[Housekeeping: Viva El Birdos World Headquarters are in the process of moving someplace with, sadly, less Lincoln iconography and far fewer horseshoes. This shouldn't do anything to compromise our usual coverage, but now I have an excuse in case it does.]
So the Cardinals signed Zack Cox but not Austin Wilson. I feel kind of guilty for preferring Wilson—all year long I've been suggesting that the Cardinal Way, once Matt Holliday signed up, had to be chasing cheap, above-average talent to fit around their huge superstar contracts.
Even with the Major League contract, Cox fits this bill eerily well. He plays third, where David Freese's injuries have thrown the current cheap, above-average talent into question, and he might be able to play second, where the Cardinals could use him most. He's as high-floor, low-ceiling as a $3.2 million draft investment gets. It's the right move, and upside-chasers still have Carlos Matias's visa process to follow.
But Austin Wilson—nobody will ever declare huge, athletic outfielders with limitless power potential the next market inefficiency, but the reason they're so expensive and overbought by guys like Jim Bowden is that there's little in baseball more exciting. Zack Cox has a better chance of being Dan Uggla than Austin Wilson does of being Mike Stanton, but when it's not your money it's even more tempting than usual to invest in a hundred lottery tickets instead of an index fund.
Also, while we're on the subject, how about Shelby Miller's Monday night? Last year's first round moonshot might have precluded making another one this year, and if he keeps pitching like that I'm fine with the sacrifice.
It's an off-day and I've been driving for fourteen hours, and when it comes to cold starts like this one nobody has ever been wrong starting with Albert Pujols. So: Since the All-Star Break Albert Pujols is hitting .333/.389/.613. I'm sorry, that's not the impressive split—in the last two weeks Albert Pujols has hit .452/.511/.810. These little slices have lost their fun for me, because he does it so frequently, but the way he looks while creating them will never get old; it seems like he hasn't missed a pitch in ten games.
Joey Votto still leads him in all three sabermetrics-circa-2003 Triple Crown stats—OBP, SLG, OPS—but Pujols, in the midst of his worst season since 2007, is a .350 month and a minor home run binge from winning the actual Triple Crown, which is mindboggling. His simple positions on the leaderboards—fifth in average, second in home runs, first in RBI—aren't as impressive as they were last year, when he finished third, first, and third. But in 2009 he spent the entire season behind Hanley Ramirez, who hit .359, .370, .342, and .395 in the summer before falling back to earth after he'd pushed open a Secretariatian gap.
But this year is really different, of course, because all year it's felt like he was a game away from becoming The Albert Pujols, who hits .452/.511/.810 for a week every month, even when he's limping to second base after stand-up doubles like someone doing an impression of Vladimir Guerrero. So if he's this close already, and he might have already turned into The Albert Pujols—and that reasoning leads you to a September in which he hits .415 with 20 home runs and somehow still ends up with fewer RBI than Ryan Howard. I'd love to see a Triple Crown, but I would settle for that.