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Delete "At Bat"

It’s a tradition unlike any other. Once the Cardinals have played their final game, I delete the At-Bat app from my phone. As with most years, there is more baseball to be played. I’ll watch with an odd emotional detachment typically reserved for discussions about the possibility of life on Mars. I can’t be bothered to really care. I’ll still monitor events from afar, but the remaining focus will shift to rooting against Team Walgreens and the Yankees..and the Astros. Basically, I’m #TeamMeteor without playoff swag.

In truth, detached viewing just distracts from the fact that I’ll be eating my emotions for a few days. Some years it’s about misaligned expectations, underwhelming talent, or mismanagement. This year it’s about false hope (and poutine), and it probably shouldn’t be like that (except maybe for the poutine).

“Second place is the first loser.” -Dale Earnhardt (famous maker of left turns)

If that’s the case, then the Cardinals finished 2019 in a tie for second loser with either the Yankees (103 wins) or the Astros (107 wins). That’s top-tier company to keep even if that basically makes them Khloe Kardashian next to Kim and Kourtney.

Unless you evaluate success as a Boolean value, 2019 should be considered

a relative success. Also, if you are defining success in absolute terms, then you should know that a wise man once said that “Only a Sith deals in absolutes”. In other words, you are a Sith. Also, you should know that I’m just throwing this in here for @C70, because he’s a geek.

For a team that has in recent years begun several seasons with 88-90 win talent to take the division this year is kind of amazing (mostly because their division rivals took a step back more than the Cardinals took a step forward). They made the playoffs and didn’t have to go all American Ninja Warrior to get through a wild card game. Most importantly, the Cubs finished third in the division and didn’t make the playoffs. If anything, finishing ahead of the Cubs seems like a much better arbitrary threshold for success.

If someone had told you a year ago that the Cardinals would win the NL Central but didn’t tell you anything else, would you have been happy?

How could you not at least be somewhat pleased? Are you not entertained? After wandering 40 years in the desert without playoff baseball, there has to be some satisfaction in finally getting to watch a playoff game in a half-empty Busch stadium, right?

The Braves have more talent. When Doctor Strange looked over 14 million possible future outcomes in Endgame, the Braves won the series 10 million times.

The Nationals also have more talent, and they are truly built for a best-of-seven series. With the kind of starting pitching that they have, it really do be like that sometimes. The end result shouldn’t be a shocker even if the series has many asking for “proof of life” from the Cardinals offense. That’s another story. If anything, the fact that the Cardinals outlasted the Dodgers and Twins should be more of a thing. Those teams won 106 and 101 games this season respectively.

Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.

Just kidding. I’ll leave the sentimental crap to people with actual, useful feelings. If anything, I encourage people to be irrationally angry about baseball. Please do regrettable things involving mobile devices paired with concrete. Indulge your inner child.

(Actually, please don’t. Mobile devices are expensive, and I know this because I’ve hit an exit velocity of 75+ mph with an iPhone. The launch angle was roughly the same as a Marcell Ozuna two-bouncer to the cutoff man. I regret everything about the demise of that iPhone 6.)

Being bratty about your favorite sportsball team failing to win a game played while wearing matching pajamas is kind of dumb.

Also dumb - Blaming Mike Shildt for all the playoff failures, blaming the DeWitt family for not spending more money because money solves everything, and insisting that the team was just a couple of Randy Arozarena appearances away from world domination.

That’s not to say I don’t agree with you to a certain extent, but the oversimplification in the search for a solution lacks a certain je ne sais quoi.

If you think the answer is to spend more money, then check that box on your BINGO card. The Cardinals started the season with the 10th highest Opening Day payroll - somewhere in the neighborhood of $168M. They’ve already got roughly $161M committed to just 11 players for 2020 thanks in large part to the $26M owed to Goldschmidt. If you previously asked for them to spend the money to get a big time player, then check that box as well.

Maybe Anthony Rendon is actually the key to world domination that Arozarena is not, but maybe "Rendon for world domination" puts the team at risk of falling into the same trap the Yankees and Red Sox did when they went the “spend to win” approach without really rationalizing the spending. How good of a fit is Rendon in the context of the way the team is currently built? Would Matt Carpenter become the $18.5M per year “big bat off the bench”? If so, then does Edman go back to Memphis where he absolutely does not belong? Can we really expect a One Direction reunion in the next couple years.

I have questions, many questions.

Many have answers, but too many of those answers reflect a wonderfully disgusting mixture of overreaction and confusion pureed with a sense of bewilderment.

I get it though. I feel that, and I’m with you ‘til the end.

I’m just going through the process differently, and it all starts with backing away from baseball, because the wound is simply too fresh.

Kidding again. I'm going to fixate on what went wrong and what could be done better. Even worse, I'll probably write about it frequently now. I've got a baseball problem. Send help.

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