This is the way baseball is. Pete Kozma spends most of the season in AAA, plays just 14 games with the Cardinals, and not only makes the post-season roster but conceivably could start the first game of the playoffs.
Kozma has never hit for much of an average, not even in the minors, but he’s 4-for-8 with three doubles against the best pitcher in baseball, the Dodgers’ Friday starter Clayton Kershaw. And he has a history of coming through with big hits and big plays in tight situations. Kozma is a natural shortstop, but if he starts Friday it will be at second base, in place of the left-handed hitting rookie regular, Kolten Wong.
That’s the way baseball is now. It’s not about which team has the best starting nine or even the best 25-man roster. It’s about who has the most players in the organization capable of contributing to a season — and in this case, post-season.
Baseball is unique among major team sports in that players play more games in one or two seasons than most other athletes play in a lifetime. And careers tend to be longer, too. This makes for the complex subtleties in the warp and weft of the game that create its texture. For those who prefer the slam-bang of football and basketball, the lickety-split mayhem of hockey, baseball can seem like a lot of standing around and spitting.
To those of us who know better, it is pure Hitchcock, all anticipation and surprise, sliders in the dirt and fastballs in the eyes. A pitcher, a hitter.
A hanging curve.