The question people ask me everywhere I go is the same: What's wrong with the Cardinals.
And all I can do is admit the truth: I have absolutely no idea.
They lead the National League in most hitting categories. They have three four starting pitchers in double figures in wins and a bullpen that is much improved after suffering through first half woes. But, for some reason, they can't put it all together at the same time.
I don't by the injuries excuse. Yeah, Lance Berkman has missed nearly the entire season. But the Cardinals added Carlos Beltran to the right field and while he's slumping now he's in the top three in the National League in homers and runs batted in. And at first base, where Berkman was supposed to play this season, Allen Craig is tearing it up with a .309 batting average, 20 homers and 71 batted in -- despite missing more than a month of the season.
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Meanwhile, Yadier Molina is having a career year at the plate with a .324 average, 17 home runs and 62 RBIs. And Matt Holliday just keeps on chugging along with a .306 average, 24 homers and the second-highest RBI total in the Senior Circuit, 90.
There is just no way to explain why the Cardinals can't score against mediocre pitching. Or why their pitching fails at the worst possible times.
Every game the Redbirds lose seems to have an early pivotal moment when the other team does something good -- and you can see the Cardinals' shoulders sag and just know they're not going to come back.
I keep waiting and waiting for this team to come together and play up to its potential. I thought it would rally around the fallen unofficial captain of the team when Yadier Molina was hurt. It didn't. I thought it would catch fire when Adam Wainwright got his feet under him. It didn't. I thought the Cardinals would go into Cincinnati and Pittsburgh with a chip on their shoulders and knock some heads. They didn't.
At this point, I don't know what to root for. Part of me thinks this club should just stay the course and let the chips fall where they may. Either they sink or swim with the talent they believed in during spring training. Other times I think they ought to bring up Oscar Tavares as see if a hungry kid can spark the club the way Willie McGee did in 1982, Vince Coleman did in 1985 and Adam Wainwright did in 2006.
But is it worth it to try to catch lightning in a bottle when a very promising future would be at risk.
I still believe the Cardinals have all the talent in the world and that they ought to be in first place and favorites to repeat as World Series champions. But sometimes funny things happen when you try to take something on paper and transfer it to the real world.