It was only a couple of months ago that the Cardinals were mocked as a club that would finish in fourth place. One report said that the Reds were the team most likely to run away with its division's title because the Redbirds were in no shape to offer them a fight.
But, a quarter of the way through the season, the Birds are in first place with a .596 winning percentage that is second only to Philadelphia in the National League. And they're finally starting to get some love from the National media... Even if the compliments are somewhat backhanded.
Fox Sports reporter Ken Rosenthal credits the Cardinals no name crew of complimentary players the Cardinals have deployed -- Daniel Descalso, Jon Jay and Allen Craig -- as the reason the Birds have been so good. But then he quotes the ubiquitous un-named "rival GM" as saying that the youngsters who St. Louis has counted on to fill in for injured starters like David Freese, Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman and Skip Schumaker, probably wouldn't add up to a hill of beans for anyone else. But, somehow, the Cardinals get it done with smoke and mirrors.
That kind of comment is okay with me because I can read between the lines.
No appology needed for your wildly inaccurate prognosticating. The blanket prediction that the Cardinals had no chance to win because one of their five starting pitchers was hurt in the spring -- even though Adam Wainwright was the best moundsman they had -- seemed like a bit of a thin argument when you consider that other guys in the St. Louis rotation PLUS the lack of depth the competition had to start with.
And we'll let the whole thing about how you've ripped the Cardinals farm system for the last five years or so slide. The Birds haven't won this season because they're injury free or lucky. They've won because they have had an internal solution for the loss of their starting second and third basemen and their top utility man for an extended period of time.
When Wainwright required Tommy John surgery in the spring, the national guys speculated that the Birds would try to sign Kevin Millwood. The Cardinals filled the hole from within by converting Kyle McClellan to the rotation. And then they filled holes in the bullpen when Bryan Augenstein and Brian Tallet were hurt by calling up Fernando Salas and Eduardo Sanchez from Class AAA Memphis.
In one last big of gloom, Rosenthal reminds Cardinals fans that Albert Pujols might leave at the end of the season by quoting yet another un-named rival executive who predicted the team would go all out at the trade deadline because they want to make one last run with the big guy for old time's sake.
That may be the most incorrect prediction of all. What sense would it make for the Cardinals to deal from the depth that made them winners this season to try to win at all costs now. While the Cardinals might benefit from help at shortstop or at the back of the bullpen, they're going to need the more valuable than expected youngsters even more if Albert hits the road.
In case the national guys haven't noticed, their prediction that Pujols would depart and devistate the franchise isn't holding water right now either. The only significant statistic Pujols leads the Senior Circuit in so far this season is the number of double plays he's grounded into.
But I won't give the national guys too much guff about that one. I don't think anybody -- including me -- saw that one coming.