The Importance of Good Timing*

Hindenburg

*Note: Alternate titles for this post include "No Iliad, no Odyssey, Just Homers", and "I Like 'Pens, Not Tragedies". 



Timing is everything in life, you know.

Good and bad, timing really is often the only thing that matters. Good things at the wrong time are still bad things, and even the worst things can turn out all right if they come along at just the right moment. You oversleep and miss your flight; things couldn't be worse. The plane goes down, and you drop to your knees and thank god you chose this morning to shut off your alarm. It wasn't good, but the timing was impeccable.

You meet the woman of your dreams, someone who really and truly seems to get you, and you hit it off in a big way. Only problem is, she's already married to someone else. You compare the other women you date to her, and they always come up wanting. Meeting her was like a dream come true, but you came along just a little too late for you to dream that dream. Life isn't worse, necessarily, but you end up with one more chain around your neck because you had good fortune and bad timing.

Our Cardinals this year seem to have almost magically bad timing. You can point to a dozen different things that have gone wrong, from both of our big-dollar boppers being just a teensy bit off to pitching injuries to, well, whatever that was last night, but it really all comes down to timing. This team has played plenty well enough to have a better record than they do, but on any given night they seem to be missing just one little thing, one tiny thing at a time that may be there another night. If we could ever get this whole thing to work at once it would be glorious, but much like trying to keep an old MG on the road, it seems like every time you get one thing working, something else goes wrong. It never quite breaks down entirely, but there's always a suspicious rattle somewhere whispering in your ear it wants nothing more than to let you down.

If you could have peeled open my head right around the middle of the eighth inning, scooped out my thoughts, and put them down on paper, they likely would have read something like this:

"Man, this has been one of the most inspiring performances we've seen from this team so far this season. Hawksworth wasn't great, but he was okay, and we finally got to see what the offense looks like when Albert and Holliday are both hitting at the same time. Maybe this is the game that, a couple months from now, we all look back at and say, 'That was the turning point, when the Cards finally started playing like the team we all knew they were.' The Reds lost, we're going to get a game back, and I think this team just might be ready to really take off." 

If you had done the same thing oh, say, half an hour later, it might have gone something like this:

--Comments redacted by request of the author's own shockingly underdeveloped sense of decency--

Well, okay, so apparently we don't have that clip. Nonetheless, I can assure you it wasn't pretty. I will say, though, I wasn't angry about it at first; it was much too shocking for me to immediately be pissed. So instead I just sort of sat there numbly as my former hopefulness at the state of the team slowly collapsed into a small, cold ball; a white dwarf of happy thoughts. Poor timing strikes again.

We've see this team fail to score, a lot. We've seen the starters injured and their fill-ins struggle to, well, fill in. But one thing we really haven't seen this season is much in the way of bullpen losses. The occasional struggle, yes, but very rarely have things been going along just swimmingly, then out of nowhere here comes a blown save to ruin your night.

Now, though? Well, sure, it was only one game. Just keep telling yourself that. Keep repeating, "It was only one game..." as we consider that Dennys Reyes looks as if he isn't backing away from the edge of oblivion anytime soon, and as for Ryan Franklin, well... If Ryan Franklin were a song, he would be The Smith's "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore."

There's plenty of blame to go around, of course, not least of which could fall squarely on the manager's shoulders. Last time Franklin entered a game and clearly had absolutely nothing, Tony was quick to give him the hook and bring in Jason Motte to clean up the mess. I said it at the time, and I'll say again now how impressed I was that La Russa was willing to backtrack so quickly to ensure the win, rather than 'sticking with his guy' or trying to keep from undermining his closer's confidence. Unfortunately, there was no quick hook last night; even when it was clear Franklin wasn't going to be able to do much of anything to stop the bleeding, there was no move to get him out of the game to try and preserve the win.

Of course, a big part of the problem was that Motte, the second-most trusted reliever in the 'pen, was unavailable, since he had already been used earlier, when the Cards still had a six run lead. I have to question the bullpen management in both cases; first off, why is Jason Motte, your most valuable reliever, pitching in a six-run game to begin with? Second, I don't care who you have to bring in, you can't just wait and hope Ryan Franklin will somehow find his stuff, or his command, or some extra guile, or maybe just luck into a line drive right at someone. Mitchell Boggs should have been in that game. I don't particularly trust him just yet, either, but better the devil you don't know than the devil you do when it's clear the familiar is going to kill you very shortly.

Okay, now for Randy Winn.

What the fuck, Randy Winn?

I'm splitting the blame 70/30 between Winn and La Russa; the no-doubles defense is one of the most ridiculous constructs I can think of and I really can't think of a situation where it's actually a good idea. Baseball's version of the prevent defense works pretty much the same way: the only thing it prevents is victory. Also, the double-switch that brought Winn into the game was completely unnecessary; the minute advantage you gain by avoiding the pitcher hitting is negated by the fact you've just brought an inferior player into the game (and yes, at this point in their careers I think Jon Jay is a better player than Randy Winn), and done so at the cost of a bench spot.

On the other hand, what the fuck, Randy Winn? What the hell kind of attempt at fielding was that? That was pathetic, plain and simple. I wasn't happy about Winn being brought in in the first place, but I've tried to hold back my criticism since because he hasn't been awful. Today, though, to hell with that. Randy Winn, get the hell off my team.

Oh, and while I'm at it: Aaron Miles, still get the hell off my team. I don't care that he had a couple hits, before the usual suspects jump in and start defending the little gnome; he missed, by my count, four balls - four! - that any half-decent (read: even Skip Schumaker), second baseman would have gotten to. Just awful.

Overall, it was as bad a night as you could ask for; a clash of two underachieving teams (remember how many pundits picked the Rockies to go to the Series?), and the result was a record-tying collapse. I was in shock last night, but not now. Now I'm just pissed that we had to all witness such a blatant job of mismanagement coupled with several of the more embarrassing on-field  performances I can recall at the moment.

I'm sorry I don't bring any sort of panacea this morning; I know Dan promised I would have the cure for what ails us. Sadly, I don't. I just bring a scowl and the gnawing worry that this team may, in fact, never come together, that timing may just sink this ship for good. After all, sometimes bad timing never turns around, no matter how much you want it to, and you can't change it. I hopehopehope that isn't the case with this Cardinal team, but after seeing them come up with yet another new and novel way to lose a ballgame, I'm not feeling particularly charitable this morning.

The Baron's Playlist for the 7th of July, 2010

"The Whole Shebang" - Grant Lee Buffalo

"Mile End" - Pulp

"The Neighbors" - St. Vincent

"Go All the Way" - Raspberries

"How Do You Sleep?" - Evangelicals

"I Can't Decide" - Scissor Sisters (new album out now!)

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