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Meaningless Baseball

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Meaningless Baseball
Congratulations to the Cincinnati Reds on clinching the National League Central Division last night.  Since I hold no animosity toward most of that club (unlike, say, a team from the north side of Chicago and with the exception of Brandon Phillips and Johnny Cueto), I'm glad that they were able to win it on the field, in their home park, and in such dramatic fashion.  Celebrations after another team has lost to let you into the playoffs aren't nearly as much fun as the excitement that comes after a win, and there is no doubt that team deserved it.

Work has kept me from blogging as much as I have wanted to lately, so let's do our recap of the last week or so and then talk about the other aspects of this team.

Hero: Albert Pujols.  Two home runs will do it
Goat: Matt Pagnozzi.  His 0-4 meant he was the only starter without a hit.
Notes: Daniel Descalso (I don't care if FSMW puts up Dan, unless I hear otherwise, I'm going Daniel.  I know what it's like to have everyone shorten the name!) had a superb game, going 4-5 and making me think that maybe I should have found room on the top 7 prospects for him.  Also, a nice outing for Jeff Suppan.  You can't expect him to go more than five, but when he only allows one run in that stretch, you take it as the gift it is and go on.

Hero: Adam Wainwright.  Finally got that 20th win and did it in style, though he didn't stick around as long as you would expect.  (More on that later.)
Goat: Colby Rasmus.  0-4 with three strikeouts.
Notes: Nice of Tony La Russa to provide a little redemption for Kyle McClellan, letting him take a crack at holding the lead when Wainwright had a chance for 20, a chance that McClellan blew last year, likely costing Wainwright the Cy Young.  Good to see Allen Craig get a big home run as well, as his bat has started to heat up here at the end of the season.

Saturday (7-3 loss at Chicago)
Hero: Albert Pujols.  Two hits, a run, and an RBI, plus possibly the most heads-up play I've seen in a long time, throwing home on an infield grounder when he didn't have a chance to get the guy at first.  Wasn't his fault Bryan Anderson botched the ensuing pickle.
Goat: Chris Carpenter.  I know, the defense let him down somewhat.  However, he still wound up with not only the big inning that has been his doom lately, but the Cubs scored in the next two innings as well.
Notes: This one was especially tough because they got the 3-0 lead, then gave it back against an unknown Cubs pitcher.  Usually those guys shut the team down from the very beginning, so this was one that hurt.

Hero: Matt Pagnozzi.  There were a few people to choose from, but Pags went 2-4 with three RBI, which is a pretty solid day of work.
Goat: Jake Westbrook.  Staked to a 8-0 lead, he couldn't put the Cubs away for good, letting them creep back and Trever Miller almost let them finish the job.
Notes: Good work by Mitchell Boggs and Ryan Franklin to keep this one in the win column.  Franklin got a little wild in the ninth, but he did the job and that's the important thing.  The liner that Blake Hawksworth took looked bad, especially his initial reaction of flopping off the mound, but it "only" took 20 stitches.  Though it added him to the growing list of Cardinals who broke for vacation early (we'll get to that as well).

Hero: Matt Holliday.  2-3 with a big three run home run late.
Goat: Brendan Ryan.  0-4, though he was able to score a run.
Notes: A number of hitters with two hits, including Skip Schumaker, Craig and Pujols.  Pagnozzi had three hits for back to back solid days, but his track record doesn't suggest he can keep this up.  The battle between him and Anderson this week should be worth watching.  Also, Kyle Lohse had his longest outing since coming back from the surgery.  It wasn't necessarily a stellar one, but it was what you'd like to see out of a fifth starter.  He kept the team in the game, which is more than you can say about some of his other starts.

Hero: Matt Pagnozzi.  His first career home run started the Cardinal scoring.
Goat: Mike MacDougal.  You know what you are getting when you put him into a game.  It wasn't likely the Cards were going to come back and the Reds had already eliminated them, but still, MacDougal in a semi-close game?
Notes: Suppan's only two wins this year had come against the Pirates, but being that they'd seen him less than a week ago, I'm sure they were fairly well prepared.  Wasn't all his fault, of course, and if the offense had hit Brian Burres the way they did last week, he might have pulled out a win.

Today's game just ended and who knows if I'll get a chance to write tomorrow, so let's go ahead and hit that one as well.

Hero: PJ Walters.  Walters had a tremendous game.  You might want to discount it because it was against Pittsburgh, but the Pirates have some solid hitters, as has been shown the last couple of weeks.  Seven innings of scoreless ball against this team is something to be proud of.
Goat: Jon Jay.  0-3 from the leadoff slot, though he was hit by a pitch.
Notes: Mark Hamilton got his first major league hit.  Craig hit another home run and has gotten his average within shouting distance of .250, which is pretty nice compared to how he started his career in St. Louis.  Almost completely a scrub lineup today, and Colby Rasmus, the only nominal starter, played like a scrub, going 0-4 with three strikeouts.  Rasmus seems to have those multi-strikeout games more than anyone else on the team.

As always, the recap of the last week was on Baseball Digest Monday and the last one of those Week That Was columns, at least for 2010, will appear next Monday.

So, now that we are caught up (kinda--expect to see the Hero/Goat post from that week in August when I was gone sometime this weekend), let's talk about all the off-field news.

First off, Jaime Garcia and Adam Wainwright were added to the "shut 'em down" categories since we wrote, along with Yadier Molina.  Add these guys to Felipe Lopez, who was cut loose, and it's like those last days of school when people start skipping or going on field trips, leaving only a bare-bones class behind.

If you were a conspiracy theorist or someone that believes the worst of Tony La Russa, you might find it interesting that, after the dustup over Garcia being shut down and then lobbying to stay in the rotation, Garcia never did actually pitch again.  I'm not denying that it was a bad move--I completely agree with the notion of resting Garcia, and it may have been that, if the Cards had creeped to within 3-4 games of Cincy, Garcia would have been back out there, but the fact remains that TLR's first call is what eventually happened.

I hope that it won't affect Garcia's Rookie of the Year chances, though obviously there are more important things than that.  The Cards will need another strong year out of him next year if they are to knock off the Reds at the top of the division.  Like I said last night when I hosted BBA Baseball Talk, I'd probably give my ROY vote (or, as we call it in the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, the Willie Mays Award) to Garcia, but I fully admit that there's some hometown bias in that selection.

Then you come to Waino.  There were a few conflicting stories out there, as he kinda dodged an MRI question before it came to light that he'd had one before the story broke about his stiff arm.  All that being said, and I'm sure there's a discussion there about the Cardinals (any team, really) and the players and what should and should not be released to the public, it boils down to that Wainwright won't go for 21 this year.

Again, this really isn't a big thing, I don't think.  If it turns out to be more serious, Wainwright needs surgery, something of that matter, that's a different story, but from what we know now, Wainwright could pitch if he has to, so taking the winter off should bring him to spring training rested and ready.  And really, what would an extra game do?  Save for pitching a perfect game (and I don't know if that would matter either), I don't think he could do anything to get the Cy Young away from Roy Halladay.  He'll have to be content with another top-three finish and hopefully he can break through that ceiling in 2011.

Cardinals activated Adam Ottavino today, as this story suggested they would.  Ottavino will likely get one of the starts in the upcoming Colorado series, though he probably won't go more than 3-4 innings.  It'll be good to see what he's got after resting and rehabbing.  It still seems likely that he'll need surgery somewhere down the road, though.

Also, per Bernie Miklasz's tweets, John Mozeliak was on the show today and made two points that Bernie made sure to share: that he wanted a decision from TLR by November 1 and he looked to add two bats with 15-20 home run power to next year's team.

I completely understand the TLR bit and I don't think it will take that long for Tony to decide one way or another.  He's usually figured it out in mid-October, when there's been a reason to wonder, and he isn't likely to drag it into some Brett Favre zone.  The United Cardinal Bloggers will be doing their roundtable in October (more on that coming soon) and I fully expect one of those days to be preempted by TLR's decision.

Adding the bats, though, is an interesting thing.  Where is he going to find those?  Unless he moves someone like Jay or Craig, the only place to put them is in the middle infield, unless you want to cut David Freese loose and find a new third baseman.

Guys like that aren't necessarily on the free agent market, which may mean an active trading offseason.  You wonder if there are some players already targeted and if Mo has some idea of what the cost will be.  That may be another reason you see the Memphis lineup so much this week, to pump up their trade value.

Just four more days of the season.  While the offseason always does go by faster than you expect it to, when you are staring at that long stretch of the calendar without baseball, it's a tough thing.

Don't worry about gaps here on this blog, though.  The next couple of weeks could be light as work takes me out of town, but you won't get rid of me that easily.  The UCB is, as I say, going to be doing their roundtable and is working on a postseason publication for you to download and read while the dark days of winter are upon you.

Then the free agent market will open.  Then Winter Warmup will be here.  Then, with that big spectacle in February, we can start uttering the phrase "pitchers and catchers report."

Baseball is timeless.  For that, give thanks.
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