Karraker’s Conversation Pieces: Are Alarm Bells Going Off?

A terrific 55-game start to the season has the Cardinals on pace to win 94 games, and has them leading the NL in hitting and turning in a 3.59 starting pitching ERA, good for fourth in the league.

Because of that success among Kyle Lohse, Jake Westbrook, Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia and Kyle McClellan, the most recent starts by Garcia and McClellan ring some alarm bells. Garcia went 3 1/3 innings and allowed 11 earned runs on Saturday in Denver. Of course, we have to remember that it was at Coors Field, and that Garcia may have been distracted when umpire Paul Nauert called a ball when Garcia went to his mouth.

Nonetheless, Garcia, who had allowed one first-inning run all season, allowed six to the Rockies in a 15-4 loss. Last year, in Garcia’s rookie season, he averaged 5 2/3 innings in his 28 starts. This season, through 11 starts, he’s averaging a full inning more per start. So there has to be at least a level of concern until Garcia makes his next start.

In Monday’s Memorial Day start against San Francisco, McClellan allowed seven runs in four innings against a struggling Giants offense. Andres Torres, who doesn’t possess much power, touched the St. Louisan for a grand slam that made it 7-2 before McClellan got the final two outs of the fourth inning.

The Cardinals lead the National League in batting and runs, and their offense has remained excellent despite the injury losses of David Freese, Skip Schumaker, Matt Holliday and the struggling start of Albert Pujols. But there isn’t an offense in baseball that can overcome a bullpen that crumbles and gives up late runs. This is just one trip through the rotation, so there isn’t anything to worry about. But it’s something to keep an eye on. If Garcia and/or McClellan are starting to feel the effects of their early-season workload, the Cardinals need to pull them back and make sure there aren’t any wear and tear problems in the second half of the season.

Conversation piece: Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel resigned in the midst of a scandal that had Buckeyes players selling and trading jewelry and jerseys for impermissible benefits. Tressel found out about it, didn’t tell his superiors, didn’t tell the NCAA, and was found out. We’ll never know if Tressel would have survived if he had come forward last fall when he found out, but we do know he had no chance once incriminatory e-mails came to light. As ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit pointed out, 81 Division I football and basketball coaches have faced these kinds of allegations, and 78 of them haven’t survived the scandal. When you commit the crime, you can redeem yourself. When you try to cover up the crime, schools and the NCAA get angry, and get rid of you.

I’ll be interested to see who replaces Tressel. Ohio State has had only three coaches in 32 years. Can they count on Urban Meyer, with his health history, to be there long term? Would Jon Gruden be affordable? How would Nebraska react if Ohio State alum Bo Pelini were approached? At this stage, would a 60 year old Gary Pinkel (at the start of the 2012 season) be worth considering?

Ohio State is a tough job. After the season, it’ll be an interesting process. Unless, of course, Luke Fickell wins 10 games as the interim coach and makes a search for a new coach a moot point.

There are 10 transcendent jobs in college football; jobs you don’t leave unless it’s for big NFL money or your alma mater: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, USC, Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Notre Dame (still), Michigan … and Ohio State. Tressel squandered one of the highest profile jobs in America, and because of what he did over the last 10 seasons; he has made it a better job than ever.

Conversation piece: The Dallas Mavericks will be at Miami for Game 1 of the NBA finals Tuesday night. Unfortunately for Dallas, once the NBA gets to the final round, they switch from a 2-2-1-1-1 format for their best of seven series to a 2-3-2. That means Miami would get two shots to close out a series at home if they leave Dallas up 3-2. That’s a prohibitive situation for the Mavs, because Miami is 8-0 at home in the playoffs and have won 13-of-14 there.

The Mavericks have had an incredible run, and if this were 2006, Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd and Peja Stojakovic would be quite a crew to contend with. However, five years later, Nowitzki is unstoppable, but the other guys are role players. Because Miami has two of the half-dozen best players in the game in LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, I have to go with the Heat winning this series in seven, and continuing to close Dirk’s window of opportunity to win a championship.