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That Nonsense Article You Know You Need

Baseball is fun. Saturdays are supposed to be fun. Let’s try to have some baseball fun today.

Athletics Race Walk - Olympics: Day 14 Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Cranky, cranky, cranky! Cardinals fans have reason to be cranky and I’m certainly seeing it among the social media fandom.

It’s not so bad here at Viva El Birdos, where the comments section drifts toward group-think and reasonableness and less toward the “OMG TROLL PWN” Hunger Games that is Cardinals Twitter. Still, with the product on the field fully established as “meh”, I thought it might be fun to have fun at the expense of this 2021 Cardinals team.

I’ve tried to entertain you all by turning this space into a part-time cooking blog. I’ve mind-dumped a bunch of “stream of consciousness” articles here and somehow they’ve let me keep this gig! I’ve sat at the feet of Ben Godar and learned how to write a proper fluff piece. Now I’m just going to be blatant with it. This article means nothing. It’s about nothing. It’s purely designed for your Saturday entertainment.

And if you make something serious out of this in the comments section, I’m coming after y’all. Just know that now. As my mom used to say to me when I got grumpy, you will have fun today and you will like it!

Let’s talk about walks! That’s fun!

The Cardinals walk a TON of batters. It’s so ridiculous it’s borderline impressive. On Thursday night, an exhausted Gio Gallegos fell apart. Then Shildt brings Alex Reyes in – as he should have. Reyes hit a batter and then gave up four straight walks, three of which came with the bases loaded.

Insert slow clap emoji here.

That’s hard to do. It really is.

Earlier in the day my kids were watching the Olympics and were ecstatic to discover that power walking – officially termed “race walking” – was a competitive sport. They were mesmerized! The butt shuffling. The mental fortitude that it takes to not just, you know, run! It’s amazing to me that a sport made famous by mall moms in the 1980s has reached the Olympics!

As my son said, “there is no dignity in race walking.” I agreed. “There is no dignity in race walking,” I said. “Just medals!”

My teenagers’ sardonic humor turned into something approaching awe when they learned that the race walking competition was 50 kilometers long. When they turned the race on, the moms… I mean competitors… were in their 3rd hour of competition! I’m American and I don’t know what a kilometer is, but I did visit Canada once, so I know 50 kilometers is like a lot of miles. Like a bunch, eh?

That 50 kilometers of butt shuffling, while always keeping one foot firmly on the ground, mall walking sports competition got me wondering… the Cardinals have walked a lot of batters this year. How far have those batters had to walk?

The Cardinals have allowed 456 bases on balls this season to lead the league. That’s a lot of walking, folks. Ain’t going to lie. They’re likely to set some records in bases on balls allowed.

That level of ridiculously horrible control pays off in other areas, too!

The club has intentionally walked another 24 batters, just a few shy of the most in baseball. If intentional walks were an Olympic sport – and I expect it will be in a few years – Mike Shildt would be a top competitor. That man is a well-honed, intentional walk-calling machine.

They’ve also hit 78 batters – by far the most in the game. Dodgeball is not an Olympic sport. But if it was, the Cardinals pitchers would make an incredible unit. They can hit anything. People. Bats. Backstops. Huge talent in the hitting-things-with-flung-objects skill requirement.

Add it up and the Cardinals have issued a total of 556 free walking trips from the batter’s box to first base. There are 90 feet between home plate and first base. So… oh, crap. Now I have to do math…

556 times 90… let’s see. 0 times 6… carry the one… divide by the remainder… multiple by PI… eat the PI… Ask Google…

Ok, opposing batters have had to walk a total of 50,040 feet. That translates into about 15 kilometers or 10’ish American miles.

They’ve got a ways to go before they catch the Olympic athletes in the mega race walk. There is a second, smaller, faster Olympic race walk competition of 20 km. If the Cardinals keep up their current pace, they should hit that goal.

Go for the gold, Cardinals’ pitchers! We believe in you.

On to something completely different. Warning: if you’re not a nerd and don’t like nerd stuff, move on. This isn’t for you.

(I, on the other hand, am a nerd. So, if you ignore my warning and read the following and then feel the need to say to me – in the comments or the emails ya’ll send me – “dude, you’re such a nerd!” I will respond to you by saying, “why, yes. Yes, I am. Thank you for your kind words, friend sir!” And your sick burn will be for naught. Because I’m a nerd. I write about baseball statistics for Viva El Birdos. If my nerdom is news to you, then you’re just not paying attention.)

So, my kids got into Dungeons and Dragons during COVID. With nothing else to do, nowhere to go, and online gaming the best way to stay connected with friends, we bought a webcam, picked up the Players’ Handbook, and went full-on “Stranger Things” in our basement.

We love it. I now find myself serving as the Game Master, leading my kids and some of my adult friends through fun adventures on a weekly basis. It’s an odd turn in life but, hey, why not?

One of my son’s favorite activities is trying to apply a Dungeons and Dragons class to everyone that he sees in every movie and TV show that we watch. Ranger, druid, sorcerer, monk, cleric, paladin, wizard, fighter, barbarian, artificer, warlock, etc. That applies to Marvel movies. (Tony Stark is an artificer. Fight me.) And the Lord of the Rings. (Is Aragorn, the “ranger”, an actual ranger? Or is Legolas the party’s real ranger?)

We can do the same with Cardinals players. For example: what would Ozzie Smith be?

The “Wizard” is no wizard at all. Ozzie is charismatic. He’s incredibly dexterous. He’s hosted a regional cable TV show for kids. He did backflips before games. Strength and hitting were not his forte – though he wasn’t bad at them. It was defense, defense, defense.

In the D&D universe, what is a charismatic dex support class? Ozzie Smith is a bard.

Bob Gibson. Power. Wild on the mound, with feet and arms going everywhere each pitch. If you dug in against him, looked at him sideways, or he just didn’t like the cut of your jib, he raged up and plunked you. Then struck out everyone else and consumed your soul. Barbarian.

Albert Pujols was the best hitter I’ve ever seen. He’s easy – fighter. With some multi-class levels in paladin.

Lou Brock. Dexterous. Shifty. Speedy. Acrobatics on the basepaths and in the field. Stole everything in sight. Gotta be a rogue. Now I want to create an NPC of Brock and add him to our game…

Adam Wainwright. I’m going with cleric. Underrated power and frequently the real strength behind a party’s success. He keeps everything going, everyone healed up, everyone loose and ready.

Yadi Molina. He’s got a whole bag full of magic, but also some unshakable “intangibles” that few other catchers have ever possessed… except those of his own bloodline! He’s a sorcerer.

Tony LaRussa is a druid. I shouldn’t have to explain why.

John Mozeliak is a warlock. All of his power is given to him by a higher power (Bill DeWitt) in exchange for devotion and obedience.

I expect many arguments with my fellow nerds about this and look forward to them. Keep it going in the comments.

Lastly, to something not quite so nonsense-oriented – how do we watch losing baseball?

I’ve written about this before but I’m circling back around to it as more and more people are realizing that this team has no chance of making the playoffs. It’s going to be a challenge for them to remain above .500 or even catch the Reds, let alone the Brewers.

Many of you reading this today have never (or very rarely) watched a bad baseball team in St. Louis. It’s really easy to get focused on what the team isn’t doing, can’t do, or should be doing. That leads to complaining and irritability and unpleasantness.

I get it. I’ve been there.

The key to watching bad baseball is to find things you want to see and enjoy seeing and then watch for those things. Like Andrew Knizner the other day. He got a rare start. That’s worth watching, just to see where he is in his development after a lot of time on the bench. He hit a homerun. He punctuated it with the best bat flip of the year. I enjoyed all of that… even though the Cardinals had a painful loss.

I’m also focusing on Carlson because the numbers suggest he’s finding his power stroke in the second half of the season. Can he hold on to that? A .500 slug% from July-September would be a big deal.

And I’m not limiting my baseball to the majors. I watched Olympic baseball. I’m closely following starts in the minors from Liberatore and Thompson. Thompson, by the way, is REALLY coming on! Very exciting. I’m keeping an eye on Jordan Walker and Nick Plummer and Luken Baker and Juan Yepez. Those guys are crazy fun to watch play! Nolan Gorman, too, who golfed another AAA homer on Thursday.

The Cardinals aren’t winning right now. In fact, they’re losing in highly frustrating ways. But baseball can still be fun!

Tonight, our local wood-bat prospect league team plays in their conference championship game. I have a friend who coaches for them. We would go to the game, but we already had plans to have friends over for some smoked ribs and chicken wings. So we’ll eat and laugh and keep tabs on the game. Go Cape Catfish! Good luck, Josh!

Baseball is a game. It’s fun! Have fun with the baseball we have left in whatever form you can get it. Make the most of it. Because soon enough we’ll be stuck with just football … and that’s soul-sucking and angsty.

Enjoy your Saturday. Seriously. Enjoy it!