What? Cardinals fans treating someone shabbily? I think we can all agree that with Cardinals fans it's all about performance. When someone gets booed at Busch it can only be because they are sick and tired of seeing someone fail at their job. That's the only time it happens to our own players. We witnessed it most recently last season with the horrendous showings of one Jason Isringhausen. Izzy couldn't get it done. He didn't get it done. And he got booed. Go back in time a bit and we can remember the under-achieving and hard-to-like Garry Templeton giving the single-finger salute to the fans as they booed him. St. Louis fans are too into team success to let individual failure go by and say..."Oh well...he's a nice guy and we should accept it." No, that ain't gonna happen around here. As nice as Cardinals' fans are to out-of-town players, and as forgiving as they are to our own, they don't suffer continual under-achievement very well.
Now, we are supposed to accept that Duncan is not up to par physically without really knowing what sort of problem he's dealing with. Mr. LaRussa puts out that he is stuggling with some sort of health issue. We know he had the neck surgery in the off-season and was supposed to be back to normal this Spring. But until Tony, or someone from the PR staff, identifies the current problem and gets specific, all we know is that Dunc keeps going out there and looking like anything but a major-league ballplayer. It's hard to have sympathy for anybody if they're not straightforward with you.
Now, we can all ask the question..."If he's not healthy why is he even dressing for games?" That would be my follow-up to the suggestion that his health prevents him from maximum output. How does he earn the right to play instead of someone else A) when he's not healthy and B) when he's not producing? Beyond that, why does TLR continue to trot unhealthy athletes out to fail in key situations? Isringhausen last year...Duncan and Rick Ankiel this year? Is he trying to send a message to the GM and ownership that he doesn't have enough pieces for his chess game? One must wonder...because Tony is anything but stupid.
The other aspect to this that has been studied in detail before is that Chris is the son of Dave Duncan. We all know that Tony is loyal to a fault. He has a soft heart...(witness his ARF work and his emotional reactions to Ank the Slugger a few years ago) but covers it masterfully with his "I'm a tougher/smarter guy than you" bravado. Is he putting Chris out there repeatedly...and for that matter keeping him on the team...as a display of gratitude to his long-time pitching coach? We can only wonder...and we do because it's the situation that we as fans are given. We can't just ignore it...because it's there. If Chris Duncan were on any other team in the major leagues would he be playing? Would he even be on another major league team? The numbers suggest he wouldn't. And if he's not a healthy athlete he shouldn't.
The bigger problem for the organization now is that he has taken himself so far down the performance chart that he has virtually no value in a trade. With his health history and hitting struggles another GM would probably laugh at John Mozeliak if he suggested Duncan had significant trade value.
So, how are we as fans supposed to react? We see someone go on the field night after night...someone who is paid a major-league salary...and who does what any of the rest of us who can stand on two feet and swing a bat could do ourselves. And I'm not even talking about possible favoritism or defense. I guess the janitor in the Cardinals clubhouse had better be ready with that barf bucket.