I had a writers' workshop last night that spanned basically the entirety of yesterday's game. Let me just say I'm happy about that. The Cardinals continue to lose in novel ways, and the Reds continue to win in novel ways; I can't explain it, and I won't try to with clubhouse intrigue or team mood or chemistry because that's not my place. All I can do is watch. But watching hasn't been particularly fun lately, especially the scoreboard. So I'm going to stop.
If the Cardinals run off some wins and I realize, hey, this is closer than it used to be, things might change. But I look at it like this: Once upon a time, young danup lived and died with the St. Louis Cardinals. They'd blow an important rally or trade a favorite player and young danup would probably throw something against something else, or at least want to. But old danup is convinced baseball should be watched because it's fun, and only because it's fun. Days are already a succession of obligations; there's no need to add one from 7-10 every night for the next month.
Right now watching the Reds run away near the top of the NL Central standings is the least fun thing in the world, but if we put a week's moratorium on scoreboard watching, or at least explicit scoreboard watching, I'm sure we can come up with reasons to watch this baseball team every night for another month. Starting with:
Jaime Garcia. How wonderful has it been to watch Jaime Garcia this year? Answer: very wonderful. I don't want to jinx it for the guy directly in front of him, but Garcia's ERA—2.33—is within 0.09 of Tim Hudson, the current National League leaders. He's 15 innings from qualifying for the title at the end of the season.
I won't say it's likely, and given the Cardinals' luck of late it's more likely that he's inadvertently locked inside J.D. Salinger's secret vault and asphyxiates, but Jaime Garcia, who pitched about 40 rehab innings last season, is in a position where he could theoretically win the ERA title. In a year where Kyle Lohse disintegrated, the Cardinals got a piece of good news that more than makes up for it.
Jon Jay. It still seems like he just got here for a cup of coffee, but Jon Jay has appeared in 73 games now, more than half a season's worth. He's got 206 at-bats and he's hitting .330/.379/.481.
I don't know what this means, because Jay is in an incredibly difficult place to make a living—an all-defense corner outfielder with no power and none of Carl Crawford's gaudy speed numbers—but he's having a career year like nobody could reasonably have expected. In his two months at Memphis he hit .321/.394/.491; collectively he has 33 doubles, which is 10 better than his career high.
There's a lot of—there's a lot of uncertainty surrounding Colby Rasmus. I'm presuming, absent anything more than clubhouse intrigue, that he and La Russa will both be back next year, but even assuming that Rasmus has proved fragile and more likely than the average .850 OPS center fielder to end up in prolonged slumps. With no set player in right field and Rasmus in center Jay will have every chance to prove that he can cobble together enough value to start, but even if he can't there are 350 at-bats with his name on them. I'd like to see Jay hold that average over .330, for his baseball card's sake.
Adam Wainwright. I'm loath to mention Albert Pujols's _____ _____ attempt (Dan Haren attempt?), because it involves competition with a certain metonym for the Reds' offense, but Adam Wainwright has 17 wins going into September, which is one more than he had last year. I want him to end with exactly one more win than he had last year.
I'm looking out for his baseball card, too. Look: Wainwright's off to a solid career start, but there are a few things standing in the way of true baseball card sublimity. For one thing, he started late—because he spent 2006 as a set-up man, not throwing anything into that save category, it looks like he really began his career at 25, which is too late. Then in 2008 what should have been the start of his peak is obscured by that finger injury, which also separates 14 wins from 19 and 17.
What Adam Wainwright needs is an awesome Dave Stewart run. Maybe not four consecutive 20 win seasons, but 19-20-21-17 would look pretty excellent. I'm just spitballing, here, of course; if he wants to go 19-33-48-59-28 I won't hold it against him.
There are some exciting players on this unexciting team. Brendan Ryan seems more ready than ever to do something spectacular once a night. Albert Pujols has that thing he's trying to do, with the categories. Chris Carpenter has gone 31-8 since spending most of two years on the disabled list. Even the backup catcher position is slightly more interesting than usual.
The big picture isn't doing me any favors, but there's some small picture stuff to watch while it continues to frustrate.