It seems this season that the thing the St. Louis Cardinals are able to do with the most consistency is make excuses.
First they weren't hitting because it was too cold. Then they were under-performing because they had too many road games early in the season. I tuned it out when the talk turned to the concept that the Redbirds just have a bunch of slow starters who usually turn things up as the calendar turned from spring to summer.
Summer arrived with a vengeance and the Cardinals sunk in the standings closer to third place than first place.
Now, just as the Cardinals have rallied to within two game of the lead in the National League Central race, they've suffered a real blow. And whether they can change their attitude and rally around it or if they use it as a reason to fold will determine the rest of the 2014 campaign.
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All-Star catcher Yadi Molina might miss the rest of the regular season after suffering a torn ligament on the thumb of his throwing hand. In the irony of ironies, the injury came as Molina was demonstrating he is one of the few St. Louis players who has shown some spunk this year. He was on second base when a ball was grounded to the Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop. He patiently waited for the infielder to scoop up the ball then, just as he threw it, Yadi caught the defense with its guard down and scampered over to third base to increase his chances of scoring.
Unfortunately, as he slid feet first into the bag, his right thumb seemed to dig into the dirt and wrenched behind him.
I'm hopeful the young Cardinals players will rally around their wounded leader. But, with the way this squad has stepped tentatively this season, I am afraid the lesson that will be learned is that they better not make any extra effort or else something bad might happen.
There is no doubt Molina is a big loss -- not only to the offense, but also to a young pitching staff. But the Cardinals still have a ton of talent and the ability to win their division and make the playoffs.
Sometimes in sports when a team has a superstar it seems like the supporting cast is willing to sit back and wait for the big guy to do something. Maybe the loss of Molina will give the other guys a sense of urgency and put them on notice that this is their opportunity to shine.
There is no knight in shining armor who is going to come and fill in for Yadi like Will Clark did a decade and a half ago when Mark McGwire got hurt. Catchers of Molina's ilk are precious commodities that aren't typically available on the rental market.
This is no time to pout.
The Cardinals head to Milwaukee Friday for a three-game set that could leave them in first place by the end of the weekend. Or it could allow the Brewers to wiggle off the hook and extend their Central Division lead back to five games.
Tony Cruz is a more than capable back-up. If the rest of the Cardinals players can do their individual jobs, Cruz will catch and throw just fine and he'll provide at least typical offensive production for a backstop.
So I hope the Cardinals can get together as a club and rally around the loss of Molina. This is the time of the season where the cream rises to the top. It's time that we'll finally see if this Redbirds team is as good as we thought it could be when spring training broke in March.