Chris Narveson finally emerging as a Major League starter is one of those little tricks of baseball fate that makes me enjoy the season a little more than I would otherwise. It's not that I was ever a big Narveson fan; in the Blake Hawksworth and Jimmy Journell eras he was always The Other Guy, the second prospect to prove the Cardinals had two prospects, and by the time he was part of the Larry Walker deal he was just another name in a system that had no prospects at all.
But every time I see Narveson's name in the box score I think about Walker; about the way Ray Lankford was obscured down the stretch by Tony La Russa's fascination with Roger Cedeno, one of (no coincidence) my least favorite players in the history of baseball; about Luis Martinez, the other pitcher in the deal, who arrived (from the Brewers) on waivers thanks to a sketchy gunplay situation.
Chris Narveson gives me the feeling I get, as a terrible procrastinator, when a Wikipedia page is filled with links to other interesting Wikipedia pages. He's also turned into a pitcher with nice peripherals (if not results) for a guy who never looked very good in the minor leagues.
How do we know the Cardinals' minor league system isn't as terrible as it was in 2003? Lance Lynn doesn't have to play the Chris Narveson role.
Honestly, we should probably be a little more excited about Lynn than we are, given his skillset and his general competence, and I think we would be if he'd started off sitting at 92-93 instead of getting there by way of a sudden change in philosophy in the high minors. I don't resent the Kyle McClellan experiment at all given the success the Cardinals have seen with it so far, but if they lose one more pitcher to injury or ineffectiveness I don't think they'd be without a Major League-caliber fifth starter at this point, and not just because most fifth starters are so terrible.
That's a distinctly unattractive profile for a prospect—I think the position player equivalent is, say, Daniel Descalso, who had the benefit of not being a first round draft pick—but there's value to these unexciting pitching prospects. If the Brewers had stumbled upon Narveson's startling ability to strike out eight Major League batters per nine innings earlier they might not have paid Jeff Suppan $40 million; if they'd found just one more Narveson—I wonder what Luis Martinez is doing—they might not have paid Randy Wolf $30 million.
Unexciting pitching prospects, if nothing else, can obviate some truly awful decisions. I'm glad the Cardinals have developed Lynn better than they did Narveson, Martinez, Josh Pearce, or any other of the cast of thousands that filled out the back of those old prospect lists. If Jake Westbrook continues to struggle with his control I'll wish they'd developed him just a little faster, too.
Ryan Theriot's home run reminded me of nothing more than late-period Craig Biggio, who should by all accounts have been used, at the end of his career, exclusively as part of a home-away platoon. Biggio's last two tools were his ability to take a pitch in the ribs and his ability to flip a ball into the Crawford Boxes, as Theriot did, that looks like nothing so much as a fly ball in front of any other warning track on earth. In his last two years he hit 22 home runs at home and nine on the road; I've always wondered why some other AAAA Astros infielder willing to play baseball The Wrong Way hasn't started swinging for that fence just as effectively. Theriot definitely looked like he was trying.
Minute Maid Field is impossibly ridiculous as a place to watch baseball being played; the train is tied for the pool in Arizona for the ballpark signature most likely to have originated in an Onion article. But if the organization was determined to build a ridiculous ballpark, I'm glad it's functionally ridiculous.