Thoughts on LaRussa, Baker, the ASG, ballot stuffing and the Pirates

Tony LaRussa and Dusty Baker are at it again.  Baker is upset that Brandon Phillips and Johnny Cueto were not voted in the 2012 All-Star Game by LaRussa, citing that the reason they’re not in is because of the fight back on August 10th,  2010.  For those who don’t remember, Phillips said that he “hated” the Cardinals and that they were “constant complainers.”  The next day, Phillips gave Yadier Molina the traditional tap with his bat to Molina’s shin guards, a move normally done from the leadoff hitter on each team to the opposing catcher.  It didn’t go over well with Molina because of Phillips comments, and then a fight ensued as both benches cleared.  In the end, Cueto fought like a girl, kicking Chris Carpenter and Jason LaRue with his spikes, LaRue in the head.  LaRue’s career ended because of the concussion from it that led to non-stop migraines.

Forgive me if I don’t fault LaRussa for not choosing either player.  It’s not as if LaRussa picked any Cardinal over a Cincinnati Red though.  Lance Lynn was voted in by the players.  LaRussa picked the Reds Jay Bruce over Matt Holliday as one of reserve outfielders.  If anyone was snubbed in the OF, it was Holliday.  He was left off as a reserve due to the ballot stuffing for Melky Cabrera.  There’s more information on ballot stuffing by San Francisco Giants fans further down.  Do you think opposing pitchers would rather pitch to Cabrera of the Giants or Holliday?

Getting back to LaRussa and Baker, do I think LaRussa left Phillips and Cueto off because of the fight?  Absolutely!  Would Baker have done the same?  Absolutely!  Baker just needs to shut his trap and worry more about trying to win his first World Series.  This is Baker’s 19th season as manager, and no team of his has won a WS.

My thoughts on the fans voting for the ASG are summed up easily…it shouldn’t happen that way. How in the hell is Pablo Sandoval the starter at 3rd base? Easy, the Giants fans stuffed the ballot box…well, sort of. Every sportswriter in San Francisco got the word out to Giants fans to create as many email addresses as possible, and vote 25 times with each one. The Giants had guys like Brandon Belt at 1B (4 HR’s) and Brandon Crawford at SS (.232 AVG, .282 OBP) up there with players like Joey Votto (1B), Troy Tulowitzki (SS) and Rafael Furcal (SS). Here’s a great article about the ballot stuffing done by the Giants fans. There are plenty of articles out there to choose from, but the linked one sums it up pretty well by the numbers. Reds fans did it back in 1957 and it had to be undone by then MLB Commissioner Ford Frick. Frick was so upset, he did away with voting by the fans and changed it to coaches, managers and players the next year.

Buster Posey is not having a year like Molina or Carlos Ruiz of the Phillies, but he’s the starting catcher. Like I said before, ASG voting should be done by the players, managers and coaches. Having the fans vote is a popularity contest and is too easily manipulated in most circumstances. For example, in 2004, Jim Edmonds hit .301, had a .418 OBP, hit 42 HR’s with 111 RBI’s, finished 5th in the MVP voting, yet was not an AS, not even as a reserve. There are too many examples of players like this every year, and it needs to stop. You can bet that if David Freese had done what he did in the 2011 playoffs on a bigger market team, he would be in on that alone. Freese is having a solid enough year that he should be in anyway as a backup to David Wright of the Mets, and Sandoval should be at home watching.

I posted a couple of weeks ago that I thought the Pittsburgh Pirates would eventually fade away.  Now, I’m not so sure.  It’s not just because they just took 2 of 3 from the Cards in St. Louis either.  When we were playing them, I took a closer look at their team and individual stats.  The Pirates have something the Cards do not, plenty of dependable relievers.  Their bullpen is anchored by closer Joel Hanrahan who is 3-0 with a 2.10 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and is 20 for 22 in save opportunities, with 10 of those in one run games.

As you dig deeper into their middle relief, you’ll find ERA’s of 2.05, 2.31, 2.63, 2.77, 3.21 and 3.63.  When the Pirates have the lead after 6 innings, they’re 32-1.  The Pirates and the Reds are tied for 1st in the NL (2nd in all of MLB) in bullpen ERA at 2.73.  The Cardinals are 27th in MLB with a 4.56 bullpen ERA.  The Pirates have a SP ERA of 3.96 to the Cards 3.84.  The Pirates offense is 15th in the NL in BA, 16th in OBP, 15th in OPS and 13th in runs with 297.  They are 8th in HR’s however with 78, just 14 HR’s shy of the Cards.

Unlike in 2011 when the Pirates FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) was not in line with their ERA, this year it is.  The Pirates total team ERA is 3.53, their FIP is 3.94.  The Cards have a team ERA of 4.07 and a FIP of 3.76.  Those numbers indicate two things.  One, the Cardinals will get probably get better pitching if the defense holds up, and two, the Pirates might not have a dramatic decline in the final months of the season, even with their anemic offense.  Pitching normally wins out, and the Pirates have it in 2012.

I think the Cards are only a couple of pitchers away from being an elite team, and it would a shame to see 2012 season lost due to a few bad arms in the BP.  If they stay close, I think GM John Mozeliak will make another move similar to 2011 to bring in help at the deadline.  If not, expect more of the same, where you’re constantly wondering what kind of team you’re watching, and watching an elite offense wasted.

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