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Resting the Starters

The local handegg team had their home opener yesterday, and against my better judgment I joined momup and one cousinup for a trip to the EdwardJones Dome, which is apparently so run-down and antiquated fourteen years in that the Rams will have to move unless St. Louis drops $500 million in a series of unmarked official Rams logo briefcases at the location of a new stadium, which will last thirty years now that stadia tastes have crystalized forever. The new jumbo-jumbotron is really nice, though, except that with the renovations I'm pretty sure there is no clock, digital or analog, visible from the seats. 

Anyway, football games always make me thankful for two things: 

  1. Teams that pass the ball downfield. 
  2. Baseball games. 
There is something wrong—and as an anthropology minor, he said, flashing a winningly academic smile, I am being willfully ethnocentric—about football games. The moment we parked the car was the beginning of a slow, steady campaign of weird disenfranchisement. At the door there were... not lines, but a slow-moving, uncertain mass of people in Marshall Faulk and Aaron Rodgers jerseys—everyone was frisked, because the Rams are liable, at any moment, to blow up the EdwardJones Dome and collect the insurance money.

A few minutes passed, and after the boiler room employees managed to shovel enough coal to get the dome lamps working we were all allowed in. Honestly, the next part shouldn't have surprised me, because the back story scored high enough on the NFL Stern Outrage chart, a few years ago, to reach the sports pages. But I was reminded of how different baseball and football are when I ordered a bottled water and it came back—silently—without its cap. Oh, yeah, I thought—I'm a felon here. 

I was reminded even more of how different baseball and football are when, one quarter into the game, I completely agreed with the decision to not give anyone in the stadium something small and aerodynamic. Losing fans in baseball are kind of pleasant and boozy; losing fans in football want to muster a small mob and seize control of the referees' locker room.

This whole off-topic digression is directed, finally, to the loud, grown man behind me: If you're completely sure that the fix is in, and that the NFL is mandating that the referees aid the Packers in beating up a team that is literally quarterbacked by a zombie, stop payment on the season tickets and go, with your preponderance of evidence, to the Post-Dispatch. Don't yell about it to the guy in full pads and Green Bay Packers Logo Dreadlocks. 

Now: House Money Baseball, where the lineups start to look like my Baseball Mogul teams.  

Now that they've clinched I can say it: I like watching infielders in the outfield, sometimes. This seems like a bad time to play anybody but Colby Rasmus in center, since he seems in need of as many Getting Acclimated at-bats as he can possibly get, but giving Holliday a day off with flu-like symptoms and simultaneously giving David Freese a look at third? Excellent. 

With the Cardinals' basic gameplan, in the last several games, centered around keeping Brendan Ryan from finding a way to injure another finger, we get an early taste of the pitched inaction of Hot Stove season. Take it away, Scott Boras: 

"I don't even think that is going to be an issue," Boras said. "Rick Ankiel is going to go somewhere.

"There aren't many players who can play center field with his kind of power and his kind of arm strength. ... There are going to be a lot of teams who look at Rick as a substantial trade over what they have."

I'll say this for Boras: those are indeed Rick Ankiel's strengths. This isn't like those McDonalds ads that tout their weakest attribute, their indie-tinged whole foods cred, instead of the fact that their chicken mcnuggets are delicious. But even Scott Boras, as he's saying these words, has to hear the rebuttal: you've just named both his skills; now what?

Ankiel's a better player, I think, than he's shown this year; his anti-tools have been out in full force, and he's spent much of the year in a bad situation for a guy who was both a starter and the feel-good story of the decade this time last year. The Pirates seem like a recipe for disaster, if only by default, but as the big side of a platoon on some contender that does not have Colby Rasmus on it he's a good bounce-back candidate. 

love the Ankiel story in all its highs and lows; his curveball will always be my benchmark for outrageous pitches, and his outfield fastball has, as expected, brought about a few of my all-time favorite defensive jaw-droppers. But the bat not cooperating has done something I wouldn't have thought possible this past February—it's made me at peace, barring some playoff heroics au Natural, with an offseason departure that's been inevitable since before he ever started slumping.