Once upon a time, there was a mom and dad that had two children. One of them was an optimist, the other a pessimist. Wanting to understand why the two children were so different, they consulted a psychiatrist, who set up an experiment to help figure it out. The psychiatrist led the first child into a room that was full of brand new toys. Immediately the child burst into tears. The psychiatrist asked why, and the child replied "all of these toys are new, and if I start playing with them I'm afraid I might break one." Obviously, this was the pessimist. So the psychiatrist led the other to a room that was full of horse manure. The child immediately dove in, scooping out handfuls of the disgusting stuff. The psychiatrist asked why the child was doing that, he replied "with all this horse manure, there has to be a pony around here somewhere, and I'm gonna find it."
So applying the optimists approach to the 2011 season, there are a few ponies to be found, if you are willing to look hard enough. Here are the one’s I’ve found so far.
Colby Rasmus – 8 for 23 with 1 extra base hit, a triple. That works out to a .348 batting average, but that’s not the pony here. It’s those 7 walks with only 4 strikeouts that lead to an eye-popping .500 on-base percentage. He is doing most of this in front of Albert Pujols, who unfortunately is having a rough start to the season. He’s not swinging for the fences and doing all of the little things it takes to get on base in front of the heart of the Cardinals batting order. This is the Colby Rasmus that we all knew was hiding in there somewhere. Keep it up kid, that is Playing Like a Cardinal.
Daniel Descalso – 3-11 with a double. Not exactly Ted Williams, but Descalso’s pony is some pretty impressive defensive play. We knew from his days in Memphis, that he was a good defender, but all of those AAA games at second base hid a pretty impressive arm. Until Tony La Russa is ready to let David Freese play every day, the hot corner seems to be in pretty good hands with Descalso.
One more point on Descalso, before it is forgotten. It was Descalso’s hustle, beating out a routine grounder to shortstop that kept a much needed late inning rally alive. The Cardinals would subsequently tie the game, and then go ahead by a run. None of that would have been possible, if not for the hustle of Descalso.
Chris Carpenter – 0-1 in 13 innings, with a 2.08 ERA. And a civil suit filed with the St. Louis city courts for lack of run support. Even before Adam Wainwright went down to an elbow injury, Chris Carpenter was a question mark in the rotation. Not that anybody ever questioned his competitiveness and fire, but whether or not his surgically repaired right arm could give the Cardinals another Cy Young caliber performance. So far, it has. Carpenter has been both sharp, and not. In both cases, the wily veteran kept his team in the game, and should be rewarded with a 2-0 record instead of the one loss.
Jaime Garcia – 1-0 with no ERA. That’s because he has yet to allow a run, earned or otherwise. He struggled in spring, but a final tuneup against the Florida Marlins showed that the 2010 version of our favorite lefty was alive and well. He turned that up a notch with an impressive 4 hit shutout against the San Diego Padres in his only 2011 start.
Bryan Augenstein. Forget the statistics, all we need to do is look back at one inning in San Francisco on April 8. In the bottom of the 11th of a 4-4 tie game, Augenstein allowed a leadoff double. That runner would be at third base with nobody out when he threw a wild pitch. That’s when we found the pony. The Cardinals deployed the infamous 5 man infield, bringing in Allen Craig to play the 3rd base line. This rarely works, but did on this occasion – thanks to Augenstein. He first struck out Freddy Sanchez, the 2006 NL batting champion. Keeping the same 5 man infield, Augenstein got Cardinals killer Aaron Rowand to ground out sharply to third, eliminating the runner on third, who was caught in a rundown, trying to score on the play. Then Tony La Russa would create a bit of controversy by walking the bases loaded to force Bruce Bochy to pinch hit, and use another pitcher – his last. With no margin for error, Augenstein coolly strikes out former Cardinal, Mark DeRosa. That’s a big pony.
Brian Tallet 0-1 with no ERA. Now, that’s a hard one to take. Tallett has allowed just 1 run in 4 appearances. It was unearned, thanks to a rare Albert Pujols error. That base runner would eventually score the winning run, giving Tallett the mother of all hard luck losses. Tallett has been a very pleasant surprise so far this season.
Kyle McClellan – no record with a 3.00 ERA that doesn’t represent how well the Hazelwood native has pitched. Over the course of six strong innings of work in his first major league start, he has shown that he can get hitters out more than once in a game. After giving up a long home run on a less than stellar curveball, he also showed that he can adapt while in the middle of a game, something that teammate Jake Westbrook has yet to do this season.
There hasn’t been a lot of cheer about thus far in the 2011 season, but that doesn’t mean it has all been doom and gloom. Eventually the bats will come around (I hope) and things will improve. Or they won’t and it will be a long long season. For now, I’m like the kid scooping up the horse manure, which now seems to be an oddly appropriate metaphor for the 2011 season.