March 26, 2012; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Jake Westbrook (35) pitches during a spring training game against the New York Mets at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-US PRESSWIRE
Once you swear off small sample-sizes for good—or at least declare your intent to do it—you're at a severe spring training rooting disadvantage. Unpleasant storylines like Chris Carpenter's nerve problem are no more prevalent than they ever were, but when you refuse the ability to get really excited about, say, Bryan Anderson hitting .476 (in 21 at-bats) and Matt Holliday .444 (36) all the bad stories, with their easily quantifiable games-missed and wins-replacement-leveled, lose their traditional Grapefruit League counterweight.
It makes it more difficult to enjoy the Cardinals' time in Jupiter, which should really be more exciting than it is. With that in mind—with Spring Training nearing its close, and the Cardinals off today—here are the things you would be getting really excited about, if you hadn't locked that part of yourself up inside the attic, as far away from mom's basement as you could get it.
1. Amaury Cazana is batting 1.000. 1-1 with an RBI double. At this point it's clear that Cazana, who is at least 33, is never going to get any time in the United States, let alone St. Louis—he hit .340/.441/.513 in the moon gravity of the Mexican League last season—but I appareciate his continued ability to perpetuate the legend of Amaury Cazana.
Speaking of which: According to Wikipedia he's really 25 years old, having earned gold for the Cuban national team at the tender age of 16. I think you know what this means: Amaury Cazana has the power to... edit Wikipedia.
2. Matt Holliday is ready to (Albert Pujols narrative): I'm surprised there hasn't been more of this out in the ether; with Pujols gone, Matt Holliday is officially The Expensive Guy to Blame Things On, and he's hitting .444/.487/.806 in 40-ish spring plate appearances. He's coming off an excellent but injury-shortened season.
That should make him, at least temporarily, The Expensive Guy to Give Lots of Credit. But I guess hitting well in spring training is already part of the not-quite-clutch-enough narrative, and too vital there to be spared.
3. Jake Westbrook literally in the best shape of his life. He's combined those conspicuous 20 pounds with an excellent spring training performance, providing hope that he'll—well, here's another problem. Back when I was allowed to take heart in spring statistics, this sort of thing would have given me hope that he was about to have a big comeback year, maybe even like the years he had before. Now that I have religion this is called "regressing to the mean," which is somewhat less exciting.
4. Oh yeah, Adam Wainwright. He threw 14 scoreless innings! Everything's perfect now!
5. Matt Carpenter! Matt Carpenter is the most conventional spring training story this year, as rendered in this Rick Hummel piece. He's got eight doubles and six walks, which seem like appropriate units of Mattcarp measurement. He's got Mark McGwire and John Mabry putting him in Best Power of his Life territory, and he's earned a spot on the roster with the help of Skip Schumaker.
The good news, I guess, is that we don't need spring training to get excited about guys like Matt Carpenter. We don't just have his tentative stint in the majors to go on; we watched Future Redbirds tick off each game as he went .300/.417/.463 in Memphis.
The real problem is that we're now spreading the joy of watching Matt Carpenter earn a job out over six months, instead of a few P-D blurbs in March, while Chris Carpenter missing a significant amount of time is still, necessarily, delivered to us in blocks over a painfully information-barren week or two.