Programming note: Over at SBN's Diamondbacks blog, AZ Snakepit, they're deciding which playoff team to root for, by popular vote. I contributed a sonnet to our cause; I can only hope that, in so doing, I've captured the coveted Arizona doggerel demographic.
So—they played baseball yesterday, mostly just for fun. And don't get me wrong—some of it was fun. I am on the record as enjoying, basically without reservation, players playing out of position in meaningless games (and sometimes even in meaningful games.) David Freese was yesterday's Good Sport, and he earned some plaudits from Tony La Russa and the chance to look pleasantly baffled when he managed to earn that putout in foul territory. (That said, I'm disappointed to learn that his high school experience behind the plate was the only thing that kept us from a chance to see Jason Motte reprise his role behind the plate. Nobody's steal on him, although they might inadvertently hit a home run.)
But it was also eerie. I hate to read too much into it, and I'm not questioning the team or the coaches' motivation, but these last two or three games have felt like we're all preparing to move out of the regular season—that we've gotten loose with the cleaning and household maintenance since we know we've already lost the security deposit. So Sunday there was Jay Randolph's sparse announcing, the WB's low production values, David Freese in at catcher—it was a little like eating one last dinner on the floor. It's eerie.
Now: to relearn our old habits; to move the furniture; to hope that Ryan Franklin and his buddies don't run off with all the electronics. Onward — to momentum!
It was sloppy baseball, but I think La Russa makes a concise distillation of his point in the P-D's game recap:
La Russa said, "If we'd had a great weekend, it would be all about Wednesday. If we'd had a terrible weekend, it would be all about Wednesday.
"You know what that turns out to be? It's all about Wednesday."
That's absolutely true, at least for Tony; he might have gotten a little outwardly giddy as the Cardinals pulled away, and away, and away from the Cubs, but he is always flatly dismissive whenever someone tries to broach that topic to his face. If the Cardinals had dropped thirty runs on the Brewers this weekend and ended the on-field celebration by lifting their beaming manager onto a golden sedan chair he would have delivered the same glum speech as soon as Khalil Greene and Josh Kinney dropped him off at the press conference: "It's all about Wednesday. That was today. Any more questions? No?"
I doubt La Russa is any happier than the 120,000 paying customers who watched the Cardinals lose three shambling, untucked games to the Brewers about the Cardinals' sloppy play. But I don't doubt his ability—the team's ability—to change the tone of the games heading into the opening series against the Dodgers. The worry should be whether or not this team is as good now as it was in July, with Pineiro looking less Mathewsonian by the start and the offense not operating at peak efficiency and the fourth starter spot appearing both uncertain and uninspiring.
While we're on the topic of fourth starter, there's something a little weird about La Russa's current, pragmatic approach to the question, which is to not answer it:
Both are candidates to start a possible Game 4 in St. Louis, but manager Tony La Russa confirmed Sunday morning that the pair will be on his list of available relievers for the first two games of the series.
"If you need John for one hitter or one big inning, that's what he's done," La Russa said. "You look at Lohse for more, multiple innings."
That's fine in theory, but it seems to me that unless the game is blown out, the question is answered the minute one of the relievers is needed. Is La Russa, in need of a steady inning out of the pen, going to ever take Lohse if he's got The John Smoltz sitting one chair over? It's like saying, "Well, Joe Thurston and Troy Glaus are both available to pinch hit, and we'll use whichever one we don't send out there for the pitcher at third base."
So either it answers the question in a very predetermined way—or it doesn't answer it at all, and he remains mum on things for a few more days. Which I don't think Tony La Russa minds at all.