Clubhouse machinations have a symbiotic relationship with soul-crushing losing streaks; if you don't believe me I only wish you could see the internal numbers on SB Nation St. Louis. Cardinals traffic there fell steadily down from post-Brandon-Phillips highs until, bestill Google News's beating heart, Colby Rasmus and Tony La Russa each asked Albert Pujols to serve as second in an upcoming duel and it spiked again. I'm not claiming anybody's pulling the strings to make sure something interesting happens when the team refuses to be interesting; I'm arguing that's when it becomes interesting.
The Cardinals fall below a minimum interest threshold and it becomes extremely apparent, and suddenly more interesting than baseball, that Colby Rasmus and Tony La Russa don't like each other very much.
So the Cardinals win two of three from the Reds, take an improbable game from the Brewers—Yadier Molina has now driven in 15 runs with his five home runs—and suddenly Colby Rasmus and Tony La Russa deny having ever established a blood-tontine for the DeWitt millions. (Colby, I love you, but never trust a Sicilian when death is on the line. Especially you, and especially him.) I'd prefer the team continues to be interesting this way; fewer Google Trends spikes—for maximum exposure Colby Rasmus should consider dating the Bachelorette, from what I can gather—and more consistently entertaining, discussable games.
One thing worth discussing: This second-half offense would look shockingly bad if Yadier Molina had continued to scuffle as he had in the first. With Rasmus struggling the offense has been incredibly top-heavy—Pujols and Holliday both have OPSes over .900; only Jon Jay has an OPS over .800, and just barely; and Molina and Skip Schumaker, who both brought up the rear in the first half, are alone with an OPS over .700.
Each of them isn't doing anything more than repeating his 2009 numbers, which should bring me pause when it comes time to give my middle-of-the-road predictions to the Maple Street Annual people in 2011.
Oh, while I'm on the page, name the two Cardinals tied for third on the team in home runs since the All-Star Break.
Tomorrow's palatability will be entirely dependent on Kyle Lohse's right forearm. Since coming back he's gotten vaporized on balls in play—.388—but his numbers haven't been so great independent of them, either, so I have no idea what to think. He's looked bad, but it's impossible to look good when you're giving up hits at a .400 average. It's impossible to not look bad, over three starts.
So in the short term the Cardinals can only hope to continue the era of good feeling if Lohse behaves; but the long-term, such as one is left, is also dependent on his balky arm. Without Kyle Lohse there's his opposite number, Jeff Suppan, who's somehow skirted replacement level despite hitting the exact 1.0 K:BB ratio, 3.6 per nine innings, where he's not striking out anybody and is also kind of walking a lot of batters.
Watching Kyle Lohse is frustrating because it's a look into the future—the Cardinals have two more years with him, and every bad start he makes today makes it seem more fantastic to believe he'll ever be useful again. That's bad, but Jeff Suppan, to my mind, is worse; watching Jeff Suppan is frustrating because there's no future.
I understood the move at the time; the Cardinals were deep in competition, expected two starters back in the near term, and in the meantime had no minor leaguers available who were even clearly replacement level. In September the Cardinals don't have anybody to look forward to, unless we all spontaneously remember Brad Penny exists—it's like losing The Game [like I, and now you, just did], only depressing—and at least Blake Hawksworth might plausibly be Jeff Suppan next year. They're still in the race, but there's no time and nothing to triage with Suppan anymore—they're just... still in the race, with Jeff Suppan in the rotation.
My skin crawls. And that is why I'll be rooting very hard for Kyle Lohse tonight.