fists of fury

Q: what’s the downside of the 5-1 start? A: last night’s game thread.

the cards’ unexpectedly good start has raised everybody’s expectations, which in turn raises the piss-n-moan factor when the team turns out to be (gasp) fallible. one loss, and here come 800 comments’ worth of knee-jerk carping about how la russa and duncan are complete idiots --- as if they had nothing at all to do with the 5-1 start. or nothing to do with putting todd wellemeyer out there. he shouldn’t even be in the rotation according to a majority of this community (myself included), but i didn’t read a single comment on last night’s thread which said "maybe tony n dave made the right call on wellemeyer." i only read how those two morons were costing the team games.

but that’s the beauty of knee-jerk carping --- you’re not obliged to use fairness or logic. or maybe i should say you get to use some bizarro alternative form of fairness / logic --- the same kind my 4- and 6-year-olds invoke when they don’t get their way. here’s a textbook example of "alternative logic": for 2 solid years, whenever la russa benched duncan against a left-handed pitcher the VEB community bellowed "la russa’s an idiot! duncan’s our second-best hitter!!" last night tony had duncan in the lineup vs a left-hander . . . . . and the community bellowed "la russa’s an idiot! duncan can’t hit lefties!!"

here’s another example: tony always gets ragged on for his blind loyalty to veteran pitchers and his distrust of youngsters; i rag on him for that all the time. well, last night tony passed over his veteran setup man (franklin) and entrusted a 9th-inning tie to a rookie; when the kid lost the game, the board started piling on la russa again. one person even wrote "f**k larussa and duncan," for which he earned some polite encouragement to familiarize himself w/ the Community Guidelines.

one passage in the Community Guidelines goes like this: "there’s a difference between making a critical point and pounding your fists on the floor. if all you have to offer is the latter, do not post." there was some worthwhile, intelligent criticism on the thread last night --- the kind of discussion that makes the community strong. it’s fair to argue that brian barton had earned a 4th consecutive start, and that his absence exacerbated the cards’ vulnerability vs left-handed pitching. i agree with that argument --- last night’s lineup did not give the cards their best chance to win. but if the argument is that the lineup caused the loss, i disagree strongly; brian barton, who has 11 big-league at-bats, ain’t the sole difference between losses and wins. not yet; not singlehandedly. if you repeat that argument a couple hundred times with ever-mounting frustration and snark, it’s not an argument at all; that’s just infantile pounding of fists on the floor. the floor sustained an awful beating last night --- on april 7th. in the cards’ second loss of the season. there are probably 75 to 85 more losses left on the schedule. if last night’s thread is the standard, there’s no way the floor can survive all year. it’s gonna cave.

i’m rarely on the game threads as they unfold; i’m usually playing with my kids, brushing their teeth, and tucking ’em in bed. i come along later and read the commentary, and i am often entertained by the sharp wit and the keen observations, but some passages make me cringe. when things don't go well for the team, the herd starts looking for a scapegoat and then mercilessly pounds away. a large chunk of the community, including many of VEB's most knowledgeable and long-standing members, avoids the game threads like the plague, and i can understand why. but i think it’s a shame.

* * * * * * * *

a few notes about the ballgame itself:

  • wellemeyer’s start was easily the best of his big-league career. he completed 7 innings for the first time ever, and he induced 16 swing / misses last night while walking just one man --- dominance. i haven’t looked carefully at the pitch FX data yet, but at a glance it looks like he was getting everything over --- fastball, slider, change. both the homers came on off-speed pitches --- a changeup to berkman, a hanging slider to lee.
  • troy glaus made his bones last night, eh? i wouldn’t exactly say he plowed over towles on the play at the plate, but he didn’t shy away from contact either. just as impressive, imho, was his disciplined at-bat moments earlier --- he laid off a verrrry tempting 2-strike splitter, waited out valverde for a fastball and put a decent swing on it.
  • one possible reason ryan franklin didn’t pitch the bottom of the 9th: the two hitters due up, lee and tejada, both have good career numbers against him --- .280 / .333 / .520 for lee (2 hr in 25 ab), and .321 / .406 / .429 for tejada.
  • and a minor-league note: mitchell boggs made an impressive debut at triple A --- 6 innings, 3 hits, 1 run (unearned). jason motte pitched 1.1 innings of relief and struck out 3 guys; so far he’s struck out half the men he has faced at the triple A level, while allowing just 2 baserunners. might not be too long before we see him in st louis . . . . .
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