It's amazing how quickly folks seem to have jumped off the St. Louis Cardinals bandwagon.
I get that the club isn't quite playing up to expectations. It's a team that was expected to walk away with the National League Central Division crown and make it back to the World Series. Instead it's floating around the .500 mark with mixed signals about whether the team is getting its act together.
But, contrary to the opinions of the fair weather folks, it's not quite time to declare the 2014 season dead.
The baseball season is a long one. Usually slumps are hidden somewhere in the middle. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, they stumbled right out of the gate, so their blemishes are a bit more conspicuous. The team won the World Series in 2011. But it wasn't playing as well as the current club is now during the middle of that season. The Birds were 24-28 in the months of June and July and late in July they were as far back in the standings as third place.
So let's try to back off the calls for manager Mike Matheny or hitting coach John Mabry to be fired.
I was a bit perplexed by the Matheny hire in 2012 simply because he had no experience as a manager. But he has made it to at least the seventh game of the National League Championship in both seasons he has been the skipper. We knew it was going to be something of an on-the-job training session. And everyone raved about how much the skipper improved last year over his first. But now that the team is in second place he's a bum and a fool?
I saw a thread of comments Monday that alleged "the Cardinals will never hit with John Mabry as the hitting coach." Well, that makes no sense. Mabry was the hitting coach last season when the St. Louis offense set all sorts of records for scoring runs. What has changed in the offensive approach?
While the core is the same, the Cardinals lost their right fielder, their ace and team leader and a highly-decorated World Series veteran over the winter. It's not unusual for a team to take some time to become synchronized and start playing to its full potential.
Let's not forget, the parts and pieces are all there. The Redbirds still have a very deep pitching staff plus several potent bats. The numbers of Allen Craig, Jhonny Peralta and Mark Ellis have been on the rise lately. If they were all hot right now we'd be warning ourselves that it is inevitable that they would come back to earth. So look at it from the other side: It's more than likely that these guys who are performing below their career expectations will turn things around and get back to par.
There is nobody on this team who is struggling who is old enough or injured enough to justify his current funk. It's a matter of timing and mechanics. Sooner or later, it will all come together. I believe it's going to be sooner.
The Cardinals' pitching is good enough to believe that if this club gets any sort of consistent offense that it's going to win a lot of ballgames. And the talent is only going to get better with Jason Motte and Jaime Garcia on the mend from injury and Oscar Taveras bucking for a promotion for Class AAA to the big leagues.
There is more than enough talent there to make a run with what the club has in house -- or to make a trade for some offensive help. (I think this club would be better both offensively and defensively if it could find a shortstop with better range and then return Matt Carpenter to second base so Jhonny Peralta could play third.
There are still a lot of cards to play. And this team holds a winning hand.