example, still plays great defense, but he's only hitting .240 and can't for the life of him produce in important situations (although he did have a two-out RBI single yesterday, that is the exception, not the rule). For other teams, having runners on first and second and less than two outs might mean that they would score, but not so the A's; they'll ground into a double play or otherwise squander it. Chavez seems to do his best hitting when the A's are already significantly behind or ahead, and I do like the guy, but I too am starting to wonder about his mental makeup. We don't need our very own A-Rod on this team (although A-Rod's defense doesn't even compare to Chavez's).

Also, one of the other chief offenders is Bobby Crosby. I am really getting sick of him, as is a great portion of Athletics Nation. His defense is still cringe-inducing -- he looks awkward in the field and it's still a fifty-fifty proposition as to whether his throws will make it to first. Not to mention his crazy, all-out swing, which is mainly good for racking up strikeouts in important situations. Crosby says that the swing has "worked'' for him since high school and he doesn't want to change it now. You know what that means, Crosby? It means you're lazy. If you want to get better, if you want to perform at a major league level, you will put in all the long hours of work now that you did then. Getting to the major leagues is not carte blanche to slack off, drive fast in nice cars, hang out with blonde girls, and drink, as I'm well aware you like to do. They may be nice perks, but you came to Oakland to play, now play, goddammit. We didn't re-sign Tejada for you, since you were supposed to step into those shoes and perform at a consistently high level. All these times you've been injured, we've waited for you to get back, we've said you'll do better, but you haven't, and right now, you're barely even replacement-level. So put in the goddamn work and act like you want to be here, instead of phoning it in.

Whew. Okay. Blew off a little steam there. That's healthy, we all have to do that, this is my blog and I can say what I want.... Now then. The last proposition for the day is the Rockies, and I have a bit of vitriol for them too, more specifically Clint Hurdle, as always. The Rockies won yesterday in Great American Ball Park, which is a house of horrors for them (3-11) but that doesn't mean they're exempt from my wrath, now that I've got it going. I am going to make a bold claim, which is: The Rockies would be at least in second place in the division right now if they fired Clint Effing Hurdle.

When the Rockies win, it's usually because someone (such as Matt Holliday, blossoming into a true superstar) steps up, puts them on his back, and plays hard. The 9-7 win against the Giants exemplified that. Holliday had a moonshot homer, a bases-clearing double, and a fully extended diving catch on a sinking liner, and all this after cracking the walkoff for the Rockies against the Braves. They do not win because Hurdle makes smart decisions. Take yesterday. Tie game, top tenth, two runners on, no outs, Brad Hawpe at the plate. Hurdle wants him to bunt. I do not think the idiocy of this can be overstated. Coming up after Hawpe are Yorvit Torrealba and Omar Quintanilla, who, shall we say, are not going to win any batting titles in the near future. Hawpe is the last guy up who has the ability to put it over the fence -- not to mention that he's never successfully bunted before in his career. This was maybe his third attempt to lay down a sacrifice, and it doesn't work; he strikes out on the foul bunts. Torrealba grounds into a double play for the second time that game and the inning ends. The Rockies end up winning because Willy Taveras, of all people, gets his second extra-base hit (out of 26) and Troy Tulowitzki, who's on a tear, puts him in with an opposite-field single.

Hurdle's comments after the game went to the effect of, "Well, Hawpe needs to know how to bunt." No, you bleeding moron, he doesn't. That's the pitcher's job. Let Hawpe swing away and lay down a bunt with Torrealba if you have to satisfy your bunting fetish -- try a squeeze play, something. Arrrgggh. To add to his ledger of questionable decisions, Hurdle pulled Todd Helton late in the game -- Helton has an on-base percentage over .500 and is hitting in the .380s -- for Jamey Carroll, who's hitting well under .200. At least that one didn't come back to bite us, but if the game had gone any longer, it would have been Carroll's task to protect Matt Holliday in the twelfth inning. How do you think that would have gone? Carroll also made a slick play at third (I was quite pleased to see Garrett Atkins playing first, which is actually his original position) but if the game had gone any longer and we'd needed a hitter, we would have been screwed.

This latest mind-bogglingly stupid Hurdle decision comes after he used Steve Finley and John Mabry to pinch-hit back to back in the ninth inning of a two-run game. His comments about the Mets/Rockies game last week (the one I didn't go to) where El Duque and Aaron Cook traded zeros for most of the game and then the Mets won on the flukey drag bunt in extras? "I enjoyed watching the pitchers duel." You know what, Clint? If you like watching baseball, retire and buy season tickets to a team you like. Don't sit in the dugout and amiably watch the team you are in charge of lose, or worse, make stupid decisions that push them closer to losing. The guy has absolutely no winning mentality whatsoever. Win-at-all-costs bulldogs can be harsh, but at least they know how to push their guys farther. With the talent the Rockies have right now (with the exception of their shitaceous bullpen) there is no reason in the world they shouldn't be competing for the NL West title, except for one: Clint Effing Hurdle.

Okay. All those diatribes delivered, I suppose I should say that surprisingly, out of all my teams right now, I'm having the most fun watching the Rockies. The A's have the best record (14-14) but I'm still afraid something bad is going to happen to them in May, and I'm so tired of their injuries and lack of RISP hits that I think I need to take a short break and check back with them in June, traditionally a great month for the green and gold. The Cardinals are honestly depressing right now, so it falls to the Rockies to save my enthusiasm. I love their guys, and can just watch inning by inning and not care about competing -- the A's and Cards were projected to compete, the A's probably will -- but with the Rockies, I can just watch. Not to say that the losing doesn't bother me -- as you can see above, it does. It really does. Still, my love for the guys is enough to keep me watching, the wins are nice, and then there's the thought that on Wednesday, May 16, I'll be back at Coors in my Rockies stuff and watching my first home game of the year. That is a cheerful thought.

In the meantime, I am (OH so) close to finishing my work, a very cheering thought. I also get to go to a game at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday with one of my good friends on the softball team, which will be fun -- I'll enjoy seeing the place and watching a game, and if the Yankees should happen to lose, so much the better. But psst... you didn't hear me say that. And on Friday I fly home for the start of summer, which is a very happy thought. Okay. Hope I didn't scare anybody off. I get mad at them because I love them so much.

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