Another Pleasant Valley Sunday

Here in status-symbol land….

If there has ever been a more apt description of Southern California, I’ve yet to hear it.

Despite my misgivings, and an attempt to turn American U into the first real Cinderella of the tournament (a role currently filled by Cleveland State), Villanova has advanced into the Sweet 16. Boy they looked good against UCLA yesterday. That’s the best I’ve seen them play all year.

The possibility of a Xavier/Villanova regional final is still very much alive (let’s go X today vs Wisconsin), which will initiate a ‘border war’ of sorts in my family. Here’s hoping…

I’ve neglected the Cardinals for, oh, about two weeks. There is a good reason for this. On Friday 20 March I defended my Masters Thesis as the last hurdle before getting the degree conferred on me. Despite the fact that my Professor blew a sizable hole in our presentation – we did, in retrospect, a poor job explaining the data manipulation we performed to arrive at the conclusion we did – I think it will be good enough. So as you might imagine, prepping for that event, as well as a final presentation and exam in my other class (both of which went much better – aced the presentation, 98 out of 101 on the final), has been all-consuming lately.

But that’s all out of the way now. Back to what’s REALLY important.

There’ve been some interesting developments in camp this week.

Ludwick appears to have re-found his confidence, and his approach at the plate. The Grand Slam he hit yesterday is the latest good sign from him. With Ludwick’s big bat back, AP has protection, and this club becomes much more dangerous.

Mather’s 0-19 slump has not gone unnoticed, which is why David Freese started yesterday at third. A recent UCB topic asked us to predict the 25 man roster on Opening Day. All of us respondents had Mather penciled in at third. That looks to be in jeopardy. If Freese can hit, and Mather continues to struggle, don’t be surprised to see Freese starting at third on 6 April. This makes Mozeliak look really intelligent for dumping Edmonds on the lowly Padres for Freese; we turn an aging, physically breaking down CF into a young 3B prospect who steps in for an injured Glaus the very next year. High marks for Mo on that one.

McClellan is getting lit up. This isn’t good. He’s one of the relative assurances in the bullpen when the Cardinals break camp. Based on his breakout season last year, most of us had him slotted for the high leverage stuff, and possibly the eighth inning as the set-up guy. But he’s struggling. Current camp chatter has Motte as the closer and Franklin returning to his eighth inning set up role. McClellan should still make the team – there aren’t a lot of good options to replace him from the right side (Boggs? I think not) – but his struggles are cause for a lot of concern. I wonder if his ‘be ready to start in case Carpenter breaks down’ spring hasn’t adversely affected his preparation to pitch in relief.

Speaking of Carpenter, there’s a great article about him in today’s Post Dispatch. It’s got to be tough to have to keep fighting back from injury, and to deal with the fact that your body is a fragile thing now and may betray you at any moment, on any pitch. But Carpenter’s spring continues to exceed all expectations, and I for one remain hopeful he will return to his 2005 form this season. OK, not necessarily win the Cy Young, but win 15 games or more. Jason LaRue’s comments in the above linked article only serve to solidify my impression that Carp’s back, and is going to have a good year.

The article also clears up, at least for me, why Carp is in the #4 starter spot to begin the year – it gets him two starts against the Cubs early in the season. I am statistically challenged this early in the morning, but I believe Carp has had lots of success against the Cubs in his career – which would explain the matchup for such a critical series early in the year.

Enough for now. Enjoy your sunday. If you decide to play any Monkees today, think of me, who will be chasing a pair of ‘monkeys’ around the house all day.

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Filed under NCAA tournament, Villanova Basketball

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