A couple of years ago, back when Charlie Haeger was floating around between Triple A and the majors with the White Sox, I was really hoping the Cardinals might check into acquiring him. At the time, it didn't look as if Chicago had a whole lot of use for him, and I thought he would make a great pickup for the Cards. This was in 2007, I believe, when our own starting rotation was coming apart at the seams and Mike Maroth was taking the mound with disturbing regularity. Plus, Haeger just sounds like an old time knuckleballer, doesn't he? Charlie Haeger. That's a great baseball name.
After seeing what Haeger was able to do last night, I'm really convinced he would have made a nice addition. He pitched to one of the best lineups in baseball and kept them off balance pretty consistently, with the exception of one bad knuckler to Rick Ankiel.
But really, that's why knuckleballers are so great, and why I love them so much. I get the same joy watching a guy throw a knuckleball and seeing major leaguers spin themselves into the ground I used to get watching John Tudor toss changeups in the mid-60s and mow down professional hitters. Add in the fact a guy with a good knuckler can throw pretty much any time you want, for however long you need, since he's just sort of tossing the ball up there and not stressing his arm, and I'm really surprised the knuckleball isn't taught more often to guys whose careers aren't really going anywhere.
-- Yesterday may have been the best day of baseball I've seen in years. The Cards signed their first round draft pick, Shelby Miller, instantly adding a blue chip prospect back to the system. They then went out and beat the Dodgers, with Chris Carpenter throwing yet another gem. And to top it all off, the Cubs lost in heartbreaking fashion to the Padres on a walkoff homer by Kyle Blanks in the bottom of the ninth. If you were watching ESPN2, you even got to see the end of San Diego/ Chicago game. I'm honestly not sure what could have possibly made the day any better, unless the ghost of Dizzy Dean had risen from the grave and agreed to fill the 5th starter's spot for the rest of the season.
-- Speaking of the Cubbies, I try not to go overboard with bashing them and things like that. Being smug about another team failing is something I generally try to avoid, though I freely admit I don't always do such a great job of it. But there has been something intensely, wonderfully satisfying about the Northsiders' collapse this year. I think it has something to do with how positively sure Cub fans were that they were head and shoulders better than any other team in the division.
-- I thought it was a truly brilliant move last night to start the ninth inning off with Trever Miller, then go to Ryan Franklin for the righties, rather than be slavishly tied to the concept of the closer for the whole inning. I give Tony La Russa a lot of grief over various things he does I disagree with, but that was just an outstanding bit of managing. We so often see managers use their closers in the exact same way every single night, regardless of what the situation actually calls for. They refuse to use their stopper for more than three outs, even when the game is on the line in the eighth. They stick their closer in to face the 7-8-9 hitters of the opposing team with a three run lead, even though he's pitched the last two games. And they never, ever play matchups in the ninth, even though they manage the rest of the game to get the platoon advantage.
To see La Russa go against that and use his best bullet to try and ensure the Dodgers' best hitter (Manny Ramirez), had the least possible chance of coming up in a position to beat the Cardinals, was really outstanding. You've got the best lefty specialist in the game, an extremely good left-handed hitter leading off the inning, and a couple of home run threats coming up behind him. La Russa played that situation just right, and I take my hat off to him.
-- Early on last night, I thought Carpenter was in for a short outing. His command was just decent; certainly not up to his usual level of efficiency. With the way his pitch count was headed, I just didn't see him getting past about six innings. Then something strange happened. After the Cards handed him the lead on Ankiel's homer, Carpenter went crazy. He breezed through the last few innings, and the Dodgers just had no chance at him. Everything got sharper, he seemed to pick up another gear on his fastball, and he suddenly looked like the guy we've seen so many other times this year and in the past, the Chris Carpenter who simply isn't going to let you touch him. It was an amazing performance.
-- I'll admit it: when Casey Blake hit that fly ball to center that ended the game, I was preparing for extra innings. The second that ball left the bat, I thought it was gone. Obviously, the crowd in Los Angles did too, judging by their reaction. I think I lost a year off my life. And yet somehow Colby Rasmus was already there when the ball got to the track, not breathing hard, not sprinting toward the wall, just sort of gliding back and making it look as if nothing interesting at all were happening. I can talk until I'm hoarse about how good Rasmus is in center field, about his range and what the numbers say, but that play last night says it much, much better than I ever could. He went a long way to get that ball, and you would have thought it was just a routine can of corn he took about five steps to catch. Defensively, he actually reminds me more of Andruw Jones than he does Jim Edmonds.
-- I'm a little worried about Matt Hollidaybeing out for even a couple days, especially right now. If he were to miss a game or two in the San Diego series, it probably wouldn't be as big a deal, but against the Dodgers, the Cards need all the help they can get. If Holliday comes to the park today and can't walk without limping, you have to sit him, but I'm most definitely not comfortable with how the lineup looks without him in there.