Well, I'm back. Did you miss me? What Mike said about my history with those named Katrina is true. I'd rather just leave it at that though.
The Marlins are back at home for a six game homestand that starts tonight against the Cardinals. After being on the road for the past week, the Fish aren't coming home to find any home cooking. Just in case you haven't checked the standings lately, the defending National League Champion Cardinals are still in first place, just like they have been since June. June of 2004 that is.
As they all are from from this point out, this series is a huge one for the Marlins. Unfortunately for the Fish, they're not just going to face the Cards' potent lineup, Tony LaRussa is also going to start Cy Young front-runner Chris Carpenter, Matt Morris, and Jeff Suppan in this series.
To get a little scoop on the series, we sat down with Fred Bird.
: Welcome back to FishStripes, Fred.
: Thanks for having me, Grover. Before you start asking me questions, let me ask one of you: Over the weekend Tony LaRussa passed Sparky Anderson to take sole possession of third place all-time for wins as a manager. Jack McKeon has been around for a long time. Where does he fall?
: Jack has been around for a long time, but he hasn't spent that much time as a manager. Trader Jack, as he's still known from his days as a GM, enters this series with 997 wins. If things go really well for the Marlins (as unlikely as that is), we may see an historic win for Jack (i.e. number 1,000). Even if that happens, Jack will still be about 1,200 wins behind LaRussa. Given that Jack isn't likely to make up many wins on LaRussa while they're both managing competitive teams and that Jack isn't likely to manage for a decade or two longer than LaRussa, I think it's safe to say that Jack won't catch Tony.
Speaking of things that aren't going to happen, how will the Cardinals manage without Scott Rolen (last week it was announced that he'll be out for the rest of the year)?
: It's going to be tough. Rolen is a Gold Glover and a potential Silver Slugger (given to the best hitter at his position in each league). More than that, he's a real leader on this Cardinals team. He struggled (likely due to an injury that he was playing through) during last year's World Series and it almost seem like the whole team was affected by that.
Abraham Nunez (no, not the same one that you Marlins fans know) has filled in capably for Rolen (about .300/.360/.400), but it would be unfair to expect him to be Rolen when the playoffs roll around.
: You're talking about the playoffs as if they're a foregone conclusion.
: Realistically, they are. The Cardinals enter this series up 14.5 games over Houston (who very likely could win the Wild Card). With just a little more than a months worth of baseball, it's hard to imagine the Cardinals giving up a lead like that.
: Sorry to cut things short, Fred - but I've got to run.