I get a lot of e-mails in the official Viva El Birdos mailbox, but very few of them bend space and time, and fewer still use their apparent omniscience for no purpose except to change the disclaimer on their e-mail headers to say, "Remember: AOL will always ask you for your password or billing information."
I know that petty sense of humor. I know that AOL e-mail address. I know their press agent. The Gods of Baseball had finally responded to my interview request. I pushed for a public place; they pushed for someplace with the breath of evil and decay fresh on it. At 9:30 last night I stood outside the Edward Jones Dome, a recorder stashed surreptitiously inside my novelty reporter's hat.
GOB: This is all off the record, of course.
VEB: Of course. Please talk into the novelty reporter's hat.
GOB: Our corporeal form is an illusion! We will appease your human request, but only because we find it amusing!
VEB: I was thinking maybe we could start with the Chris Carpenter injury thing.
GOB: You noticed! That was what we in the internet business call a "long troll." Let us explain: there was all those injuries in the first place, just to establish the stakes. Then this terrible losing streak—but, and we're sorry to toot our own horn, here, it's more than that. It's subtle. The Cardinals had to start losing in particularly frustrating, lifeless, deterministically terrible ways.
And that's where we come in. So all that looked like it was going to peak with Chris Carpenter getting hurt, and then we fed B.J. Rains the news that it was a tweaked hammy. We were going to have Joe Strauss tease it, round midnight, but that guy... It seemed a little Faustian, is all, even to us.
Chris Carpenter getting hurt, though—we have our limits. Right now all the damage is confined to 2010; this team could be trotted out next year and probably do a little better, then the Reds probably do a little worse—well, you know how it is. According to our current CBA we're not allowed to mess with the 2011 season until the Mets decide they're favorites in the NL East.
VEB: So—if I could ask, I mean, off the record—what do you get out of this? What's with all this strife and discord?
GOB: That Moneyball book kind of pissed us off. You know, the one Billy Beane wrote. The Cardinals had a pretty good plan this year; they got players who could be average at all the positions, they set up their salary structure for the next decade, they brought up some rookies. And you guys just dug it all too much.
VEB: You didn't read Moneyball, did you?
GOB: Joe Morgan kind of ruined the ending for us, so we just had him summarize it. But, like—where were we? Oh, yeah. Your boys had a good plan, and all, but good plans don't always work out. We needed an object lesson to that effect. So there was the stuff with Tony La Russa getting in everybody's face, and then the composition of the roster getting worse as players got hurt and underperformed. We felt bad getting Randy Winn caught up in it, but being identical to Jon Jay and dealing with that whole playoff curse thing—it fit too well.
You have to plan for stuff like that, or at least for not being able to plan for it. Players' value as individual human beings might not make a huge difference in the wins column, but players and managers being human—that's a big deal. And the hubris coming from this blog. If you really want to know, I started planning the Aaron Miles gag when you wrote that thing about this team being without significant weaknesses, so if they want somebody to blame—
The tape cut out here, for about fifteen minutes—I don't remember what he said.
GOB: —with a really big pretzel dog. So yeah, Moneyball. Read it and weep.
Kyle: Moneyball? More like Moneyballs!!!
VEB: K—Kyle Lohse? You know they're still playing baseball, right?
Kyle: Like, a guy's balls, get it? I'm kinda bored and the team's getting its head handed to it. So I figured I'd come check out the football game.
VEB: Kyle, it's football. They only play it once a week.
Kyle: Yeah, but I figured maybe it was today. They've got that guy who's in Madden now, right? Oh, crap—it's—who're you talking to?
VEB: He's a source.
GOB: An evil source!
Kyle: An evil sorcerer! That's the guy who gave me motocross lessons! And the guy who Rickrolled Tony from Colby's AIM account! And Pedro's agent!
VEB: Okay, that hardly seems above board.
Kyle: And Matt's PR rep! And Aaron's personal trainer! And Dennys's nutrition expert! And David's chauffeur! And David's doctor! And Brad's fortune-teller! And Brendan's dry cleaner! And Jason's barber! And Jeff Suppan!
VEB: Wait, what?
Kyle: And Albert Pujols's shadowy arch-nemesis! Danup! Albert! Cheese it!
Albert: I don' trust hing oud alone after curfew, mang. [to GOB, in a whisper] You and I have some things to discuss, friend. I'll be in touch.
Albert: Waid for me, mang! I'll ged you a Migflurry and you can put anything on it you wan'!
GOB: Look, uh, something's come up. Padres are underway on the West Coast, they think they've got a shot at the sweep—it's all very hilarious. We'll, uh, some other time.