The More Things Change....

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Ladies and gentlemen, I come before you this morning without much of anything to say. Which is, of course, a rather unusual situation for me to find myself in; I am nothing if not painfully, excessively verbose on most any day you wish to inquire.

The problem, you see, isn't that I can't think of anything. In fact, I had already thought of a thing to say. A whole lot of things to say, to be honest, right around the time the eighth inning of last night's game was getting underway. The notion of this postin' had been brewing in my brainbox for a few days before, even, but it was during last night's contest that the whole thing really sort of crystallized. It wasn't an epic, necessarily; I had more a series of roughly connected points that all added up to something more cogent and meaningful.

And then, of course, the rest of the game happened, and my post is just all screwed to hell and back.

It isn't just that the residual joy of a fourteen inning marathon victory over the rival of the moment is too great for me to focus up and put out my original, rather downbeat post; you see, it's as if last night's game was specifically engineered to make everything I wanted to say today seem just flat-out foolish.

Then again, when I really think on it, nothing really changed between last night and this morning. The truths of yesterday are the truths of today; what's that old saw about the exception proving the rule? Sure, it's a cliche that makes no real sense, but I'm going to go with it anyway.

See, I was planning on talking about how the Cardinal offense, which seemed so relentlessly awesome early in the season and so flukishly unproductive lately, is really showing at least as much of its true colours in these bad times as what we saw early on. It's an offense with a puzzling, somewhat bizarre lack of power when you look at the names in the lineup, and when you have an offense with no power and really no speed, you basically play station to station baseball, and it takes three base hits to score a run. There are plenty of really excellent hitters on this team, but the numbers with runners in scoring position weren't going to continue on where they were, and the power just simply doesn't seem to be coming. Busch Stadium seems to have something to do with that, but even so, it doesn't excuse the out and out punchlessness of the offense for much of the season.

Of course, last night's win doesn't really do anything to dispel the concerns there; the Pirates scored all their runs on dingers, while the Cards needed all fourteen of their hits to score four runs. I will concede the stolen base was a nice touch.

Which brings me to Jon Jay. I was going to make a point about how emblematic of this offense Jay himself is, in that he's a hitter almost entirely reliant on batted balls finding holes to be productive. No real power to speak of, won't take a walk, just swings and swings and swings, hoping to Tony Gwynn his way into favour with the hitting equivalent of death by a thousand cuts. So Jay has himself a big game, preempting my criticism entirely. Well, except for the part where he went 4 for 6, recording three singles and one well-placed double, a batting line which is both excellent and absurdly perfectly fitting. It was the Platonic ideal of a Jon Jay hitting night, really. No power, no walks, and a one-night batting average on balls in play of .800.

I had planned a brief lament that there's literally no way the Cardinals could ever acquire Starling Marte, because the more I watch him the more I like him. It's a shame, really, seeing as how the Pirates have an area of need at first base, and the Cardinals just so happen to have a big, somewhat blocked slugger who would fit nicely playing first for his childhood team... Adams alone doesn't have that kind of value, of course, but Adams plus...something would have to be tempting, and Marte patrolling center field for the Redbirds would solve so many issues for this team. (Which isn't to say Marte is without warts; his own walk rate is even worse than Jay's, though the 30 stolen bases and home run output and that arm in the outfield all sort of tilt the scales back in his favour.) There's literally no way two teams contending for the same division would ever do a deal like that, though. Even if both teams honestly expected it to be a win-win, it almost couldn't be. A deal that makes both teams better should be a win for both sides, but if you're both improving your own team and your direct competition at the same time, isn't that a loss that offsets the win? Or not? I can't quite decide.

Bottom line: I really like Starling Marte, I wish he was the Cardinal center fielder, and there's absolutely zero chance I'm ever going to see it.

So I was going to criticise Jon Jay and lionise Starling Marte. Jon Jay collected four hits, stole a critical base, and scored the winning run. Marte made a careless error in left field that allowed the Cards to tie the game.

I was also going to criticise Adam Wainwright for pitching so poorly against the Pirates since pretty much always, and being decidedly mediocre (or at least fairly un-A.D.A.M), in general since the All-Star break. That cutter to McCutchen in the first inning was just a disaster of a pitch. My critique sounds a little silly now, though, seeing as how Waino may have turned in the single most remarkable mediocre performance we've seen all season last night.

Such is the way things seem to go, I suppose, in a game which saw the Cardinals finally returning to a full bench on the same night a relief pitcher batted with a runner on third base. Twice. And really, as glorious as it feels this morning to be just two back of the division lead, is the team so different from who they were yesterday? Not really. They won, yes, but the big inning, the one featuring two runs, was the result of four hits, all singles. They are, to quote an angry man, who we thought they were.

Then again, it's much more fun to simply bask a bit in our team finally coming from behind against somebody, and handing the Pirates what has to be an especially demoralizing loss, their fourth in a row. I don't know this Pittsburgh team is going to fold, but it certainly doesn't hurt to apply a little pressure just to see if they might.

So thank you, Cardinals, for pretty much ruining my post this morning, engineering a game specifically tailored to counter every point I had in mind. And thank you for one of the best games I've seen in quite some time. I'll worry about reality some other time. This morning...well, this morning just feels too damned good to fret.

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