[Author’s Note: Yes, you read that title right. In August of 2013, the United Cardinal Bloggers undertook one of their various monthly projects intended to get readers to better know the folks writing. I drew Dan Buffa, then (and still, just not Cardinal-centric) of Dose of Buffa, now at Sports Rants. Unfortunately for Dan, I failed to get the post up in a timely manner and it didn’t make it out in the timeframe necessary for the project. Well, lest it be lost to the ether, here is the entirety of my Q&A with Dan, a great Cardinals fan and a patient fella – sorry it took me this long to get this up Dan, hope you’re well.]
[Author’s Note 2: Keep the snark to yourself on items that are now nine months old (yes, I’m a terrible person) – questions that asked for predictions or projections are not now subject to discussion because I was tardy in posting. If anything, congratulate Dan where he was right.]
PH8: Many of us have a favorite story or a realization of sorts about how or why we’re a Cardinal fan, or a baseball fan in general (and for some of us, why we’re a little neurotic about it…) – what’s yours?
DB: I started watching baseball when I was 5 years old with my dad. It was something I developed on my own and from an early age, I could tell it wasn’t going to be a casual love of the game. There was an intensity there whenever I watched as a kid, and it only grew as I went through my teenage years into high school and college. In 1996, I befriended current Cardinals President Bill DeWitt III and he got me a job on The Manual Scoreboard at the old Busch. From 1998 until the closing in 2005, I was integrated with the team even more and became obsessed with each player, their stats and how they would do against a particular team. Talk about being neurotic. We were all crazy die hards who let a loss hang over our evening. We called our manual scoreboard hub the Nerve Center because it was where the scores came out and basically a confession table for real fans. I tell my wife that I marry this team in February every year until we separate in November. The Cards are a team that became attached to my central nervous system and not just an ordinary love. I let every loss inside and let’s just say some summer nights are better than others.
PH8: How long have you been writing for, and what made you want to write about the Cardinals?
DB: I have been writing since I was in high school but I started blogging on the Cards when I started working on the scoreboard. I started sending out these rants/emails about the team to my fellow Scoreboard watchers and the list of recipients grew and grew with each year. I wrote short stories on Rick Ankiel‘s ascension or Bud Smith‘s no hitter and turned the true story into a tall tale. I love to write and feel a journalistic hunger to tell my side of the story or give my take and that never came more smoothly than it did with the Cardinals. I regularly blog at least a 1,000 words on them every 48 hours because I see so many things about the team that needs to be addressed and I don’t have a limit like other paid writers. I guess you can say I don’t let my amount of readers lead on my topical discussion but I do like a response on one of my blogs because there is nothing better than breaking down a baseball team.
PH8: Sacrifice bunting – for or against?
DB: For it as long as it’s used in moderation. Far too many times, a manager will give away too many outs thinking he is positioning the team better with a bunt. Naturally, pitchers can’t hit as well as the other 8 position players (unless they are named Pete Kozma) so it’s logical for them to bunt. However, the fewer outs you have and if you can catch another team off guard with a hitting approach at the plate instead of bunting and providing the pitcher with a breathing session and a free out, I am all for the anti-bunt approach. There is a time for a bunt and that usually comes in a one run game where you must get that runner into scoring position so you can tie the game. When it reaches the point of regularity, I am not a huge fan of giving away free outs. Moderation is best.
PH8: Who’s your favorite Cardinal from the team’s history that’s not in the Hall of Fame or on the wall at Busch III?
DB: Pedro Guerrero was my favorite as a kid growing up and in a lot of ways my first favorite player. The quirky former Dodger villain (who threw his glove down in disgust when Ozzie hit the go crazy home run) who turned into an RBI machine for the Cards in 1989, played a decent first base and always had this goofy mystique around him. He had his off the field troubles and didn’t hit for a ton of power but he got my attention and I remember this great 2 HR day he had at Wrigley on a Friday and his picture was all over the cover of the Saturday newspaper. I could have taped the sports front page to my chest and worn it like a badge of honor I was so proud of being a Guerrero guy. He wasn’t a huge fan favorite but I still have the paper from the day after he stood at home plate and tipped his cap to the crowd at old Busch. He was a player’s guy and someone who wasn’t flashy but got the job done.
PH8: How hard can you throw a fastball?
DB: I pitched a little in high school and once hit 65 mile per hour. These days, I would be lucky if I hit 55 because I haven’t pitched in some time and never had the hardest arm in the crowd. I played a lot of first base and outfield and had an arm that probably matched up to Jon Jay or Matt Holliday. I just made sure I hit the cutoff guy instead of making an infamous name for myself by missing the plate by 20 feet.
PH8: Where is your favorite place to sit at Busch Stadium? Why?
DB: I love sitting down the third base line in Loge. You can see all the action from an angle and easily track down the trajectory of fly balls and get an idea of where the fielders’ range is at on close and tight plays. Sitting too low leaves you handicap to the flight of the ball and the outfielder’s chances of catching the ball. Sitting too high leaves you absent from the details of the game. Loge down the third base line (or first base line for that matter) gives you the best “baseball sense” positioning. Except for being unable to see the strike zone, you are seated perfectly. Who cares about the strike zone familiarity anyway? The player reaction and umpire mannerisms give you all the answers you need and getting lost in balls/strikes at a game can deprive you of the many jewels from the rest of the action.
PH8: Have you seen the Cardinals play at other stadiums, and if so, where? If not, where would you like to go?
DB: I saw them play the White Sox at Comiskey Park when I was in high school. It was different seeing them in their road grays in person and also interesting to hear the home crowd break down my players or present their ways to get them out. It was like being a mole at a rival’s dinner party. I don’t make a big deal and lots of noise when I attend games at other parks or if I do in the future. I just sit there, hope for a win and cheer in the right moments while not being absent or too silent. It’s a great test of your strength as a fan watching them in other parks. Before they rip it down, I hope to get to Wrigley one summer for a Cards-Cubs game. Hopefully, when the Cubs aren’t a horrible team and out of the race.
PH8: Scenario: the Cardinals have reached the 2013 World Series, Wainwright had to pitch a complete game gem to win game 7 of the NLCS and is unavailable – who starts game 1 of the Series?
DB: Joe Kelly. Right now, it’s Joe Kelly because he has an ability in his 26 career starts to pitch very well with runners on base, doesn’t allow the big inning and always gives you a solid 5-6 innings. The guy has the chops to take the mound in an opposing park or on a big stage and get into a risky situation and not let his mental makeup disappear. Lance Lynn and Jaime Garcia don’t have their mental strength. Jake Westbrook is a declining arm that depends on luck. Shelby Miller is an interesting choice but doesn’t pitch as well in dicey go for broke spots like Kelly does.
PH8: Where do you think Carlos Beltran will play next season?
DB: Tough question because there are so many variables. If he doesn’t demand a 3 year deal, it could be in St. Louis. It depends on what Carlos wants. He has provided 2 very good years here and proven he can still play RF and produce. He has the dead spot in July and August but recovers in September and the playoffs. With Oscar Taveras recovering from ankle surgery and seemingly having a great chance of making the team in 2014, Beltran’s situation is so fluid that I am not surprised it gives John Mozeliak sleepless nights. It all comes down to Beltran. He could earn his retirement ticket and play for a AL league contender and do a split RF/DH role. He has earned the right, unlike Lance Berkman, the big career closing contract. Or he could work out a smaller deal or a different way to stay here and get a ring. Playing a part too is if the Cards end up winning the World Series this year. Beltran came here to win a ring and may depart easier if we win it this year. Standing here today, I’d say the chances of Beltran returning are 35/65. The smaller percentage for him staying in Cardinal Red because I have a hard time thinking he will accept another 1-2 year deal when he can cash in somewhere else for a team that contends for a World Series. He’s a business man and a pragmatic athlete who knows he may have one more great contract left in him and that he better soak it up right now. Still, Mo will make a play. He wants Beltran here to mentor Oscar and keep that steady bat in the lineup. Offseason’s biggest quarrel is the Beltran decision.
PH8: What one position will the Cardinals upgrade after the 2013 season, and how?
DB: Shortstop. There’s no way the team can present Kozma, Ryan Jackson or Daniel Descalso as a starting shortstop and with the proposed departure of Beltran. You have to find a better impact bat to put at shortstop and while it may seem preposterous to some, I would like the team to take a look at Jimmy Rollins. Sure, there will be other candidates out there to take a look at, but Rollins is a guy who has played great baseball and I believe has something left to provide in a winning environment. If you can’t find that big young shortstop, Rollins could work. He had his best year when the Phillies were winning. When they declined this year, he went right with them. Rollins needs a winning team to be at the top of his game and I think would be an upgrade and he would benefit from the change of scenery and the placing inside a strong lineup. You can still play DD there to give Rollins rest, but if the market is dry, Rollins could work. Jon Jay has earned another season in CF, while Allen Craig can play RF if Beltran departs with Matt Adams moving into first. Here’s a bonus answer. The player that could be leaving after the season is David Freese. He is on a year to year basis and hasn’t earned that multi-year contract. With Kolten Wong needing more playing time and Matt Carpenter playing a great third base, this could be the big offseason shocker. Freese hasn’t shown me the traits needed to keep him here long term.
Wonderful answers! Better late than never? Check out Dan’s Cardinal work at Sports Rants and as part of the UCB! Thanks, Dan!