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:
From the 86 years of pure agony credited to the infamous Curse of the Bambino which included tumultuous yet exciting events such as the 1946 World Series, Carlton Fisk’s ’75 bomb, Bill Buckner’s mental lapse and the late-inning heroics of one Aaron “The One-Hit Wonder” Boone, to the most historically shocking comeback in the history of the world in 2004 to overcoming a 3 games to 1 deficit in in the ALCS last year only to sweep the hottest team in baseball on your way to winning it all — again… I have no idea how you do it, Boston — how your heart hasn’t leaped out of your chest and sunk through the floor, how you haven’t become a raging alcoholic nor eaten your children, how you haven’t been diagnosed with a severe case of jitteritis or how you have yet to set fire to the city of New York.
If I were you and I followed a team that knew no other style of play than the “force our fans to writhe and convulse in torment, exasperation and paralytic panic as we may or may not ultimately win this contest but we promise it will be interesting” I would, indeed, be a dead man.
Because, my fellow US Americans, I cannot take such stress. This is why every time Jason Isringhausen came in from the bullpen this season I immediately changed the channel. The pure uncertainty of his aging ability and his austere acuteness for blowing saves was simply too much for me. Often times I thought I would’ve been better off performing the Japanese ritual suicide rite of seppuku than watching him pitch late in a ball game, other times I just rammed my head into a concrete wall until I had the good fortune of sleep.
Dear readers, during the most stressful of times (i.e. close baseball games, first dates, election night) when my palms are sweaty, my brow furled, my pulse raging beyond control, I find myself resorting to the old habits of yesteryear already responsible for killing half of my family: nicotine, alcohol, the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric.
And that scares me.
Luckily for me, I was born in the midwest — far, far away from rickety noreaster accents and wild-hang-by-the-seat-of-your-pants baseball known as the Red Sox Nation.
Win or lose, no one knows drama like a Red Sox fan. And that’s something I do not covet — not one bit.
Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
That westerly breeze you folks on the East Coast felt today had nothing to do with Tropical Storm Fay; no, it was the collective sigh of relief from Cardinal fans the world over as the team announced Jason Isringhausen’s season is most probably over.
In what has become an abomination of a year for the formerly revered closer, this once imaginary ending has turned into reality, causing Cardinal fans to yet again face their own unique brand of pessimism: that Izzy’s departure is still bitter-sweet. Sweet in that we can all relax knowing he won’t screw things up anymore. Bitter because we can be sure that someone else will.
And let’s face it: though we’ve all maintained the customary party line that the 2008 Cardinal bullpen woes have been a ‘team thing’, we all know that it began with and was perpetrated by Jason Isringhausen and his lackluster performance(s). As the leader in the bullpen, the go-to guy in the 9th, the man who got things done, Izzy’s inablility to close games this year caused a ripple effect of incompetence all throughout the bullpen. In his destructive wake, Izzy’s fellow relievers found themselves under an immense amount of pressure — pressure they haven’t been able to overcome still to this day.
I am not ungrateful. Jason Isringhausen has put together some great seasons in St. Louis. And there have been times when my cheers were among the loudest. But there comes a time when your best just isn’t your best anymore — when you just don’t have it in the tank — when you discover that yes, the rose does have thorns and now that the pretty red petals have all died and fallen off, all you have left in your hand is a prickly stem with very few aesthetic attributes.
Three reoccuring nightmares have haunted me this season:
1) The Cubs win the pennant
2) The man featured below worms his way back into the political spotlight
3) Izzy enters a game with less than a 10 run lead
While one of those nightmares will continue to pester me until the seaon’s end, at least the last one looks like it is merely a thing of the past.
Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
Spin the chamber. Pull the trigger. See who you get.
On Sunday night, you got Russ Springer in the 8th inning. You also got the rocket-like go-ahead homerun Shane Victorino catapulted off the aging journeyman reliever, which ruined a splendid starting performance by Todd Wellemeyer.
So it’s the same old story in St. Louis.
The bullpen is about as reliable as GW Bush is eloquent and the Cardinals have done a wonderful job of losing tight ballgames all season long because no one in the pen has been able to close the deal. No one instills fear. No one throws better than my grandma.
While John Mozeliak looks more and more like Ann Coulter, the Cardinals look more and more like a rollover ballclub that realistically can’t compete with the rest of the division, league, sport.
Dear readers, the dreaded paradigm shift seems to have begun. Don’t adjust your monitor; what you are witnessing is real. It appears that the Cardinals of today are not the Cardinals of yesterday. They went from a heady go-get-em front office to a sit back and pray for the best front office in just one GM switch; and I’m afraid that in baseball, that philosophy doesn’t ever work.
Look at the Royals.
I have gone to great lengths to adequately describe — with videos and pictures — the extreme pain and anguish involved in watching the Cardinals try to hold a lead late in the game. Presently, I feel that I am at a loss for expression. How can I go any lower?
I’m afraid I can’t. But I am an US American and US Americans don’t give up. We never give up, even when a bitter, out-of-touch GOP presumptive nominee fails to realize that he received donations from a prominent hotelier who just so happened to sire the very vixen said nominee compared his opponent to in a scrupulous attack ad meant to instill psychological distrust among the mass of US Americans. No, we don’t give up in the face of such abuses of power, and we won’t give up in the fight against mediocrity.
To prove that this calloused plight is real, I recently started the Bring Bruce Sutter Out of Retirement Campaign. While I go door to door to bring back Bruce, I also arranged for Dave LaRoche to school the Cardinals bullpen on the finer points of the Eephus pitch exhibited here:
It might not seem like much, but it’s more comforting than TLR and Dunc spinning the chamber and hoping they don’t get their brains blown out. Of course, the optimist in me realizes that things could always be worse…
We could be the Tigers after all.
Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
Humans are imperfect. That’s just the way we are. And even though I (and a select few i.e. Jesus, Gandhi and Kelly Clarkson) come close to perfection most of the time, part of being human is making mistakes. Jesus gave up a life with Mary Magdalene (mistake), Gandhi didn’t fight back (mistake) and Kelly Clarkson starred in From Justin to Kelly (big friggin’ mistake). Even my colleague, Allen Krause, makes a lot of mistakes — publicly, here on this blog. But I don’t hate him for that. I forgive him and move on. And sometimes, he even surprises me with interesting, near-perfect thoughts.
Closers are not immune from this inherent imperfection. The law of averages is an inevitable circumstance of life and if your closer mauls down opponents one after the other, night after night, then you better be ready for him to “average” out at some point. Fifty-five games in a row where Eric Gagne was unbeatable? Fifty-five games in a row, folks. 55! That’s a lot of games to save! Well, he’s “averaging” out now.
Sure, Izzy will get you through five in a row. Just know that after that he’s bound to blow two or three. That’s just how it is. Papelbon? Unhittable? For a while. But he is human and he’ll screw up to “average” himself out. This is symbolic of human nature. This is life itself.
Obama blew through the early primary stages — secured his lead. So he loses Indiana. Who cares? So West Virginia might not go his way. Let’s look at the big picture. Bottom of the 9th, 2 outs, 3-2 count, go-ahead runner on second, and a gunslingin’, gay-hatin’ redneck is at the plate. Who do you want on the mound?
Because he’s the man. More times than not, he’s going to be victorious.
Now, if you want to read great analysis on the possibility of a real paradigm shift regarding closing pitchers and the state of the game, check out The Prince of New York (buy his book!) by clicking *here*.
If you want to see me in all my (im)perfection, click *here* (I am the extremely attractive man dressed in black who takes the suggestion).
If you just want to see the most disgusting thing ever, click *here*. *Warning! These are Cub fans. They are sick people.
In closing, I may blow a game or two, but please don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right. And for the record, I usually am right, so get used to it.