I’m starting to wonder if the Cardinals are victims of their own success.
Two World Series wins and three pennants in the last decade is an awesome accomplishment. And fans are thrilled to witness the excitement.
But is it possible that the reason the Redbirds’ underachieving isn't because of injuries, youth or just plain bad luck? Maybe it has more to do with the fact that the team's veteran core has already been to the top of the hill and its members don't feel the burn to get there now like they did before they reached the peak the first time.
Of the Cardinals starting eight: Yadier Molina has two World Series rings while Allen Craig, David Freese, Matt Holliday and David Freese each have one. Daniel Descalso, who was penciled in as a potential starter at second base but ended up assuming the role of starting shortstop by default, also has one.
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Arguably the best player on the team the last two seasons, Carlos Beltran, doesn’t have any rings? The closest he got was when he took strike three in the National League Championship Series in 2006. And Beltran readily admitted upon his arrival in St. Louis that he still simmered over the disappointment of being so close while not realizing his dreams.
It just doesn't make sense to me why this team that has so much talent at the plate can be completely shut down for several games in a row. I know some pitchers are tougher than others. But the Redbirds have MVP candidates and batting title contenders including Matt Carpenter, Craig, Molina and Beltran. People like to jump on Matt Holliday for having a down season by his lofty standards. But the guy has been hovering between .285 and .290 after a huge surge in the second half. These are guys who have a history of dealing with tough major league pitchers. And they just aren't doing it when the pressure gets high.
David Freese, the hero of the 2011 World Series, has been so terrible that he’s lost his starting job and is, instead, essentially platooning with a rookie second baseman. I’m not sure his poor hitting isn’t due to an injury. He sat out part of the spring with a bad back and he’s looked stiff at the plate ever since. But that doesn’t excuse his awful fielding when he botched an easy grounder Monday that cost his club dearly.
Even the kids on this team -- who have performed so well at times -- seem to take it for granted that they were one game from the World Series last year. I guess they thought they'd automatically make it over the hump this time. But it's not that easy. The taste of a deep playoff run they got last year should have made them better this year. But it seems to have made them worse.
What about the pitching staff. Two weeks ago St. Louis starters were hot as pistols. Now the only one pitching worth a darn is Joe Kelly. Adam Wainwright pulled a hero move and pitched himself into a dead arm in the name of vanity. Lance Lynn is trying to become the underachiever of the universe. And Shelby Miller has reverted from the aggressive style he used to great success at the beginning of the season and has gone back to pitching around the plate. This isn't the Pacific Coast League. Big league hitters don't fall for that. All Miller is doing is throwing a ton of pitches to limit how deep he can go in games and in the process putting a lot of runners on base to make the damage that much worse when he makes a mistake.
It seemed at the beginning of this season that the Cardinals had a mix of veteran talent and youth that should sustain the franchise for years to come. Now I am starting to wonder if an overhaul is in order.