Now it's time for all the things we that excited us about the 2012 St. Louis Cardinals to turn back around and Monkey's Paw us. So far as I can tell that's going to be how we gripe this year—the things that go wrong will be mirror-image versions of the new things that were going right. The Cardinals' veteran leadership will look gimpy, their youngsters will look unproven, Mike Matheny's loose clubhouse will twist and curdle into some Midwest-Nice-version of the beer-and-chicken Red Sox. Wednesday's model: The Cardinals' depth, this year, is outstanding, the best in recent memory. The Cardinals can, without all three of their veteran patches, field a major league-looking baseball team.
This is not to say that they should do that. The Reds were similarly shorn of vets—Scott Rolen was replaced by Miguel Cairo, and Brandon Phillips was out—and the youngsters went 3-12, which is not quite cause for blaming the loss on their specific presence in this particular game. But while Carlos Beltran, Lance Berkman, and Rafael Furcal and David Freese will, for their own reasons, need some days off, it makes sense, to me, to stagger the Old Legs and Bad Ankles days off.
In early April it's still cool just to see Erik Komatsu, Tyler Greene, and Matt Carpenter in the lineup; Greene and Carpenter are going to prove important at some point this season, and Komatsu needs chances to prove he's worth keeping around. Anyway, Allen Craig and some judicious platooning of Berkman will mitigate some of the sputtering that comes when a team has slap hitters in right field and at first base. But when the time comes to whine, these are the ways in which we will whine. I'm trying to get into midseason shape.
As for Jaime Garcia, I find it difficult to not be worried about him even when things are going right; there's something that feels maximum-effort about him in a way that's entirely divorced from his mechanics or any of the things that term is usually applied to.
It's the BAbip troubles, I think; those starts, like August last year, where Garcia's pitch count was driven up by single after single and each outing became a chance for Al Hrabosky to talk about how touchy he is about room service. Wednesday qualifies—though I didn't watch it live, so I can't be sure the room service thing came up.
I'm on the record as enjoying baseball more the more I know about it; stats haven't done anything but enhance my enjoyment of the sport. But the more I know about pitcher injuries, and their general fragility—and the more I have to focus on it to write about them—the more I've come to appreciate a start from Jake Westbrook or Kyle Lohse or any other anonymous starter whose easily projected future I have no particular stake in.
Kyle Lohse dealt with one of the weirdest injuries in recent baseball history, and after two seasons abbreviated by Dave Mirra surgery he was back looking almost exactly like he did before; he (and we) had nothing to lose but an 88 mph fastball and the anonymous secondary pitches that went with it.
Watching a pitcher like Garcia I'm conscious of how much has gone right to make him into a great pitcher, and what could go right or wrong to make him even better or send him into the Oliver Perez wilderness. It's a lot of fun, when he's pitching well, to watch him throw four pitches past the NL Central's best hitters. But it's also a little nerve-racking.