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so long to flaccid at-bats

here's how the cardinals began the 2d half last season -- slightly diff'nt situation, insofar as that game-winner brought the cardinals back from 1 run down, but i still like the parallel. the other big difference is that, at this time last year, game-winning feats hadn't yet become albert's forte. on the contrary, there was genuine concern about his pattern of taking bad at-bats in the clutch.

now we almost take it for granted when -- for the 2d time in 3 games -- he hits a game-winner in extra innings. that's just workaday stuff, nothing special. the real thrills were supplied by edmonds, whose re-animation is nothing short of miraculous. this 36-year-old, injury-wracked player rode a full year's worth of flagging play into july; his month-by-month slugging percentages:

july 05 .443
aug 05 .443
sep 05 .600
apr 06 .427
may 06 .329
jun 06 .443

profiles like usually mean that the player is slower and weaker, with a leaden bat and reflexes that no longer obey. so to see edmonds suddenly turning on pitches again and yanking them out of the park . . . . as i said a few days ago, i had concluded that we would never see that out of edmonds again.

back on june 30, after a maddening loss to the royals, TLR singled out edmonds (who'd gone 1 for 6) for his flaccid at-bats. since then, jimmy has delivered at least one rbi and an extra-base hit in 7 of his 9 starts. st louis is 5-2 in those games. for the month of july, edmonds is slugging .771 -- 2d-best in the league among players with at least 30 at-bats.

his confrontation with carerra last night lasted a full 5 minutes; nothing flabby about it. indeed, this was a particularly stout effort by the cardinals, tauter and tighter than the two close ones they won down in houston. they actually played well in the field last night, also pitched well. the whole game had the quality of that edmonds at-bat -- stay alive, extend the game, don't give in, hope the other guy makes a mistake before you do.


a few more thoughts on the cincinnati-washington trade. this deal fascinates me for some reason -- i guess because it spits so fearlessly into the face of perception. if the trade works out for cincinnati -- if majewski and bray help pitch the reds into the postseason -- somebody will be compelled to go back and sift through the data to find some "tell" that krivsky must have spotted that ev'yone missed. maybe there'll even be some new statistics invented to explain what happened.

but i don't think this trade was based on statistics. i think it was an old-fashioned roll of the dice, a guy just trusting his gut. it vaguely reminds me of the december 1980 trade that got whitey herzog branded a genius -- the deal that sent simmons, fingers, and vukovich to milwaukee for lezcano, sorenson, lapoint, and david green. herzog dealt away the cardinals' best hitter, their best pitcher, and a hall-of-fame closer for a couple of journeymen and two totally unproven players. the cardinals gave milwaukee enough talent to propel that franchise -- which had never been to the playoffs -- into the postseason for the next two seasons.

but when the brewers got to the world series in 1982, the cardinals were there to meet them.

herzog inherited a team that was much like the current edition of the reds -- it could hit like crazy but couldn't do anything else. so he resculpted the roster, got rid of some extraneous hitting (and the hitters' reputations exceeded their actual ability anyway) and made the cardinals' weaknesses throughout the 1970s -- pitching and defense -- into their hallmarks in the 1980s. i see krivsky attempting to do a similar thing, with the same no-looking-back aggression. he's spent his surplus of slugging, one-dimensional outfielders to broaden the talent base on the pitching staff. the reds still have two 40-hr outfielders on the roster, plus denorfia and freel, so i don't think they're gonna miss kearns all that much. and now krivsky has created the payroll flexibility to go after zito or schmidt or one of those guys in the off-season. so by next year the trade may actually translate to: kearns / lopez for majewski / bray / schmidt.

which would be a pretty damn good trade.

another analog: two and a half years ago, the cardinals sent jd drew and eli marrero -- two young, established hitters not unlike kearns and lopez -- to the braves for a couple of unproven pitchers (marquis wainwright) and a journeyman middle reliever (king). lot of people thought jocketty was nuts. but the cardinals of 2003 didn't need bats, they needed arms -- and the deal yielded not only marquis but also jeff suppan, whose signing was made possible by the payroll space the trade created.

however it works out for the reds, i appreciate the risk-taking -- the willingness to let go of a known, and tolerable, but unsatisfactory thing and embrace something that is less certain but gives one an opportunity to advance.