In Larkin's poem "To the Sea" he describes the traditional summer vacation to the beach as, "half an annual pleasure, half a rite", a phrase that brings to mind our own summer
pleasures tortures, in this case the annual Battle of Missouri. There's much to be said about whether or not Cardinals fans actually "care" about the Royals series or not -- there'll be more on this in a later post -- but its rather plain that it means a little bit more for us. It doesn't help that the Cardinals have been so much the stronger partner for the last decade, inviting all sorts of snide and un-snide comments from the media and citizenry. Still, this is baseball after all, and the results of any single game are about as close to random as you're going to get a nation of believers to admit. Nevertheless, if the Cardinals dominate then we're witness to a display of prowess, wisdom, tradition (or whatever you like), while if the Royals play well, well, just bad play from the Cards.
Something is Waiting for You to Arrive: Royals versus the Cardinals:
The Royals were weirdly effective against the Cardinals until 2001, holding an early 9-6 lead after the 2001 sweep. Since then, its been a different story, with the Cards winning 17 of the last 24 contests.
If there was ever a year in which the Royals might not even be considered the underdog however, its this season, with the Cardinals sitting at 27-33, in the National League, and featuring an offense that until recently was pathetically impotent. According to BP's Adjusted Standings the Cards have been playing like a 23 to 24 win team (again, in the weaker league), while the Royals have been about the same, maybe a tick higher.
However, a peak at the rosters points to a more profound difference between these teams, even if they've been equally bad. The Cardinals are an old, once great, team that may or may not have anything left (think Jim Edmonds) while the Royals are a young (but not that young) team that may or may not be getting any better (think David DeJesus). If you took Pujols out of the equation, I'm not sure 9 out of 10 GMs wouldn't prefer to have KC's roster. Then again, if you took Master of Disguise out of the equation, Dana Carvey's had a pretty good film career.
Tonight's game provides what might be a distinct Royal-advantage, with the Cards sending Brad Thompson (4-1, 4.56 ERA) to the mound against our beloved Banny. Thompson attended a school named Dixie State (probably studied renaissance art, its huge there, that, and theatre) and has somehow thrown 165 innings of 3.60 ball in the Majors. Most of that work however was as a reliver, and tonight's matchup will be only his eight big league start. Basically, he's a 25 year-old incarnation of generic roster space who doesn't appear to be really good at anything. Essentially, he's not awful and stands upright.
The same might have been said of Brian Bannister (2-3, 3.33 ERA) two weeks ago, but after two strong starts (lowering his ERA from 4.54 to 3.33 in the process) that saw him shut down the Devil Rays and the Indians in hostile environs. Problematically, Bannister is apparently chanelling early-career Jimmy Gobble, as he's managed only 22 strikeouts in 48.2 innings this season. Thats awful low, but against 12 walks not wholly flammable.
I await tonight's game, and Bell's lineup card, with the sincerest tinges of anticipation.