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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. solbro - Oct 9, 2009 at 12:03 PM

    Yes, defense errors plays with the fates -but the Dodgers showed some heart. Casey Blake hanging in there for a walk from 1-2 was crucial. The small guys were the heroes.

  2. Jane - Oct 9, 2009 at 12:05 PM

    Glad to see Vic mention the fact that Holliday was too busy eating his snack to catch that ball. Yes, he’s been great for the Cards, but eat your snack in the dugout please! I still think the Cards will win the next three. StL fans are unbelievable and the team will feed off them.

  3. Ding Fing - Oct 9, 2009 at 12:23 PM

    It just wainRIGHT…Confiscate the towels… Barr all towel waving

  4. John t - Oct 9, 2009 at 12:37 PM

    I was at the game and remember seeing some Cardinals fans coming in the front gate with white rally towels stamped with the Cardinals logo, so obviously that’s the color that they use, or have used, at their home games. Kinda makes Wainwright’s excuse sound more than a little lame.

  5. miriam - Oct 9, 2009 at 12:38 PM

    Hey, I have one of those “white” towels……for your information, they are BLUE on one side…..hmmmmmm

  6. A-Dog - Oct 9, 2009 at 12:40 PM

    Funny, I remeber Cubs fans saying they will win 3 straight last year. I hope the result is the same.

  7. sailor79 - Oct 9, 2009 at 12:40 PM

    As a lifelong Cardinal fan, I do believe in the team’s ability to comeback. I also believe in the ability of the faithful in St Louis to bring white towels to complement their red shirts …….. Never know when waving one of those towels might come in handy!

  8. Mike - Oct 9, 2009 at 12:43 PM

    My lasting memories of last night will be Holliday being overly absorbed with his sunflower seeds and Franklin persisting in the idea that if he can load the bases, it makes for a more exciting ending. Neither of these works very well. As a Cards fan, I had hoped for better.

  9. drew - Oct 9, 2009 at 12:43 PM

    I was at the game yesterday — basically, it was horrible luck for a great player, and just one of those unpredictable things that make baseball so nerve-rattling and cruel. (I’m a lifelong Dodger fan, but this was just one of those times that the baseball gods screw one team over. It just happens.)
    One thing that should be brought up here — almost NO ONE was waving towels when Holliday dropped the ball. Dodgers were down with two outs and Loney hits a pop fly that looks like an easy out — everyone was pretty much getting ready to leave. So even if the towels HAD been a distraction (and c’mon, that’s a pretty lame excuse anyway), they were almost certainly not a distraction on this particular play.
    I understand the frustration of the Cardinals players and fans to take a loss like this one, but it’s still ugly when people start making stupid excuses like this.

  10. C. D. Clark - Oct 9, 2009 at 12:53 PM

    I am a Cards fan, have been one my whole life, and I am furious. Did the white towels have anything to do with it? Maybe. But guess what? Holliday is a professional and should have made that catch! He has done it before in worse circumstances. He just blew it! It happens but don’t throw up crappy excuses for why we lost. We just blew it!

  11. Obvious - Oct 9, 2009 at 1:08 PM

    Take a look at Major League Baseball Stats. Who has one more NLDS, NLCS, WS??????

  12. R. Martin - Oct 9, 2009 at 1:13 PM

    Don’t pop those champagne corks quite yet… bad mojo. One “W” @ a time. I’m a life long Cardinal fan (and it has been a long life) and I’m looking forward to the next game. The games are always decided on the field, so it doesn’t matter what gets said here, there or anywhere. Redbirds middle relief is suspect… otherwise, game on.

  13. Billy N. - Oct 9, 2009 at 1:20 PM

    How close are the Dodgers to winning the first round…. Just as close as the Yankees were in 2004 of eliminating the Sox. The last time I saw a play like that was when the “secretary of defense”, Gary Maddox muffed a fly in the 1978 NLCS against these same Dodgers. That I believe was the last game and the Dodgers went on to the World Series. Can the Redbirds come back, certainly. Do put all the blame on Holliday. All that had to be done was for Franklin to get one more out with a runner on second. And what about the baserunning blunder, getting tagged out at third with no out. That I think was a bigger error that Holliday’s. I am not a Yankee fan but I have to say that Rivera is the main reason they have won all those WS since 1996 and he is the reason why if he has the chance to end a game HE will do it. I’d be more concerned about the Phillies ability to win 2 in Colorado then the Cards to win 2 at home.

  14. Linda - Oct 9, 2009 at 1:28 PM

    I agree when the dodgers win the white towels will be the excuse that’s okay that is what whinners do. It is unbelievable that he missed it, he just judged it scully said it their was no sunlight the ray of shadows or light shinning at him he just missed it no one is perfect But they did forget the dodgers a come back team and they proved it again. enough said.

  15. JT - Oct 9, 2009 at 1:35 PM

    Stop with your whining and take it like a man. Sore loser…

  16. Linda L.A. - Oct 9, 2009 at 2:01 PM

    So for your lost and sorry that it hurts but you just have to stop breath and hope the dodgers don’t bring thier own towels maybe the commissioner will dye the ball red but wait the fans will have their red towels what will you do know hope this makes sense that you can see how stupid an excuse you have commented. Let the best team win L.A. fan for life. One more hey Lakers won, The Angels are doing well it’s the city-state of champs. We won’t make excuses we will still follow our team and chear them on.

  17. BobbyV - Oct 9, 2009 at 3:01 PM

    Dude, you are such a cry baby. The Cardinals blew it point blank, no excuses. The towels werent even been wave at the time, so get your s!@# straight dude. The series is over in StLouis. Let’s go Dodgers

  18. Scott - Oct 9, 2009 at 3:09 PM

    I am a big Dodgers fan. I watched that replay about 20 times. The fans were doing the same thing I was, waiting in pain to see the last out caught. It never looked like it might fall and I didn’t see anyone waving anything at the time, just a bunch of people about to walk out of the stadium disappointed.

  19. Sven-Erik - Oct 9, 2009 at 3:18 PM

    Like we say here in Sweden, “Good pitching stops good hitting,jumpin jiminey”. Where was the good pitching after Hollidays error. Same thing with the Cubs and the Bartman thing.
    Pitching is everything, that’s all folks.

  20. Dan - Oct 9, 2009 at 3:25 PM

    You know Mr. Harkins: Don’t write off the Cardinals just yet. All the Dodgers did was that they held thier serve. May I remind you that its the team that WINS THE FIRST ROAD GAME that you can call a series over. Wouldn’t surprise me if the Dodgers win, however in 5 at Dodger Stadium. That’s homefield advantage. The series is not over by game 2.

  21. Brutality - Oct 9, 2009 at 5:17 PM

    Brutal loss for the Cards. Why they didnt pull a struggling Franklin at any of the 4 subsequent at-bats marks the real culprit for the loss, not towels. Holliday’s dinger put them in the driver’s seat from early on, its too bad this is overshadowed by the missed ball.
    Its hard to recover from something this demoralizing, but the bigger issue is that the Cards pitching is thin once Carpenter and Wainwright are out. The Dodgers have starters that are not as reliably efficient but do have a much deeper bullpen and a more ruthless manager in Torre. Also, offensively, the Dodgers are winning games without Manny contributing. The Cards should be worried that a sloppy pitch to Manny gets the all-time postseason HR king his groove back.

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    I would look at get information.

  23. Hipolito M. Wiseman - Jan 12, 2010 at 12:45 AM

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