Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Hancock's Death Fails To Rally Slumping Cardinals

ST. LOUIS - Members of the Cardinal organization were rocked early Sunday by the news that Cardinals relief pitcher Josh Hancock was killed when his SUV slammed into the back of a stationary tow truck in the early hours of Sunday morning. Initial reports stated that Hancock was dead on impact, and later reports have come to light stating that Hancock may have been drinking earlier in the evening.

Hancock's death struck a sad chord with St. Louis fans, who remember the death of Darryl Kile in 2002. Kyle was discovered dead in his hotel room from a heart attack. Fans also remember that the Cardinals went on to win the NL Central, and defeat the reigning World Champion Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLDS before falling to San Francisco in the League Championship Series. Fans hoped that Hancock's death would rally the Cardinals, who are currently last in the NL Central, but the team has looked despondent and bewildered in their last three games.

Cardinal first baseman Albert Pujols, fighting off tears at his locker after the first game, explained how Hancock was like a brother to them, and that they wished could have reversed their fortunes before another teammate had to be taken from them. Pujols was so distracted by the events of the weekend that he actually walked to first base after being thrown only three balls by Milwaukee starter Jeff Suppan. Scott Rolen immediately hit into a double play, turning one of the few bright moments into a dark reminder of how poorly the team is playing.

Several other players made mistakes showing their lack of concentration. Right fielder Scott Spiezio dropped a flyball in the fifth inning of yesterday's game, second baseman Adam Kennedy and Pujols both had errors in Tuesday's contest, starting pitcher Braden Looper put both of his socks on his left foot, and Cardinals backup catcher Gary Bennett reported to work in the Miller Park's right field concession stand rather than appearing in the visiting team's dugout.

"Obviously, this loss has impacted every one of us in a different way," Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa said on Wednesday, drawing frowny faces on the desk inside the visiting manager's office in Miller Park. "Josh was a member of the family. We just have to carry on, and hopefully start winning some games before someone else has to die."

Cardinals General Manager Walt Jocketty was equally confident. "The boys will bring things together. Josh would have wanted them to win, despite their grief. I'm sure they wouldn't want to disappoint him. I mean, I'd hate for his death to have meant nothing."

Some Cardinal fans remain skeptical.

"Hancock, I'm sure he was a nice guy, but c'mon, he's a middle reliever," Darcy Kellogg, diehard Cardinals fan and Fantasy Baseball League Commissioner, said while tracking Hancock's stats. "His death doesn't make sense, from an inspirational point of view. Middle relievers don't generate any impactful stats unless you are in a league that uses holds, and those are few and far between. He's not someone famous enough to inspire. You want someone they can rally around? Throw [center fielder Jim] Edmonds under a bus. THAT'LL get them fired up."

Cardinals owner William O. DeWitt, Jr. was cryptically quoted as saying "Tough times call for drastic measures."

In a related story, George Steinbrenner has been overheard encouraging utilityman Miguel Cairo to undertake more dangerous hobbies, such as base jumping, crocodile wrestling, and juggling poisonous cone shells.