Baseball: Oh my goodness. A six-game losing streak after a trip that included stops in Houston and Milwaukee. A 33-22 combined score in those games. Struggling starting pitching. Injuries. Not much to look forward to, huh? Well, that was the situation on Sept. 25 of 2006 for the Cardinals. And, they won the World Series that year. Sure, this team isn’t great, and they’re in a rut. Fortunately for the Cardinals, they do play in the still weak National League Central, and there’s time to fix their problems.
Many pitching staffs go through a dull period at this time of year. As Dave Duncan told us the other day in The Fast Lane, many pitchers will lose some of their zeal to start games at this time of year. The starters need to get back to focusing and giving the Redbirds more than six innings every start, like they did in April and May. With the return of Matt Holliday and the expected return of David Freese, the Cards’ lineup can be the unexpected strength of their team. That will be fun.
The defense, barring an outside addition, is going to be porous all year long. The bullpen is young and inexperienced, and what we thought was the strength, the starting rotation, has been a weakness this month. Duncan may be able to piece together a representative pitching staff, but unless the defense up the middle improves, the Cards need to hope for more good hitting and a lot of 7-5 wins. Can this team do what the ’06 edition did? Sure, but if they do, it will be a fluke.
Hockey: I have to tell you, it’s very difficult for me to be happy that a Boston team won a championship. After what Bill Belichick and the Patriots did to the Rams in 2001 — with the way they went into the game with the idea of breaking the rules — there’s no way I could ever root for that team, under any circumstances. Even when the Cowboys, my boyhood nemesis, play the Patriots, I have to root for Dallas.
With the way the Red Sox treated the Cardinals during the 2004 World Series, getting them a hotel way out in the suburbs and apparently doing everything they could to utilize a home-field advantage, I can’t root for them. The Bosox fans were thrilled that their “scrappy little team,” the self-proclaimed “idiots” who needed to “Cowboy up” won the Series. The fact of the matter was that the Red Sox had the second-highest payroll in baseball. A roided-up Manny Ramirez was the second highest paid player in the game. They swooped in like a vulture to get Curt Schilling from the financially hurting Diamondbacks and signed Johnny Damon and Keith Foulke away from Oakland when the A’s couldn’t afford to keep them.
So, needless to say, I’m not a big fan of the Red Sox. It didn’t affect me when the Celtics won — they always won when I was a kid — but I wasn’t rooting for them.
I was, however, rooting for the Boston Bruins to win Game 7 and take the Stanley Cup rather than Vancouver. It was Canucks thug Todd Bertuzzi who blasted Al MacInnis into the boards in Game 2 of the Blues’ playoff series in 2003, injuring MacInnis’ shoulder. Chopper was never the same after that.
It was Vancouver that came back from a 3-1 deficit in that series to eliminate the Blues; only because the Blues suffered a team-wide flu outbreak. The pesky little Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik, were such a hassle. It was only their third year, and I was tired of them by then.
They were just as pesky in 2009, the only time the Blues have made the playoffs since the lockout. As a fan, the twins epitomize the loathsome, pesky opponent. They aren’t fun, they aren’t pleasant, and they don’t have that drive and determination of the typical North American hockey player that grows up dreaming of winning the Stanley Cup.
I was thrilled on Wednesday, when Daniel Sedin, who guaranteed a Canucks’ Game 7 victory after their Game-6 loss, backed off of his vow hours before Game 7. In Boston, Daniel Sedin had told the Vancouver Sun, “We lose as a team and win as a team and we’re going to win Game 7.”
On Wednesday, he said “the words came wrong out of my mouth. What I said was if we put our best game on the ice, I like our chances.” There’s a big difference between saying, “We’re going to win” and “I like our chances.” Of all people, I was thrilled that Sedin, who had one meaningless goal in the series, issued the guarantee, and then recognized reality. Ha. Tough one, Vancouver. Nice going, Boston.
Football: As much as we love James Laurinaitis, how much have we missed having London Fletcher since 2001? The Washington Post reports that “when Fletcher asked a small group of fans in the bleachers at the Redskins’ informal workout whether they had ‘brought their stuff,’ (a fan named Josh) Richards was the only spectator who had come prepared.”
The 28 year old laced up his cleats and participated in individual drills with the Redskins’ defensive backs. He only dropped one interception on his first go-around.
How awesome is that? There are good things to come out of this lockout, and Richards experienced something he would never have had a chance to do without it.