CARDINALS PROBABLE: REDS PROBABLE:
Jeff Weaver (4-12, 6.71) Elizardo Ramirez (4-7, 4.47)
It's funny, I've had a nervous/excited feeling for this game since I woke up this morning. Reminds me of football season quite a bit.
I traded five questions with Larry Borowski of Viva El Birdos. You'll be able to read my responses to his questions at that link. Here's what I asked him:
1) Are you enjoying this Cubs season as much as I am?
Believe it or not, I like the Cubs. A lot of my friends (and some family) root for the Cubs, which is probably why I never developed a healthy disgust for that fan base. More to the point, the Cubs have kicked the Cardinals' butts up one side and down the other the past couple of years. It has been particularly awful this season, because the Cards have not only lost 10 of 13 vs the Cubs so far, they have lost ugly. We still have 6 more games vs them later this month; I'd just as soon forfeit the games and rest the
2) How frustrated is Jeff Weaver making you?
It's worse than Sid Ponson. Fat Sid had a very good reason for sucking -- viz. the lack of any good big-league pitches. But Weaver has got better stuff than anybody on the staff except Carpenter -- lively fastball, sharp slider. I just don't see how he can be so awful. His body language and facial expressions suggest that he has embraced loserhood -- almost like he's nodding "See, I told you: I suck" as each home run flies out of the park. I was in favor of the acquisition, which seemed like all upside / no downside. It's still no downside, but I no longer see the upside either.
3) Were you surprised that the Cardinals biggest move at the deadline was Ronnie Belliard? Cause I was certainly expecting more.
I was and I wasn't. The Cards had a lot of needs, but they also had a weak trading position. Their only marketable commodities were Reyes and Wainwright, neither of whom they could afford to give up unless they got an affordable star in return . . . . and those players weren't really good enough to land an affordable star. Jocketty apparently offered Reyes and some other good prospects to the Marlins for Dontrelle Willis, and the Marlins weren't all that interested. I did think Jocketty would at least pick up a no-strings-attached outfield bat -- Craig Wilson, Jeff Conine, Dave Dellucci, somebody of that ilk -- to deepen the bench and provide some stability in left field. But Jocketty is an extremely deliberate trader; he likes to keep options open, keep hunting for bargains until he gets a lopsided deal. Last couple of years, he has futzed around too long to get anything done. I think the Mulder trade has made him a little bit gun-shy; he took a risk and got burned in that deal, and ever since he has seemed to be even more cautious than usual.
4) Who do you see as the biggest threat to the Cardinals from the NL Central in the coming years? I thought Milwaukee would make a run this year, but that obviously hasn't happened, and I have to think Houston is going to have some down years soon.
I too thought the Brewers would make a run, and I hadn't ruled out the possibility until this past weekend, when the Cards took two of three from the Crew. They obviously look like a strong up/coming team. But I think the Reds will be in the mix for a while, too, primarily because of Castellini and Krivsky. I think Krivsky has done a phenomenal job overall. I know he baffled (putting it kindly) a lot of Cincy fans with that trade, but the game's all about pitching, and if you judge his moves as a whole it is obvious he's doing the right thing, broadening Cincinnati's base of mound talent. In my opinion even the Kearnes / Lopez deal can ultimately be a "win" if the Reds take the dollars those two players would have made next year and spend them instead on a good free-agent pitcher.
5) Do you think this Cardinals team, as currently constructed, can make a deep run into the playoffs? And how do you rate this Cardinals team compared to the Cardinals teams from the past two years?
I think the NL is so bad this year that any team from our side of the bracket can get to the World Series. The Cards have one transcendant position player, a shutdown starter, and a reliable closer, and they play good defense -- in this watered-down league, that's a lot of assets. However, the Cardinals haven't played well against quality opponents this season, and they have a history of playing worse in the playoffs than in the regular season. If they should lose behind Carpenter in Game 1 of the NLDS -- assuming they get to the playoffs at all, which still seems likely but
is far from certain -- anyway, if they should lose the opener, they'd be good candidates to be swept no matter who the opponent is. As for the 2d half of the question, there's no comparison. The 2004-05 teams were models of consistency and seemingly never beat themselves; this year's team self-destructs routinely. Those teams were deep and well balanced; this year it's really just a two-man team, ie Pujols and
Thanks to Larry for answering my questions.
So here we are. Biggest series in the past seven years.