Okay, so the title is probably a little bit harsher than the situation actually calls for, but I liked it too much to pass up. Besides, watching that last night hurt, enough that I think we all deserve a little venting of the collective spleen. Then again, no matter how irritating it may have been watching Mitchell Boggs 2011 turn briefly back into his 2009 version, the frustration probably has far more to do with the bullpen as a whole than it does Boggsy himself.
It's always difficult to keep perspective in a case like this, no matter how hard you try. After all, that may have been the first save Boggs failed to convert this season, but that doesn't lend a whole lot of comfort when the voice in the back of your mind wants to scream about five blown saves already. And not 2008 30-something-saves-including-all-the-relievers-just-because-it-sounds-so-ridiculously awful, but 5 real blown saves, games in which the Cardinals held a lead in the ninth inning and managed to lose. Those five saves, those fives losses, well, they're the difference between being 12-11 and 17-6. It's tough to shut that out when trying to hold on to perspective.
Still, though, it was one bad night. One game Mitchell Boggs didn't have his stuff working and got bitten by the old BABIP bug a bit as well. This wasn't Ryan Franklin meatballin' it, by any means. This was Boggs failing in the way we know he will probably occasionally fail, and the only real argument against him closing: his command can still desert him at times.
That's not to say the game wasn't immensely frustrating, of course. The defense sprung a couple leaks, and not from the spots we expected. David Freese has been a rock defensively this season, but has made a couple bad plays in recent contests. He makes that play in the sixth, and Jaime Garcia cruises on out of the inning on a double play. The Astros don't take the lead, and the rest of the game likely plays out differently. Boggs made his own error in the ninth and couldn't pitch around it. It's tough to swallow.
In the end, though, I'm not honestly concerned about Mitchell Boggs closing. Not yet, anyway. Hopefully he'll get a chance to climb right back on the horse and close the game down very soon, and firmly put to rest any notion of pressing the panic button.
I may not be concerned about Boggsy, but there are two other players I'm concerned about this morning, and I'll tell you who they are.
One, is anyone else worried about Yadier Molina? I'm sure I'll take plenty of flak for this, but something just doesn't look right with him this season. Balls that he's blocked in the past are going for wild pitches and passed balls in 2011. He looks slow in going after them. His throwing has been decidedly un-Yadi-like for the most part. A while back, either here or on some other blog, I read someone say Molina looked lazy this year. I'm very hesitant to go down that road; poor performance always looks like laziness to a certain type of observer. Still, though, Molina doesn't look good to me this season. When a player who derives his value almost solely from his defense is no longer making the plays, what value does he have left?
What I wonder about Molina most of all is the possibility his heavy workload is beginning to creep up on him. Is he hurt? Is he just worn down? Or is there something else going on? The man has caught an awful lot of ballgames the last few years, and it makes me wonder if Yadi is heading for a premature decline. After all, time may spare no one its ravages, but there seems to be an extra dose of vindictive bastard queued up for those who don the tools of ignorance. I'm not ready to send Molina off to the glue factory yet by any means, but I would be lying if I said I didn't watch the catchers in the minors with a little extra interest, just in case.
The other concern I have is Miguel Batista. Namely, the fact he continues to exist as part of the Cardinals' roster, and more specifically, as a part of the roster regularly given the chance to ruin good situations. Was there any doubt in anyone's mind last night Batista was going to cough up the lead?
Dan already touched on the bizarreness (or is it bizarrity? I like bizarrousity personally.), of Tony La Russa's fascination with Batista in the postgame thread, so I won't tread heavily down that path again. However, when you have a pitcher in Fernando Salas who has shown such a talent for escaping from jams that he should come into the game wearing a cape and top hat and you instead turn to Miguel Batista to come in and throw his standard fastball in the direction of the plate, something has gone seriously awry with your judgement.
I can live with Mitchell Boggs failing to execute. What I have a much harder time accepting is seeing a poor decision put the team (not to mention the reliever in question), in a position to fail.
I considered an alternate title for this post: Back to The Old Drawing Board, mostly because it makes me laugh to picture La Russa as Wile E. Coyote trying to come up with some way of closing out games. Boggs fails, and he stomps back to the clubhouse, where a chalkboard is filled with scribbles and arcane equations, all of which feature a stick of dynamite drawn somewhere in the middle.
"Well, back to the old drawing board," Tony sighs, erasing his latest batch of calculations. He picks up the phone, stabs at the numbers for Acme, and orders another closer, one that won't break this time. A few days later a catapult shows up in front of the Musial statue, guaranteed to close out games. That night, come the ninth inning, La Russa and Duncan wheel the siege engine out to the mound, tell it to strike out Jonny Gomes, and then run off to hide behind a nearby rock. The catapult draws back its great arm to hurl the baseball with unstoppable force, and then, in defiance of all known laws of physics, flips over upside down, rotating around the axis of the ball, and crushes the two coaching legends hiding behind the rock as Gomes trots around the bases.
After peeling himself out from under the newly inverted catapult, La Russa stalks off to his office once again to change the chalkboard and call customer service to complain. He gets the complaint lady from Acme on the phone, introduces himself as Tone E. La Russa, Super Genius, and the whole cycle starts all over again.
The closer position is unique in baseball, because it's so much more likely than other positions to be singled out for losses. When a starter gives up four runs and loses, he didn't have a great night, but the offense has got to pick him up. When a hitter isn't hitting, there are seven other guys in the lineup who should be helping pick up the slack. The closer, though, when he fails you don't generally get much in the way of comeback opportunities. It's tough to close games, if only because you know they're going to turn on you eventually.
Still, those five games the Cardinals have given away didn't all come last night. There is still reason for optimism in the bullpen, so let's all look on the bright side.
"Go Outside" - Cults "Sadness Is a Blessing" - Lykke Li "You Are the Generation That Bought More Shoes and You Get What You Deserve" - Johnny Boy (this may be my single favourite song title in the history of existence, even considering what it likely has to say about me and my shoe-purchasing habits) "My Maudlin' Career" - Camera Obscura "The Oh So Protective One" - Girls (There's something about this song that always reminds me of the Strobe Edge manga. I'm not sure why that's what it calls to mind, but it does for me.) "All Die Young" - Smith Westerns "Bound to Let Me Down" - The Parting Gifts
"Go Outside" - Cults
"Sadness Is a Blessing" - Lykke Li
"You Are the Generation That Bought More Shoes and You Get What You Deserve" - Johnny Boy (this may be my single favourite song title in the history of existence, even considering what it likely has to say about me and my shoe-purchasing habits)
"My Maudlin' Career" - Camera Obscura
"The Oh So Protective One" - Girls (There's something about this song that always reminds me of the Strobe Edge manga. I'm not sure why that's what it calls to mind, but it does for me.)
"All Die Young" - Smith Westerns
"Bound to Let Me Down" - The Parting Gifts