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when you wish upon a star . . . .

i have this fantasia i've been conjuring lately, goes like this: it's the first round of the playoffs, cards v marlins -- game 5, do-or-die. i hop online 90 minutes or so before game time to check out the lineups, and they read like this:

florida st louis
pierre cf eckstein ss
castillo 2b rodriguez lf
cabrera lf pujols 1b
delgado 1b molina c
encarnacion rf taguchi cf
lo duca c mabry rf
lowell 3b nunez 3b
gonzalez ss luna 2b
willis p carpenter p

so on the one hand: perfect. beautiful. this season belongs to them, the jv scrubs who dreamed that they were real championship ballplayers and ultimately came to find it wasn't a dream anymore, it was the real thing -- just like pinocchio. they wished upon their star and when the wish came true, they did it up. however it may end in october, we'll remember 2005 for these guys; i know i will. so haven't they earned it? the chance to decide things, if it comes down to that?

that's on the one hand. then there's the other hand, which says this:

god, how i hate disney films.

the washington nationals probably hate 'em even more after that loss yesterday. opponents' starting pitcher scratched, mvp candidate tossed, all-star centerfielder injured -- and still they fall 6-0, to the back end of the bullpen and bench. it was a special win for the cardinals, one that sums up the whole season -- viz., as long as these guys still have at least one out and nine healthy bodies, they'll try to beat you. put it up there with the comeback in cincinnati and the last-gasp walkoffs by albert and eck -- ballgames to remember.

but i'm not talking about august; i'm talking about october. past the hour for cuddly cartoon characters; past the children's bedtime. october is no time for pinocchio. it's time for sigourney weaver in the alien movies -- resourceful, balls-out and desperate, fighting for survival moment by moment. i have this fearful image of the cardinals in close combat with the monster, aiming their flame-thrower right between its eyes, and finding that nothing comes out except pixie dust.

to dispense with the fancy metaphors: as much as i love these bench players, i hate the cardinals' bench. barring a trade, it will comprise these six players in october:

  • hector luna
  • john mabry
  • john rodriguez
  • einar diaz
  • so taguchi
  • scott seabol

believe me, i think it's as funny as you do when these guys take over the lineup card and outplay the other team's starting eight. but i have a feeling we won't be laughing if they're called upon to provide much help in october. taguchi or mabry could come to the plate in a crucial situation without making me cringe; any of the others, forget it. there have been teams that won it all with weak benches; the '75 reds were backed up by the likes of dan driessen, darrell chaney, ed armbrister, bill plummer, and doug flynn. but they didn't have four starters over the age of 35, all of them hobbled by injuries; they didn't already have a bench player starting at third base every day.

but what to do? the trade pickings are pathetically slim; good players with bad contracts, bad players with worse contracts. and the cardinals don't really have that much to offer. it's to the point that i'm thinking: rich aurilia? hmmm . . . . beats hell out of scott seabol. gary matthews jr? please dear god, let him clear waivers. and i suddenly find myself paying heed to mark (gulp) bellhorn's on-base percentage. . . . . . cast your vote in the bellhorn poll, right-hand sidebar.

this is really not the day for such talk; should probably not poor-mouth the pinocchios right after their greatest triumph in a summer full on'm. but the deadline looms, and talk is afoot. jocketty shot down one notion yesterday, per bernie's pressbox: no deal in the offing for phil nevin. and my idle speculation yesterday about jason marquis being dealt to the nationals may not have been so idle after all; fox sports floated the same rumor. (i sure hope he didn't get that idea from me. . . . ) anyway, bernie shot that one down too.

we're at the marlins for three; would love to see the pinocchios take them on this week. knock `em dead, fellas. . . . .