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I don't know if any of you out there are opera fans or not. Honestly, I doubt that many are. Not anything to do with any of you guys; opera simply isn't that popular anymore with too very many segments of society.

I only ask because this season, particularly the last little bit here, has begun to feel a bit like the last half hour or so of an opera to me. Deeply flawed characters, who have fought the good fight all along, now watch as their worlds collapse completely around them and are utterly helpless to stop it. And, of course, somewhere there is a metabolically challenged soprano preparing to deliver a solo.

You want an example? Fine. Consider the case of Kyle McClellan. McClellan is hugely talented, with a repertoire that is both deep and impressive. He has battled valiantly this year, compiling a huge number of appearances and having tremendous success. His monthly ERAs:

April- 1.72

May- 2.92

June- 3.38

July- 3.07

August- 5.58

September- 12.80

What this tells me is the story of a young man, a pitcher, with all the gifts in the world, and the mindset to use them. The only stumbling block for our young protagonist is his health. He drags his elbow along through his story, a lodestone to force him ever downward toward the earth. K-Mac has thrown 74 innings this year; last season he threw 77 between High A, Double A, and the Arizona Fall League. The difference is that he's thrown those inning this season in 67 appearances. Last year he made only 47. It has been widely discussed 'round these here parts that the number of appearances a reliever makes is probably a much better indicator of wear and tear than innings. To my eye, Kyle McClellan looks worn down. Remember, last year was his first full season since returning from Tommy John surgery. McClellan has made far more appearances this year than ever before in his career, and I do believe that it is catching up with him.

How about more tragedy? In last night's game, in the fateful sixth inning, the ball found Felipe Lopez. Bases loaded, two outs, and Edwin Encarnacion hits a screaming line drive down into the left field corner. Lopez, an infielder by trade (or, really, if you want to call a spade a spade, a hitter by trade), ranges over, corrals the ball, and uncorks a throw toward the infield in an attempt to keep Joey Votto from scoring. Votto doesn't move poorly, by any means, but he's still a first baseman. The point is, we're not talking about Rickey Henderson here. A good throw into third base likely prevents the run from scoring. The runner either is forced to stop, or is quite possibly thrown out at home. Either way, the Reds would have scored only two runs. In the next half inning, Aaron Miles' home run would have tied the game, rather than simply making it a one run affair. Instead, Lopez threw the ball midway between third and the general vicinity of short, and the run scored.

Of course, one could always argue that that single run doesn't matter, given the way the rest of the game went. But if the game is tied after the Miles bomb, how does that affect the handling of Looper's subsequent at bat, and the rest of the game? We'll never know, of course, but the fact remains that Felipe Lopez playing in left field likely gave the Reds an extra run. The dynamic of everything that followed was different. Lopez has hit very well since coming to the Cardinals, and has offered a significant upgrade, with the bat at least, at second base. The man simply is not an outfielder, though. We see him trotted out there night after night, and he just isn't getting the job done. in this case, it isn't really his fault; he's not the one who makes out the lineup card, after all. A character fighting against the fickle hand of fate, and the even more fickle pencil of the manager.

And what about that manager? Or the general manager, for that matter? The Cardinals currently have one of the best prospects in all of baseball, working out at home. For most of the season, there was no need for him. The outfield was the bulwark upon which most of this team's success was built this season. But as autumn began to close in, the flycatchers began dropping like, well, you get the idea. And still the kid went untapped. I understand the arguments against bringing up Rasmus. He didn't have a good season, he had the injury, he struggled in his rehab stint. Got it. But when you're trotting out the aforementioned Felipe Lopez in the outfield on a daily basis and planting Aaron Miles in center, something has gone horribly, horribly wrong. At this point, the Cardinals don't need Colby to come up and be Grady Sizemore. They just need someone who can actually man the position effectively. And still we hear that the kid hasn't earned it, and we hear of strife, and turmoil, and we hear talk of trades. Is this an isolated problem? Or is it systematic?

Still, this has been a supremely satisfying season, from an aesthetic standpoint at least. And if you just happen to be ever so slightly masochistic- as I most assuredly am- then you've probably enjoyed it even more. But no matter how stirring the overture, nor how shatteringly glorious the intermezzo may have been (by the way, my very favourite intermezzo of all is the intermezzo sinfonico from Mascagni's Cavalleria Rustico, just so's you know), none of that changes the fact that this 2008 season now appears to be, sadly, a tragedy. Sorry, folks. That's just how it goes sometimes. Blame it on the Italians, if you must.

Some utterly random bits and pieces on this magnificent Wednesday morning:

  • You wonder what's going on with all the latest Chris Carpenter news? Well, you've a stronger stomach than I, fair reader.
  • Erik over at FR has a nice piece up about the Cards' trio of lefties that will be pitching in the Arizona Fall League this year.
  • Some columnist takes a look at the most memorable wild card teams over the years. I'm not a fan of this guy (I hear he's kind of a dick, honestly), but you guys may feel differently.
  • Now this is a lot of fun. I particularly feel bad for the guy who promised to wash everyone's car if the Rays did, in fact, reach 89 wins. Looking back is awesome.
  • In non-baseball related items, the Sheldon Art Galleries is in the waning days of their retrospective on Herb Snitzer. Snitzer was a photographer in the 50's and 60's for Metronome magazine, and took some truly wonderful photographs of some legendary jazz musicians. I got a chance to see this exhibition earlier this summer, and I can't recommend it highly enough. It ends on the 20th of September, so time is very nearly up.
  • If you happen to live in the St. Louis area, I would like to encourage you to take part in Dining 4 Kids, a great charity event that benefits Children's Hospital. It takes place on the 23rd of September; you can find all the details at the website. I spent a lot of time as a youth at Children's Hospital (I was born with a rather sizable hole in my heart), and it's an outstanding institution that is certainly worthy of support.
  • And finally, another community organisation that deserves all the support we can give it. KDHX, the community radio station here in the good old Lou, is having their fall membership drive beginning on the 2nd of October. They're currently looking for people to volunteer their time to answer phones and the like. I volunteer there every pledge drive, if I can, and you ought to give it a try. At the very least, there's always a really nice spread, provided by a ton of great local restaurants and bakeries.

I'll be back later with a game thread, everybody. Until then, get out and enjoy the first fondling of fall's fingers upon your cheek.