As Cardinals seasons of recent vintage go 2009 was downright plausible—it was a good team, things went mostly right, and a midseason trade we'd been talking about forever helped propel the team past its division rivals and, briefly, into the top tier of World Series aspirants. Given what's happened in the last several Cardinals seasons—Braden Looper as starter, Braden Looper as rock in an otherwise unsteady rotation, the 2004 team losing, the 2006 team winning—
But that doesn't mean there weren't any April Fools jokes on that club. Troy Glaus missed just about the entire season with an injury that was not, initially, slated to put him on the DL; Joe Thurston started most of the season at third base. Chris Carpenter was healthy for most of the year but Kyle Lohse wasn't. These, though—these are long-term jokes. They sneak up on us and then we realize they've been there the whole year, making it seem a little less reasonable that the Cardinals entered the postseason as a Team to Beat. If you've spent as much time on the internet as I have you might recognize Troy Glaus's endlessly delayed return date as a Long Troll, an expert piece of message board disruption that begins credible and ends with a dramatic, 4chan-y reveal.
Jason LaRue getting hurt right after Yadier Molina, and at the zenith of the Cardinals' misplaced affection for Matt Pagnozzi—that's an April Fools' joke. It's sudden, it's a little cruel, and even if it were funny the feeling of the wool over your eyes prevents you from laughing about it in the moment.
Of course, the final ingredient is that it is not, in the end, such a big deal. A "good" April Fools joke does not threaten major life changes, and while it will be unappealing to watch Matt Pagnozzi flail around for a week or two while Bryan Anderson plays in Memphis, the actual effect on the Cardinals' season—should Molina's strained oblique not become its own Long Troll—will be negligible, a run or two less in the various run estimators and a few would-be intentional walks to get to the pitcher that opposing managers think better of. And on April 2—or 10, or, god forbid, 15—our lives go back to normal, having been spared a future that involved toilet-based wi-fi.
With David Freese the starter at third base—that competition never really took off, did it?—and Jaime Garcia at the back of the rotation, the Cardinals have entered the tamest part of what has always been a relatively quiet Spring Training. Think about what we're worrying about—two spots for three guys who may combine, depending on how wacky Tony La Russa is feeling and how healthy Colby Rasmus is feeling, for 400 at-bats. If whichever of Stavinoha or Craig makes the team—I don't see how the Cardinals spot Rasmus without Mather going north—gets 150 at-bats, and the other zero, the difference between their CHONE projections is roughly four runs.
Don't get me wrong—I think Craig deserves to make this team, and I think he should, but it's not a terrible problem to have, and I'm a little heartened by the thought of Stavinoha making up for the awful luck he's had in his first two big league stints; I always hoped Supernoha would stick as a good-times nickname, anyway.
All this, of course, is without even accounting for the fact that Stavinoha, should he make the team, will be in no way exempt from having a Rico Washington-type season from his perch on the opening day roster.
Current Target Field exhibition late night monologue forecast—bad game weather, but rain instead of cold. Jay Leno reportedly greatly disappointed, attempting to retool his "snow-out" joke.
Programming note: this is the first of several travel days between now and Monday, so be patient if hotel wi-fi should leave me high and dry at some inconvenient hour.