Flashback to two weeks ago.
The trade deadline was looming, and teams were assessing needs, strengths, weaknesses, and increasingly, payroll. Can we add? Should we dump? And the toughest question of all: do we eat this guy’s contract just to get rid of him?
The Boston Red Sox were as active as any team, and asked themselves all of those questions. The latter question applied squarely to maligned and malproductive shortstop Julio Lugo.
Lugo, 33, had signed a lucrative, multi-year deal with the Red Sox just two years earlier, but had never lived up to it. His OPS failed to crack .700 as a Red Sock, and his defensive skills – once thought excellent at short – continued to erode. By the time the Red Sox designated him for assignment two weeks ago, one scout said that Lugo was absolutely done.
Enter the St. Louis Cardinals. And enter the Dark Lord of the Underworld: Lucifer.
The Cardinals arranged a trade for Lugo, sending AAAA outfielder Chris Duncan to the Sox in exchange for Lugo and plenty of cash to cover his deal. The deal made some sense, in that the Cardinals had Duncan to give, and had a semi-hole at shorstop given Khalil Greene’s anxiety disorder, which had relegated him to long stints on the disabled list.
But the deal didn’t make much sense when you considered the general concensus that Julio Lugo would never again be an effective Major Leaguer. What were the Cardinals thinking?
And then, in his first game with the Cardinals, Lugo hit a home run and a triple, scoring twice and driving in a run. Um, what?
Since becoming a Cardinal, the career-over Lugo has done nothing but hit: .342 batting average and a .982 OPS. Will he keep it up for more than 10 games? Probably not, but he’s clearly been rejuvenated, and has a good deal more in the tank.
So what the hell is going on?
Clearly the Cardinals have sold their soul to the Devil. Instead of crazy fiddling hands, Tony LaRussa and Co. have elected to exchange their sould for the ability to turn worthless castoffs into All Stars, and never-gonna-be-anythings into ML regulars.
Lugo is merely the latest in a long line that includes Chris Carpenter (no one thought he’d come back from his first serious shoulder problem, let alone his second), Joel Piniero (ERA with the Cardinals this year? 2.84. Career ERA? 4.38), Ryan Franklin (washed up reliever becomes one of the best closers in the NL), and of course, Rick Ankiel (duh).
How can the Cubs expect to compete when they are up against such oppressive and unnatural forces?
Curse you, Satan! Because certainly it is not as if the Cardinals are just better than other teams at scouting established players and determining whether they can still help.
No. No. The Devil made them do it.