Today's post is not late for the usual reasons.
By the usual reasons, I mean, specifically, my usual reasons, which are generally personality- and schedule-related. Schedule related in the sense that this is not my job job, in terms of it being a primary source of support, and I'm nearly always trying to work writing in around the things I am required to do to continue feeding, clothing, and sheltering myself. I'm sure all of you out there appreciate how difficult it is to find the time to write up ~2000 words worth of drivel on a bi-weekly basis (speaking of, doesn't it seem like bi-weekly should mean either twice a week or every two weeks, but not both? that's dumb.), when one has a full slate of commitments at all times already.
Personality related is a bit more diffuse and difficult to pin down, I suppose, but it basically boils down to this: I am capable of organisation, and planning, but not when it comes to creating anything. I generally sit down at the computer when it's my time to write and just start wherever I feel like, and write whatever comes to mind. So if I get started on a column at 7:00 am, and it turns out to be a two and a half hour column, between writing and research, then it goes up at 9:30. If I have a specific idea, I can put it to metaphorical paper ahead of time on occasion (particularly on draft previews, when I'm really only selecting players from the list I've put together prior), but for the most part it's entirely seat of my pants, stream of consciousness writing that you get from me. The problem, of course, is that when you combine a personality that stubbornly identifies as Type B, at least when it comes to creativity, with the aforementioned schedule difficulties, you get a perpetually late author who feels the need to apologise for his tardiness, even while being completely aware the chances he's ever going to change are vanishingly small.
Today, though, is different.
Today's post is late because, to be completely honest, I can't think of anything clever or insightful to say. I've been sitting here, staring at the horribly empty white space of the entry box here in the text editor for god only knows how long this morning, going back and forth between it and every other dumb time-wasting thing I can think of, because I just don't have anything in me. And I'm not sure why.
I feel like I should be angrier that Jaime Garcia took the mound in an almost impossibly important game yesterday, as the need to avoid facing Jake Arrieta with the series tied should have been writ large in everyone's mind (and also writ in bright pink, blinking neon), pitching in a physically compromised state. Then again, I don't know who to be angry at, and that makes it much harder to be upset over. Should I be mad at Matheny, for putting a compromised pitcher on the mound? Or should I be angry at Jaime for trying to tough it out, when it was fairly clear he wasn't right from the get-go? Neither one is very satisfying, since the other options were basically to throw Tyler Lyons to the wolves yet again or to push Michael Wacha up two days unexpectedly, which seems like a fairly terrible idea. So who should we blame? It seems like just another example of terrible timing, and rotten luck, piled on a team that has had to overcome multiple seasons' worth of both this year to be historically good.
I thought about pointing out the Cardinals' batting average on balls in play this series is just .175 so far, and so perhaps we should have some hope that the offense will be better overall than they have been in the first two games. And it does seem like there's been some bad fortune in the bounces. But then I look and see El Birdos have struck out 20 times in the first two games, while managing to draw just one goddamned walk, and it's hard for me to claim they've been more unlucky than just plain bad. I get that the Cubs have good pitchers and a good gameplan and the strike zones in general seem to be flat out enormous, but that's really all secondary to the fact this offense just isn't very good right now, and hasn't been fairly often this year.
It's strange, really, the way this series has me feeling. Cardinals-Cubs in the playoffs should feel absolutely apocalyptic, and in some ways it does, but more than that I just have a slightly sick sense of dread that this amazing run of baseball is going to end in a very disappointing, even heartbreaking, way. It barely matters who is on the other side of the field, which I never expected to say in the event this thing ever happened. Watching this team wheeze into the playoffs was painful; watching them self-destruct yesterday on defense in a way Cardinal teams virtually never do was something else entirely.
I suppose, more than anything, my own ambiguity, my inability to take the normal amount of pleasure I get from playoff baseball (even if it is always of the masochistic variety), comes from the feeling of a team that is at far less than full strength. Adam Wainwright looked good yesterday, but watching him throw five outs was a reminder we won't be watching him throw 27 on some star-crossed October evening, at least not this year. Carlos Martinez celebrating home runs in the dugout is far more satisfying when you know he's going to be firing mid-90s buzzsaw sinkers the next day, instead of next March.
Then again, it could just be sour grapes. This series might just feel unsatisfying to me because the Cardinals needed desperately to hold serve at home, and instead came away with a split due to some shitty defense and an inability to string together much of anything against what felt like a remarkably mediocre opposing pitching staff, particularly once Travis Wood took the mound.
The Cubs now have home field advantage, with possibly the best pitcher on earth at this exact moment lined up to go in game three, while the Cardinals have a badly struggling Michael Wacha ready to oppose him, and Lance Lynn all revved up for a flailing, sweaty, inefficient five inning outing in game four. This series has the grim, unpleasant feeling of a nature documentary, and the Cards are the wounded antelope we have to watch get run down, all the while wondering somewhere far back in our minds why the filmmakers won't do something to help it. The answer, of course, being that isn't what they are there for.
But then, perhaps that's only how it feels trapped in this series, and October as a whole is just once again doing that thing October always does, giving us both ups and downs, since just one or the other would probably be boring. (Although I would be fine seeing if a clean sweep of October, with eleven straight Redbird W's was, in fact, boring. I suspect it would not be.) Perhaps there is a magnificent pitcher's duel in the offing for the next game or two, or the shock and awe of Arrieta going full Kershaw in game three, and the resultant cries of devil magic that would result.
Or maybe not. I apologise for my own existential crisis this morning, as well as the lateness of the post. I feel as if I am holding my breath on this October morning, or as if I have a fish bone stuck in my throat, at least in relation to baseball, and the fact this column has taken me roughly five and a half hours to complete should give you some idea of just how torturous its composition was.
But happy Sunday anyhow, everyone. I hope you're enjoying the playoffs more than I, and that this off day sees you excited and nervous and buzzing with anticipation, rather than dread. That tomorrow feels like Christmas morning to you, instead of a surgical procedure.
The playoffs are magical. I just wonder sometimes exactly what sort of spell it is they're casting.