it’s ridiculous that chris carpenter doesn’t have a win on the season yet. his 0-2 record and 3.90 ERA are not indicative of his performance thus far in 2011.
with the exception of a disaster in the arizona desert, where carp gave up 8 earned runs in 4 innings, he’s been solid at the worst of times and stellar at the best. so why doesn’t he have any wins? let’s take a look, fellow detectives:
1) march 31, opening day versus the san diego padres. carpenter pitches 7 innings, strikes out 4, and is charged with 2 earned runs. the offense provides him with 2 runs and a no-decision. (then ryan franklin provides everyone with his first of many blown saves, but that is another story that has been told to death already.)
2) april 6, versus the pittsburgh pirates. carpenter pitches 6 innings, strikes out 6, walks zero, and gives up only a solo home run to neil walker. the offense provides him with zero run support against the formidable (ha!) kevin correia and manages only 1 measly run in the bottom of the ninth against joel hanrahan. carpenter takes the loss.
3) april 17, versus the los angeles dodgers. carpenter pitches 7 innings, strikes out 6, and gives up zero runs. the offense provides him (tell me if this sounds familiar) zero run support, and the manages 1 measly run in the top of the ninth against jonathan broxton–a lead that ryan franklin (seriously, familiar to anyone?) promptly handed to matt kemp for his fourth blown save of the season.
4) then there is last night, april 23, versus the loathsome cincinnati reds. carpenter pitches 6 innings, strikes out 6, and gives up 2 hits and 2 earned runs on an unfortunate home run to the (actually) formidable joey votto. the offense provides him with 3 runs–sadly, the most run support carp has gotten this season when he’s put in a quality start. some ugly defense and ugly pitching later, the tiny lead is gone, carp gets another weak no-decision under his belt, and all of cardinal nation is like, “dear ryan franklin, you are making it impossible for us to like you.”
in carp’s one shitty start of the season, where he gave up 8 runs, the cardinals managed to also produce 8 runs. if they could have scored zero runs in that game, which the cardinals ended up losing anyway, and spread those 8 runs across carp’s other four starts, he might have some of the wins he deserves, and we might be in sole possession of first place. i know that this kind of hindsight is futile and ridiculous, but it’s interesting to think about.
this is something else to think about: carpenter is the ONLY pitcher in the cardinals’ starting rotation without a win. even the miserable jake westbrook has a win, despite his hefty 9.82 ERA (vom). why does he have a win? because the offense went out at chase field and belted 15 runs to back him against the diamondbacks. 15 runs! all carp is asking for is 3 or 4 runs a game, guys. additionally, jake westbrook has pitched just over 18 innings in his 4 starts–carp has pitched 30. westbrook has 9 strikeouts on the season; carp has 26. oh sorry, now this has just devolved into how much i wish we hadn’t signed jake westbrook.
also! WHY isn’t carp getting any run support? the opposing pitchers in his games haven’t exactly been cliff lee. in fact, that they haven’t been cliff lee at all. they have been: tim stauffer (0-1, 3.21 ERA), kevin correia (3-1, 2.48 ERA, but he’s a pittsburgh pirate), chad billingsley (2-1, 4.13 ERA), and travis wood (1-2, 5.40 ERA). really? we can’t hit against these guys? ANY of these guys?
offense: start ramping up production when carp is on the mound. you guys owe him.
how much are you guys loving watching baseball right now?!
man, i am loving it. it’s hard to believe that just a little over a week ago, we were watching the boys struggle to get three runs in one game only to have ryan franklin blow whatever save opportunities he got. holy crap, have things ever turned around!
tonight felt especially good, i think, because clayton kershaw is evidently a damn good pitcher, and we got that damn good pitcher to issue five walks and throw over 100 pitches in fewer than five innings. in the first couple of innings, watching us load the bases without knocking in runs or breaking it open, i felt a little twinge of “uh oh, is this offense back?” but the boys chipped away relentlessly and eventually wore kershaw down, and it was goood. TLR’s decision to sit crazy-hot-hittin’ berkman and bring in allen craig paid off big time, and we’re looking at six straight games with 8 or more runs for the offense (even though we did lose one of those games).
another bright point: no more late night west coast games for a while! i don’t know about all you people, but i have been exhausted. in a perfect world, every cardinals game would be over by 10pm. central time. so, i am looking forward to a week of really good sleep, and–dare i say it?–continued kickass offense? a girl can dream.
i started to write this last night, but then i got too furiously frustrated to type. so. now that i’ve had a reasonable night of sleep and time to remember all the things you have to remember (it’s still early april; our offense WILL improve, albert is NOT going to continue to hit .179), i am ready to calmly and rationally discuss last night’s game.
actually: yesterday AFTERNOON’S game. that game started at 3:35 central time. i was at work, listening to the game through at bat 2011 on my phone. i left work, took a 30 minute train ride home, ran an errand at CVS, went home, changed, went to the gym, picked up a package and the returned home. listening all the while. by the time i got home, it was the 10th inning. i was not in a good mood.
generally i have found that it’s pretty enjoyable to run while listening to a baseball broadcast. it keeps me interested and doesn’t mess with my pace like music does. however: running while ryan theriot is up with the bases loaded in the top of the ninth with a full count, fouling off every pitch brian wilson sends his way… no. NOT ENJOYABLE. nerve-wrecking. also not enjoyable: my gargantuan mood swing between the top of the ninth and the bottom of the ninth. when theriot finally blasted that 2-run single through, i thought, “this is it! this is where we turn it around! the first week of the season is going to fade into a fog, and we’re going to be awesome! i’m so excited! this is so…. OMG IS RYAN FRANKLIN THROWING A KNUCKLEBALL???”
i feel like that game was the season thus far in a nutshell. the offensive woes, the defensive struggles, albert consistently failing to produce with runners in scoring position. jake westbrook is, thus far, the worst starter we have, and ryan franklin is not to be trusted. he’s already matched his number of blown saves from all of last season. on april 8th. i know it’s early, but cardinal management has to be thinking about a new closer (or maybe thinking about thinking about one). we saw isringhausen’s wheels coming off a few years ago; we may be seeing something similar here. i’m no genius, but i’d rather see fernando salas out there in the next save opportunity. somebody call memphis!
i’ve vowed to keep my chin up and thoughts (generally) positive in the month of april. love requires a little leeway, which i will give to my boys all day long. i just wish that they weren’t making it so difficult.
something weird is going on in cardinal nation.
call me crazy, but there is something in the air–or maybe, more accurately, something lacking in the air–at the beginning of this 2011 season. there’s a general pessimism that i didn’t expect. yes, it’s been a tough spring. yes, wainwright is out for the year and holliday is nursing the place where his appendix used to be and albert is setting records for grounding into double plays. i won’t lie; i don’t feel great about the season. but i’m willing to give myself a stern look in the mirror and tell myself that it is only april fourth, my god. and i would expect all of my fellow redbird fans to do the same, and buck up. and be positive.
so why, then, were there so many empty seats at the saturday game of opening weekend? why was a busch stadium employee walking by my seat muttering “it’s gonna be a long season” during only the second game of the season? and why is it that i am sitting here watching us play the pirates and thinking that we cannot possibly score three runs in the two innings that we have left, against arguably the worst team in major league baseball for the last 20 years?
after a spring training where the hits (against us) just kept on coming, the first three-plus games of the series haven’t calmed a lot of our fears. there’s been shoddy defense and an offense that’s consistently failing to produce. ryan franklin has already blown a save. the bright points have been a solid outing by chris carpenter, a solid outing (until some costly mistakes in the 6th inning) by kyle lohse, and a goddamn beautiful outing by jaime garcia. so that’s something. but what concerns me more than a subpar start is all the empty seats at busch stadium tonight. yes, it’s a cold monday night, but shouldn’t there be a little more excitement in the air?! shouldn’t we be F’ING PUMPED that the cardinals are even playing? isn’t april that magical time where you know that you have five long months to make up for whatever sins you might commit?
part of me suspects that albert has hurt us. i would argue that #albertageddon was and continues to be as big of a blow as the loss of adam wainwright. it’s left us in a place of uncertainty, and people like this a-hole are trodding all over us in our collectively vulnerable state. i know that i have a tendency to romanticize baseball a little too much, but i cannot help wondering: is this about us doubting our biggest star? are we afraid of being left and pulling back because of it? are we, cardinals nation, sitting here like a weepy teenage girl, hand on the phone, hoping that albert will call and say he loves us too and make everything okay?
this, a little bit, is what i’m afraid of.
however, this is also ridiculous. because it’s april fourth. so if you will excuse me, i have an appointment with my mirror. on the agenda: a hard stare, a deep breath, and the reminder that anything is possible.
i waited so hard for this game! i am not pleased.
that is not entirely true. of course i did not want to lose in the 11th inning, or see albert ground into THREE DOUBLEPLAYS OMG, but i guess it wasn’t all bad. let’s look at the good points:
1. CARP. this is something really good, because there is a specific, unique pain to watching carp be not-carp on the mound. opening day 2007 against the mets comes to mind. i drank a lot that night. when carp is off, it hurts, because it adds fuel to this sneaking suspicion that he’s on a downward slide and he’ll never really be CARP the way we mean CARP again. also, i am just having a contest with myself right now to see how many times i can say CARP in one sentence.
anyway, he was really good today. he looked good, felt good. i have said this before–when carp is ON, the air is a little different. the ball moves a little differently. it’s a goddamn beautiful thing. i’m not sure he was quite there today, but he was really close. seven strong innings from carp, two hits, two runs (one, i think should not have been earned) — well, that is something undeniably positive to take from today.
2. HOLLIDAY. soooo matt holliday is batting .750!! that’s freaking great. in the first inning, with colby on third, everyone though pujols would knock him in. NOPE. pop out in foul territory. but matty came through with an RBI single! and then, with the game tied in the bottom of the eighth, everyone thought that pujols would jack one to give us the lead. NOPE. but matty stepped up and… hey! jacked one to give us the lead. the announcers seemed to think that holliday is going to have one hell of a year, and that’s fantastic news for us, the fans of the st. louis cardinals. because presumably albert does not plan on going 0-for-5 and grounding into one bazillion double plays per game, and when albert starts producing, having holliday on fire behind him… well. !!!
3. COLBY. hey, colby looked good today, huh? he hit a triple! he drew a couple of walks! he got on base for pujols to… ground him into double plays! i don’t have a whole lot more to say about this, except that we need colby to produce. we need everyone to produce, because i think the bullpen might be baaad.
4. THE NEW GUYS. theriot and berkman both produced some hits today. well one hit, and two hits, respectively. but that is something! it’s hard being the new guys, and especially the new guys from the longtime enemy (cubs) and the enemy in 2004 and 2005 (astros). i do not have high hopes for either of these guys, so i am pleased with anything positive that happens. for now.
i do not feel like making a list of the negative things. it is the first day of the season, and it is time to be positive positive positive! so instead of making a big negative list, i am going to just say all the bad things really fast. the bullpen, with the exception of trever miller, makes me shiver with fear. miguel batista was not good today and i do not have faith that he will ever be good. (isn’t he, like, real old?) ryan franklin already has his first blown save; we gave up runs on errors/poor throws/poor decisions. holliday got picked off second: no good. albert gave me multiple opportunities to make the “THAT guy wants $300 million?!” joke, and i don’t want reasons to make that joke. that joke isn’t funny.
a lot of these might be just beginning of the season problems, shit that will get ironed out as the proverbial ball gets rolling. i’m going to hope that is true, and hope that the good stays good. also, two extra innings today does not make it okay that tomorrow is an off day. i’m still pissed about that, baseball!
a week or two ago on the cardinal nation blog, brian walton took a look at the cardinals’ world series changes, according to vegas. (or just those who gamble, i guess. i don’t actually know anything about sports betting.) after the mild deluge of bad news we’ve had thus far, before the season has even officially begun, it does not come as a surprise to discover that, well, ain’t nobody expecting us to win the world series in 2011. (at least i think that’s what 30/1 odds means. i don’t actually know very much about math either. take that, stereotypes!) a little later on in the post, walton reveals that “the over-under on st. louis wins this season sits at just 83.”
this got my mind churning back to the last time we won 83 games in a season: the year of 2006.
2006 was a weird year for my relationship with the cardinals. i was living in asia, and despite my slingbox dreams, the only access i had to the cardinals was internet-based. let me tell you: MLB.TV used to be way. more. shitty. (actually, it might not even be shitty anymore. i’ve heard good things but not tested them, because i force my husband to auto-renew our subscription to mlb extra innings every march, and then i force him to watch approximately 100 games per year on the television. being married to me is really excellent.)
anyway, five years ago, MLB.TV was a lot of blurry pixels and a ton of buffering. i mostly would just listen to the audio whilst simultaneously watching on gameday. right? i’m kind of sick. but in 2006, i really was sick–homesick. as hell. most of the people i lived with/socialized with in asia were either european, australian, south african, or the wrong kind of american (the non-baseball-loving kind). it was horrible. and the season itself, from what i recall, was about as up and down as my feelings about living in asia. which is to say, sometimes i loved it, and sometimes we had an eight-game losing streak. so when one of those losing streaks happened in the final days of the regular season and our division lead started slipping away, i was ready to throw in the towel. nothing was normal in 2006, and i figured it was best to just write it all off as an experience and know that i would be back in america soon enough, and everything would be good again.
oh, so wrong. because we all know what happened in 2006. MIRACLES.
okay fine, maybe not miracles. but i think that it’s fair to say that there was something magical about 2006. let’s think back to the stars of that postseason, shall we? because it kind of wasn’t albert, and it kind of wasn’t carp, and it kind of wasn’t even scott rolen. no, it was: david eckstein, god bless his huge heart and one kidney; jeff suppan; jeff weaver; a young, brand new adam wainwright. it was yadi in game 7 of the NLCS, coming up big with his offense when he had almost never, to that point, come up big with his offense.
and maybe there really was a miracle–or two, if you think about that endy chavez catch, which was basically a miracle, and then the fact that we overcame that miracle to get to the world series… i mean, that’s something. a catch like that kills dreams. but not our dreams!
i’m getting a little crazy, i feel, so i’m going to wrap this up. i only mean to say that there are a lot of things that we, cardinal nation, should remember about the only world series victory that some of us can remember being alive for. (or actually were alive for) with wainwright out, albert’s future (as a cardinal) uncertain, and a lot of question marks up and down the lineup (is ryan the riot really an offensive upgrade?), i think it’s a good idea for me–and the rest of you, if you care to join me–to take a step back and a deep breath, and to remember that you can be expected to have a mediocre season and still win the world series. hell, you can even have a mediocre season and win the world series.
by no means am i suggesting that we will win the world series this year. (number 11 in 2011? no way!) i am only reminding myself, and maybe you too, that going into a season where one’s expectations for a team may not be the highest… just about anything is possible.
I have just about recovered from my return to Chicago.
To make an obvious and not that hilarious joke, coming from Jupiter, Florida to Chicago in early March seems about as drastic as coming from Jupiter the planet. On one side there is sunshine and warmth and ocean and baseball, and on the other, it’s 30 degrees with biting winds, a massive freezing cold lake, and… pro basketball. NO THANKS, CHICAGO. NO. THANKS.
Now that I am done hating the city I’ve lived in for nearly nine years (for the next few minutes), let’s talk about spring training!
To no one’s surprise, I loved spring training. It’s a little hard, of course, to separate my love for spring training from my love for not wearing closed-toe shoes, but I really loved it. I know that’s it’s not news that Cardinals fans are the best in the league and that we travel in droves, but it was so heartwarming to see the Sea of Red so far from Busch Stadium. My husband and I flew into Orlando (what kind of Floridian escape would it be without a brief stop at Hogwarts, after all) and saw a dude in a Ludwick shirt within 10 minutes of being in the airport. We went to a game at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee in addition to hitting up ol’ Roger Dean Stadium, and the difference in fan attendance was staggering. I felt a little bad for the nice lady who handed me (and the 50 Cardinals fans before and after me) free Astros hats and said, “Well, you can just have them as souvenirs…” (She was so nice that I left those hats in our hotel room when we checked out, instead of immediately throwing them in the trash. I’ll never like the Astros.)
A lot of people upon my return have asked how the Cardinals looked while I was there, but I don’t feel qualified in making a judgment on that based on two performances against the sub-par Astros. Pujols, Holliday, Berkman, etc. didn’t make the trip to Kissimmee, but Colby Rasmus and Matt Carpenter (MCarp!!) led an offensive barrage on poor Ryan Rowland-Smith and the other Houston pitchers. Saturday’s game in Jupiter was short and sweet–a 1-0 win that took all of 1 hour and 52 minutes. The highlight there? Probably an appearance by Lou Brock, or maybe the girl who showed up at the game in the best homemade (I assume) baseball dress of all time. (Seriously, if anyone knows this girl, tell her to Project Runway this shit immediately. I will be her first paying customer.)
I’m planning on making Jupiter an annual trip. Next time around, we’ll skip Orlando and stick to the coast… maybe try to enjoy some time on the Fort Lauderdale beaches before those crazy college kids descend upon it for spring break.