The St. Louis Cardinals might be the most annoying franchise in baseball. The Yankees will always have a claim to that title. The Red Sox are too funny right now to be annoying. The Marlins are … wait, it's probably the Marlins.
But the Cardinals are still annoying. Good every damned year. Lose an ace, win the World Series. Lose the best hitter in baseball, keep the hitting ability in the divorce. Pitcher after pitcher after pitcher coming up with a surprise season, even after Dave Duncan is gone. They're the quiet guy in the cubicle next you, always seeming to finish their reports quicker than you, and always getting the majority of the praise in the company meeting. If you've ever said, "I want to pee in the Cardinals' coffee!" in line at the bank without knowing why, it's because you thought of that metaphor first.
I'm not jealous of their abilities to turn Kyle Lohse into something worthwhile, or their endless parade of one-season wonders that they jettison just at the right time, like Jason Simontacchi, Braden Looper, or Todd Wellemeyer. It'd be pretty tacky for a fan of the Giants to complain about something like that. The Giants found Ryan Vogelsong in a bassinet on their doorstep after enjoying the success of three former first-round picks. The Royals have been looking for a good starting pitcher for years, and we shipped over a dirty bomb that exploded all over their rotation. Nope, can't complain about a team that cobbles together a good staff year after year.
But the hitting. That stupid hitting. They lost Albert Pujols and stayed just as productive. They signed Lance Berkman to be a right fielder, which was just about the funniest thing in baseball until he was completely awesome. And when Matt Holliday went down to an injury last year, they replaced him with six or seven guys who hit just as well as Holliday while he was out. So annoying.
Think about Jon Jay. This is the first time you've thought about Jon Jay in several months. Now you're thinking about the Federalist Papers. Stop that. Back to Jon Jay. What do you know about him? Nice player, right? Jon Jay would be the most successful outfielder the Giants have developed since Chili Davis, who was in his fifth season in the majors when Jay was born.
The Cardinals don't care. They just pull a Jon Jay out of a vat of amniotic fluid and plug him into the lineup. Then they look for the next Jon Jay.
The worst part might be what they did this offseason. They took my idea:
I'd rather have Rafael Furcal and Carlos Beltran for a combined $70 million over the next couple of years than Prince Fielder and Brandon Crawford for $150 million over the next seven.
Surprise! Furcal and Beltran cost about half of that, and both of them are on fire. So is Beltran's knee, which might be why the Giants were wary, but the Cardinals had two of the same holes that the Giants did. They filled them with known quantities and good players. The Giants got Brandon Crawford.
So let me revisit the opening line. The most annoying franchise in baseball -- to me, at least -- is the Giants. Wait, no, still the Marlins. But the Giants are up there because they're not a bad organization. They do plenty of things right. And they're just close enough to being a complete organization that you're cool with them, and then you see a complete organization -- one that can develop hitters and pitchers effortlessly. Maybe I'm not giving enough credit for Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey. But I look at what the Cardinals can do with Jay and Allen Craig and David Freese, and Beltran and Furcal and Berkman, and I start to get a little envious. Offense, yo. Offense.
I wonder what Charlie Culberson and Roger Kieschnick would look like as prospects right now if they came up with the Cardinals. Maybe the same. It's not fair to judge the Giants based on hypotheticals and thought experiments like that. But I can at least throw the thought out there before I have to withdraw it. At least the jury gets to hear it, even if the objection is sustained.
Hitter to watch
Will Carlos Beltran get booed? Probably. But that's because people are stupid. The Giants had an actual offense last September. It was fun to watch, and Beltran was a huge part of that. Melky Cabrera is good, sure. But Beltran is the Backstreet Boys to Cabrera's 98º. It's still, like, amazing music, but you know it's not the original.
Pitcher to watch
Adam Wainwright is in the same circle of FIP hell that Tim Lincecum is, except Wainwright isn't walking everyone in sight. He was looking forward to this start against the Giants in San Francisco like a broke guy looks forward to his holiday bonus. If I can just make it there without falling apart completely, I should be okay ….
Neither the Giants nor Cardinals will come away with a three-game sweep in this series. You can put some sweet cheddar on that prediction.
Two-game series are just the worst.