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If you think Cards can recover, you're nuts

Oct 8, 2009, 11:33 PM EDT

holliday_error.jpgCongratulations Matt Holliday, you’ve just entered Steve Bartman territory. Of course, Bartman would have caught that ball.

For those of you who missed it – and judging by the empty seats at Dodger Stadium tonight, I’m guessing some of you did – Holliday helped the St. Louis Cardinals snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by dropping what would have been the game-ending fly ball in Game 2 of the NLDS on Thursday night.

Catch the ball and the Cardinals win 2-1, tying the best-of-5 series at one game apiece. Instead, James Loney’s liner sought out Holliday’s, umm, lower midsection, completely missing his glove along the way. One Ryan Franklin meltdown later and the Dodgers were sitting pretty with a 3-2 victory, a 2-0 series lead, and needing just one more victory to advance to the NLCS.

(Watch the Holliday play here. You will be amused, unless you’re a Cardinals fan.)

If this had been the World Series, Holliday’s gaffe would be on par with Bill Buckner’s famous error in 1986.

As it is, he’ll just get to watch the blunder over and over again on ESPN, TBS, FOX sports – heck, probably even Al Jazeera — and wonder if that single play will affect the dollars thrown his way in free agency. (Here’s wondering if that single mistake will actually encourage the Mets to sign him. Seems like a good fit, no?)

It’s a shame for Holliday, who is not only a great hitter (who hit a home run on Thursday, by the way), but is normally a quality defender. In fact, he has rated above average in range rating throughout his career and above average in UZR every year but 2006. He had made only one error in 63 games after being dealt to the Cardinals this season.

Manny Ramirez, he is not.

But while Holliday must now figure out how to deal with his newfound infamy, the more important thing from the Cardinals’ point of view is to figure out how to beat the Dodgers — in a hurry.

Can they do it? Well the Cardinals certainly have the right attitude, banding together to back Holliday while placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of … Dodgers fans?

“I mean, that ball got lost in 50,000 white towels shaking in front of Matt’s face,” (Adam) Wainwright added. “It doesn’t really seem fair that an opposing team should be able to allow their fans to shake white towels when there’s a white baseball flying through the air. How about Dodger Blue towels?”

Wainwright’s bravado, while admirable, probably will not be enough to save St. Louis. Teams that suffer through a gaffe like this tend not to recover. The Red Sox certainly didn’t rebound from Buckner’s error in 1986. The Cubs didn’t bounce back from Bartman in 2003. And the Cardinals were unable to recover from Don Denkinger’s blown call in 1985. (See a list of famous goats here)

And in the current series, St. Louis just went 0-2 with their two Cy Young candidates – Chris Carpenter and Wainwright — on the mound. The offense racked up 21 hits and six walks in those two games, yet scored just five runs, stranding 21 base-runners in the process. That’s 1.2 runners stranded per inning.

The Dodgers have made it a point to avoid Albert Pujols, the likely NL MVP, who has only one single in the series, yet a .444 on base percentage on the strength of three walks. Would someone like to drive Pujols in once in awhile? The time to do so would be now, Cardinals.

St. Louis will send out Joel Piniero in Game 3 to face the Dodgers’ Vicente Padilla. Piniero has had a great season (15-12, 3.49 ERA), but then again, so had Franklin, and we saw how far that got him. If things go well, it’ll be the veteran playoff stud John Smoltz against Chad Billingsley in Game 4, then back to Carpenter in Game 5.

Maybe somewhere along the line, Matt Holliday will get a chance to redeem himself. Maybe he will make people forget about Thursday’s blunder. But he’s going to going to need a lot of help from his teammates, and it’s going to have to take an epic comeback to do so.

  1. Stlfan102412 - Oct 9, 2009 at 12:16 AM

    this is completely uncalled for.
    matt holliday is one of the best players on the cardinals, and if you arent a cardinals fan, who are you to judge him?!
    im pretty sure that him dropping the ball was not, in any way shape or form, his fault. maybe…if those dodger fans werent waving 50000 white towels around he would actually be able to see the white ball. tip for the dodger fans, get some blue towels to wave.
    winning that game was purely luck.and if you dodger fans think that youre team is gonna beat the cards tomorrow, actually the next 3 games, think again. because youre wrong.
    the cardinals have some of the best players in the game, a fantastic lineup, and enough skill to take on any team.
    dont be surprised when they make it to the world series.

  2. Ryne - Oct 9, 2009 at 12:23 AM

    Seems to me if teams come back from gaffes, we tend to forget about the gaffe, whereas if they don’t come back we remember it as their reason for losing, so they may come back from them more often than we remember.

  3. Nancy smith - Oct 9, 2009 at 12:41 AM

    How remarkably silly of you. I was at that game. Those towels were waved all night long. Even when the Dodgers were fielding. You don’t hear any of them whining about dropping a ball because of those mean old fans and their towels. By the way, I’m pretty sure this isn’t the first time fans have been issued stuff to wave. Only losers make excuses.

  4. Towlie - Oct 9, 2009 at 12:42 AM

    Hey StlFan – how is it, that for 17 2/3 innings the white towels had no effect on anyone, but all of a sudden, it’s a problem? And why would you think a tip for Dodger fans would be to get blue towels? Seems the white ones worked pretty well. All I can say is, WAH! He made an error, it happens, just happened to be at a major point in the game. Problem I see, is that great teams can recover from an error, not blow a huge lead in the bottom of the ninth with 2 outs! Guess it was the white towels that caused Thome to get hit by the pitch, guess it was the white towels that gave up the walks to Blake and Martin, guess it was the white towels that gave up hits to Belliard and Loretta.
    The team with the most talent doesn’t always win, ya know, and even if you think you have the most talent it doesn’t mean you get to be a sore loser. How can you say it is, pretty much, in no way shape or form Hollidays fault? It hit him in the balls! I’d say that pretty much means it should’ve been a catch.
    If the Dodgers don’t win one of the next 3 games, then they didn’t deserve to be there, but I’m not gonna cry about the Cards fans waving white towels (which I assume they’re gonna have now that it’s such a big deal).

  5. Dave - Oct 9, 2009 at 12:49 AM

    I’m a Cardinals fan, and look, the white towels comment was idiotic. Home field advantage is home field advantage. Football crowds are louder on the road while you’re on offense. Deal with it.
    An 0-2 hole is big. The odds are not in our favor. But do not be surprised if the Cardinals come back to make this a winner-take-all game 5. They’ve already proved they have the ability to win, now they just have to close the deal.
    Game 3, Cards win going away. It’s one step at a time.

  6. Ali - Oct 9, 2009 at 1:12 AM

    Well said Nancy! I’m sorry, but using the excuse of the white towels? SERIOUSLY? Come on… I’m a huge Dodger fan, always has been, and I even felt bad that that happened to Holliday. He is a great player and I hate to see how they replay over and over again, but you know what? That’s sports, it’s happens to the best of us…everyone has a bad night and it’s the reality of the times. You can’t get away from the most annoying topics ever (Jon and Kate – really? We don’t care – go away). But come on people – don’t place the blame on white towels. That’s the most asanine thing I’ve ever heard of.

  7. Ali - Oct 9, 2009 at 1:12 AM

    Well said Nancy! I’m sorry, but using the excuse of the white towels? SERIOUSLY? Come on… I’m a huge Dodger fan, always has been, and I even felt bad that that happened to Holliday. He is a great player and I hate to see how they replay over and over again, but you know what? That’s sports, it’s happens to the best of us…everyone has a bad night and it’s the reality of the times. You can’t get away from the most annoying topics ever (Jon and Kate – really? We don’t care – go away). But come on people – don’t place the blame on white towels. That’s the most asanine thing I’ve ever heard of.

  8. jaided - Oct 9, 2009 at 1:19 AM

    was it the lights or towels, i hear a lil of both excuses on different websites. just take the lose bird fans. 2-0 with the dodgers momentum going into stl, i wont be surpised if the dodgers sweep. momentum will win game 3.

  9. Astrozac - Oct 9, 2009 at 1:42 AM

    They lost it sometime in Mid September…I’m a Cardinal fan, so I guess I can judge him and he fouled up. Fouled up good. I’ll be rooting for them, but the lethargic offensive, the ground to the shortstop or get an IBB superstar and last ounce of momentum sucking out the room, I think it’s over…

  10. Luvheat - Oct 9, 2009 at 3:01 AM

    Well the other Cards outfielders didn’t seem to have a problem. Holliday looked like he had the ball spotted all the way but it was a sinking line drive and he just got caught in that tiny space of time when he tried to change how he was going to catch it. As far as lucky, well yeah they (Dodgers) got lucky that Holliday made an error but they still had to come through with the winning hit. Point is the Dodgers still had to go out and capitalize on the error

  11. Brenda - Oct 9, 2009 at 3:29 AM

    Stlfan102412, you’re proof that denial has its place in life. I never heard such a bunch of excuses before. Yes, Matt Holliday is a premier player, but the Cards as a premier team? It was the best team in the worst division and has no chance at this point of winning the series.

  12. g_pin - Oct 9, 2009 at 4:08 AM

    NO EXCUSES!!

  13. Bo - Oct 9, 2009 at 6:32 AM

    It was still the Cards game, even after MH’s error. Two outs, one on base, and we got zero performance from Franklin. It isn’t about waving white towels. It’s about no bats and no closer.

  14. willmose - Oct 9, 2009 at 8:22 AM

    Why even bother to play next game. All Dodgers have to do is throw their jocks on the field and they will, right?

  15. yolonda Smith - Oct 9, 2009 at 8:26 AM

    I will not give up on the cardinals. They were not waving any towels during that time because they had two outs and they were really pretty quiet because I think the Dodgers thought it was a sure out. I hope the Cardinals Fans bring their towels, because that is what the playoffs is all about. It will be a five game series!

  16. Joe - Oct 9, 2009 at 8:54 AM

    White towels? Is Wainwright serious? First off – knowing they are a problem that’s the first thing the Dodgers should do for every game. More importantly, that’s not what lost the game. . . that just put a runner on with two outs. Franklin’s meltdown is what lost the game. Ahead 1-2 on Blake and he walks him etc. etc. Prediction: Cards are done earlier enough in game three that it won’t even give Larussa a chance to overmanage!

  17. KimG - Oct 9, 2009 at 9:17 AM

    Holliday may have made an error, but also note the two hits and two walks after that. Seems like the pitcher didn’t do his part. In my book, he’s more of a goat than Holliday. Holliday helped get the Cards to the playoffs…get off Holliday’s back. The Cards could have won game one, but that didn’t happen either. They can come back. Go Cards!

  18. Matt - Oct 9, 2009 at 9:41 AM

    I’m a born-and-bred Cardinals fan. But I am not so biased that I cannot see what is glaringly obvious on the field; this StL squad is not a team that will run deep into the playoffs.
    Holliday didn’t lose the game for the Cards (though he certainly didn’t help matters much in the 9th). And contrary to popular belief, Franklin didn’t lose the game either; remember – Holliday makes that catch, and Franklin has a save. He cannot control everything from the mound.
    This, just like Wednesday, was a team loss. We don’t take advantage of scoring opportunities. We waste perfectly good outings by Wainwright (2 times in a row now) and gutsy performances by Carpenter that keep us in the game. Right now, the Dodgers are the better team in this series.
    That having been said, remember that this is a best-of-5 series, and the Dodgers must now contend with The Red Sea. Magic happens for the boys with the birds on the bat in that stadium. I’ll keep the faith until the end of the 9th inning on Saturday.

  19. Vic - Oct 9, 2009 at 9:49 AM

    The Cards have been tanking for the last 3 weeks or so. Great year, but it’s over. Holliday is done in St. Louis. We don’t want him or his attitude. He was quite able to stuff that crap from the pouch into his fat head, but can’t catch a pop fly. Good riddance. Once a loser, always a loser. See you in 2010. Go Yanks!

  20. PilotHawkeye - Oct 9, 2009 at 9:57 AM

    All Mr. Holliday is guilty of is changing his mind on how he wanted to catch the ball as he was tryng to catch the ball. It still took the NEXT 4 BATTERS to reach safely for the Dodgers to pull off the improbable victory. Baseball is a team sport.
    I am of the opinion that this series will still go 5 games.

  21. Jimsjam33 - Oct 9, 2009 at 10:24 AM

    It’s not over until the fat lady sings . I want the Dodgers , but the Cardinals have always given us fits . Dodger pitchers in the next two games are questionable to say the least . Padilla , who knows . Billingsly , I do know . He’s terrbile right now . If it gets to the 4th game the series will be tied up .
    Dodgers in five.

  22. Eric, Salinas, CA - Oct 9, 2009 at 10:37 AM

    Looked like Holliday wanted to emulate Manny in Mannyland muffing that easy out. No excuses about towels being waved, Holliday just plain made a mistake trying to change how he was going to catch the ball. So funny that Loretta got a hit after going 0-15 before against the Cards ace reliever. Excellent coaching by Torre! Only the weather can save St. Louis now, but only for two games.

  23. Ron Garcia - Oct 9, 2009 at 10:59 AM

    Franklin melt down should have had LaRussa going out and managing and settling things down. nuthin Tony.. horrible non interaction on your part LaRussa

  24. Pokerman - Oct 9, 2009 at 11:00 AM

    I am a Cards Fan and yes they are in trouble, but… I would love to see STL resign Holliday. I doubt STL would be in the playoffs right now without him. People make mistakes, life goes on. He still is an outstanding player. My concern is with Franklin. He had a terrible Sep/Oct. If he had played well, the Cards would have been playing in STL instead of LA. Any good closer/relief picher should have been able to pitch around Holliday’s error. I am very concerned about the Cards moving on, but it is not because of Holliday’s error, it is because Franklin’s recent inability to close.
    Offer Holliday a good 3 year contract, find a closer and let’s beat the Dodgers three straight. If that doen’t happen the team should be stonger next year. If the pitcing staff can stay healthy next year, the birds ought to be around in October, but they still have a chance this year.

  25. JTiesi - Oct 9, 2009 at 11:36 AM

    What’s funny about this whole thing is that Holliday himself said he just lost it in the LIGHTS not in the TOWELS. Wainwright was making excuses for him when Holliday didn’t even make them for himself. Truth is that the baseball gods are in the Dodgers favor. 3 game sweep just like last year aginst the Cubs.

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