i have to try

a quick programming note: i'm on jury duty for at least the next couple of days. first time i've ever served; criminal case, pretty straightforward trial, and they tell us it ought to be wrapped up by friday. so i'll be absent from the discussion thread for at least the next couple of days, and tonight's game thread won't go up till just before game time.

i swear (i am under a juror's oath, after all) the blog played at least an indirect role in dragging me into this mess --- er, i mean qualifying me for this civic duty. during voir dire, i stated that i make my living as a writer; the prosecuting attorney asked me what type of writing i do, and i gave him a quick description of my client base and said, "that's most of it" or something like that. "most of it," he says; "what's the rest of it?" "i also write a blog."

Q: a blog? [raised eyebrow] about what?
A: the st louis cardinals baseball team.
Q: oh. [pause] how do you feel about mark mcgwire being kept out of the hall of fame?
A: well, i'm not all that interested in the hall. but i do think he cheated with steroids.

i'm not making this up, now; this exchange really took place. (and i'd like to know how the court reporter rendered "mark mcgwire" on that freaky keypad of his.) i think my answer left the prosecutor saying to himself, hell yeah, i'll take this guy on my jury; he's ready to convict the hometown sports hero on nothing more than circumstantial evidence. then the defense attorney gets up there and says:

Q: mr borowsky, how you can you be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that mcgwire used steroids?
A: i'm not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt.
Q: but you said that you think he cheated with steroids.
A: that's right --- i do think he cheated. but mcgwire's not on trial, so the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard doesn't really apply.
Q: i see. so if you were judging him in a court of law, you'd apply a more rigorous standard of proof before you'd convict him --- is that correct?
A: yes sir.

so now this guy wants me too; he's telling himself, borowsky will give a guy his day in court, even a guy who might look kinda guilty. but the defense attorney's not quite finished:

Q: in the interest of full disclosure, i should tell you that i grew up on chicago's north side. [pause] knowing that, do you think you can give my client a fair trial?

all sorts of possible answers raced through my head: ask me on september 30, i'll let you know then. or: your client, yes. but if it were you on trial, probably not. or: that depends; what position does your client play? any one of those flippant answers might have gotten me off the hook; they don't usually like smartasses on juries, do they? but i didn't have the nerve, so rather than give the defense a reason to boot me off the panel i just mumbled some generic affirmative answer. score that one an error; neither side struck me, and as a result i have to shower and wear shoes for the rest of the week.

justice sucks.

once we'd been sworn in as the jury, i asked the bailiff if there is wireless internet access in the jury room. "there will be in the new justice center," she said cheerfully. that project is slated for completion in december 2009; the judge doesn't think our case will take quite that long.

* * * * * * * *

adam wainwright found himself facing a trial of his own last night and made a pretty good case for himself. it appeared to me that he tensed up visibly with two out in the 6th, after david dejesus yanked an inside fastball just foul down the first-base line; whew, close call. wainwright had been attacking hitters all night, had set down the first two hitters of that inning on only 4 pitches. but after the near miss he immediately got tentative: two consecutive balls to dejesus, another foul (and another close call, this one down the left-field line), then ball 3 to run the count full. you could see adam laboring with his breathing and his pace as that at-bat lengthened: he was consciously trying to slow things down, calm himself down; his brow was furrowed. if it sounds like i'm being critical here, i don't intend that --- i think the kid was excited and nervous (he admits in today's post-dispatch that he starting thinking no-hitter as early as the 3d inning, and says he paid rapt attention to a replay of justin verlander's tuesday-night no-hitter) and was struggling to keep those emotions in check. natural human reaction. after he finally did yield a basehit, wainwright relaxed visibly; he started throwing strikes again, stopped forcing his rhythm and slipped into a more natural one, and went back to setting down the royals. the error on miles was unfortunate, and the ensuing hit came as no surprise, but i don't think the outcome would have been any different had miles made that play.

as much as i enjoy (and trust) numerical analysis, that was one of those situations in which the numbers --- e.g., his batting average allowed vs left-handers, or the percentage of first-pitch curveballs, or his BABIP, or any such breakdowns --- didn't mean a thing. all those factors became moot, and the action was dictated by what happened under adam's cap.

but to get back to numbers: since his disastrous start vs the dodgers a month ago, wainwright has made 5 starts and yielded more than 2 runs in only 1 of them. his era over that month (33.1 innings) is 2.43; his k-bb, 3 to 1; his walk rate, 2.1 per 9 innings. the other starters' eras over that span:

wellemeyer 4.79
wells 6.04
thompson 6.91
looper 7.48

last night's outing reduced wainwright's outlandishly high batting average on balls in play (referenced here) to .333 for the season; still 4th highest in the national league and still in outlier territory, but no longer off off off the charts. it was only a matter of time before his luck turned in that regard. as of this moment, he is the cardinals' best starter. with the possibility of reyes' recall from memphis soon and carpenter's likely return to action next month . . . . . breathe deep, cardinal fans. there are still 100 games to be played.

p.s.: if'n you missed it, troy percival wasn't exactly sharp in his first outing at memphis. called on in the 7th inning with a 1-run lead to protect, he walked three of the 5 batters he faced, gave up a game-tying hit to a fourth; he retired one guy on a groundout, and the other out of his 2/3-inning stint came on a caught stealing (two other runners stole bases successfully against him).

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