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A Dose Of Buffa

by Dan Buffa

Welcome to my pharmacy, St. Louis sports fans. Once a week, I will come here and unplug the head and let the noisy topics fall out. I will do my best to touch on the Cardinals, Blues and Rams in addition to some random sports takes. One could look at it as a way to organize the madness in my head, but I’ll just present it as a stream of consciousness.  Let’s run with it.

The Cardinals

  • What should the Cardinals do about the outfield situation, in light of the unfortunate death of Oscar Taveras? Look at their deck of cards and determine what they want 2015 to be. They could call Michael Morse’s agent or simply call on young hands like Stephen Piscotty and Tommy Pham to help Randal Grichuk shoulder the load in right field. Each option has it’s virtues and setbacks. John Mozeliak can spend some cash and get a proven threat in Morse. He can swing it and do so for power. I am not acquiring him thinking about defense or scooping balls at first base. He is a threat and could provide a pop off the bench that has been missing for years. In house options aren’t that bad. Piscotty put together better years in Memphis than Grichuk and won’t strike out half as much. He is young but ready for a look. Michael Cuddyer was an option before the Rockies made him a qualifying offer. Right now, Mo has to decide what he has out there and where he wants these young men to move as 2016 and beyond approaches. No answer is easy. You bet on an unknown or you pay for a known quantity.
  • John Lackey is coming back to pitch for 500,000 dollars in 2015. No matter how the rotation slices up, this is a great deal for the Cards. A proven veteran who came up big in the playoffs and seems to like pitching in St. Louis will make less than Lance Lynn this coming season. Texans honor contracts.
  • Who isn’t pitching for the Cards in 2015? Is it Shelby Miller or Carlos Martinez? Just a riddle. I can’t do all the work. Throw your answers in the comment section below.
  • The Giants won the World Series in case you slept through it. They have collected 3 rings in the past 5 seasons. That’s a highly under the radar dynasty going on out West. They do it without offering ridiculous money and rely on the same core group of players. Each time they enter the playoffs, they are underdogs. Don’t feel too bad about losing to them, Cards folks. They are pretty good and may have some pretty good fans supporting them.
  • Does Matt Adams need a RH bat to help him at first base? Yes. He hasn’t be able to crack lefthanded pitching NOT named Clayton Kershaw the past two seasons. Whether it is Scruggs or Morse, the Big Man can use some help.
  • Yadier Molina won the Gold Glove for the 7th straight year. In other news, coffee is still black and keys open locks.

The Rams

  • After making us think they were dead against Kansas City, the Rams pulled off an upset in San Francisco. The offense labored all day but the defense returned to peak 2013 form and sacked Colin Kaepernick 8 times. This is what the Rams do best. Grind out tough games and win by three points or less. This is Jeff Fisher football. A running dominated offense with a pulverizing defensive attack from the front seven. Will it last? I have no idea.
  • Austin Davis didn’t play well and has struggled the past few weeks. Fans who adored him now want him out and are asking for Shaun Hill. The same Shaun Hill people shrugged their shoulders at when Sam Bradford went down. Davis has only started 7 games people. Hold up. He was very good and exciting and is running into a gauntlet of very good defenses on the road. That’s what you get in a town dominated by bad football year in and year out. Restless fans clamoring for the next best thing. The Rams should leave the keys in Davis’ pocket for the duration of the 2014 season. There’s no guarantee Hill steps in and does a better job in his place. He is a decent quarterback but a career backup. Davis has shown flourishes of a starting quarterback and deserves the spot. There’s no reason to take him out now. Let’s see how he reacts. Quarterbacks aren’t built in seven games.
  • Robert Quinn was going to show up, sooner or later. He is held 75 times a game and still gets pressure on the quarterback. In two games, he has made Kaepernick’s life miserable. They have accumulated 80 percent of their 2014 sacks when facing him. Eugene Sims, Michael Brockers, Aaron Donald and William Hayes contribute but the beast of the attack lies in Quinn’s ability to attract double teams and apply pressure on an offensive line for four quarters. He needed time but has arrived.
  • The defense also stifled the run game. They have shut down some strong attacks this year, and held Frank Gore in check Sunday, restricting him to 14 carries for 49 yards. The defense struggled for the first few games but has peeled back the layers slowly every week. A lot of credit goes to a linebacking crew anchored by James Laurinaitis. Along with Jo Lonn Dunbar and Alec Ogletree, Laurinaitis is clamping down on the run. The defense of the Rams can take over games and steal 2-3 a year. Sunday was one of those occasions.
  • The secondary isn’t flashy but T.J. McDonald, Rodney McLeod and E.J. Gaines are doing a good job of holding the receiving corps in check. The interceptions aren’t as frequent as one would hope, but they are doing enough to support the front seven snap by snap. They played well without Janoris Jenkins Sunday.
  • The Rams did this without key players. The list grows every week. Jenkins, Jake Long, and Brian Quick joined Sam Bradford and Chris Long this past week. A team riddled by injuries can find a way to win. That’s something to remain positive about.
  • Let’s forget about the impending move of the team or the status going into 2015. Enjoy the football while you can. Cherish thrillers like Sunday’s 13-10 win. That message will continue to roll out as the 2015 continues. The Rams are 3-5 and heading to Arizona, carrying a wrecking ball in their hand. Who knows what will happen?

The Blues

  • How about the Note? Six straight wins. Stellar goaltending and defense. An ability to win on the road. They are 8-3-1 and have a +7 goal differential after starting the season cold with the stick. They went into New York Monday night and took them down before shutting out the New Jersey Devils last night. They outlasted the Colorado Avalanche at home Saturday. They aren’t beating crappy teams but succeeding against playoff caliber opponents. It’s only 12 games but you can feel good about this team.
  • Vladimir Tarasenko, as I wrote last week, is filthy and could score 40 goals this season. He has shown the ability to get to the areas of the ice where a defense and goalie can’t stop or shut down. Last night, he cut through three players and faked the goalie out of his skates. You know when the other players just shake their head and carry a “Whooaaaa” look on their face, that your guy is doing something seriously right. This kid has been special since the day he arrived and I have a feeling he will provide several key moments of blazing hockey over the next few years. He scored the shootout goal to sink the Rangers and sent a wrist shot past Cory Schneider Tuesday night to finish off the Devils.
  • Jake Allen is a confident goaltender and I saw that in his first stint back in the 2012-13 season. He came up when Jaro Halak got hurt and Brian Elliott malfunctioned. He provided sound goaltending for a month and helped the team regain its footing. He waited out last year and never got a real shot due to the Ryan Miller wager. Now he is up and backing up Elliott and doing a hell of a job. He made a few key stops against New Jersey and gave the skates a chance to make a dent. Allen is the future #1. Only a matter of time.
  • Ryan Reaves does have two goals. You read that right. Reaves has always shown the ability to be more than a tough guy. He isn’t out there to punch people and then sit down. He isn’t a goon. He can skate, handle the puck, kill penalties and occasionally score a goal or force pressure in the zone. He makes other teams uncomfortable. I have always been a fan of this guy because for once, people can’t just label him a fighter. He’s something else.
  • When Paul Stastny gets back, I can only imagine what the offense will do. He lit up the ice for a few games before going down with an injury. Hopefully, he is back by Saturday when the Nashville Predators come to town.
  • On Saturday night, I felt the most proud of Brian Elliott, who was playing his 100th game with team. He has had an adventurous run with the team, going from backup to starter to behind Ryan Miller last season. He has experienced his ups and downs here, but kept his head up. His play hasn’t slipped for long. He waited his turn and now gets his chance to lead the team in net. Allen will provide support and a spark behind him but the important thing is this is Elliott’s team. It took a few years but it’s his to lead and you couldn’t feel better for a guy at the moment. He’s earned it and is playing extremely well.

That’s all I got.  The Cards are settling down while the Rams shift our heartstrings and the Blues once again start something special. There’s no telling what next week brings.

Hopefully, this dose quenched a few people’s heads and brought some answers or at least gave you something to chew on. As the winter approaches, the doses will fire up on a weekly basis. Thank you for reading.

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