2013 World Series: Pete Kozma is Pete Kozma, which is the problem

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the World Series, when everyday mistakes become once-in-a-lifetime mistakes, and where good players aren't allowed to do bad things.

Pete Kozma is not a good player. But he's good at defense. That's his thing, his calling card. I've referenced this Mitch Hedberg joke before, but it still applies.

If you had a friend who was a tightrope walker, and you were walking down a sidewalk, and he fell, that would be completely unacceptable.

Because that's the only thing in life at which that person is supposed to excel. Pete Kozma exists to make plays that most shortstops cannot. And when he is unable to make the routine plays, well, that's completely unacceptable.

The first play in question:


David Ortiz was running, and he was probably just leaving the box, doing this until the end of time. It was a first-and-second situation in the first inning, with one out. With a double play, the inning was over. But even if Kozman and Carpenter couldn't turn the double play, it was first-and-third with two outs. You pitch Mike Napoli differently in that situation. Instead it was bases loaded, one out, and Napoli got the Red Sox three runs early.

The second play in question:


That was a tough error, but still an error. It would have been the second out of the inning, but instead loaded the bases with no outs. A single and a sacrifice fly put the game out of reach.

Kozma might or might not have been why the Red Sox won Game 1. The Cardinals didn't score a run until they were down by eight, so blaming Kozma is easy but short-sighted. Sure, Kozma was one of the reasons they had troubles scoring, but he wasn't the reason they lost. He might not be the primary reason, considering how shaky Adam Wainwright was in his short outing.

But Kozma is a tightrope walker tripping on a sidewalk, so there are going to be questions. First question: How good at defense is he?

According to FanGraphs, he's amazing. According to Baseball-Reference.com and defensive runs saved, pretty danged good. But once you add in his offensive contributions? He's Rey Ordoñez, but without the flashy plays. Or power. So, pretty bad, then. He was pretty bad in 2013.

He stands out. Go through the lineup, 1 through 9, and you'll see players you wish your team had. Old players, young players, skinny players, fluffy players, whatever, the Cardinals generally have good players. And Pete Kozma.

You can extend that to the rotation and bullpen, too. The Cardinals can run player after player into the game who will make you think, "Dang, not this guy." And Pete Kozma.

If the question is "Pete Kozma, why?", there are a few different answers.

The first answer is the Cardinals took a huge gamble with Rafael Furcal, paying him starter money, even though he's made of Triscuits and tracing paper. Furcal was the starter for most of last year, remember, and while he wasn't that good, he was a better hitter than Kozma will ever be. Considering Furcal's injury history, it was odd they didn't have a contingency plan. But when he went down, Kozma was the guy.

The second answer is the White Sox are weird, and they thought a 30-year-old Alexei Ramirez was untradeable. Maybe the Cardinals didn't offer Carlos Martinez, but it was pretty clear they wanted an upgrade on Kozma. The pieces didn't match up.

The third answer is the Cardinals are used to making their own magic. Matt Carpenter was a third baseman with middling power before he was an MVP candidate at second base. David Freese was an afterthought prospect for the Padres until he was a World Series MVP. Allen Craig didn't get more than 200 at-bats in the majors until he was 27, and now he's a mainstay. Matt Adams couldn't even talk his way into a Division I scholarship, and now he's a pennant-winning slugger.

Those aren't even the only examples. The Cardinals have a history of making hitters into something more than you'd normally expect. And if they could do that with Kozma, they'd have a heckuva player. They didn't have to turn him into Troy Tulowitzki; they just had to turn him into J.J. Hardy or, in a more realistic scenario, Brandon Crawford. If they could make it so he didn't hit like a pitcher, he'd be golden.

He hit like a pitcher. And he wasn't so golden. It was a bold attempt to inject the Cardinals Way into a player wearing chain mail, but it didn't work out. Which isn't that big a deal. At least he's still good at defense. At least he has some value. And on a team with seven good hitters, he's easier to hide.

Until he has a game like that. He was a tightrope walker who tripped on the sidewalk, and, man, that just can't happen. So everyone point and stare at Pete Kozma. Considering how well the Cardinals do everything, it's somewhat hard to believe he's the starting shortstop in the World Series. He's the "Yellow Submarine" on Revolver. He's the extra 17 minutes of wedding in Deer Hunter.

And considering how well the Cardinals are set up financially for the future, there's an excellent chance that someone else is playing shortstop by next spring. The odds were good that you would have never noticed Pete Kozma in this World Series. But within 30 minutes, the baseball gods pantsed him on national TV. So it goes.

The odds are just as good that he'll go 10 for 16 in the rest of this World Series and be in the running for MVP. Playoffs, y'all. But the Cardinals had a glove-first shortstop on the roster, and he wasn't very steady with the glove in Game 1. It happens. It's also noticeable and completely unacceptable, just like a tightrope walker tripping on a sidewalk. Considering how much is going right for the Cardinals right now, it's amazing that we're paying attention to this one thing they didn't have in order. It figures, just figures.

For more on Kozma and the Cards, visit Viva El Birdos

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