Tuesday, October 23, 2012

It Isn't Pretty: Three Things You Won't Hear on Sports Talk Radio about the 2012 Cardinals Season

Three things you won't hear on sports radio in St. Louis:

  1. The impact of the NLCS is not just a "tough loss".   It is the way they lost.  The St. Louis Cardinals of 2011-2012 have been unmasked as Pretenders.  
  2. Trevor Rosenthal could've led the Cardinals to the World Series, but loyalty to the old tired horses of the starting rotation made Mike Matheny blind to it.
  3. 2013 does not look promising, because the Cardinals lack a leader.  If the Cardinals had a leader, there is no way they would've dropped a series up three games to one.

1.  You had three games in a row that were basically over by the fourth inning.  The Cardinals were outscored 20-1.  When the going got tough, the Cardinals said, "See ya' later".  Game-watching parties across Cardinal nation were over before the dips and chips even got put out for the guests.  It was like suffering through three game sevens of the 1985 World Series.  Except instead of a blown call by a first-base umpire, the Cardinals were depressed about -  what??  Nothing more than their own incompetence, I guess.

How much more fitting it would've been to lose those three games by 4-3, 2-1 and 5-4.  But these were old-fashioned blowouts, all three. Not only did the Cardinals' pitching staff allow a lot of runs early, but the team didn't hit in the clutch (or in any other circumstance really), it didn't field, it didn't throw to the right base (or was AWOL even covering the base), it  had trouble gripping the baseball, it made bad decisions, it let whiny Marco Scutoro get the NLCS MVP and make two incredible showboating moves right in the Cardinals' face (a "two flaps down" ground-ball put-out and walking across the Cardinals' pitcher's mound), it not only could not retire a San Francisco pitcher but could not prevent them from driving in runs, and suffered a humiliating plonk on the triceps of Matt Holliday late in game three when the three-game drubbing plus Holliday's hitting only .200, should've been enough comeuppance for even the most bloodthirsty Giant.  This was "game set match" of a proportion never experienced in the history of major league baseball.  A humiliation. A rubbing of the Cardinals' nose in their own poop.

Viewers across America must have been saying to themselves, "How did the Cardinals even get here?  How did they win the World Series last year? A team this feckless must've gotten totally lucky."  It also raised the "LaRussa Specter", that is, the specter that without a great manager, this is only a good team.  Games five, six and seven were so bad it was like the Giants were playing against themselves.

2.  Now, to the pitching staff. With all due respect to the Cardinals' starting pitchers, that obviously did something right to enable the team to win 88 games this year, it does not, at present, contain a "stopper".  Not one guy who you can just hand the ball to and expect precision and perfection, nine times out of 10.  The type of pitcher that every championship club has at least one of.  A guy like Chris Carpenter I of the 2011 Cardinals.  Adam Wainwright gives you one good start and one bad start.    .500 is not good enough for the postseason, however.   Chris Carpenter still has "gutsy" written all over him, but coming back from TOS surgery, and having a rib removed, and being 37-years old,  it was really more of a wing and a prayer that Carpenter II was going to be able to do his "rehab" and "find his motion again", not in spring training 2013, but in the heat of a postseason.  It was an extreme case of wishful thinking among the Cardinal Nation.  And we all fell for it.  Lance Lynn was not even slated for the starting rotation this year until Carpenter went down.  He was banished to the bullpen midseason, and was at best a question mark going into the postseason.  Kyle Lohse and Jaime Garcia both have spotty postseason records, and the latter was injured.  Who was supposed to fill Garcia's spot?  Did they ever fill his spot?  Who knows?  Who even knew what the rotation was by the first game of the NLDS.  It was catch as catch can. "Rotation?  Sure, we've got a rotation.  It's right here on this sheet of paper."  This was a team that played .500 ball from August 28 on.  It wasnt like any of the pitchers had single-handedly pitched us into the playoffs.  So who knew?  If the Atlanta Braves had not themselves thrown the ball around the infield like the Keystone Cops, Lohse's stuff would not have been good enough to help the Cardinals even get into the NLDS.

But does pitching even matter?  Of course it does!  Many sports-talk pundits, after the NLCS loss, said, "If the Cardinals cannot score runs, they're not going to win; it cannot get any simpler than that."  But Brian Stull (my former WGNU colleague) on KXOS ESPN radio in St. Louis, gave the best counterargument to this sportswriter cliché and platitude that I've ever heard, on his evening radio show on October 23, 2012.    Brian said that your starting pitchers giving up a big lead early, like the Cardinals pitchaers did, influences everything else about the game.  Your hitters press, and widen their strike zones.  Your fielders press and make errors.  The opposing hurlers, meanwhile, get to just "rear back and throw".  It's not the same game when the starting pitcher has his teammates buried deep by the fourth inning.    Your hitting will be affected.  Sure, the Cardinals came back in game five of the NLDS vs. Washington, from an early deficit, but there is a side of the athlete's psyche that says to itself, "Do we have to come-from-behind every time?   Can't the pitchers help us out just once??"

If I heard it once, I heard it a thousand times from various sports commentators during the postseason: "the Cardinals' bullpen is so good that you want to hurry up and get to it."  Well, folks, there's a question begging here. If the middle relief is that good, maybe they should be the starters and the starters should be the middle relievers!  Starting pitching is, after all, a more essential commodity than middle relief.  How many middle relievers are in the Hall of Fame?

Into this breach stepped one Trevor Rosenthal.  Rosenthal is a 22-year-old minor-league starter who had been pitching creditably in middle relief since he was called up to the big leagues in late July.  However, the postseason is when he really found his stride.    He was clocked at 101 mph in game three, a Cardinal blowout.  Bleacher Report called him "One of the Five Rookies Who Could Swing the Momentum in the Upcoming World Series".  For the three innings they threw him against Washington, and the five innings against San Francisco, he had 15 strikeouts against two walks and two hits.  Needless to say, no run scored against him.  The Giants had never seen Rosenthal before,  yet the rest of the Cardinal rotation was, to the Giants, like a worn-out shoe.  (The Giants had pounded the Cardinals' pitching staff for a 15-0 victory at Busch Stadium in August.  Rosenthal was not part of the cavalcade of pitchers that day.)   The Giants must have had a great scouting book on the Cardinals pitching staff,  judging from  the way they jumped on practically every starter early.  But they had no book on Rosenthal.   He was tabula rasa.

Even for those Cardinals  pitchers who had reasonably good outings against the Giants, it was clear the Giants were seeing the ball.    But with Rosenthal, the Giants were completely hapless.  For the NLCS, Rosenthal had "hot hand" written all over him.    So you had the entirely surreal situation of everybody in both dugouts knowing that there was one pitcher that could not be hit in that series, and yet that guy could not get in the game because of "prior commitments" to the old starters.

Mind you, I'm not sure which of the Cardinals starters you actually take out of the "rotation", but I think you find room for Rosenthal in your rotation.  Maybe don't take out any of them, but just give them all an extra day's rest.  "He was too young, too inexperienced", you say.   Well, Rosenthal's pitched 190 more minor-league innings than has Stephen Strasburg.  And he's about the same age.  And Washington has virtually built an entire franchise around Strasburg.   Rosenthal could've been the rookie sensation of the 2012 postseason.  But all the sportswriters, scribes and radio people were loyal to their sources: the old guard who give them regular interviews.  And Matheny was simply too conservative, in his first year of managing,  to think outside the box like that.

Sure, handing the ball to a rookie starter with only two months of major league experience would not have been "the usual plan".  But when the usual plan is obviously not working, you adjust.  The Cardinals rotation truthfully has been rocky all year.  Nobody was going to be saying that "Lohse, Lynn and Wainwright" was the reincarnation of Koufax, Drysdale and Sutton, or Glavine, Maddux and Smoltz.  There was room for Rosenthal, and they chose not.  There are 50 pitchers in the history of baseball who have started World Series games (let alone NLCS) at a younger age than Rosenthal.    If you think a 22-year-old is not mature enough to compete in high-stress postseason, just look at this list.

3.  And then it really is tiresome to hear the constant refrain, "This team did a lot of great things this year, there is great hope for 2013."  There is no hope for 2013! Unless the DeWitts want to play Dial-a-Franchise, I don't think so.  The Cardinals complete capsizing during these last three critical games, after taking a 3-1 lead, and not being able to finish it at home against a washed-up veteran whose fastball has shrunk from 93 mph to a a "mystically slow 84 mph", .... does not speak well of the morale of this team.  It is a gut kick, with equal and opposite force to the buzz we got from game seven of the 2011 World Series.  It's Zen, karma, or whatever. But it's upon us,  whether we like it or not.  But what especially hurts are the sports talk hosts who talk in terms of next year's rotation and go back to the same old well, without mentioning Rosenthal, or any of the young prospects who impressed this year (Kelly, Miller).   Again, it's nostalgia, loyalty to news sources, or something else entirely inexplicable, which makes them think that a hobbled pitching staff with an average age of around 34 can lead the Cardinals to glory in 2013.  There's nothing like a young, fresh arm.  The Cardinals management should look into it....

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Painting of Christ disfigured in Spanish town

This juxtaposition is about as eloquent a criticism of modern art, as you could want to find:


She apparently was NOT deliberately trying to make Jesus Christ look like a monkey.

Friday, June 29, 2012

I'm a Record Label Executive. And This Is How to Get My Attention...

I'm a Record Label Executive. And This Is How to Get My Attention... (via Digital Music News)

This was recently posted by Jimmy Swan, owner of Dallas-based Executive Music Group.  ERG is distributed by INgrooves Fontana, and its roster includes Jamiroquai, 12 Stones, Alien Ant Farm, and Khleo Thomas.

"As a record exec I'm asked all the time to listen to bands. May I make a suggestion,keep in mind that most labels don't want to know about a band, they want to find a band. So if they don't want you to submit music and info how do they sign bands?? It's really easy to be honest with you. The secret (besides not sucking, not be broke, and have a huge following) is......... Open up for and become friends with the labels other artists!! That's it.... We trust our bands and if they ask us to listen we normally do. Between them and a lawyer we sign the majority of our bands. I'm just being honest here cause I listen to about zero of the hundreds of weekly demos I get from random people. Just saying."

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Trying to get into Nora Ephron ...

... and having trouble.

Is she really this banal to have said this?:
What wouldn’t she miss? For starters – ‘The former Soviet Republics, Twitter, the Kardashians, all housewives, illness everywhere, every drink invented since the Cosmopolitan, especially the drink made with crushed mint leaves (you know the one).’ And the things she will miss: ‘My kids, Nick, spring, fall, waffles, the concept of waffles, twinkle lights, butter, Paris, and pie.*
And of her movies .. "Sleepless in Seattle" and other extreme chick flicks? Meh. I don't think this is going to happen for me.

Her parents were both Hollywood writers.  She lived in Beverly Hills, she went to Wellesley, all of her other three siblings Hollywood writers.  Not a lot of hardship or adversity growing up.  Just beaucoup connections.

I do like that she said that as one grows older, everyone assumes that they're going to be immune to age: "I think it's like a lot of things about getting older — you have absolutely no imagination that this is actually going to happen to you," she told NPR's Neal Conan several years ago. "You think for quite a while you're going to be the only person who doesn't need reading glasses, or the only person who doesn't go through menopause ... and in the end, the only person who isn't going to die. And then you suddenly are faced with whichever of those things it is, and you can't believe how unimaginative you have been about what it actually consists of."

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2165501/Nora-Ephron-dead-Writer-director-hinted-illness-book-I-Remember-Nothing.html#ixzz1z0WCRlvV


Friday, June 8, 2012

My Favorite Type of Lawsuit

This is easily my favorite type of plaintiff's lawsuit. The "you either knew or should have known that Martians would land and start eating all the green cheese and should have taken preventative measures" lawsuit. #litigationabuse http://www.wcpo.com/dpp/news/local_news/hamilton-county-facing-federal-lawsuit-over-sexual-abuse-at-the-county-morgue ... ... >end>

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Bee Gees: Imagine There's No Disco (It's Easy If You Try)

From Wikipedia: "The brothers relocated to Miami, Florida, early in 1975 to record. After starting off with ballads, they eventually heeded the urging of Mardin and Stigwood and crafted more rhythmic disco songs."

Play the Bee Gees 'what if' game if you will. What if they had not relocated to Miami and what if they had told Mardin and Stigwood to stuff it. Surely with that much talent they do not just wither away at that point. But what do they go into? Progressive, maybe? Or do they wait for the new wave economical/pop song thing to happen again and get a second wind on their careers as did the Kinks, Hollies, Mitch Ryder, Iggy Pop, Brian Wilson, etc?

RIP Robin!

p.s. For some really great disco, try this online radio station: http://www.radioitalo.com/

Saturday, April 28, 2012

My Favorite Rap Names

Mos Def
Gucci Mane
Dun Deal
Playa Made
Da Hol' 9 (group)
Skur Quro
Hard Knox
Paper Boy
Thug Dog
Joe Capo
Tighty Whitey (OK, I made that one up)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Iron Law of History: Romney will win GOP nomination

Since primaries rather than smoke-filled rooms and caucuses became the predominant way for GOP to select its nominee (c. 1968), they've never nominated someone who was not: President, VP, son of a President, or runner-up in a previous GOP presidential race. Mitt Romney was runner-up in 2008.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republican_Party_presidential_primaries,_2008 et al.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

SLU Law’s High-Stakes Gamble

One thing you have to say for St. Louis University president Lawrence Biondi is that he "keeps it interesting."

After spending two decades cleaning up St. Louis University's main campus and adding some light, space and tranquility to the stressed-out urban environment that is midtown, what does he do but move his law school, the crown jewel of most universities, to an even more stressed-out downtown St. Louis, and into one of the ugliest, unretrofitted 1960s office buildings that could be imagined.

At first blush, this is madness. But when one considers that legal education and legal employment is an even more stressed-out commodity than decaying urban areas, the move may just be a stroke of genius.

The present SLU law building and library has been rehabbed and improved right along with the rest of the main campus over the last two decades. It is far from an eyesore now: state-of-the-art courtroom for mock trials, an elegant student commons, and an annex which consists of a beautiful Victorian house appointed with all the usual accoutrements: (fireplaces, hand-carved wood, grand staircase, etc. )  And for a modest sum the Law School could have easily been kept up to date.

In contrast, the Scott building definitely will not show well. It is not going to inspire prospective students or (and especially) their parents. A law student will spend most of his life as a lawyer in an ugly office building. So why start now? When you are inside the building, you will spend half your life on the elevator.

And please let’s not sugarcoat the “nuisance” aspect. You are going to get panhandled. Compared to a suburban college campus, parking is going to be a pain. You might even get your car broken into. In terms of national identity, the building and location of the new SLU Law School could not be more ill-timed, with the recent unfortunate ranking of St. Louis as one of the ten most dangerous cities in the world. “Law school is stressful enough already,“ some will argue.

But, in the midst of the worst legal services market in living memory, what the Scott building does, and does very quickly (within six months it is open for business!), is put the emphasis right where it should be: on no-frills education, practical experience and “jobs jobs jobs”. If moving into an ugly building can hold the line on tuition increases and crushing post-Law school debt, I am all for it. If moving closer to the legal community will give St. Louis University law students the inside track on internships, clerkships and “practicums” (mostly unpaid), and allow them to sit in on more trials, I am for that, too. The move is perhaps Biondi’s eloquent rejoinder to one of the most frequent criticisms of the value of legal education: the failure to prepare students for the real-world practice of law.

So St. Louis University law will stand in stark contrast to its competitor, Washington University school of Law, with its “Hogwarts-influenced” gothic Anheuser-Busch Hall.

And the stereotypes of the two student bodies will start to diverge more and more.

The Washington U student will be the conventional car-driving, keg-party hopping, graduate student who will probably date an undergrad and live in a tony Clayton or University City four-family flat and after graduation will get a job with a big firm or (if not in the top 10%) be hired through a family connection.

The St. Louis U law student will be a Metrolink riding, loft-dwelling, New Urbanist, careerist, holding down 16-hours per semester plus two part-time jobs but who “plays hard” with MLB, NFL and NHL and Peabody Opera House right out his front door, and one of the best entertainment strips in the Midwest, Washington Avenue, just blocks away. And he won’t even lay eyes on an undergad until commencement ceremonies. After law school, this student is ready to “hit the ground running” and likely joins a small firm or opens up a solo practice based heavily on net referrals.

For many students who have their choice of law schools, the downtown SLU law campus will be a "bridge too far", understandably. These students should not be criticized or, indeed, stereotyped. But I predict that a surprising number of students will bypass the sleepy suburban campus that feels "just like college" and choose the bright lights of Washington Avenue and become part of “Biondi’s bold adventure”.

Emmett McAuliffe is a partner in a Clayton-based law firm and attended none of the schools mentioned in this article.