There's a reason baseball has plummeted to third place in the national-pastime sweepstakes. In a word: ennui. In a few more: great, shrieking, tedious torpor.
This is true of most places in this year's drama-challenged MLB, but nowhere so much as Phoenix, where the 2009 Arizona Diamondbacks have suffered through one of the most endless, pointless, grievous campaigns in recent sports memory.
From Brandon Webb's opening-day blowout to Conor Jackson's extended bout with Valley Fever to Eric Byrnes' endless succession of infield pop-ups to A.J. Hinch's highly questionable installation as manager, watching this team systematically implode has been like slashing a rusty razor repeatedly across our retina.
Or maybe it just seems that way to us homies, who only thought that we (as long-suffering, thick-skinned Cardinals fans) knew the pain of folks in sports sinkholes like Cincinnati and Kansas City.
But this hurt, because it wasn't supposed to.
Back in spring training -- despite ample red flags from last year's exasperating underachievers -- we couldn't have envisioned a scenario in which the D-Backs' season would be over by May, and the San Francisco Giants would still be playing meaningful ball in late September.
For local fans, it's the Same Old Cardinals Syndrome transferred to the diamond, the difference being that the old-school Cards were never boring. Sad and pitiful, but not boring. In fact, in those bad ol' days, we'd often forego "real" football on Sundays to catch the Cardiac Cards doing their Keystone Kops routine.
For the D-Backs, even up is down in this Through the Looking Glass season. Slugger Mark Reynolds, the team's newly minted megastar with his 43 homers and 100 RBIs, this week smashed his own Major League record for strikeouts, topping 200 for the second consecutive time. And he's still got nine games left to pad the stat.
"So what?" Reynolds barked when asked about the anti-feat the other night. "So what?"
On one level, of course, he's right. As Reynolds and so many sports wags have argued, his other numbers are strong, so why flog the negative?
Why? Because only one guy has ever done it in 140 years, and dude's done it twice.
It's a style-points thing. A quality-of-life thing. A quality-of-baseball thing. An erosion-of-quality thing. Another brick in the wall for the 2009 Diamondbacks.
Our Great Blond Hope -- who whiffed in five of his last nine at-bats in the recent series against the Giants, as well as four of his last five against San Diego on September 16 -- is a hacker.
It's just damned dubious.
It's fitting that Reynolds and the D-Backs will close their '09 home slate this weekend against fellow National League West stinkeroos the San Diego Padres. It's the ultimate who-cares match-up, though should they sweep, the Bad News Snakes could at least position themselves to leap-frog the pitiful Pads in their remaining six games (all on the road against the Giants and Cubs) and finish out of the cellar.
It's a weak goal -- not to finish last -- but about all the wretched reptiles have left to play for in this season of discontent.
Here are the scheduled pitching match-ups for the San Diego series:
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Tonight, 6:40: Kevin Correia (11-10, 4.08 ERA) vs. Max Scherzer (9-10, 4.08).
Saturday, 5:10 p.m.: Wade LeBlanc (2-1, 3.93) vs. Dan Haren (14-9, 2.90).
Sunday, 1:10 p.m.: Edward Mujica (3-4, 3.77) vs. Billy Buckner (2-6, 6.75).
TV: Tonight's and Sunday's games will be televised on Fox Sports Arizona (no TV Saturday). Radio: KTAR-AM 620, KSUN-AM 1400 (Spanish). More info: www.dbacks.com.