Tuesday, August 08, 2006

I Guess This Guy Doesn't Like Baseball

Editor's Note: Yep, looks like I swung and missed on this one. This has taught me an important lesson: you can't force snarkiness. In the long run, all it means is I won't run this feature weekly unless I get something good.

End self-deprication sequence.

Cards' torrid bats, Weaver put Reds in their place
By Bernie Miklasz

Welcome to the big series, the showdown by the river, the Cardinals vs. the Reds in a mighty struggle for the soul and control of the National league Central.

Or something like that.

Something like that, indeed, Bernie. Except replace “the soul and control of” with “the lead in,” and you're pretty much accurate. Oh, and the one-sentence paragraph count is now at two.

Oh, never mind that the first-place Cardinals came into this donnybrook with a 29-34 record since May 24, and that the second-place Reds were 21-30 since June 8.
No, Bernie, I'm pretty sure you need to mind those records. After all, your record determines your post-season status. Unless you don't care about the post-season. Apparently Bern doesn't, though. He explains in the next sentence – which makes for a column record two-sentence paragraph:
In the NL Central, we'll take the drama where we can find it. We are not opposed to manufacturing it.

In the AL East, we'll take the drama where we can find it, too. But we don't need to manufacture it. It kinda happens out on the field. I thought it did in all of baseball, but apparently I was mistaken. Isn't it great that sports columnists don't find the games interesting enough?

[MORE]Yes, there was some build-up in St. Louis as the Reds and Cardinals prepared to meet for a four-game series here, followed by a three-game set next week at Busch Stadium.

These seven games certainly could influence the race.
Gotta interject mid-paragraph here, buddy (a three-sentence one!!!!). A first place team squaring off against a second place team, separated by 3.5 games? That goes beyond your notion that “these seven games certainly could influence the race.” These games WILL influence the race. Even if they go 4-3, it will influence the race. This is certainly a more important series to the Reds, who trailed the Cardinals by 3 1/2 games in Monday morning's standings. That's why the Reds tried desperately to pack The Great American Ballpark by enticing fans with half-price tickets and $1 hot dogs.

Let's start with the second sentence in that paragraph. This series, while vitally important to the Reds, is also important for the Cardinals, who are sliding like crazy. One team fighting to get in, one team hanging on. That sounds like equal importance to me.

Based on the series-opener, if Reds made a bold statement on their home turf, it was along these lines:

We are not worthy.

We cannot even beat Jeff Weaver.

Okay, that was good. Gotta chalk it up.

Monday night, the Cardinals quickly reaffirmed their superiority with a five-run first inning en route to a 13-1 victory. After an eight-game losing streak, the Cardinals have pieced together three impressive wins to open a 4 1/2-game lead in the division.

Of course, getting Cardinals manager Tony La Russa to crow about winning the first of a four-game series would be like hearing baseball's most celebrated vegetarian announce he was taking on Kobayashi in the annual 4th of July hot-dog eating contest.

Let's compare Paragraph A and Paragraph B. Paragraph A talks about baseball. The sentences are nicely structured, and the message is clear and concise. Full of facts, just like a baseball column should be.

And then we get to the abomination that is Paragraph B. Naturally, it's of the one-sentence type. And it reeks of shtick. This is the fatal flaw of most sportswriters; they get too caught up in themselves and actually believe that they're funny. How many managers in baseball would “crow about winning the first of a four-game series?” If any did, they'd surely be out of a job. You go out there and say it was a good win for the team, and that's it. The joke itself: not funny. Not even concisely written. Nothing about it lends itself to the column as a whole. Next sentence/paragraph.

Here's La Russa's reaction to his impressive team's five-run, first-inning barrage against helpless Reds starter Elizardo Ramirez:

"I was sweating bullets."

Well, Weaver was pitching, you know.

Okay, that was another good series of thoughts. After that, I'm sure you have some insights as to the enigma that is Jeff Weaver.

But Weaver was the surprise of the evening. I am not going to be a phony here; I thought Weaver was a candidate to get rocked. You and everyone else who has an elementary understanding of baseball. He had an 8.68 ERA in his first four starts for the Cardinals, and had been blast-capped for six home runs in 18 innings. Moreover, Weaver was entering the danger zone of a rocket-launcher ballpark; 175 homers were hit in the first 58 games played this season at The Great American Ballpark.

Call it nit-picking, but doesn't the phrase “entering the danger zone of a rocket-launcher ballpark” sound, I dunno, stupid? Plus, it makes me think of Kenny Loggins.

If any pitcher seemed incompatible with this shooting gallery, it was the extremely laid-back Weaver, the SoCal surfer dude who reminds me of the "Spicoli" character in the classic comedy, "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." Do you really need to qualify that? Hasn't everyone seen Fast Times? And if you haven't seen it, do you think the qualifier really makes a difference in your understanding of your point? But the Reds only hurt Weaver once, on a solo homer by Javier Valentin in the second. Weaver's six-inning, one-run, seven-strikeout performance bolstered La Russa's credibility.

Bolstered La Russa's credibility? How so? Because he rolled the dice and it came up box cars this time? What will it say for his credibility when he carts out Weaver in five days and he resumes sucking?

"It's not pressure that I'm feeling," Weaver said. "As much as just wanting to do well for my teammates and this organization. They went out and traded for me when I was really struggling and that means a lot."

“When I was really struggling,” is a bit of an understatement. You were, after all, DFA'd, so a trade or release was imminent. And the Cardinals only traded for you because their next best option was Sidney Ponson...

After Weaver got blistered by Philadelphia at Busch Stadium last week, I thought La Russa had eaten some bad tofu or otherwise flipped out when announcing Weaver as his starter for Monday in Cincinnati. But score one for the skipper and the surfer: Spicoli was focused Monday. Sure, it helps to have a 5-0 lead before throwing a pitch, but he pitched very well.

In fairness to La Russa, he doesn't exactly have many options.

"The way we evaluate him is, each time he's gone out there he's done something better,'' La Russa said. "He may not be at his best yet, but if you look at history, there's something to work with.''

Okay, Bern, you get a reprieve here, because it is La Russa making the absurd statement. Of course, he's just defending his player, which is totally acceptable. But could he find a more accurate way to praise Weaver? He hasn't done better each time out; in fact, as Bernie pointed out, he allowed seven runs over three and a third innings his last time out. The time before that, he allowed four runs over five and two-thirds. And even before that, he allowed one run over the same number of innings. So La Russa's assertion is just plain false.

It's heartwarming. If Weaver is Spicoli, then La Russa is Mr. Hand -- the gruff, hard-edged teacher who eventually turns Spicoli around.

That is, if Weaver doesn't flop his next time out. And, judging by his past, he certainly will.

As if getting shut down by Weaver wasn't enough, boisterous groups of Cardinals fans had the loudest voices in the crowd of 34,262.

In this somewhat forced but interesting division-race drama, Cincinnati wasn't ready for a close-up.

Forced drama? I just don't get it. They have a legitimate division race going on, and you have to force drama? For baseball fans, the drama is already there. For fans of – actually, I'm not sure what Bernie is a fan of – well, you can make up your drama. Just don't go misleading the actual fans out there.

See, this column wasn't completely moronic, a la the Vaccaro one from last week. Hopefully, with all 30 teams playing tonight, some moronery will appear in tomorrow's papers. In fact, I'm just waiting for Phil Rogers to completely embarrass himself. I could have ripped him today, but I'm waiting for a Type A Rogers column. He's been putting out Type B ones lately, ones that are pretty moronic, but not over the top. Once he steps in with another “A-Rod should be traded to the White Sox for players of little value” type column, I'll be all over it.

As always, if you notice any egregiously stupid baseball columns, e-mail them over. The more I get, the more I rip. And the more I rip, the better it gets.