Fans reject Manny and A-Rod for the right reasons

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There are all kinds of interesting angles to take on the All-Star
rosters that were announced yesterday, and we’ll certainly be getting
to those over the coming days. One of the ones I don’t
think anyone here at CTB would be inclined to take, however, is how the
failure of Manny Ramirez or Alex Rodriguez to make the All-Star team
represented an anti-PED statement by the voters. That doesn’t stop’s Mike Bauman, however:

A record 223.5 million votes were cast for the 2009 All-Star Game
selections. Without pandering to the audience, this process had both
quantity and quality. And it was notable not only for which players the
fans elected, but which players the fans did NOT elect . . . In the
latter category, the most prominent names would be Manny Ramirez and
Alex Rodriguez. Both were linked this year to performance-enhancing
drugs. Rodriguez was forced to admit his usage of PEDs . . . The voters
are to be congratulated for not turning a blind eye to these offenses .
. . By omitting this pair, the fans and the players have essentially
taken a stand against the use of PEDs.

That’s one way to think about it. The other way to think about it is to
say that the voters have not turned a blind eye to the fact that Evan
Longoria is a heck of a lot more deserving than a guy who has hit .244
in limited play and that Ryan Braun, Raul Ibanez, and Carlos Beltran
(and Matt Kemp and a bunch of other guys) are all more deserving than a
guy who has played in only 35% of his team’s games this season.

Sure, the fans rejecting the cheaters en masse makes for a
nice story and everything, but it’s not like keeping Manny and A-Rod
out of the All-Star game requires some political statement. Neither is
deserving on the merits and neither made it. Given that, with the large
exception of Josh Hamilton, the fans did a pretty good job with the
votes, I’d offer that their exclusion was a baseball judgment, not a
political one.

Cardinals take 1-0 NLDS lead over the Cubs behind John Lackey’s brilliant outing

John Lackey
AP Photo/Jeff Roberson
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John Lackey flirted with a no-hitter but settled for 7 1/3 terrific, shutout innings to beat the Cubs in Game 1 of the NLDS on Friday. The right-hander held the opposition to two hits and a walk while striking out five. Lefty reliever Kevin Siegrist struck out two to finish the eighth without issue. Closer Trevor Rosenthal worked around a one-out walk and a two-out single in the ninth to seal the 4-0 win, recording all three outs on called strike threes.

Lackey brought a no-hitter into the sixth inning, but lost it quickly when Addison Russell hit a ground ball single up the middle to lead off the frame. Russell would steal second base but was stranded.

Opposing starter Jon Lester wasn’t too shabby himself, relenting three runs on five hits while walking one and striking out nine in 7 1/3 innings. The first run came around in the first inning on Matt Holliday‘s RBI single, which followed a one-out double by Stephen Piscotty. Tommy Pham pinch-hit in the pitcher’s spot in the eighth inning and launched a solo home run off of Lester to double the Cardinals’ lead. Lester walked Matt Carpenter before exiting. Pedro Strop came in and promptly served up a two-run home run to Stephen Piscotty.

The closest the Cubs came to scoring was when Dexter Fowler sent a deep fly ball to right field with a man on base and two outs in the sixth inning, but Randal Grichuk caught it with a foot or two to spare in front of the fence on the warning track.

The two clubs will play Game 2 of the NLDS on Saturday at 5:30 PM EDT. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs and oppose Cardinals lefty Jaime Garcia.

Astros err in letting Scott Kazmir start sixth

Scott Kazmir
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Scott Kazmir went winless with a 6.52 ERA in six September starts. He allowed 41 hits, eight of them homers, in 29 innings, posting an 18/11 K/BB ratio. When the Astros got five innings of two-run ball from him Friday against the Royals, they should have thanked their good fortune and moved right along to the pen.

And they knew this. They must have. Josh Fields got up in the pen after Kazmir issued a one-out walk in the fifth. The left-hander got out of the frame, making himself eligible for the victory in what was then a 4-2 game, but it was still very surprising to see him come back out for the sixth, particularly with the switch-hitting Ben Zobrist (.926 OPS against lefties) and right-handed Lorenzo Cain due up.

Kazmir retired Zobrist, but he gave up a double to Cain. He was then pulled, even with the left-handed Eric Hosmer coming up. Manager A.J. Hinch had committed my biggest baseball pet peeve: he sent his starter back to the mound with the idea of pulling him after his first mistake.

It worked out terribly. Oliver Perez gave up a pair of soft hits to Hosmer and Kendrys Morales before walking Mike Moustakas. Fields then entered and walked the unwalkable Salvador Perez to tie the game at 4. The Astros gave up another run in the seventh and lost the game 5-4.

Maybe that’s the way it would have worked out anyway. Kazmir did give up just the one baserunner. It might not have even harmed the Astros if Perez had better luck.

Still, the thinking that went into the decision was disturbing. It’s always better to bring that reliever in with no one on base when you can. That’s especially the case with this Astros pen, which lacks a double-play specialist, much less a Wade Davis. But anyone in that pen would have been a better choice than sending Kazmir out to face Zobrist and Cain for a third time. Hinch needs to be more aggressive going forward.

Cardinals’ giveaway incorrectly claims ownership of 2001 division title

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The Cardinals have won so many division titles, it’s tough to keep track of them all. At least, it would be tough if it weren’t for Baseball Reference.

40,000 rally towels were given away to fans at Busch Stadium ahead of Friday’s NLDS Game 1 against the Cubs. The towel listed all of the years the Cardinals won the NL Central… and 2001. That year, they tied with the Astros for the best record in the National League at 93-69. However, because the Astros won the season series 9-7, they were awarded first place and the Cardinals took the Wild Card.