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karma police, arrest this team

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this is what you get when you mess with us.
this is what you get when you mess with us.

after suffering through a week of atrocious offense to begin the season, the spirits ran low on the good ship Birdos. panic set in, and we heard endless comments about how awful the team was and questions about whether the team would finish above .500. 

baseball is a harbor for such thinking. the immediacy of the event is what makes the game exciting, even while the actual significance of an at-bat, an inning, or a game is minimal. if we truly indulged our intellects and turned off our emotions, the individual games would become uninteresting, for whether the team won 8-3 or lost 1-0 would only incrementally affect the long-term prospects of the team. to appreciate a sport, you have to relate to it emotionally. 

at the same time, to avoid getting completely sucked into the highs and lows of the game - growing despondent when a team loses four games in a row, or believing the latest 10 for 14 hitting streak means that a hitter with a career of middling hitting ability has become an all-star - one has to keep some perspective on it, and realize that slumps and streaks, ebbs and peaks, are part of the game. 

nobody really does this well. it's a lesson we all know. somedays, we succeed. somedays, we don't. some players we can evaluate with clinical detachment. some we develop irrational affinities for - the streaks are always their true talent coming through, the other parts are the player developing, or recovering from injury, or just bad luck. and sometimes the reverse happens - a particularly disfavored player gets no credit for his strengths, and his highs are just good luck. 

as i watched the club founder in week 1, i had one of these struggles. obviously, the club wasn't going to continue to score 2.5 runs a game. my intellect said to me that when the slump broke, we'd most likely see a return to metronome normalcy - scoring 5 runs a game, and allowing 4.5.

the emotional part of me said we'd see karma in action. we wouldn't just bust the slump, we'd demolish it. we'd go from scoring a run or two, to scoring ten. we had built up so much misery, so much suck, that it had to break out in a violent way.

of course, my intellect replied, that's ridiculous; you don't expect to offset a statistical anomaly with another statistical anomaly. you don't recover from a fever with a day or two with a body temperature of 95. 

final score: karma 1, science nil.

of course, my emotional side might have also noticed the hitter friendly parks on our road trip . . . .

there are some great stats being thrown around after the week that came from nowhere. shannon and rooney had some good ones last night, like berkman has hit more homers in one week than any cardinal since mark mcgwire in 1998.

it's probably too soon to celebrate the berkman signing, but it's too exciting to avoid a little bit of quiet cheering. while berkman isn't a candidate for a gold glove this year, he just needed to be within spitting distance of average on defense (and be able to hit) to be a success. while he's not going to win any footraces, he's looked tolerable out there, as far as eye tests go, with just a handful of miscues. and while he won't hit 80 homers this year, or whatever he's now on pace for, he doesn't look shabby at the plate by any stretch of the imagination.

also, too many people just rushed to declare the signing ridiculous, to declare berkman washed up, to declare that he was not an outfielder and could never be. i'm not yet ready to rub any faces in anything after two weeks, but i suspect those voices will be very quiet in the foreseeable future.

the next most exciting debut this season has been kyle lohse. while it's still too early to declare him fixed, all the peripherals are there - striking out more guys than usual, walking only a handful, showing decent velocity. like berkman, he's doing everything you'd hope he would do in your best case scenario. his best case scenario just happens to look like a decent #3 pitcher, while berkman's best case scenario looks like an all-star. 

both berkman and lohse came into the season as big question marks. so it's heartening to see them get off to good starts. pujols can slump. we know that, barring really terrible injury, he'll bounce back (which he's in the middle of doing). carpenter can have a bad outing. he'll snap out of it; he probably just needs to shout more obscenities on the mound. to have a really solid season, to keep ourselves in the race, we need a lot of these question marks to go in our favor. funny thing is, they seem to be doing just that. i'll trade a slow start out the gate for a full season of healthy, functioning lohse and healthy, functioning berkman.