Teams taking fans on roller coaster ride

By Dan Buffa

It's time to dice up some hometown sports talk. While each of the items discussed below are worth a full column, today they come wrapped up in one dose. Something for everybody. The hibernating football fan, the nerve wrecked hockey fan and the restless baseball addict. I am here for all.

After two rough road beatings in Chicago and Philadelphia had certain fans thinking the team was catching reality after a great post Olympics breakout, the Blues fought back in Pittsburgh yesterday. My column on Saturday brought up the reminder for all fans to remain seated with this team. That is why I call the Blues the Zig Zag specialists. They zig and raise our blood pressures with joy and happiness. They zag and drop our hearts to the ground. They aren't an easy bunch to follow or predict. I still can't tell you how far they will go into the playoffs without hiding a portion of my bet. They keep things interesting and never let us off the hook.

Yesterday, they calm the nerves by going into Pittsburgh, shutting down the Crosby-Malkin line and escape with a 1-0 win. Backup goalie Brian Elliot stands on his head in net and rejects the hype in turning away every Penguin rush. I can tell you just how tough the Blues franchise has had it in goal for their existence by looking at Elliot's achievement Sunday. He tied Glenn Hall for shutouts with 16 for second in Blues history. Elliot has only been with the team a few seasons. He stopped 33 shots and helped the Blues regain momentum. That's the bottom line. When his team was in need and asked him to do a favor, Elliot came through like a wrecking ball. It also didn't hurt that the Blues played some tough in your face defense on the Pens. When Sidney went behind the net, Barrett Jackman swarmed him before he could pass it to Malkin. Evgeni was also busy taking dives for penalties. The Penguins are like any finesse team in sports. Punch them in the mouth and you can beat them.

I meant what I said when stating a playoff berth isn't good enough for the Blues this year. We have gotten plenty of playoff berths. 8 teams in each conference gets into the playoffs. Big deal. I want more. Blues fans deserve more. Leftovers isn't an option. With Ryan Miller on board and a record like ours, a deep playoff run is expected. Sunday's win was great. You get beat up two games in a row and on the back to back spring you take down Pittsburgh. Good deal. Now go out and beat the Maple Leafs tomorrow and take care of Minnesota and Dallas as home. In the immortal words of Elliot Ness, don't stop fighting until the fighting is done.

It is true. Jeff Fisher and The Rams are taking a long hard look at Mark Sanchez to back up Sam Bradford. People are freaking out. Calling the Jets prematurely for return status. Calm down. This is Bradford's team and all Sanchez will hopefully do is hold a clipboard. Then again, Sanchez could fit nicely in the Rams system nicely if push came to shove. He could just as well as Kellen Clemens did. Please don't forget that Mark Sanchez took the Jets to the playoffs and performed well in a hostile environment. Sure, he deteriorated the past two seasons, but so did the entire team. Sanchez can be a solid backup. Also, Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer worked with him in New York so there is a connection there. For a certain amount of time, nothing went right in Jets land, and that includes the Tim Tebow hoax. That meaning they bring a high profile guy like Tebow in, never play him and mess up Sanchez's head in the mean time. Sure, Sanchez was involved in butt fumble gate and isn't the most sure handed arm of all time, but he could be an exceptional backup. He wouldn't have the pressure he had in New York and could focus here on football only. In 2011, Sanchez had his best year, throwing for 3,474 yards, including 26 touchdowns and 18 interceptions while rushing for 6 scores. He isn't perfect but the Rams aren't bringing him possibly to save the entire team. He's being scouted as a backup. The Eagles also have interest so there could be a deal there.

In one week, we will be unwinding from our first regular season game. The Cards and Reds face off in Cincinnati next Monday and Adam Wainwright will oppose whoever can make it to the mound for the Reds while staying healthy. Walt Jocketty's group hasn't had it easy this year. They lost Shin-Soo Choo and Bronson Arroyo to free agency, and have Matt Latos and Skip Schumacher on the disabled list. Last week, closer Aramis Chapman took a line drive off his head and will miss a month. Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto have small injuries as well. The team is simply banged up. That's unfortunate but the Cards get them twice in the first two weeks. Good for us. You have to separate unfortunate in this game from the procedure of doing business and following through on work. The Cards must capitalize on this opportunity. Every division game means something.

I am with Bernie Miklasz in knowing there never was a competition for the 5th starter spot between Carlos Martinez and Joe Kelly once Jaime Garcia bit the dust this spring. Look, Mike Matheny gets himself in trouble calling these things a competition in public. If that is true, and the best man wins, then why did Kelly win if Martinez had the better spring. Kelly compiled an ERA over 6 and walked a ton of guys. Martinez look sharped and put together an earned run average of just over 1 run per 9 innings. Martinez pitched better than Kelly but Joe made the rotation. Before you break out your pitchforks, let me say that it's good that Joe made it. He has proven to be a life saver the past two seasons. He deserves the shot. Next time, save us the competition talk and just give Kelly the role early on. That way, Matheny doesn't look like a fool when he basically picks his guy. Martinez can help the team in the 8th inning until Jason Motte is ready. Joe Kelly has proven to get the job done. I approve of the move but hate the method. It was about as phony as last year's competition between Shelby Miller and Kelly and even more hilarious.

Save us the mind games Mike. Just shoot us straight. The same way I do here.

Thanks for reading and have a good week.

Dan Buffa is a Cardinals writer for Sports Rants. He is also a contributor to and Arch City Sports while writing for his own website, Dose Of Buffa. Contact him or on Twitter at@buffa82.


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