The Padres set a record with their scoreless-innings streak
To open the new season and the turbulent first week;
Kyle Schwarber tore his knee up and John Lackey pitched like doodoo,
But owing to Mahatma Maddon’s hippie devil voodoo,
The Cubs are making things look easy (hashtag-they-are-good),
Though Heyward hasn’t heated up yet (hashtag-knock-on-wood).
Dave Roberts pulled his rookie from a late-inning no-hitter,
So LA’s bullpen promptly got him crucified on Twitter;
His predecessor, safely in Miami now with Barry,
Has made a “fear the beard” rule so that things don’t get too hairy.
The Snakes got awful news with the demise of A.J. Pollock,
And when we say that Greinke’s sucked, well, that’s not hyperbolic.
Bruce Bochy’s joined LaRussa’s Church of Pitchers Hitting Eighth,
Which brings us to some more dispatches from the world of faith:
In Queens, the Mets don’t look much like a pennant-winning squad—
You don’t let Daniel Murphy walk without enraging God!—
And Rockies fans are witnessing a miracle unfold,
For Trevor seems to be the greatest Story ever told.
The Astros lost a game because of Colby’s weird maneuver,
And in DC, the mascot race now features….Herbert Hoover?
(Like last year’s Nats, his presidency was an epic slump,
But hey, his giant head seems small compared to that of Trump.)
Bryce Harper stole a base with batting gloves stuffed in his maw
(As padding, in case Papelbon showed up to break his jaw),
And he’ll keep flipping bats when he delivers a big hit
In spite of his detractors, who are clearly full of Schmidt.
The Mariners are lost at sea, the Twins have yet to peak,
The upstart Orioles have got the East grasped in their beak,
And our beloved, vexing Birds laid eggs at their first stop
But found their stride in time to shush the Braves fans’ stupid chop.
Aledmys is adorable, Piscotty’s started raking,
And Hazelbaker’s thrilled us with his hot, hot Hazelbaking—
So Mabry’s job is safe for now, thanks largely to the bats
Of kids he barely knows (I call these “MABR-metric stats”).
No matter! Though the defense and the pitching aren’t yet stellar,
The Cards no longer occupy the NL Central cellar;
Here’s hoping they can find a way to beat some better clubs—
Five years without a ring is far too long! (Oh….sorry, Cubs.)
Listen, my Cards fans, and you shall hear
Of the Cards’ last-ditch effort to salvage their year,
On the thirteenth of October in 2015
At a ballpark that some say smells like a latrine.
There’s nary a Cub fan alive who recalls
The last time the North Siders didn’t suck balls—
But led by the law firm of Epstein & Maddon,
They’re poised to leave Cardinal loyalists saddened.
Things started off well with a win in Game One,
But Jaime and homers soon tempered the fun,
And the hole they’re in now is as deep and as vile
As pizza prepared in Chicagoan style.
The Redbirds are down, but they’ve still got a chance:
One win to tie, and two to advance!
No doubt, it’s not easy to beat these young Cubs
Who come to the plate wielding confident clubs—
Especially when bruises, fatigue, and poor play
Have somehow become the new Cardinal Way.
CarMart is injured, the Lynn-Man is rusted,
Jhonny Peralta’s bat seems to be busted,
Wacha’s been swapped for a clever impostor,
And Choate even blows when he’s not on the roster.
Yadi, beneath his big mitt, has no thumb;
Matheny makes moves that are “manifest” dumb;
Jaime Garcia came down with a virus
That made him turn wilder than Miley Ray Cyrus;
Grichuk keeps swinging with reckless abandon,
And don’t get me started on Moss Comma Brandon.
Wainwright’s Achilles is barely un-sutured….
(God, Cubs, shut up about “Back to the Future”!)
The team’s in a bit of a late-season shambles,
So Mike’s pulling one of his late-season gambles:
The Redbirds will send their tired ace to the hill
And hope against hope that he earns his half-mil
By keeping the Cubs’ squad of burly young creatures
From walloping fastballs deep into the bleachers.
We Cards fans aren’t strangers to postseason shvitzing,
And treating the Cubs to an old-fashioned blitzing
Would be a profound way of telling the nation
That this team’s not ready to go on vacation.
Win one in Chicago, then one ’neath the Arch,
Then head for a coast and a World-Series march!
But first things first, Redbirds; there’s much work to do.
To quote the revered Ernie Banks….let’s play two.
Follow me on Twitter! Please!
That fateful night when Wainwright injured his Achilles tendon,
We Cards fans had a meltdown in the style of Lloyd McClendon
(Okay, okay, the truth is that we weren’t quite that nice—
I, personally, sounded more like Bryan F***ing Price),
But Wacha, Lynn, and Lackey have shored up the Cards’ rotation,
And CarMart, plus or minus porn, is bringing good vibrations.
Heck, even Jaime “Made of Glass” Garcia’s doing well!
(Aw, crap, the strain of reading this sent him to the DL.)
We’ve marveled at the tale (if not the pitching) of Mitch Harris,
And fought off tears at highlights of the late Oscar Taveras.
Matt Holliday’s on-base streak was an early-season best
Until it found a single way to die in the (Joe) West,
And Adams as a clean-up hitter struck us all as odd
Until he rendered that point moot by shredding his poor quad.
We’ve all enjoyed the happy renaissance of here-comes-Trevor,
Who never gives up lead-walks these days (well….hardly ever).
The trip to Colorado was a nightmare, but it stunk
A bit less than the dugout in LA, which housed a skunk
(And hey, I can’t help thinking that Bill Plaschke put it there—
I’ve got no evidence, but speculation’s only fair!).
We still need robot umpires to appease the staff and hitters;
It seems the Cards have hired one, though, to bless us on the Twitters….
And speaking of the internet, the Cards have made the papers
And given the BFIB a bad case of the vapors
By getting caught red-handed in an online cyber-crime
That could have Redbird staffers doing federal prison time.
(The facts are still quite hazy, but the one thing that we do know
Is that no one’s getting Christmas cards this year from Mr. Luhnow.)
Yep, folks, it’s been a long, strange trip, but we’ll keep being loyal fans….
Just maybe not as wacked-out as those power-voting Royal fans.
(Here’s last year’s version, if you’re really bored. Bill Plaschke’s crappiness is a reassuring constant in this crazy world.)
Obviously, the best and worst thing about a two-homer game from Kolten Wong is the explosion of Twitter puns it sets off, so let’s take a quick moment on this Friday morning to rank (in this blogger’s humble opinion only) which ones are hot and which ones are wong overdue to be retired:
#1: Take the Wong Way Home. Oh, NICE. Cardinal70 gets the credit for this one, which earns points not only for originality, but for providing a nice earworm as a bonus. (I should note that while Cardinal70’s inspiration came from Norah Jones, my mind went immediately to Supertramp, but you can’t really go wrong with either one.)
#2: Hawaiian Punch. I’m impressed by the avoidance of the obvious here, and also I’m thirsty. Mmmm, dyed sugar water.
#3: Two Wongs make a right. Variations of this one (“make a night,” “make a Wright”) were all over the Twittertubes last night, so I can only imagine that a whole bunch of people were waiting for Kolten’s first twofer to turn it loose. Topical, pithy.
#4: The Wong Show: Though lots of people have used this, I first saw it from Jim Hayes, so it’s fitting that it’s pleasant and harmless and adorably dated.
#1739: Chicks dig the Wong ball: Ugh. Stop already.
…..to be continued…..
I’m about as popular on Twitter as I was in seventh grade—that is, not at all—but during one of Trevor Rosenthal’s ninth-inning fire-walking acts against the Brewers this past weekend, this happened:
See that? Forty retweets and 97 favorites, for the scrawny girl who entered math contests and started a detective club. I’m not alone here; there’s a whole community of us out there shvitzing in our jerseys every time that god-awful, bone-chilling “Here comes Trevor!” tweet appears on the Cardinals’ feed (ahem), unsoothed by the assurances of management and fellow fans who point to his league-leading save totals and instruct us to relax.
It’s time we stood up for ourselves and owned our suffering. (We could call it The Trevor Project, if that name weren’t already in use for a cause that’s roughly a million times more important.)
This isn’t hypochondria; behind Rosenthal’s 35 saves lie some troubling numbers. Among closers with 20 or more saves, here are few of his rankings that haven’t gotten quite so much air time:
Total batters faced: 1st with 233; Zach Britton is 2nd with 211
Total pitches thrown: 1st with 959; Steve Cishek is a distant 2nd with 813
Walks: 1st with 28; Craig Kimbrel is 2nd with 20
WHIP: 2nd with 1.36; Joe Nathan leads with 1.43
Average fan pulse-rate increase: 1st with 20 beats/minute (sabermetric projection)
Rosenthal’s runs-allowed totals aren’t terrible, thanks in part to seven double-play balls (for which he shares credit with the Cards’ improved infield defense) and his having allowed only one home run thus far. But the combination of Moneyball statistics and Trouble With the Curve gut feelings tells us that there’s a problem here—or, actually, several problems.
1) Rosenthal’s been vulnerable all year. He’s been scored upon in 13 of 53 appearances, and he’s thrown precious few 1-2-3 innings, as your central nervous system already knew. His fastball has picked up velocity along the way, but he still leaves it in the upper part of the zone way too often for comfort.
2) He’s been badly overused. The Cardinals have had pretty good starting pitching and pretty lousy offense all season, and that translates to lots of save opportunities—another category in which Rosenthal leads the majors. The workload increases due to his unfortunate allergy to clean innings, and it increases again due to the fact that….
3) His manager is delusional. Admittedly, I’m feeling especially bitter toward Mike Matheny after last night’s utterly predictable loss to the Red Sox, but it was a classic example of managing with the heart instead of the head, with faith instead of facts. Rosenthal was tired; the rest of the bullpen was relatively fresh; Here Came Trevor; and the game immediately went to hell.* “We want our closer to feel like he’s king of the world when he walks out on that field,” Matheny told reporters last month after allowing King Trevor to throw approximately eight million pitches in two consecutive uglier-than-this-blogger-in-seventh-grade outings against the Marlins.
The “king” isn’t an idiot. This emperor knows when he’s been pantsed. He can hear the crack of the bat and he can read the scoreboard. When you send him to the mound after he’s already thrown thirty pitches four games in a row, that’s not a coronation—it’s an invitation to the other team to wait for a high fastball they can wallop, to the fans to grumble and seethe, and to Dr. Andrews to start a file for Rosey in his “future Tommy John patients” folder. Oh, and by the way, it’s a great way to make all those other guys in the bullpen feel like peons, but hey, long live the king, right?
Pssst….Dr. Andrews….I don’t suppose you have a colleague who specializes in closer-induced cardiac problems, do you? Because I know at least 97 people who need appointments.
* Yes, the game was already most of the way there thanks to the napping offense and the Holliday-assisted RBI “double,” but I’m ranting about other things right now.
You put the killing thing in your mouth but you don’t give it the power to do its killing….
Okay, last night’s 1-0 defeat by the Dodgers wasn’t as bad as cancer or grown-ups who read nothing but young-adult literature, but it was one of the most excruciating losses of the season thus far, starring Adam Wainwright as the doomed Shakespearean protagonist amid a supporting cast of fatally flawed position players (et tu, Bourjos?). Thus I’m not going to write about it; I’m going to write, briefly and insufficiently, about Tony Gwynn.
Though I grew up as a Cardinal fan in St. Louis and I’ll never understand people who change teams when they change cities, I’ve lived in southern California for nearly 19 years, and the Padres have become my favorite of the three local teams I can find on my radio or my TV. There are different reasons for that: Accessibility (they have the prettiest and friendliest stadium of the three); pity (they don’t win much these days); and process of elimination (somehow, the Padres’ front-office offenses still aren’t as viscerally icky to me as those of the McCourt-era Dodgers and the Moreno-era Angels).
And they had Tony Gwynn. I’d watched him as a player when I was growing up, when San Diego to me was a faraway desert nation with an inexplicable chicken as its mascot, and Gwynn was an equally inexplicable combination of deep, true goodness in his everyday life and scientific, slump-proof production at the plate. His hitting and his kindness were both so automatic as to be underappreciated; he was a sabermetric darling before sabermetrics existed, and a scout’s (and fan’s) ideal blend of athletic talent, hard work, and inexhaustible goodwill. Year after year he delivered stats that were nearly unfathomable in their excellence and their consistency, even though he never had a “go crazy, folks”-caliber highlight to symbolize and immortalize his accomplishments for the baseball-watching public. He played for two decades in a city that the national media often overlooked, but he never tried to leave for a bigger payday, and he continued to make his home there after his playing career was finished.
Sound familiar? Yeah—he was San Diego’s Stan Musial, except that we got to enjoy and appreciate Stan for almost forty years more than the Padre faithful had Tony, thanks to the evil of tobacco and the dumb cruelty of fate.
Fabulously, the Sporting News had the foresight to put Tony and Stan in a room with each other in 1997 to talk about hitting and home life and humility, and as you’d expect, there’s an entire baseball education in this interview. It’s difficult to imagine that two one-team hitters of this stature will ever sit and talk shop again.
Tony Gwynn’s steady presence in the San Diego community and the Padre fan base, as both a reminder of better days and an ongoing source of charity and cheer, made a lot of other baseball pains more bearable for the folks around here. That he was lost so young, so soon after Jerry Coleman, and in the midst of a great deal of other Byrnes- and Black- and Lincecum-adjacent stresses feels especially unfair.
But Stans and Tonys never really go away. I’ve read a great many columns and blog posts and tweets about Gwynn’s legacy, about the standard of excellence he reminds the Padres to aspire to again someday, about the on-the-field feats and the off-the-field encounters people will most remember him for. My favorite story so far, though, comes from my friend Matt, a lifelong Padres fan whose three-year-old son is named Anthony (not a conscious tribute, he says, but at worst a happy coincidence). Last night, Matt began to try to explain to Anthony who Tony Gwynn was and why he mattered.
“Is he going to come to my house and play baseball?” Anthony asked excitedly.
As Matt said later: Yes, he probably would have loved to.
Bad baseball is miserable. Bad, boring baseball is much worse. This week, don’t just sit and stew as the Cardinals take turns grounding out against mediocre pitchers—make a game of it! Seriously, at this rate, it’s your best chance of logging any kind of win, so grab a cold frosty one and have fun.
[Disclaimer: Yes, I still love these guys. Yes, I know they do good things to go with the irritating ones. Yes, I’ve seen how Jon Jay’s hitting lately, and no, I don’t want to run Matt Holliday out of town.]
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