Every Unhappy Family is the Same

Cards/Giants Game 2, plus notes on managers

But not this year. I can't criticize the job he's done with his erratic offense and crazy-quilt pitching staff. I think when Darryl Kile died, LaRussa became a three-dimensional figure again. He became a leader, a guy from whom everybody else could glean a sense of stability and purpose. Or maybe he just had the sense to stand down while such unlikely characters as Jim Edmonds and Matt Morris turned into leaders around him. Either way this Cardinals outfit is more focused and less flappable than any of the LaRussa teams that preceded it. And after years of living down what they did to young arms like Morris and Alan Benes, LaRussa and Dave Duncan have done a hell of a job with this pitching staff, which is composed of the kind of veteran journeymen they seem to do best with. Woody Williams, Garrett Stephenson, Chuck Finley, Andy Benes--well, do I need to say any more than "Andy Benes" to make my point? (As for Rick Ankiel: Forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown.)

I wanted to ask you about Kelly and Gardenhire. Specifically about the chemistry of the transition. What do you count as Kelly's main legacies to this team, pro and con? And what about Gardenhire--where's he similar in approach to Kelly on the field or off, and where's he different?

I'll leave you with Dave Marsh's idea of the funniest joke in the world, which he sent along after seeing our exchange here yesterday. I'm pasting this verbatim from his email; it'll be almost like hearing him tell it himself.

A bassist and a drummer go camping. They're in the woods awhile and they're a little bored so the bassist says, "Look I'm gonna go off on my own for the day. We'll meet up here tonight. Just to break the routine, OK" The drummer looks doubtful but he goes along.

Just before dark, the bassist returns, bedraggled. He's gotten turned around and had to wade through a swamp and cockleburrs and up and down some very large and rocky hills to get back to the encampment. The drummer greets him, all full of cheer. "Waht'd you do today?" he asks. The bassist tells him, then asks, "What did you get up to?"

"Man," the drummer said, "just over that ridge, about mile or so from here, there's a railroad track. I guess the trains must run through only a couple times a week or something. Anyway, I got up there and I found this girl tied to the tracks, and I untied and we had all kinds of sex for the rest of the day."

"Really," says the bassist. "Did she give you head?"

"Aw, I never could find her head."

Okay, so here's what I'm getting at: You know and I know there's a Rorschach aspect to this whole favorite joke thing, and I think that's why you're running from it. I believe it was Rilke who said that our fears are dragons guarding our greatest treasures. (Although doesn't that augur for leaving your dragons right where they are? At least that way somebody's guarding your treasures. Better you're denied them than somebody else sneaks in and nabs them, wouldn't you say?)

But the point is, that's not the point. You tell me yours, I'll tell you mine.

From: Brad Zellar
To: Steve Perry
Subject: re: Every Unhappy Family is the Same

Bless you, sir, for eating up so much of the clock tonight. I'm whupped and breaking down with the first cold of the season, so this is going to be pretty much a one-sided exchange.

I gutted out the Giants/Cardinals game on the couch, but once again it wasn't much of a game. I found myself at one point in the later innings browsing through the personal ads in the back of City Pages. Lots of entertaining reading back there, of course. My favorite tonight was the sadsack who described himself as "Lincolnesque." Bet that draws the ladies like dogs to vomit. You're a big Lincoln guy: What kind of a woman is likely to be attracted by that description?

Anyway, as you acknowledged, so much for tonight's game. You knew and I knew that the Cardinals weren't going to come back even when the score was 3-0, and what does that say about the kind of team it is? How hard are the St. Louis fans on Tino, by the way? I actually feel sorry for the guy.

That's not a very good ballpark for him to hit in, is it? It's impossible to feel sorry for Tony LaRussa. He is to managers what Tim McCarver is to announcers--Tim McCarver's stoic, brooding, ballet-loving vegetarian kid brother. Cheer up, Tony. Turn that frown upside down and you'll have a smile on your face, as one of my teachers used to tell me. Every year the guy looks more and more like Emmet Kelly in a baseball uniform. You mention his love for the idiosyncratic managerial move. My favorite was the time he decided to *bat the pitcher eighth.* How is it that move didn't revolutionize play in the National League?

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