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moodiness and distraction

nl central standings over the last 162 games:

milwaukee 79 83 --- 720 766
houston 76 86 3 703 694
st louis 73 89 6 731 840
chicago 71 91 8 756 772
pittsburgh 71 91 8 666 800
cincinnati 69 93 10 712 805

and here are the standings via pythagorean record:

houston 82 80 --- 703 694
chicago 79 83 3 756 772
milwaukee 76 86 6 720 766
cincinnati 72 90 10 712 805
st louis 71 91 11 731 840
pittsburgh 68 94 14 666 800

look at the runs allowed totals --- the cards have yielded 35 more than the next-worst team in the division (cincinnati) and 40 more than pittsburgh. now, you certainly can't say the pirates' personnel has been any better than the cardinals' during that time. on the contrary, going back to the beginning of 2006 pittsburgh has given 19 starts to the bad version of oliver perez (era 6.63), 19 to the illustrious victor santos, 13 to dfa fodder shawn chacon, 7 to our own dear kip wells, 7 to tony armas jr., and 5 to the immortal pair of shane youman and marty mcleary; the remainder have gone to first- and second-year starters ian snell, paul maholm, tom gorzelanny, and zach duke. their bullpen has had the same sort of journeymen and roster scraps as the cards'. the pirates haven't had a cy-young-caliber pitcher like chris carpenter to work with, nor any veteran innings-eaters like jeff suppan, nor any gold-glove defenders in the field to cut off runs; their home ballpark, PNC, is less friendly to pitchers than busch stadium III is.

why have the pirates managed to wring better performance out of lesser personnel?

you could argue that the reds have had better personnel than the cards over the last 162 games, with harang and arroyo taking more than 40 percent of the reds' starts in that span. but the other 60 percent of those starts have largely gone to a dfa reclamation (kyle lohse), a rag-armed free-agent (eric milton), and an assemblage of nobodies like chris michalak, joe mays, and kirk saarloos. matt belisle, a converted reliever, has been a fixture in the cincinnati rotation this year. the reds have the worst defense in the league, their bullpen has been a chaotic mess for two years running, and they play in an extreme hitters' park.

why is that team, in that ballpark, giving up so many fewer runs than the cardinals? i leave the question open for discussion.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

maybe i don't understand how the disabled list works. over the past few years we've seen scott rolen continue to play despite a shoulder so badly hurt that he audibly screamed in pain with every swing of the bat. we've seen mark mulder continue to pitch despite having almost no mobility in his shoulder. last june edmonds was all set to go on the DL with a painful abdominal-muscle thing --- then albert strained his oblique, and suddenly edmonds was back in the lineup and batting cleanup. he played through that injury, then continued playing late in the year while suffering from post-concussion syndrome ---- went out there with blurred vision and worse, never spent a day on the DL.

so yesterday, they put him on the DL in a move that almost nobody saw coming --- including edmonds, apparently. in case you missed it, here's the way the news came out yesterday afternoon on bernie's show on 1380:

Edmonds sometime over the weekend told the Cards he thought he hurt his upper back overcompensating for his toe and shoulder. So he asked for an MRI, which was done, but no results in yet.

When Edmonds got to the park [Monday], the Cards had already DL'd him and Loop. Edmonds was pissed, told Jim Hayes and Pat Paris of FSN Midwest he was pissed because he didn't know why he was being DL'd. Edmonds then had a meeting with Walt & Tony in Tony's office . . . . he then told Jim Hayes he was OK with going on the DL.

the question on the VEB thread yesterday afternoon (and on 1380 and elsewhere) was: is edmonds being made an example of? he and la russa have been locking horns for most of a year now, exchanging occasional jabs in the press since the middle of last season. near as i can tell, this goes back to edmonds' lament last summer about his option not being picked up, and la russa's retort that jimmy has to prove he's a $10 million player. the two have been zinging each other ever since. the tone has never become overtly hostile or angry, but if these guys were married you'd wonder whether or not they were in therapy. just last week la russa questioned edmonds' failure to score on a base hit, and a couple days later edmonds mocked la russa's secrecy vis-vis team meetings --- both examples are pretty typical. la russa generally lodges veiled attacks on edmonds' commitment or effort, and edmonds jabs back at la russa's authoritarian ways. . . . . maybe marriage is the wrong relationship to invoke. this sounds more like a battle of wills between a father and a teenage son.

la russa's grip on the team has been questioned this season, beginning with the DUI and continuing through the hancock situation and the team's sluggish play. the cardinals manifestly have lacked the qualities a la russa-managed team usually has, viz relentlessness and intensity. this year's group often sleepwalks through innings and games, doesn't make adjustments very well, and suffers from recurrent, inexcusable mental lapses. the clubhouse climate that bernie described on sunday jibes with what we're seeing on the field --- moodiness and distraction.

i asked around to see if edmonds' abrupt disablement was merely la russa's (and / or jocketty's) attempt to snap the team out of it. did they use the DL trip as a de facto "suspension"? were they trying to send a message, rattle cages, get some guys' attention, shake up the atmosphere? one knowledgeable source told me the following:

Switch it around the other way. Instead of Tony being mad at Edmonds, maybe Edmonds is mad at Tony for not playing. I think at least this goes both ways. Jimmy has seemed uninterested, according to some observers. And are Tony's lefties, Duncan, Kennedy and Edmonds all together losing interest? Three days in a row, no starts. We're not talking about sitting against Tom Glavine -- two average Oakland lefties and Odalis Perez. Edmonds may be the one to complain about it out loud more than anyone; it's possible Tony has been in earshot and this is punishment. But I also would not put it past Jimmy to have said, "If I am not healthy enough to play every day, then just put me on the DL."
that jibes almost exactly with this morning's the for-public-consumption explanation from edmonds, posted at the official site:
"Basically, I went to them and said if I wasn't going to play every day like I haven't been, I might need to get this [injury] taken care of," Edmonds said. "I told them I've been playing this whole first half with this leg injury. I thought maybe now would be the time to try to get it healthy and take advantage of some of the days I've had off and some of the lefties coming up -- and the All-Star break, if need be."
maybe this is a variation on the old play-me-or-trade-me demand: play me or disable me. if i'm gonna play hurt, then play me every day; and if i'm not gonna play every day, then let me get healthy. . . . .

whatever the story behind all of this, the loss of edmonds hurts. in the last calendar month (ie, going back to may 19) he has posted .272 / .344 / .556, with 6 homers and 15 rbi. he's been helping the cardinals tread water; without him, the likelihood increases that they sink further to the bottom in the next couple of weeks.

i guess the loss of looper doesn't help either . . . .