Pity John Gall. As the 2005 edition of Cardinal spring training spools up to full strength and few mysteries remain about the composition of the starting squad and few openings left for reserves, Cardinal Nation will once again turn to its favorite undertaking, that of wondering if John Gall will make the team, if he does – why, and if he doesn't – why not.
For those of you who just joined us permit me to offer a primer on Gall for you will soon be tested beyond your wildest imagination on whether he belongs with the club or not. You will be asked to expound for hours both verbally and on-line why Gall is destined for stardom AND why he will prove to be another flash-in-the-pan who never really achieved his (spelled "others") expectations.
Gall is a 26 year old outfielder who has played two years with the Cardinal's AAA affiliate Memphis Redbirds. While at Memphis, Gall has shown an ability to place the bat firmly on the ball. During the 2004 campaign that saw a torrid first half, but a weaker second half he hit .292. In 2003 he hit .327 in 12 games with the AA Tennessee Smokies before he was brought up to Memphis where he finished with a .312 average including 16 homers and 79 rbi's over 123 games. Gall was a star at Stanford and was selected in the 2000 draft. During the 1999 College World Series, he hit a grand slam against Florida State. His reputation is that of one of the better hitters in the Pacific Coast League.
The passive observer would presume from the stats offered above that Gall would be vaulted upriver and heralded as the next young hitting star. The passive observer would be wrong. The reasons are as numerous as the stars in the sky and as few as the number of high-quality Ashlee Simpson concerts. His defensive skills are alleged to be questionable. His offense sputtered somewhat in the second half of the 2004 season. I'm a little surprised that in some circles he hasn't been linked indirectly with Saddam Hussein the way he has been shunned at Busch Stadium.
First, here are the facts as I perceive them to be. Gall has hit wherever he played. He is a line drive hitter who brings in runners and has some power. He seems to be appreciated by the good people of Memphis so that pretty well eliminates the Saddam Hussein link.
Regarding his defense, the Memphis Redbirds web site lists him as being one of the top defensive first basemen in the Pacific Coast League. Of course, there is that fellow named Pujols. As one who has seen him play, I think he comports himself quite well as an outfielder. His defensive stats seem to bear that out. He doesn't have the range that more fleet outfielders might possess, but he holds his own, has a pretty good throwing arm, and seems to have a good Stanford head on his shoulders. So why has he not seen a summer sunset under the Arch? I have a theory.
The problem is us. Cardinal Nation is rapidly developing a case of JGSD - John Gall Speculation Disease. It is the Red Planet's version of Seven Steps to Kevin Bacon or a variation on the children's game "Where In The World is John Gall?" Cardinal fans love to talk about John Gall. We want to trade him. We want to promote him to St. Louis. We want to leave him in Memphis. We want to adopt him and take him home with us to help him through this personal and professional crisis. We want something for him, but we just don't know what.
Now think of it. If the Cardinals did something – anything – with John Gall, an estimated 62.39% of Cardinal Nation would have nothing much to talk about. They wouldn't be able to eat up otherwise productive work time on Cardinal message boards writing about the non-travels of the much-maligned and much-supported Man of La Memphis. Web sites like The Birdhouse would have to spend more time digging up stories on more profound aspects of the pending game and season, i.e., So Taguchi's breakfast habits or Jim Edmonds' hair tint-du-jour.
Without John Gall to kick around, the entire foundation of Cardinal Nation would be weakened and clearly we can't have that. The solution then is to leave Gall in Memphis until he is well into his 80's. That brings up the problem of a definitive answer. When Gall is in his 80's, he clearly won't be able to hit or field. Then the Cardinals can give him his outright release and make him a free agent. Or they can try to trade him for a starting pitcher. Or they can out of the goodness of their hearts bring him up to St. Louis for his only plate appearance in the major leagues. That should come sometime around 2065. God help us all, though, if in that one plate appearance, he singles sharply to right followed later by a brilliant defensive diving catch in left field to end a scoring threat.
Rex Duncan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org