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Mad Em-Dashes is a St. Louis Cardinals blog by Dan Moore that does not want to waste your time. 

Two explanations for Randal Grichuk getting benched for Jeremy Hazelbaker, one very bad

It was a good at-bat, Dan or Tim said—I can't remember which. Jeremy Hazelbaker, down 0-2, looped the fifth pitch he saw into the horse latitudes in left field to put the Cardinals up 7-2.

And I thought—typically, maintaining eligibility for the Every TV Broadcaster's Good At-Bat Award means taking at least one ball before you foul off a bunch of two-strike pitches. But Hazelbaker is competing with Randal Grichuk for playing time, right now, and Grichuk has played to our worst fears, striking out 8 times in 15 plate appearances. And maybe, says the ex-sportswriter, here's the thing Jeremy Hazelbaker has to recommend himself against a guy who slugged .548 in 103 games last year.

So I checked, and, well, it isn't. Grichuk has been unusually bad ending at-bats on an 0-2 count: He's 3-43 with one double and zero sacrifice flies. (Stephen Piscotty, our control group, is 2-19; the NL, last year, hit .145, 6-ish of 43. Also, if you wanted to call Stephen Piscotty "Control Group" all the time, or just when a PG-rated nickname is called for, I wouldn't be bothered by it.)

But ZiPS has Hazelbaker striking out more often than Grichuk, though less often than Grichuk did last year; as a minor leaguer he struck out about as often as Grichuk did, with a better walk rate.

It's a push, at best—and if the Cardinals wanted to privilege contact over power, they could probably just pick Mike O'Neill back up.

The likely position is the simpler one—

But, OK, probably also not that simple. I think Jeremy Hazelbaker played because he's outhit Randal Grichuk over the last [extremely short and unpredictive period of time]. But there's a distinction to make here: I don't think Mike Matheny sits guys because he wants to win now and he believes the last [extremely short and unpredictive period of time] is predictive. I think he does it believing it will help the guy who sits as well as the guy he tosses a start. (That is, he thinks it's descriptive of something—Randal Grichuk is struggling in a way that may be helped by a day off and a million swings in the cage.)

He could well be wrong; I have learned, as an ex-sportswriter, to never bet against "an impossible rat king of tiny inputs masquerading as random chance has fooled you into believing you have an insight" as the truth behind something I'm worried or excited about. But like most ideas that come into being for reasons beyond my need to write tweets against them, there is an actual rationale behind it, and multiple confused and frustrated human beings trying to use it to solve the problem that may or may not exist.

Notes from the 1095th Celebration of Musialmas

It's 3015, and you're an archaeologist studying the ancient Midwest, and it is still true, 500 years after the Third Postal War, that the only people who send paper letters anymore are the cranks. You've gotten a couple of them a week ever since your article came out, written edge to edge in handwriting like Arial Black's bow-legged nephew, a few too many American flag stamps on each one.

They all say the same thing, basically: What kind of asshole do you have to be to believe Stan Musial didn't exist?

You grew up living and breathing archaeology and it is hard for you to remember a time when you didn't understand the scholarly consensus on Stan Musial, but your wife saw the eye-rolling response you planned to send and threatened to leak it to a talk radio station if you actually did. Now you stay quiet, but you open every one, and you read it from the beginning, the Dear Asshole, to the end, where they still have so much to say and seem only to have run out of paper.

Now that you're back in the field, at the dig, they come once a month, in thick bundles. (Tell Busch is deep inside the Flyover Lands, and the roads don't open very often, not even for the United States Postal Service of the Permanent Revolution.)

Here's what your wife says you should say: Stan Musial was not a real man, sure, but that does nothing to invalidate his teachings or the stories we tell about him, and how important all that is to people. As the mythical founder of the Cardinal Way he's had an undeniable impact on the way we take the extra base, and run out every groundball, and carry ourselves with an unselfconscious dignity.

And okay, sure, on a press release, maybe. But archaeologists owe it to each other to put up a united front about these things, whether it's to cranks or undergraduates. Here's how you put it in ARCH 101: Lots of cultures have mythical founders, and those mythical founders have a lot of things in common.

  1. They live forever, their exploits stretching back into a period the real founders of the society only hazily remember.

  2. They embody not just one but every cultural norm that separates their society from their neighbors. At work they behave with all the culture's fetishized dignities; at home they avoid every taboo and inhabit every generosity that binds the culture together. They are the walls that surround the culture and the soil it grows in.

  3. They are—if not the biggest and the strongest—the best, the shrewdest, the fastest and the hardest-working, and they oversee a miraculous flourishing unlike anything actually discernable in the historical record.

They're overloaded with meaning, is the point, and if you are not a member of a culture it is trivial to distinguish between its actual historical figures—its prickly and severe Bob Gibsons and Alberts Pujols—and its mythological heroes. People who believe in the Cardinal Way—the hardliners, that is, there are good, modern apples in every bushel—know as well as anybody else that Baseball Bugs Bunny was not a real person. It's just their own heroes they can't stop believing in.

You're a good archaeologist and a good, reasonable man. But there's just nothing you're going to do to make them shut up about Stan Musial.

Official two-part Mad Em-Dashes position statement on the Cardinals hacking the Astros, and bonus suggestion

  1. If the Cardinals hacked the Astros, it's terrible—whether it gave them an advantage or not, whether it was one guy or several—and they should be punished for it. I don't have a really strong opinion on what the punishment should be, though that will probably have a lot to do with who did this and who knew about it.

    The good thing about stealing signs or throwing a spitball is that they are not actual crimes—they exist within the boundaries of baseball, not the distended appendix we grudgingly accept in exchange for bigger stadiums, better TV coverage, sophisticated drafting and scouting, etc. If you are a part of that appendix your main job is—well, it's probably to make money so you don't get fired. But your vocation should be not screwing up the actual part that matters by embarrassing yourself like this.


  2. If you are writing a thinkpiece piece about the Self-Important Cardinals Getting What's Coming To Them I appreciate your devotion to uncovering hypocrisy, the one true internet sin, but I ask that you please remember that Cardinals fans are the self-important ones, and the Cardinals organization employs whoever it was who tried to guess Jeff Luhnow's AIM password like a pack of sixth graders.

    If there are a bunch of us suddenly coming out in favor of corporate espionage, by all means, expose us, but I don't think it comes as a shock that our hyper-analytical front office and everybody else's hyper-analytical front offices have much more in common with each other than they do with us or with some tradition stretching back to Branch Rickey. And I don't think anybody's front office spends a lot of time lauding Aaron Miles for playing the right kind of baseball.

    This is probably hypocrisy inasmuch as whoever did it probably wouldn't have publicly come out in favor of skimming passwords yesterday, but it doesn't have much to do with your panting, ragged obsession with the idea that Cardinals fans might like baseball for different reasons than you do.

A BONUS TIP

Dispatches from a boring future: Gold Glove first baseman leaves Cardinals as free agent

ASSOCIATED PRESS / December 1 2016

ST. LOUIS — The Chief Justice has adjourned.

The St. Louis Cardinals have indicated that they won't pursue Jon Jay, who becomes a free agent weeks after being awarded a second consecutive Gold Glove.

Jay's agent, Nez Balelo, said Friday that his client will be looking for a contract that reflects his importance on both sides of the ball. "A first baseman fields 1500 chances a year, and I think [Jay] helped some people understand how important that is. Teams ignore it at their own peril."

Jay, who began his career as a center fielder, moved to first base midway through the 2015 season and impressed baseball observers with his speed and defensive focus.

"A guy like Jon Jay isn't thinking about hitting home runs when it's time to field a bunt," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.

Jay's replacement knows he has small shoes to fill.

"People don't think of first basemen as big, slow sluggers, but I'm not going to be Jon," Matt Holliday said. "You just go out there and do what's best for the team."