(KSDK Sports) - C'mon and admit it. The world would have been a better place this summer without David Freese singing in those pizza commercials.
It wasn't Emmy-worthy, let's put it that way, and you wondered if even the most polite St. Louis Cardinals fans mailed letters and demanded an edit of his smiling, singing mug.
After all, we can do without a guy smiling while he's struggling.
But for one Thursday afternoon, with the Cardinals back on the playoff stage here at Busch Stadium, Freese made you wonder if he can capture his October magic once again.
Sure, a 9-1 blowout victory against the upstart Pittsburgh Pirates offered far better storylines:
Adam Wainwright, with nine strikeouts in seven innings, channeled his inner Chris Carpenter; Carlos Beltran continued chasing down Babe Ruth, at least his postseason home run numbers; and those youngin's not far removed from Double-A Springfield? Nice.
But offering the most intrigue was Freese, who has gone from World Series MVP of 2011 to Mystery Man of 2013, eliciting gasps this summer when his play used to generate ovations.
And yet eyes couldn't miss the statistics after his two-single game, including a two-run, opposite field hit that capped a seven-run outburst.
In the post season, Freese now has 27 RBIs in only 32 games, plus an .351 average (40-for-114). That is second-best by a Cardinal only to some Hall of Famer named Lou Brock, with .391.
Yes, he's having fun again. In the clubhouse, Freese jogged over to his corner locker with a grin and even apologized for keeping the last few of us sports writers waiting. It was a day when he also snagged a liner with a terrific dive.
"Yeah, it's been a frustrating year," Freese said when I asked about him grinding through a season when he hit only nine home runs in 462 at-bats. "I think when we won the division, I think probably that was the best I slept. You just grind it out, and things can turn around, especially when you get to the postseason."
The curiosity about Freese is that, despite his heroics of 2011, he may not even be here next season. His second trip through arbitration awaits after October and, given his reported $3 million salary and the potential for Matt Carpenter to shift to third base, he could be expendable.
And Thursday seemed like the old days. It seemed like the old days, with Freese upbeat. He had us busting a gut when, asked about big fella first baseman Matt Adams, he joked, "We get a kick out of him running around over there. We call him Big City but now it's Big Kitty because he flies around."
Even when a reporter noted that Wainwright apparently called Freese "Mr. October of St. Louis," Freese laughed it off, offered a diplomatic response and all but tipped his hat to the fans. They've been an inspiration.
"It's unreal," Freese said of fans arriving hours before game time. "You know what these fans are going to be like for you. They've got your back."
But could he have the Cardinals' back in the lower half of the lineup? The intrigue wasn't lost on two teammates that reside near his corner locker.
"He had a rough start, but after that I thought he had a nice season," shortstop Daniel Descalso said. "He battled back."
Said center fielder Jon Jay, "For him to go do what he did today, it's part of the gig. ... But this isn't about numbers; it's about winning games and he was a big help in that today."
And that's the thing. The Cardinals haven't been able to say that a lot this year.