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Cards' 'new' Big Red Machine is Rolen

By Jeff Mayfield          Send a link to a friend

[AUG. 16, 2004]  All of a sudden the St. Louis Cardinals like the national TV spotlight. A big crowd at the Ted last night and a national television audience who no doubt switched from the Olympics to the Cards-Braves contest were treated to the relentless 2004 wave we know as the mighty Redbirds. Atlanta was 12-0-2 in their previous 14 series going into the weekend with St. Louis.

Local resident Terry Davis doesn't want to hear this, but not only that, the Cardinals should have come away with a series sweep and nearly did.

But what a remarkable job Atlanta manager Bobby Cox has done with this team left for dead on opening day! If he's not the best in baseball, who is? With all that going for the Wahoos, only a pitching meltdown on Saturday could keep the Cards from sweeping, and even then their bats battled back to take an improbable lead in that ballgame.

What is especially satisfying and exciting about this edition of the Cardinals is the emergence of so many players all at once.

First it was Scott Rolen, who started the season on a holy tear. My unflappable colleague Greg Taylor was probably right about him -- at least at the time he was acquired. You may recall that when the Birds landed him their bigger need was pitching. The deal appeared to bite them that season and last year as well. However, sometimes trades have to go a few seasons before you see their brilliance, and this Rolen deal is quickly arriving into that category. Even though he has certainly cooled down on his electrifying RBI pace over the last month, his glove and his arm haven't slowed down much. He appears to save a run or two a game defensively, and he inspires his teammates to step up their defense as well.

And if Rolen's not taking a bite out of the opposition with his .328 average along with 28 homers and 102 RBIs, Albert Pujols is putting the fear of God into them. Take this series, for example. I think Albert only rang the bell for something like four home runs this weekend. He's hitting a measly .321 with 36 dingers and only 87 RBIs after a miserably slow start.

After the game, Rolen said this about the young Pujols: "NOTHING he does surprises me." Not a bad tribute coming from a teammate he's competing with to win the MVP award.

And if all that is not enough for opponent scouting reports, why not throw in the season that Jim Edmonds is having? Usually he begins to fade at this time of the year. I don't know if it's the heat or the wear and tear of the season, but his numbers usually fall in July and August. Not this season. He was the NL Player of the Month in July when he was absolutely torrid. Oh, his numbers, you ask. How about a .298 to go with 31 taters and 80 ribbies?

The Cards' scouting report is starting to resemble an Illini basketball scout's. If Cook doesn't kill you, Deron Williams will, and if he doesn't, Dee Brown will light your lamp. Just pick your poison.

And for the Cardinals, the list goes on and on. Edgar Renteria and Reggie Sanders both have 52 RBIs, and even Mike Matheny has contributed 34 from his eighth spot in the order.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the pitching staff just keeps on truckin' as well. Grandfather time, otherwise known as Woody Williams, merely checked the Braves on one run, allowing only three hits in seven innings of work Friday night as the Birds won for the 11th straight time when WW takes the hill.

And how 'bout the job Danny Haren did filling in for Chris Carpenter last night? Haren gave up only three runs on seven hits and did not walk a batter in his five innings of toiling.

And the bullpen, other than a hiccup on Saturday, keeps getting it done as well. With the series win, the Cards have now won 12 of their last 13 series. They have an amazing 24-14 record in the final game of a series this season and have gone an incredible 8-2 in the final road contests.

The Cards have the best record in baseball, and their 40-19 road record is better than all other teams' home records in baseball other than the Yanks. In fact, the Cards have not had a losing road trip this season. On top of all that, the Cardinal defense continues to flash the leather, and ultimately that may be the difference.

My guess is if all these things continue through October, the Cards will bring home the bacon. (More baseball deeper in the Mutterings)

Singh does it again

The Mutterings hates to say that we told you so, but… we told you so. Just a couple of weeks ago in this very column we said that Vijay was on fire, should probably be ranked No. 1 in the world and that he was very dangerous every time he stepped on a course. Witness the reigning PGA champion. Albeit he had to do it in a three-hole playoff, but he still got it done. He may not be the most popular player on the tour, but he might be the hardest working and certainly the most efficient and productive.


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And you wonder what must be going through Tiger Woods' mind as he's counting all of his money. Had he been a little more focused on Saturday and since the field came back his direction on Sunday, what might have been?

Ernie Els and Justin Leonard also trashed a good opportunity to claim another major.

Whatever the case, Whistling Straights does not look like a course the Mutterings staff would even want to play. Of course, no course is really suited for our games!

Olympics under way

Mutterings personnel have seen some of the record number of Olympic broadcasts but have been less than thrilled with U.S. performances so far. Women's soccer won their match and softball too. Michael Phelps won his first gold medal and has a big duel with Austrailia's Ian Thorpe today. It appears, however, according to the commentators, that the U.S. swimming team has followed the basketball team with some underwhelming production to this point in the proceedings.

Our comment on the hoopsters: We stink! Yet another reason why this Mutterings crew will stick to college basketball. The players are a lot hungrier and feel like they need to put on a show for the fans because they don't want the crowds to be disappointed. We doubt that that ever enters the minds of the so-called professionals!

The men's team gymnastics and men's and women's volleyball were also very entertaining this weekend.

No word on local Vic Wunderly in his quest for archery gold.

Plenty of great seats STILL available, and NO, the Mutterings staff has none of them and doesn't know how to get any of them.

Football and volleyball are on the horizon

It won't be long now, as we are just days away from the start of volleyball, football and a host of other fall sports. Not to mention that both Illinois and Illinois State are making final preparations to do battle themselves. We also hope to give you a season preview of the Rams, the Bears, the Colts and the rest of the National Football League.

Wild card races are really wild

Anaheim, Boston and Texas are in a dead heat at the top of the American League wild card standings with a red-hot Cleveland Indians team only 2½ back and the resurgent Chicago White Sox only 4½ games out. In the National League, Chicago, San Diego and San Francisco are tied for the WC top spot with Philadelphia and Florida 4½ games out.

Mutterings' thoughts on these races? The team or teams that start(s) playing better defense could walk away with the playoff spot(s). It is amazing how many miscues these teams are making, and yet they find themselves in the playoff hunt.

Texas has come back down to earth after a very hot start. Boston appears to be underachieving AGAIN. Anaheim might be the team of choice, as they seem to be heating up at just the right time. And the Indians are simply en fuego over the last few weeks! Both San Diego and San Francisco seem to be spinnin' their wheels, as Los Angeles left them both in the dust when they surged out of the second-half gate.

As Chicago gets healthier their chances improve, but are they really healthy? Also, bullpen and defensive questions continue to arise with the Cubbies, as they should have won the series with the Dodgers. They are still the odds-on favorite to win the wild card, but the Padres have a lot of youthful energy and a good manager in Bruce Bochy, and the Giants have Barry Bonds and a great skipper themselves in Felipe Alou… And, yes, the mutterers told you he could manage. The Phillies have to be kicking themselves, and Florida and Jack McKeon continue to amaze us. They have done it with a great pitching staff and young talent. We wonder if any of the other teams have figured that out yet?

Racing: game on

Lincoln racing was set to resume last night. Go to to get all of your favorite results and upcoming schedule information.

Well, that's it for Mutterings this time. Have a great week, everybody!

[Jeff Mayfield]

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