Wednesday night, something magical happened for the Cardinals. Down 5-4 late-ish to the Royals, the club was about to squander a golden scoring opportunity when Yadier Molina strode to the plate with the bases loaded.
Yadier Molina shouldn’t be batting fifth. Or Dexter Fowler fourth. But hey, as Mike Matheny errors go, at least Fowler and Molina should both be playing, so him screwing up the order in which they batted is a comparatively minuscule error.
But against Peter Moylan, who eats righties for breakfast (just ask Paul DeJong, who flailed helplessly and struck out on three pitches a couple minutes prior), a below-average hitter like Yadi wasn’t terribly likely to be a hero. He took a pitch, getting ahead 1-0.
And then the magic happened.
An adorable kitten ran out onto the field. Neither the TV broadcast nor the radio broadcast correctly identified it at first, but I can hardly blame Mike Shannon or Al Hrabosky for not making out what it was at first. But eventually: pretty obvious it was a cat. It trotted past Lorenzo Cain in center field, who wanted nothing to do with it, settling around the warning track in center.
A member of the grounds crew, Lucas Hackmann, ran out onto the field to corral the cat. His technique was…well…not so bright, as anyone who’s worked with animals can attest. Cats can scratch and bite and it hurts. Kittens in unfamiliar surroundings while chased by some random dude…they’re gonna scratch and bite too.
None of this seemed to dissuade Hackmann, who dutifully scooped up the animal and began trotting toward the seats. He got a couple scratches and bites for his troubles, ultimately settling on grabbing the cat by the scruff of its neck and holding it as far from the rest of his body as possible. It worked, as he made it off the field and into…well, we’ll get to that in a bit.
Back to the magic.
Moylan, whether unnerved by the delay, or just because baseball is random and sometimes weird things happen, left a pitch center cut for Molina. And Molina, while not a great hitter, seems to be entering the Old Man Strength phase of his career, as he roped it for a grand slam that was obviously gone off the bat. Cardinals up 8-5, everyone’s happy, Yadi takes a curtain call.
Thanks, Rally Cat!
Solid bullpen work mopped up the victory, putting the Cardinals inexplicably 1.5 (and now 1) games back of 1st despite being a thoroughly disappointing team all season.
And while Zach Duke, Seung-Hwan Oh, and Trevor Rosenthal were salting away the magical comeback, the Cardinals had already fucked up the larger moment off the field.
They lost the cat. Not because he got away from the employee, but because of an extended cavalcade of stupidity where any single person could have prevented it, but failed.
The only thing that would make this more 2017 Cardinals is if the club explained it couldn’t retain the cat because doing so would forfeit a draft pick.
Let’s run this down, shall we? Apologies in advance for linking to the advertising garbage pile that is STLToday.com, but the reporting here is necessary.
The Cardinals employee, Hackmann, who scooped up the cat? He’s fine, by the way, thank goodness. He’s also kind of foolish for thinking he could just approach a random scared animal with no equipment, or a box, or a towel, or anything at all, and not get torn up a bit. But his next step after getting the cat off the field was not to quarantine the cat, or get it somewhere safe, or ask someone what to do.
He instead took it outside to the Musial statue outside the ballpark, and let it go so that he could go seek medical treatment. Which is pretty damned stupid, but I can’t blame the guy too much. He had no idea what to do, the club (by its own admission a day later) had no procedure for stray animals on the field–despite the fact “cat on the field” happens a few times each season across MLB, including an event involving the Cardinals only a year ago. So “ouch, my hand freaking hurts; let’s just let the cat go back to hanging out at the ballpark since nobody told me what to do, I need to go get this looked at” seems an understandable, if negligent action.
So now we’ve got a stray cat that lived in Busch Stadium back to being a stray cat that lived in Busch Stadium (pretty sure it wouldn’t be at all difficult for a kitten by the Musial statue to get back to wherever it hung out previously). Which is a missed opportunity to find a home for a cat that had people lining up on social media to adopt it, and that’s pretty bad. But this is the 2017 Cardinals, so of course it has to get stupider, with more missed opportunities.
A local fan, Korie Harris, ostensibly wanting to care for the cat—but given her actions more interested in being a Famous Cat Lady—went looking for Rally Kitten. Harris went outside, found the cat, scooped it up, and allegedly planned to adopt it. Cool!
Wait, no; she’s a fucking idiot. Here is what you do when you plan on adopting a stray cat: you put the cat in a carrier, or a box, or something. You put it in your car. You go home. You schedule an appointment with the vet as soon as you’re able.
Here is what she did: she grabbed the cat. She…posed for pictures with random people around the ballpark, apparently enjoying her newfound fame. She lied to ballpark security that this was her cat that’d gotten away. (Why club security didn’t do anything about the idiot who brought her cat to the ballpark remains a mystery; another systems failure in a series of cascading failures.)
Then, I guess when she got tired of mugging for the camera, she tried (allegedly) to get the cat home. Except the cat ran off.
Billy Madison knew what to do when an animal you care about runs off, and he was an idiot–it’s the whole premise of the movie. Thus, this lady is dumber than Billy Madison. She says she looked for it for hours, but she also says she then went to a local bar to tell the tale of the one that got away.
I recognize that this is one of the dumbest and least important things to get all “a ha!!!” about, but let’s think about this. The cat incident happened around 9 p.m. local time. She clearly spent some time mugging for the camera and otherwise being a dumbass, so let’s say the cat gets away from her around 10 p.m. If she looked for it “for hours,” she’s getting to her local bar around midnight, and telling tales for a couple hours until closing time. I mean, I guess it’s possible, and far be it from me to impugn someone’s right to hang out at a bar on a Wednesday night until the wee hours of the following morning, but which is more likely: she’s a late-night bar patron, or she’s just a goddamned idiot who made up a story so she wouldn’t look quite so bad while getting the fame she so clearly desired?
So now we have a cat that has actually seen its station in life get worse, since now it’s a stray cat in some strange-ass neighborhood it doesn’t know. Way to go, lady. And you definitely made yourself look really smart and dedicated by posing for photos of you…throwing dry cat food in bushes the following morning as if the cat’s a Pokémon and gonna magically appear because of your dank kibble lures.
Failure by the club to properly plan for an infrequent (but certainly plausible) event, failure by an employee to think ahead while understandably concerned for his own well-being, failure by that employee’s superiors for not recognizing the moment and making sure their new viral star was looked after, failure by club security for not realizing an idiot fan’s lie, and failure of an idiot fan to not be an idiot. Well done, everyone.
But wait! There’s more! The Post-Dispatch, never one to fail to sugar-coat one of the organization’s screwups, applied the same level of scrutiny to the idiot fan. The article I linked above should be headlined “Local idiot endangers animal in attention grab; is a loser.” It’s not.
And then, lastly, there’s the club and how it handled the cat. During the broadcast, it started to be obvious nobody knew where the cat was, but that didn’t stop Dan McLaughlin from reporting the Humane Society had picked it up (this is almost certainly not McLaughlin’s fault; presumably someone told him the Humane Society picked it up). There were dramatic shots of an empty cat carrier during the broadcast. Surely it’d ferry our star off to its forever home, the implication goes! Meanwhile, kitty is either staring at Stan or being carried around by a buffoon. Or hiding in the bushes from the aforementioned buffoon.
Which brings us to Thursday morning, when the Cardinals issued their press release on the status of Rally Cat. Plainly stating they had no idea what happened to the cat, that Harris lied to them, that they’ll come up with a stray animal procedure in the future to prevent further screw-ups, and then closing with a pun that’d make Piers Anthony cringe.
It was a shitty press release. No apology. No admission of culpability. No “Hey, we’re an organization where Tony LaRussa had huge sway for over a decade; maybe we could make a donation to his charity, or we could encourage fans to adopt their own rally cat/dog/rabbit at their local shelter.” Just “This lying fan; we’ll make a process, hope someone finds the cat lol, oh and also go Cardinals baseball!”
A tone-deaf and indifferent response from a tone-deaf and indifferent organization. The only thing that’d make it better is the club capitalizing on Rally Cat merchandise even while its indifference had endangered the life of the eponymous animal.
Oh wait, they already did that.
The St. Louis Cardinals aren’t evil or malevolent. They’re just really damned stupid, constantly. The organization is just a big dumb giant striding about and making things worse without noticing or caring about its community. In the grand scheme of things, one kitten is about the smallest and least consequential victim, but it’s not as if the club hasn’t been indifferent about human flooding victims, or victims of drunk driving despite two players dying of it, and a high profile manager getting popped for DUI during his tenure.
This stupid team, and its stupid fans that enable this stupid behavior.
…I hope they win tonight.
Follow Adam Felder on Twitter.