Slow times in Birdland, with Peavy apparently out of the Cardinals' plans as quickly as he hopped into them. For Friday: a look at RBI champions and the MVP voters who love them. For Tuesday: notes (sans bullet points, because I have no idea how to get this thing to assign several paragraphs to one bullet.)
Well, that's that. One option declined—via a letter to his agent, which is a pretty clear indicator of his place in the Cardinals' plans—and now we won't have Swamp Gas to kick around anymore. Seriously, what happened? The Big 3 story, so promising in Moneyball, will read like a really bad naturalist novel at this rate, with everybody falling into a life of dissipation and ennui in the streets for no apparent reason.
There's Hudson, toiling in obscurity for no ultimate goal; Zito, adrift and irrelevant after attaining vast riches; and now Mulder, unable to diagnose what has taken everything away from him. (I've written a treatment, to be stretched out by Dreiser. Everybody dies of the consumption at the end, and Billy Beane stares into the hazy distance, where Jack Cust is running laps, and wonders about the futility of it all.)
Here's what everyone's going to remember: up to the first half of 2004, he was Mark Mulder; from then on he used to be Mark Mulder.
That's the way it was—eerily so, given how these arbitrary-line splits usually play out—but it leaves out a lot of things that will stay with me about Mulder the Cardinal. The disgust over the trade; the veiled excitement every time he did something ace-like; the bizarre, unexplainable decline of his fastball, with no apparent physical cause; the way things would pick up for a game only for Mulder to disappear, once more, into the background. Splits and strikeout rates are enough to say he disappointed, but the how is what will stick with me.
That last appearance said all I could possibly say about Mark Mulder. There was the surprise (the anger, really) that he would pitch at all, there was the excitement when he struck Rollins out, and then there was nothing. I wasn't around for the Ankiel game in 2000 like I'm around now, and as a result I can not remember feeling worse about the way a baseball game was unfolding than I did at that moment. I can't guess at what Mulder was thinking, there, but as he stood there on the mound waiting to be pulled I wondered if he was wondering if it was over, or why it was over.
I was not a fan of the Mulder trade—I'm pondering that as an epitaph, if you're wondering—but it's obvious the guy did everything he could to go out there and pitch against a completely inscrutable issue, and when he stood on that mound and wondered, like everybody else, what had happened to his arm—what else he could possibly have done for it—I became a fan of Mark Mulder. If he makes it back next year I'll be watching.
The United Cardinals Bloggers are doing a Question of the Day series all through October, and at Fungoes Pip posed an interesting question: what would you change about the Busch Stadium experience? Lots of interesting responses, ranging from more Team Fredbird to something to replace the old Cardinals museum.
My suggestion, short of building a time machine and carrying Busch Stadium II through it, echoes one of Pip's: fire whomever it is who thought cutting the "Everybody clap your hands!" segment of the Cha Cha Slide out and replacing half of the organ cues with it was a good idea. Then, if it's within my jurisdiction as Head Suggester, fire the guy who wrote the Cha Cha Slide, for good measure. Would you like to know something terrible?
We're in the Cha Cha Slide wikipedia article. I'm not exaggerating all that much when I say this cheapens the 2006 NLCS for me.
Finally, Russ Springer wants back, as you may already have read in the all-seeing Rotoworld box to my right (is it my right? Am I facing out of the blog? I think I am.) I still can't adjust to the fact that Springer has been a dominant relief pitcher for two years running. It is either a testament to Dave Duncan's magical powers or the idea that it is impossible to predict the year-to-year results of 95% of the world's relief pitchers, and I'm placing my bets on the second thing.
How improbable was this? Before he became impossible to hit Springer gave up ten home runs in various swingman and set-up roles five times, which strikes me as nearly impossible to do. It's like losing twenty games: you have to be a pretty good pitcher, right? Only Springer really wasn't—it took him seven years to put up an ERA better than the league average, but he kept getting the call. Aspiring pitching prospects should not try this route to eventual relief stardom at home.
But all these managers and teams, including La Russa and Duncan during his ill-fated tenure as a member of the 2003 Cardinals, saw something in him, and apparently this was it. I don't know how he's doing it, and I don't know if I'll be able to rationalize these results with my feelings any time soon, but who are the Cardinals to turn away their best reliever?