The Void

I once read a quote, which I can’t find right now, that went something like this:

“There are only two seasons, baseball season and the void.”

The void is now upon us, after Isringhausen made it interesting, as he usually does, but got the final out and preserved the victory, like he usually does. And with that final out, the 2007 season came to an end.

It’s not going to be a season fondly remembered by fans years from now, but it was baseball. One thing I’d forgotten until it was mentioned this weekend was just how good the pitching looked in spring training. The team ERA was around 3 or so, just amazing for the spring. Which proves that spring training stats aren’t worth the web page they are published on.

A season with so much promise ended on opening night, for all intents and purposes. When Carpenter had a rough outing and came up lame soon after, we should have realized what we were in for. Injuries with the Cardinals are never simple things, where the player is back soon and all is forgotten. Injuries with the Cardinals drag out, start to look better, then get worse. I personally don’t buy into the “Carpenter on the mound by late July” talk going around. If he’s there by September, like Mulder this year, I’ll call it a surprise.

Then the pitching fell apart, Hancock died, everyone that wore Cardinal red came down with some sort of injury, and through all of that, they hung in there.

So hard to remember, really, that just 23 days ago, the Cardinals were in Arizona, clinging to a slim lead with Wainwright on the mound as Chicago and Milwaukee had already lost. First place (by percentage points) was there for the taking. And then it all went horribly wrong, with a terrible September “highlighted” by a nine-game losing streak and the Cubs winning the division.

But through it all, they didn’t give up. Even though they were out of it, they put together a five game winning streak to end the season on a high note and give us some positive memories for the winter.

The winter. That finality.

I’m sure that most of you have the same type of routine, where you turn on the Cards every night or follow them on the internet every day, talking ball with people that you’ve never met but could consider part of an extended family. When the game goes away, you lose part of yourself, at least for a little while.

It’s cliche by now, but Giamatti’s quote still rings true:

“It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.”

Yeah, there’s postseason baseball still to be played, but even if the Cards were in it, it’s not the same. With its irregular rhythms and heightened meaning, it’s not designed for the background of our days, punctuating our routines with a great catch or a come-from-behind win. You don’t always leave postseason baseball on while you tussle with the kids or have dinner with the spouse. Postseason baseball demands attention in a way regular-season baseball, whether good or bad, rarely does.

So we look back and forward at the same time. We rejoice that Albert got to 100 RBI and wish he’d been able to dent the plate just one more time. We wonder if Reyes is gone after a frustrating year and the seeming disconnect between him and the management. We even wonder if management, LaRussa and Jocketty, will return and if not and if so, how that affects this team that we love. We marvel at Wainwright’s emergence and dream of his pairing with a healthy Carpenter in the next couple of years.

And there is other baseball, so we watch it as well. We realize that “2007 Mets” has entered the lexicon as did the ’69 Cubs and the ’64 Phillies and we say, “There by the grace of God, go we.” Because the Cardinals could have been that team last year, but proved there is a razor-thin margin between being a punch line and being a champion.

The Rockies and Padres said 162 games wasn’t enough, so they have a playoff tomorrow. The Rockies may be hot, but the Padres have Jake Peavy.

The Cubs play Arizona, and I think they may have a good chance to get by them and likely face the Phillies in a matchup of historically futile teams looking for a shot at redemption.

The American League doesn’t interest Cardinal fans much normally, though many are hoping to avoid another Yankees/Red Sox series. My rooting interest there is the Indians, and they seem to have as good a chance as any to make the Series. Another team with lack of winning as a motivation.

It appears, on paper, that any AL team can beat any of the NL teams. That’s what they said last year. And that’s why we watch.

But it’s not the same. Which is why the count down to spring training–about 138 according to my calculations–has already begun.

Programming note:  I will be away from my computer most of the week, so if I get a chance to blog, it will likely be in the evenings.  I hope my loyal readers (if there are any!) will check back to see if anything has gone up.


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