While there is plenty of blame to be spread amongst the players, one of the biggest problems then Cardinals have had this season is a lack of depth.
The only player the club had to fill in a third base when David Freese injured his ankle and at shortstop when Brenday Ryan hit .186 for the first half of the season was Felipe Lopez. And Lopez was brought onboard for his bat, not his glove. So playing him on the left side of the infield in meaningful games was a very bad idea.
The Cardinals let go of Julio Lugo in spring training because they were concerned they couldn't find him enough playing time. I wonder how much he might have helped at the hot corner instead of letting Lopez cost the club game after game with his untimely defensive miscues...
It's just another example of the Cardinals taking advantage of their 3 million plus fans by trying to patch holed with duct tape and shore up the crumbling foundation with twine instead of investing in accomplished major league baseball players.
And when the Cardinals do spend money, they blow huge wads of cash on flawed players.
They let themselves get into a position in 2008 where 3/5 of their starting rotation became free agents at one time so they overpaid Kyle Lohse -- a guy who they signed half way through spring training earlier that year to a bargain basement contract because no one wanted him -- to a four-year, $41 million pact. Now they're paying him 15 percent of the team payroll to serve up batting practice to opposing clubs.
Although I am a fan of Brad Penny, I also couldn't help but raise an eyebrow when the Cardinals paid him $7.5 million to join the starting rotation. Yeah, he's great when he's healthy. But he's NEVER healthy. Penny has pitched 200 innings or more TWICE in his decade-plus long career. That doesn't sound like a workhorse to me. When Penny inevitably went down to injury, the Birds had no depth from which to replace him. They got a gift from the Brewers when Milwaukee released Jeff Suppan, otherwise I don't know how the Birds would have filled those innings. Maybe Aaron Miles could have become a full-time starter?
The Cardinals front office promised the whole month of July that it would add a pitcher AND a starting position player before the trade deadline. And if it had, this team might very well still be in first place in the NL Central. Instead, it traded one of the club's best starting position players -- Ryan Ludwick -- for fourth starter Jake Westbrook. And it all went downhill from there.
When the Cardinals traded Ludwick they were 58-45 and in first place. Since then, the Reds have caught fire and the Birds have sunk to an 11-17 mark with their weakened offense.
What did St. Louis get for it's end of the swap. One victory -- count 'em, one -- from Westbrook in half a dozen starts. Ludwick has scored 12 runs and driven in 13 in 27 games as a Padre. I wonder how much different the Cardinals might have been with another run a game...
By my accounting, the Cardinals need a starting pitcher, a fifth place hitter who can play in the outfield or at third base, a leadoff man who can play second base or in the outfield and several bullpen pitchers... All of this while they need to sign Albert Pujols to the richest contract in club history.
It's going to be a troubling winter.
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