Tag Archives: national league

Big Ass MLB Preview 2012 – St. Louis Cardinals

Last season: 90-72 (2nd in NL Central, 6 GB; Won NL Wild Card)

2011 Playoffs: Beat Philadelphia in NLDS, 3-2; Beat Milwaukee in NLCS, 4-2; Beat Texas in World Series, 4-3

Kyle Lohse had a 3.39 ERA in 2011. Skillful pitching, or black magic? You decide. (Photo: Associated Press)

Josh says: It used to be, when people knew other people were messing with the supernatural, they did something to stop the hijinks. The very survival of the village and its sustenance-farming economy was at stake; no one could trifle with the possibility of taking away a peasant’s eternal reward and live to cackle at the demonic tale. So Joe and Genevieve Six Rows Of Corn did the right thing: If s/he looked like a witch and weighed like a duck, they burned him/her. Or drowned him/her. Most likely, they did both (in some order), along with a whole slew of other tortures that even pay cable would censor in these soft days.

And we are soft in these “everyone’s a sunbeam, no one’s a witch” politically correct times, for we see evil users of black magic and let them complete their careers without even one good stake-burning. Instead of salting the fields where they grow their noxious herbs, we allow their cauldrons to bubble merrily all spring and summer until the brew is complete: Another above-average season from Kyle Lohse, and another World Series win.

What else can explain a Cardinals’ Series win but extrarational intercession?  No positive human thought or action can be praised.  Would you laud John Mozeliak for trading Colby Rasmus for two months of Edwin Jackson and 50 at-bats from Corey Patterson (a punishment worse than a PED suspension)?  Will you say “What a blessing that Tony LaRussa cannot use a telephone, for if we had not lost a Game 5, there could not have been a clinching Game 7!”?

Their second baseman was a squirrel!  Yadier Molina has a jugular vein covered in Oriental symbols!  Adam Builder-of-Hay-Wagons was out the whole year. Ryan Theriot played a lot, and sucked, and they still won. Lance Berkman produced a .301/.412/.547 line. He was fat, and old, and ugly, and playing the outfield for the first time in a decade, and gave them almost 600 plate appearances.  How much more proof do we need?

The question, now, is whether the Cardinals, without LaRussa and Dave Duncan and that Pooholes guy, can continue to defy nature and win baseball games.  In comes Carlos Beltran, and if the dark magic is working, he’ll give them a minimum .300/.400/.500 line and 150 games. If not, if the evils were all contained in Tony’s fuzzy red nose, Beltran will likely shatter on a chalk line before April is over.  If Wainwright returns, less than a year removed from Tommy John surgery, and starts spinning webs of deception over opposing hitters’ eyes, we’ll know that the Dutch-owned American light lager presumably still allowed in the clubhouse has some sort of magic in it that can’t be captured by an accurate Born-On Date.

At age 35 and appearing to be headed into the twilight of his career, Lance Berkman was a huge part of the Cardinals' 2011 World Series run. (Photo: Associated Press)

Get your pins and dolls ready, and your stakes, and save up all the kindling you can.  It takes a special sort to light torches for the elimination of an evil as subtle as the St. Louis Cardinals.  Hate the Yankees all you want for their money and power–sure, we’re all broke, and who is actually from New York City?–they deserve our resentment.  But this humble ballclub? Hailing from a declined Midwestern city more crime-ridden than most, with tenuous claims on styles of barbecue and music long ago absorbed and improved by its neighbors and a few halcyon years in the forgotten Gay 1890s when people thought St. Louis was really the future’s Place To Be–it takes a certain type of red-eyed rage to recognize the dangers the Cardinals pose.

May the Cardinals sink, so that they must burn.

Worth watching: Tyler Greene and Matt Carpenter are white men who play the middle infield for the Cardinals. Joe Buck will realize during an August game against the Cubs that he is calling not just any stupid baseball game, but one that involves his father’s club, and so Buck will skip the fifth-inning Ambien that, to his credit, is the only thing that gets him through three hours with Tim McCarver, and he will get all weepy over the American Pastime as it is played in this Midwestern city, and one of these two mediocre middle infielders will be the receiver of his greatest slobbering praises, since Hometown Hero David Freese will be 0-for-28 in his last six games and hitting .227 on the year.

Featured Image Credit: Associated Press

Big Ass MLB Preview 2012 – Houston Astros

Last season: 56-106 (6th in NL Central, 40 GB)

2011 Playoffs: Did not qualify

Josh says: Our language, the American English one, is utterly debased.  It happens to language, getting all messed up.  Yet the way we speak now is more vulgar and less meaningful than at any time in our Republic’s history.  Overcome by stimuli, we say that the cat is AWESOME (i.e. inspiring fear and trembling in the presence of greatness); we say the guacamole was EPIC (and thus deserves an versified celebration from our best poets); the most recent “Star Wars” re-re-release was the WORST THING EVER (which could be true).

So the words I use might be somewhat devoid in power, but I do not exaggerate from even Internet dictionary definitions when I say the Houston Astros are going to be abysmal, awful, no-good, roadkilled-skunk-in-the-July-Texan-sun-stinking bad this year.

Knowing that the Astros are going to be real bad without actually knowing a bit of offseason news pertaining to that team, I planned on talking about the one time I went to Houston and missed my exit and drove 15 miles before I realized I’d passed like six Best Buy signs and it was probably time to turn around.  Then I would conflate that experience with the stereotypical outsider’s view of Houston’s sprawly driving culture which presumably leads to lots of human isolation and anonymity, and BAM, there’s your metaphor for the 2012 Astros roster, seeing as how you could drive into a Whataburger and get your fast food handed out to you in a paper sack by 25 pairs of hands and not realize they were actually a professional baseball club just volunteering there for the day to help out some Girl Scouts.

This is a team that, during Spring Training, just sent two Major League players named Jason Bourgeois and Humberto Quintero to the Royals in exchange for an A-ball prospect and the ever-present Player To Be Named Later.  Guys who were blocking their prospects(?) are going to be bench filler for the ROYALS, they’re so deep in the pit from years of Win One for the Aging Grocery Distributing Billionaire mode, and exacerbated by the GM reign of Not Afraid to Trade (to the Phillies) Ed Wade.

Instead of perpetuating stereotypes, however, I did due diligence and asked my friend who lived in Houston for a while about the place and she told me that among all the sprawliness there are  enclaves where the big, breezy, wrap-around Southern houses still exist, all clapboards and bright paint, and so not all is faceless consumer marketing.

In the spirit of finding a few analogous bright spots for this Astros season I opened up their roster and started clicking around.

Jordan Schafer? Heard of him, the starting center fielder, acquired from the Braves for Michael Bourn, right?  He should be good….when he gets that 2011 .242/.309/.315 line up, just a bit.  He’s only 25. Brett Wallace? He’s been the trade chip for a while now. And he….might break camp with the team.  Fernando Martinez was really valued by the Mets, and the Astros had to give up a lot of…..time faxing in paperwork to get him off the waiver wire.  Maybe Carlos Lee dieted over the offseason.

All right, so, in what is now, again, a pitching-oriented game, the ‘Stros have three decent-to-maybe-good starters in Wandy Rodriguez, Bud Norris and  J.A. Happ.  So it’s unlikely they’ll approach the depths of the 43-win ‘03 Tigers or the 40-win ‘62 Mets.

That’s all there is to say about the 2012 Houston Astros.

Worth watching: New owner Jim Crane realized that he was in Texas and he shouldn’t listen to Internet Advocates, because Houston’s going to wear their throwback Colt .45 uniforms a few times this year, complete with long-barrel six-shooter.  Hopefully they break out the rainbows, too.

Featured Image Credit: Pat Sullivan, Associated Press

Big Ass MLB Preview 2012 – Chicago Cubs

Last season: 71-91 (5th in NL Central, 25 GB)

2011 Playoffs: Did not qualify

Josh says: Cubs fans needn’t worry: 2012 will not be the year that their club makes the jump from “lovable” losers to another one of those boring, winning, self-satisfied Big City teams that fill the stands with baseball ignoramuses and their pink-hatted girlfriends (though they draw a lot from that crowd already–the Lakeview Real Estate Tycoons are Lee Elia’s New Fifteen Percent).

The Cubs are hoping Theo Epstein, their new President of Baseball Operations, can turn around 105 years of futility. (Photo: Associated Press)

The bargain-bin Astros will be the only buffer between the Cubs and the basement of the NL Central this season, and when Houston departs for the Junior Circuit next year the Cubs will splat right down the stairs and stay for at least a year.

It’s okay, though, because the Cubbies are rebuilding. If the Goat or the Black Cat or the Bartman have lost their mystical power over the North Siders, with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer established in Wrigley’s cramped front office, the rest of the division should be frightened…in 2015.

Today, Alfonso Soriano’s $136 million Hopscotch Happening (now featuring sub-.300 OBPs!) continues in left through 2014, and maybe they’ll extend the middling Matt Garza, but Garza (or his agent) has a very high self-worth. Starlin Castro turns 22 this week, is under team control through 2017 and has a nice bat, but plays Hanley Ramirez-like defense.  David DeJesus will be usefully forgettable, and Marlon Byrd will get paid another $5 million to be an affordable center fielder who is great trade bait (says everyone) but who no GM ever seems to want.  Carlos Marmol will continue to impersonate a bourbon-laced Jackson Pollock in the final inning , and Kerry Wood must really like being able to walk to Second City openings from his Old Town pad, because he’s back to give the Cubs 50 decent innings and cause about 5.73 million “He COULD have been CLEMENS” sweats in fans.

Those are the guys that you might have heard about. Oh yeah, and remember when Geovanny Soto was Rookie of the Year? And Ryan Dempster is now a guy who throws 200 innings, instead of a guy who throws 200 good innings.  Reed Johnson will fill the Hustlin’ White Guy role.

Anthony Rizzo is one of Chicago's best prospects and could force his way into the lineup this season. (Photo: Matt Kartozian, U.S. Presswire)

There is no Sean Marshall, sent to Cincinnati for a maybe-back-end-of-the-rotation guy in Travis Wood, a decent second base prospect in Ronald Torreyes, and Dave Sappelt, one of those adorable fifth outfielder types who is actually the size and physique of you or me. The Pirouetting Kosuke Fukodome is gone. So too Carlos Zambrano, who has taken his crusade against Gatorade to Miami, and Aramis Ramirez made the drive up to Brat&BeerWorld for $36 million. But there’s reason for a Cubs fan to be excited going forward, even those who thought that Jim Hendry was a competent baseball executive.  While presumptive starting first baseman Bryan LaHair is your typical Hendry-era prospect (28, picked up on the cheap from another organization, was really great  in Iowa last year [see Jake Fox]), Hoyer brought along 22-year-old stud first base prospect Anthony Rizzo from the Padres in exchange for Tyler Cashner, who was merely a reliever. Reportedly, the team has also signed a couple of Cubans: the 19-year-old hitting prodigy Jorge Soler and a 21-year-old lefty called Gerardo Concepcion.

However, those hopes are still far away.  The truth remains that in a world where the division’s front offices are all about even–and the remainder of the Central is being run very well right now, every team a threat to turn into the small-market success that was the past decade’s Cardinals–Chicago’s absurd superiority in market size should have the Cubs thinking in dynastic terms.

Yet, this year (and next year, and maybe for three more, or another 104) the Cubs will persist in being the Cubs.

Worth watching: Wrigley has some of the hardest-assed ushers in the game. April, 35 degrees, home team down 12-4, most teams will let you into everything but the cushy, free-drinks seats. Not the Cubs. Fortunately, most of their ushers have been on Social Security since FDR introduced it. The Lady With the Oxygen Tank, God love her and I hope she’s still there, is usually on the first base side and is your best bet for getting into the front rows. Chris Volstad is an interesting reclamation project. If you want to get into the bleacher bums’ spirit and insist on a mixed drink (rather than being a grown-up and packing a flask), bring it in a sealable pop bottle. Even if the door people do see the broken seal and drop it in the can with a disapproving stare, you can pluck it right out, no problem, and still have a way to make Cubs Baseball bearable.

Featured Image Credit: Associated Press