The careful reader will notice I've begun, slyly and with abandon, to write almost nothing about the 2010 season. The careful reader has probably not been disappointed.
But while I have my head popped out from behind the 2011 pillbox—I'd like to mention that it should no longer be surprising to see this team lose to bad teams. Not in the "they're losing to bad teams" sense, like that's a skill they have refined and now possess. This is in the sense that they sent out three pitchers last night, and they had ERAs of 6.75, 7.11, and 7.36. My boy Mac The Fifth put together a scoreless inning and traded places with Kyle Lohse, after the fact, to become the only member of the trio with an ERA under seven.
They started Daniel Descalso out of position, to see if he can play in that position next year; they started Matt Pagnozzi, for some reason. Jon Jay is starting through a slump he maybe wouldn't start through if they were a game out of first. These aren't bad things, except for the Matt Pagnozzi thing, they're just a team playing for reasons that are not so enjoyable to watch as the ones we saw, or should have seen, in July.
It's not entirely without its merits, of course; who else should Daniel Descalso drive in with his first Major League hit but Colby Rasmus and Allen Craig? All three of these guys have come out of the season smelling (at least on VEB) like roses. Aaron Miles aside—and at this point in the season he is a harmless affectation, like a mustache on a 16-year-old—the Cardinals are officially playing The Youth. Kyle Lohse and The Youth Team are not strong favorites against the Pittsburgh Pirates, whose youth is itself pretty impressive; Andrew McCutchen really is fast, so fast that it doesn't stop registering as you watch him run the bases.
Now I'd like to talk about Mark Hamilton, who didn't pick up his first hit and has no place on The Youth Team, even this hasty approximation of same.
Mark Hamilton was drafted as quick-moving trade bait, like Brett Wallace, and then he didn't move very fast at all. He was a college slugger, and I remember reading at least one college-slugger-watcher who was skeptical of what was apparently his aluminum-bat-power.
For three years, Bartleby-like in his admirable, maybe misplaced consistency, he refused to offer the hyperventilating prospect-geek fraternity even one platform on which to hyperventilate. All the usual novel approaches—blocked. He was exactly the right age for his league; his strikeout rate and walk rate were completely predictable; he hit home runs but not too many, and doubles but not enough to predict any spares would turn into home runs; he didn't even pretend to play any other positions, which might be to his credit.
Collapse the half-seasons that were good enough to get him promoted and his first three years look like this: .258/.325/.444; .269/.332/.448; .241/.338/.384.
Since then he's punished the ball at AA and now AAA, but he's 24 and 25, really 25 and 26, and he keeps getting hurt. But I'm a little hyperventilatey to ignore anybody who slugs .585 over 72 games, even in the Pacific Coast League; over his 118 games there in 2009 and 2010 he's hit .302/.384/.567.
Hamilton has no spot with the Cardinals, and he has no trade value, and that's a shame; he wouldn't be Jack Cust, but he could be Ben Broussard for longer than Ben Broussard managed the trick if he were playing for an AL team or an NL team, like the Pirates, who has no better option but to discover Garrett Jones. Of the 40-man call-ups he was the oddest pick—if for only that reason I hope to see him as much as possible over the last several games, when that objective is as worthwhile as any other.