This Wednesday officially kicks off the 2012 MLB season and even though I’ll probably be fast asleep while it unfolds in the Far East, I’m sure the Japanese will be plenty excited about watching two awful teams compete against one another, especially since there’s at least one Suzuki per nine.
On this side of the pond, we have much, MUCH more to look forward to. In fact, I might need a good tazing before the Cardinals open up in Miami, just so I’m forced to sit down!
Here are some of the things that have me baseball-tweaking:
The GOOD Blue Jays Uniforms Are Back!
Still mesmerized by the awful logo redesign and poor color scheme that killed Joe Carter’s Blue Jays look in 2003, I can’t tell you how happy I am to see the old logo back. And royal blue! No gray! Alongside the Cardinals, Yankees, Dodgers and Red Sox, I gotta say the classic Jays uni is about as smart and sleek as baseball uniforms come.
Grant Balfour Finally Gets to Be a Closer!
The 34-year old Aussie has been quietly waiting in the wings of every team he’s been on and now, finally, the Oakland A’s are giving him a shot at the closer role. I still think closers are overrated, but I like to think that maybe, if Balfour performs well in his new role, he might finally get paid what he’s worth. His numbers are fantastic and most people don’t even know who he is. I’m afraid playing in Oakland won’t help his popularity, but maybe Billy Beane will throw him another peanut. (Also, if you’re wondering, yes, Balfour’s fastball does have an Australian accent.)
I love Bobby Valentine. For myriad reasons. He’s cocky. He’s loud. His feelings get hurt. He’s controversial. He pisses off players, coaches, umpires. And he’s a goddamn baseball genius. HOLLA!!!
Good grief. The dude is gonna be FIFTY this year. FIFTY YEARS OLD. And he’s still gettin’ guys out. I absolutely love that. I love him! How can you not?!?!
And finally… you probably knew this was coming but…
WE ARE CHAMPIONS OF THE WORLD.
Hate me ‘cuz I’m loud, just don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
Only a few weeks remain before pitchers and catchers report to spring training, which means we’re that much closer to the 2012 baseball season beginning with the St. Louis Cardinals reigning as CHAMPIONS OF THE UNIVERSE!!!
Hot dog! What more could a Fredbird fanatic like myself ask for on his birthday?
How about a decent bullpen?
And there it is: a beautiful, beautiful bullpen! Fernando Salas, Lance Lynn, Scrabble. And Motte to close?!?! Wow!
I have to go back many years (at the height of Izzy-mania to be exact) to remember going into spring training sans a bullpen worry (or nightmare). Having a closer whose calling card is missing bats is just the exclamation point!!!
And now for something completely different:
For those of you dear readers just waiting (salivating in anticipation perhaps?) for me to go into a lengthy I-told-ya-so-hallelujah-victory diatribe complete with keg stands, half-naked women and lots of bad decisions over the Cardinals recent release of bullpen cancer Ryan Franklin, well, I hate to disappoint, but I ain’t gonna go there. I’m a human being first, Cardinals diehard second (albeit a very, very close second). For me to celebrate the absolute demise of a fellow human just wouldn’t be right. That’s only acceptable behavior when the human in question is an ex-Alaskan governor with scat for brains, traipsing around the country in a megabus flubbing the most basic facts of our country’s history.
No. I can’t go there.
Am I glad Ryan Franklin will no longer be allowed to yack up ballgames for my team when it counts the most? Absolutely. Am I smiling because a real fireballer has taken over the closer’s role in the ‘Lou? You betchya! Am I gonna point fingers and laugh and take pleasure in knowing Franklin doesn’t have a job?
I feel for the guy. I really do. But at the same time, baseball is a business and he was a faulty cog in the wheel of success. If I were to screw up my job as much as he did, I’d be in the unemployment line too. Luckily for Franklin, he ain’t hurtin’ for money. In fact, he could probably use the time off to clear his head, to think of other things besides baseball. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him back in the Big Leagues in the near future.
In the meantime, the Cardinals are in the midst of a 4 game winning streak, so let’s focus on that. If we can double that to eight in a row, maybe I’ll bust out some of the busties y’all been waitin’ for.
Hate me all you want, just don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
The NFL draft is Thursday and that means we evaluate everything about everyone’s everything. From their toe sizes to wingspans to ability to play with others to punctuality to how long they can sit through the last season of Oprah to the limitations of their menstrual cycles to how many yards they can throw a Mexican snapping turtle to how they would handle Kanye taking their MVP trophies away and giving them to Beyonce.
It’s a lot to sift through.
Which reminded me of what’s going on with MLB closers now. Closers seem to be chosen for teams primarily by stuff and grit but also based on looks and intangibles. So….. I’ve listed some of what I look for in potential closers for when I’m king of the Cubs and I take over as Czar of the DAMNED……
“I’m so damn mad I’d punch a baby!”
TRANSLATION: I did odd things to Barbie dolls when my sister wasn’t looking.
“I’m gonna come over to your house tonight, wear your sister’s makeup and then beat her to death.”
TRANSLATION: I’m confused about where slavery begins and my basement’s interior design ends….
“I’m good at rallying a team from behind!”
TRANSLATION: What I really need is a bearded man with a vintage cardigan who will tell me “he has to see about a girl and its not your fault, Brian Daisy Fuentes.”
“The best thing about me other than my heater is that I should have played the lead in Our Town. I’m egotistical, fiery aggressive and I have great athletic skillz.”
TRANSLATION: My name is Jeffery Lung and I will pretend to be your closer for a third of an inning. CHEERS!!!
“I understand angles and I’m grindy, gritty and tuffffff!”
TRANSLATION: I’M DEFINITELY WHITE AND I’M PROBABLY AN INDIANA PACER.
One last thing about closers, because if you’re like most teams, you’ll have to find a new one soon (like by Saturday)… Russian women are like closers: when they goes, they goes fast………
BTW… if Lovie Smith could pick a closer he would be from Abilene Christian.
“You don’t boo your own team. I don’t care who
you are or what you say or just because you spent your money to
come here to watch us play that somebody happens to make one bad
pitch and give up a homer and you are going to start booing?”
–Ryan Franklin, April 20, 2011
Um… okay. My patience is… er… nah, forget it. I don’t have any patience anymore!!!
We’re NOT TALKING about JUST ONE PITCH, Mr. Franklin. We’re NOT TALKING about JUST ONE YACKED performance. We’re TALKING about the difference of 4 or 5 games in the WIN column.
And it’s only April!!!
So yeah. Do your job. Get guys out.
THEN we’ll stop booing.
Keep this in mind, sir: YOU make millions of dollars whether you f*** up or not.
WE, the FANS, we are the ONES who KEEP YOU EMPLOYED by dishing out $45 (or more) per game, per SEAT… the ones getting raped by beer vendors selling $8 bottles of crap (Bud Light)… the ones who have to put up with your whiny whimpers to the reporters in the press.
We have every damn right to boo your @$$.
You don’t like it?
STOP LOSING GAMES ALL BY YOURSELF.
And don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
Just like Ryan Franklin in the 9th, this is going to be quick, disgustingly ugly and will probably include an ERA over 9:
First he tried to score from third when no one was lookin’… then he slid head first and broke his arm… then he was… out. THEN he blamed third base coach Dave Anderson for the boneheadedly aggressive move (not my fault, duh)… and THEN he later apologized to Dave Anderson for blaming him for the boneheadedly aggressive move.
*SARCASM ALERT, SARCASM ALERT*
Considering the overwhelming, undeniable, empirical evidence in this case… I am glad to report that Jesus of Nazareth was soley responsible for Joshy’s change of heart, just as he was responsible for Joshy gettin’ some buttery nipple action at da club a while back.
BERKMAN FOR MVP!
The 2011 season is well under way and… SURPRISE!!!… that’s Lance Berkman posing at the Cardinals best player!
Hey folks, he may be weird lookin’ in a Redbird uni, but he’s the only one in the lineup who’s been solid from the get-go. Go ahead, Albert… just go ahead and think about finding a deal somewhere else… we got number 12!
THE GO-GO-HOME WHITE SOX!
Ozzie Guillen sure is giving Timothy Geithner a run for his money (wink, wink) in the sour face department. Heck, I’d be angry too if my son’s name was Oney (good grief is that really his name???)… I’d also be angry if my team scored runs like crazy, only to see them erased in the latter innings of an otherwise locked-down ballgame when the bullpen wheels start fallin’ off (see Chris Sale, Matt Thornton, etc.).
Can’t believe I’m sayin’ this, but, I sorta miss big boy Bobby Jenks. At least with Jenks you’d at least see some emotion when he blew the game.
Hangin’ the head and walkin’ off is a bit too pedestrian for my liking.
Opening Day saw some pretty spectacular bullpen meltdowns. But what
does it say about the game that teams have become so reliant on the
bullpen that relievers can pretty much make or break a season? Have
pitchers gotten soft?
*Breaks window, jumps from the second story, runs down the street screaming even though forgot pants*
Believe me, Mr. Jake, I am really trying to tackle this one without any bias, without any memory of Opening Day in the ‘Lou, without a mammoth-sized chip on my shoulder. But let’s be honest: in baseball, there isn’t much worse than watching your team dominate throughout a game, only to blow it all in the 9th when the win is on the line.
My Redbirds managed to do that on Opening Day. The Brewers did too (all credit goes to John Axford). The Mets ran into it last night with Jail-Rod’s shenanigans (Also, his unfettered desire to fight people proves that pitchers — at least this one — have not gotten “soft”… unless the pitcher’s name is Kyle Farnsworth). Hell, ask the 2010 Baltimore Orioles… they know all about losing games late considering they blew more games last year than Lil Kim did Bad Boys in the 90s.
But what does it say about the game that teams have become so reliant on the bullpen that relievers can pretty much make or break a season? Gee, I’m not sure it’s really come to that. The ’08 Cardinals were pretty awful, as I remember the bullpen yacking up over 25 games late… but, after giving it the old eye test, I’m not sure it’s really fair to say that the state of Major League bullpens is any different than it has been in years past. You either have a good one, a mediocre one, or a bad one.
And even when you have a bad one, that doesn’t necessarily spell gloom and doom for one’s team. 2009 Brad Lidge comes to mind; my pedestrian and oft frightened colleague, Mr. Krause probably could’ve done a better job on the hill than Lidge that season, but the Phillies still managed to grind their way to the World Series.
Unfortunately, these days, the role of a “closer” and “set-up man” and “7th inning guy” has been magnified because of money. The more money involved, the more pressure. The more pressure, the fewer who can actually deal with it.
In fact, for my money, there’s only one closer who is reliable every single day and that man’s name is Mariano Rivera. I think the Yankees could realistically state that their season might rely on Mo’s cutters; but then again, their set-up man saved 40+ last year. And, oh yeah, their all-star lineup doesn’t hurt either.
But for the other 29 teams, yeah, it could be a problem. But when your team is in flux — featuring an unsigned future Hall of Famer, a sidelined perennial Cy Young contender, and an All-Star outfielder absent because of an appendectomy — then you got more problems than you can actually stomach right now. The bullpen is just one of many.
Don’t hate me. ‘Cuz I’m right.
– – –
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When that one game exposes a rudimentary flaw that I have been gripin’ about for over three years now, then that’s when trouble starts. That’s when walls in my apartment become punch-holed and that’s when my neighbors consider burning me at the stake for my insane bouts of baseball rapture.
Ryan Franklin… brother… I love ya… and I know you only blew two saves last year, but you ain’t a closer.
Pitching to contact is fine if you’re Derek Lowe. It’s fine if you’re a starter. Heck, it’s fine if you’re guaranteed that the batted balls are going straight into someone’s glove. But in the 9th inning, with a one run lead… I don’t want ANYONE ON BASE. NO ONE.
Ya hear me?
When I bring a guy in to close a game, I want someone with firepower, someone with strikeout potential… someone who throws GAS, someone with a wicked slider, someone with an impossible-to-hit cutter.
Think Mo Rivera. Think Dennis Eckersely. Think Neftali Feliz.
The closer’s job is to come in and close the game, not to let ’em hit it and hope your defense saves you.
The best way to close a game is to miss the hitters’ bats. And Ryan Franklin has a real hard time doin’ that.
Now, for more on this, let us turn to our junior RSBS correspondents:
And so in this Podcast…
Jeff and his sCrUBS fan nemesis pal, Johanna Mahmud, get back in the studio and throw down on the art of being right! Among the titillating topics of discussion: mispronouncing dominance [Doc Halladay] and futility [John Grabow], Brandon Phillips’ wings, a wild war of words over Albert Pujols, the Lou Piniella Mailbag and much, much more.
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to the RSBS Podcast by clicking *HERE*
via iTunes by clicking *HERE*
thanks to Keith Carmack — our engineer, director, editor and
all-around sound guru. He always knows when the Hawks are (or aren’t) gonna get donged.
Recorded Monday, May 31, Memorial Day 2010