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Jaime Garcia and The Third Base Blues

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You know how cartoon characters, after they fall off a cliff and get hit by a falling boulder, will look at the camera and say, "Well, at least things can't get any worse," and are immediately struck by lightning as it begins pouring rain? I've taken to walking around my house this morning, saying, "At least things can't get any worse," in the hopes of bringing a rainstorm that would at least cool things off a bit. Sadly, I have yet to locate the invisible audience. 

Getting humiliated by the Houston Astros, again, in our home ballpark, is bad. But that's just a loss. That happens all the time, and no matter how deflating the loss you play again the next night. It's one of the nice things about baseball. What's really miserable is the knowledge the cavalry isn't coming. David Freese isn't coming back; apparently he's more Mr. Glass than Mr. Freeze and his ankles snap with literally no provocation whatsoever. Unfortunately that means what we saw last night - y'know, the whole Aaron Miles playing third base thing - is likely to be the norm rather than the exception for the near future. 

The story of the 2010 Cardinals has, up to this point, largely been about players underperforming. Holliday early on with his men-on-base issues (and no, that's not a euphemism), the middle infield's collective dive off the offensive deep end, Albert's season-long malaise. But I submit to you if the time finally comes - and I'm not saying it has, or will - we must write the inscription for this team's memorial, it will be simple and elegant and sad. 

"The Cavalry Never Came." 

Of course, simply blaming the injuries is too easy. Underneath the inscription, I want a copy of the lineup card from last night, the one where it lists Aaron Miles as third baseman and Allen Craig, former third base prospect, as right fielder. Oh, and a quick video montage of Miles' throwing error in the first and the double-play ball he booted in the third and his weak groundouts and, well, you get the idea. 

I don't want to pile on just Miles specifically, but I feel like I have to say something. After all, over at the Cards' website there's a story entitled, "Miles Hurls Scoreless Inning for Cards," but not, "Miles Makes Mopup Work Necessary." Okay, maybe, "Miles, Mitchell, and Mac Make Mopup Work Necessary." I know, I've got two last names and one first there, but what can I say? I'm a sucker for headline alliteration. 

Last night was the first time we've really seen Jaime Garcia blink this season. Every other start, no matter what stuff he had or what plays were or weren't made behind him, he stared down his opponents with the same utter lack of fear we've come to expect from Carpenter or Wainwright; last night, though, Jaime looked like he was pitching scared. He looked afraid to challenge hitters, afraid of what the result would be, and that's not something we've seen from him before. Of course, given the way things went down when he did challenge hitters to put the ball in play, I can't exactly blame him; I certainly wouldn't want to throw a grounder up there when there seems to be a roughly 50/50 chance it gets booted. I would have given anything to be able to hear the conversation between Dave Duncan and Garcia on the mound when Duncan made his bizarrely-timed visit after an 0-2 curveball; I have a feeling Duncan was pissed because Jaime was deliberately pitching away from contact, but nothing to prove it. 

So is there anything out there the Cards could go and get to fill in at third base for the rest of the season? Honestly, it's tough to really see a major upgrade who will make it through waivers, unless Aramis Ramirez somehow sneaks through. Unfortunately, he also has a massive option for next season, which he has already said he plans on exercising, so I doubt we're taking on another 16 million bucks of 2011 salary to avoid seeing Aaron Miles play more at the hot corner. Tyler Greene would be an ideal solution, of course, especially given Brendan Ryan's recent run of better hitting, but Greene is among the walking wounded as well. I'm sure we'll see plenty more Felipe Lopez over there, but let's face facts: Lopez isn't really all that much better over there with the glove than Miles. He can make the throw across, of course, but also occasionally just seems to decide he's too good for a particular grounder and just lets it go. 

There are really no internal options, unless the Cards wanted to bring up Matt Carpenter and hope he goes all Bo Hart for a month or two. I've seen a few people bat around the name Chone Figgins, but they seem to forget he's signed for another three years after this to a brutally awful contract. 

In the end, the best we can hope for is for Tony to see the light and at least give Allen Craig a shot. I've seen Craig play third in the minors, and trust me, while he's not exactly Scott Rolen or Ryan Zimmerman out there, he's also not the unmitigated disaster we witnessed last night. Maybe we could get Morgan Ensberg to give up his blog long enough to make a comeback...

No matter what, though, we can still take comfort in the fact no matter how big a disaster our third base situation may currently look to be, neither Joe Thurston nor Miguel Tejada will be appearing there any time soon. Cold comfort, I know, but you gotta take what you can get where you can get it. 

The Baron's Playlist for the 4th of August, 2010 -- More Power, Please

"September Gurls" - Big Star

"Go All the Way" - Raspberries

"So It Goes" - Nick Lowe

"Surrender" - Cheap Trick

"There She Goes" - The LA's

"I Saw the Light" - Todd Rundgren

"What You Do to Me" - Teenage Fanclub

"Alex Chilton" - The Replacements

"Pretty Little Star" - Key

"Goin' Through Your Purse" - Material Issue