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The Monday Morning Scrappy Utilityman    

The Monday Morning Scrappy Utilityman is vacationing, and I’m already mad at myself for wasting a beautiful day by watching football, so the last thing I’m going to do is waste a beautiful night by writing about everything for three or four hours like I normally do on a Sunday evening.

However, there’s so damn much to write about that I actually want to write about some of it (at least the stuff I saw from my post out of town). I didn’t get to see any of the college basketball or Blues’ game this weekend, but courtesy of Aaron Walbrandt of Walbrandt Technologies, I was able to enjoy the Rams and Bears on my iPad poolside. For some of you, that’s basic technology. For me, it was a small miracle. So, minus Blues and college basketball discussion, here’s a vacationing Monday Morning Scrappy Utilityman for your perusing.


Rams

Who would’ve thought that the missed golden opportunity against the Seahawks---while the Cardinals were losing Game 5 of the World Series---and the blown game against the Titans would actually matter in late November…but they do.

Had the Rams won just one of those two games…both of which they really should have (although it works both ways…and a case can be made they should have lost at home against Arizona to open the season), the Rams would be 6-5. Win both? 7-4. Odds are you can figure out the math without my help.

The premise is that---shockingly…at least to my absolute surprise---the Rams have risen from the dead (see September 26th against the 49ers when they were embarrassed on Thursday Night Football)…and they’ve crushed the Colts and Bears over the last two games to climb within a game of .500.

I thought it was some kind of Jedi mind trick when Jeff Fisher announced following the loss to the 49ers that they were going to focus on running the football more.

With whom, I thought.

They hadn’t been able to do it with much success through the first four games, and what in the world made them think that they’d be able to do it following the first quarter of the season? But, Zac Stacy, who had one carry through those first four games, has 533 yards on 128 attempts since…or more than 4 yards per carry.

And, since the commitment to the run, the Rams have either won or been in a position to win every game they’ve played with the exception of their trip to now 8-3 Carolina.

Short term, it would take a small miracle for the Rams to get into the playoffs. They’re 5-6, and they still have to go to Arizona, San Francisco, and Seattle…and they still have to host the outstanding Saints and suddenly hot Buccaneers. The fifth spot in the NFC will go to either the Panthers or Saints, and they’re outside of the Rams’ range. So, there are a bunch of teams competing for that sixth and final spot. Point blank: the Rams have to win out to get into the playoffs. Considering three weeks ago, they were coming off of a loss to the Titans that dropped them to 3-6, the fact that I’m even seriously addressing the playoffs 21 days later is minor miracle.

But, let’s look at what this means big picture…as in next year. The defense has come alive…and would’ve held the Bears to 14 points if it weren’t for one of the worst calls in football---college or pro---I’ve seen this year on Michael Brockers for roughing the passer. The Rams’ defense was expected to be good, but they really hadn’t been until recently.

What about this offense? What in the world is this all about? Quite honestly, I’m confused by it. But, I do know this, courtesy of Jim Thomas of CBS Sports 920 and the Post-Dispatch: the Rams have scored 80 points in their last two games. The last time they did that was Weeks 3 and 4 in 2000 against the 49ers and Falcons.

That team had Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, and Az Hakim putting up monster numbers.

This team didn’t have one receiver with five or more receptions yesterday. Not that their in the same ballpark as Bruce or Holt, but Chris Givens and Austin Pettis, who used to be factors in the passing game, didn’t even have a catch. Kellen Clemens was 10 of 22 for 167 yards and a touchdown.

The Rams did this all on the ground. Stacy averaged 7.3 ypc in picking up 87 yards. And after he left the game with a “possible head injury,” Benny Cunningham came in and ran for 109 yards on 13 carries…or 8.4 ypc. Now, part of that speaks to the Bears’ horrendous run defense. But, the Rams have been doing this against some good run defenses as well.

And, then there’s that Tavon Austin thing.

He wasn’t getting targeted much at all up until two weeks ago against the Colts, and even though the Rams threw it his direction only five times yesterday, they still got it in his hands…and he made magic on 65 yard touchdown run.

Suffice it to say, all of this is incredibly encouraging. In one sense, from the short- term perspective, it’s frustrating that the Rams couldn’t get just one of those two games against the Seahawks or Titans. Things would look a hell of a lot different for 2013. If you can beat the hell out of the Colts in Indianapolis and the Bears in a somewhat home game, then you can do some damage. But, mathematically, it just doesn’t look good for this year. But, next year? The developments are incredibly surprising and positive.


Missouri

What a win. Just a solid, grinding victory that put the Tiger defense on display. That Ole Miss team that Missouri held to 10 points Saturday night put up 39 at  Vanderbilt, 44 at Texas, 38 on Texas A & M, and 27 in beating LSU.

Now, it’s only fair to point out that Ole Miss did some bed-pissing in the red zone. One of the reasons for that is Missouri’s defense. But, another reason is some odd play-calling by Hugh Freeze. A false start by Ole Miss on 4th and goal at the 1. And, in the second half, Ja-Mes Logan was about one centimeter from a touchdown, but instant replay showed he was out of bounds. The Tiger defense took advantage and kept Ole Miss out of the end zone despite the Rebels having it 1st and goal at the 7.

“We found ways to screw it up,” Ole Miss co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner said to the Jackson Clarion Ledger.

Three trips to the red zone resulted in three points for Ole Miss.

For Missouri fans who remember the not-so-distant red zone---and in particular goal line---debacles, the Rebels’ struggles may have looked familiar. The Tigers’ dominance on the defensive line made the difference in those scenarios, and really…that was the difference in the football game.

Hugh Kellenberger, the Ole Miss reporter for the Jackson Clarion Ledger, who joined us on The Ryan Kelley Morning After wrote that Missouri “looked like the kind of team capable of going to Atlanta and giving either No. 1 Alabama or No. 6 Auburn a challenge.” On the other hand, he noted, that the Tigers didn’t overwhelm Ole Miss.

But, because of the Missouri defense, they didn’t really have to. The run was working…and with the defense keeping the Rebels in check, there was no need to go all 2007 on they ass. The prime example of that was the grinding, clock-killing final drive of the game in which the Tigers just ran it…and ran it…and ran it…until the game was over. Ole Miss couldn’t stop them. Even though the Tigers have plenty of toys at WR, why mess with them if the run was getting the job done.

And that brings us to Saturday night in Columbia.

Oh, my…Saturday night in Columbia.

6:45 p.m. ESPN. Black out game. Senior Day. The Heisman Trophy winner in town. Brent Musberger and Kirk Herbstreit in the booth. And the SEC East Championship on the line.

Oh, my…Saturday night in Columbia.

It. Will. Be. Batshit.

But, tying it into Saturday night in Oxford…the Tigers ran on the Rebels, because they could. Saturday afternoon in Baton Rouge, LSU ran it up and down the field on Texas A & M. Expect Missouri to do the same Saturday…a) because they likely will be able to against that Aggies’ defense…but b) in doing so, you keep Johnny Football off the field.

Ifffff Missouri is able to beat Texas A & M, and they’re currently four-point favorites to do so, they head to Atlanta to play Auburn or Alabama. For the record, Roll Damn Tide is a 10.5 point favorite over War Damn Eagle at Auburn Saturday.

I know it’s blasphemy, but a) I think Auburn gives Alabama a game, and b) I think Missouri can hang with either one of them.

However, if Florida State doesn’t lose (and barring a small miracle, they’re not going to), and if Ohio State doesn’t lose (and that one is absolutely up for discussion), I don’t think Missouri will be playing for a National Championship.

I know some fans---in particular understandably Missouri fans---want to engage in that debate, but if Florida State is undefeated, and if Ohio State is undefeated, they play for the title…not a one-loss SEC team.

Personally, I think that’s the right thing.

The area where I’m slightly confused on this is earlier this year…when Stanford (at the time with one loss) was ranked ahead of undefeated Baylor.

I thought that went against the college “system” in which all undefeated teams from major conferences were ahead of all teams with losses.

But, Stewart Mandel of SI tweeted that the reason Stanford was ahead of Baylor was because of the quality of their wins, and that too many people were focused on their loss.

Now, if that’s the case, then things could get interesting. But, based on how I thought the college football system worked, if you run the table in the ACC…and if you run the table in the Big Ten…and if there are no other undefeated teams from major conferences…you go and play for the National Championship.

But, if the “rules” (and I use that term loosely) have changed, then let me know.

Here’s the thing, however: I think there’s a good chance Ohio State loses…either to Michigan (not as likely) or Michigan State (more likely). Michigan is their bloodlust rival. The game is in Ann Arbor. Michigan is not great, but I don’t think they’re as horrid as their record indicates. I’m not expecting an Ohio State loss, but I don’t think it’s a slam dunk win. And, on the Michigan State game…well that one is up for grabs. The Spartans have one loss this year (at Notre Dame), but they have a ridiculous defense.

Bottom line: If Missouri beats Texas A & M and Alabama/Auburn, I think there’s a damn good chance they’re playing Florida State for the National Championship.

I cannot believe I am writing that sentence, but I do believe it to be the case.

Now, of course, Missouri has to actually do these things…and Ohio State has to lose (or at least I think they have to lose), but this is all in play as we approach the final Saturday in November.

And, man, what an atmosphere it’s going to be for that final Saturday in November in Columbia.

I repeat…It. Will. Be. Batshit.


Jhonny Peralta

Here’s what I think I know: there’s more to this---as in a lot more to this---that we don’t know…but I don’t know what it is that we don’t know.

Does that make sense?

In my mind it does…but the sentence structure is so bizarre that I wouldn’t blame you for not following it.

My point is that I, personally, don’t believe the Cardinals set out to bring in Peralta at the start of the offseason. But, the market was so bad for shortstops that it led them to him.

I’m fine with Peralta individually. But, I don’t like the deal. However, I understand it.

Why?

I’ll attempt to explain.

Per the report of Jon Morosi of FoxSports, it’s a four-year/52 million dollar deal.

I don’t like it, because I think the Cardinals overpaid for a guy who won’t be producing in a couple of years (he’ll be 32 in May), and even more so, he may not be at shortstop.

I understand it…because I’m not sure what the realistic alternatives were, but based on the fact that it got to Peralta…I’m gathering there weren’t many. However, as I wrote above to start: I don’t know what I don’t know…so I’m not sure.

This is vacation-caliber analysis I’m giving you.

I also understand it, because they didn’t give up any prospects to do this. And they didn’t have to give up a draft pick, because the Tigers didn’t make Peralta a qualifying offer (why…I don’t know).

And, I also understand with all of the money coming off the books, the Cardinals have the ability to act like a 30k millionaire at Parties In The Park.

However, it’s not how the franchise has gone on this run of 14 consecutive Septembers of at least being in the mix for a playoff spot.

As a matter of fact, per Mark Simon of ESPN.com, you have to go back to the Jason Isringhausen contract following the 2001 season to find a Cardinal signing of a player from an outside team for a deal of four years or more.

The infamous Tino Martinez deal was a three-year deal.

As Simon points out, they haven’t signed a hitter from an outside team to a four-year deal or longer since Ron Gant following the 1995 season.

Now, that doesn’t mean signing free agents from the outside is a bad move…it just means that this team historically hasn’t done it…and I think it’s one of the reasons why they’ve been able to be so damn good consistently since 2000.

My point: the Cardinals haven’t had too many guys on the roster that you view as dead money over the last few years. I believe there’s a decent probability that they’ll view Peralta as dead money in a couple of years.

However, in fairness, he’s been quite durable…only missing time for his 50-game Biogenesis suspension.

Oh, yeah…the PED suspension.

As I wrote on Twitter yesterday, I’m not moralizing about the PED’s, but I do wonder about how much they impacted his performance. As a few people on Twitter correctly pointed out to me, he was suspended for taking them in 2012…and he wasn’t any good in 2012. He made his money with a good 2013.

So, from that perspective, hopefully it won’t matter. Again, using the word “hopefully,” I’ll say “hopefully this soon-to-be 32 year-old shortstop does not and did not need PED’s to have success.
But, I don’t know what I don’t know.

I know this: some people around baseball are either confused by this deal (Jim Bowde of ESPN called it “puzzling”) or disappointed in it.

Why?

Well, from an overall PED perspective in baseball, Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com writes that all the Cardinals just did was incentivize players to cheat. Here’s an excerpt:

Prior to Peralta striking it rich, $16 million for two years seemed to be the standard free-agent deal for a position player coming off a PED suspension.

That’s what Melky Cabrera got last offseason. That’s what Marlon Byrd got this offseason. But Peralta, in his new deal with the St. Louis Cardinals, will earn more than three times that sum.

The Cardinals are in agreement with Peralta on a four-year, $53 million contract, according to major-league sources. And while some fans are outraged, they hardly are the only ones disgusted.

“It pays to cheat,” Arizona Diamondbacks reliever and player representative Brad Ziegler tweeted Sunday. “Thanks, owners, for encouraging PED use.”

Ziegler was referring to the willingness of clubs to reward drug cheats, but he knows the players are just as responsible for the Joint Drug Agreement (JDA) as the owners.

The pitcher said in a separate tweet, “We thought 50 games would be a deterrent. Obviously it’s not. So we are working on it again.”


Log-in to post your comments, or you can email me at tmckernan@insidestl.com.

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brockohol
# brockohol
Monday, November 25, 2013 8:15 AM
For those "outraged fans" over the PED usage...wake the fuck up. Who gives a shit. If the Cardinals win a WS next season or at the least continue to make long playoff runs, will any of you seriously care? I sure as hell wont. I dont watch or not watch sports because of how clean I perceive the players to be. I dont really care, I want to be entertained, end of story. If the thought of a player taking a supplement to make their muscles bigger in order to perform better bothers you to the point that you dont watch (ha, never happens) then your a turd. I hope you have better things to worry about in your life (family, friends, job) than whether not some dude took pill that made them hit a baseball harder.

The only anti-PED argument I ever hear that deserves merit is the thought that it encourages kids to take the stuff. Well, if my son takes PEDs because of Alex Rodriguez dumb ass, then I have failed miserably as a father. If my kid gets a DWI, Im not going to blame Leanord Little, Tony Larussa, and Miguel Cabrera...I blame myself.

I also dont really care about the money part either. We have been whining about a hole at SS position for years and now there isnt one. Im at the point that I trust virtually every move Mozeilak makes so why should I care if this guy is "overpaid"? Is Holliday "overpaid"? I dont know, maybe. But who gives a fuck. The Cardinals have been incredibly successful while he has been manning LF so what difference does it make?



freaknastysugarcookies
# freaknastysugarcookies
Monday, November 25, 2013 9:03 AM
i dont know what we dont know what i just read
outfield3
# outfield3
Monday, November 25, 2013 9:59 AM
Tim, any reason you are against 4 yrs @ $13M AAV for a 32 year old but were okay with 7yrs @ $17M AAV for Holliday? I'm not suggesting the offensive production is the same, or even in the same ballpark for that matter, but you seemed on board with potentially having Holliday as dead money at the end of that deal to get his prime years. He has been the 12th best SS (according to fangraphs WAR rating) over the past 5 years. Unless you think he is going to nose dive isn't this a good risk to take or at least as good as signing up a lumbering 30yr old rf to a 7 year deal?

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