The St. Louis Cardinals weekend series against the Chicago Cubs was one of the most demoralizing three-game sets I can recall in recent seasons.
While the Wee Bears have a talented team, I'm not sure that they're an invulnerable juggernaut. The Redbirds just made them look that way by playing like a junior high school team that hasn't practiced in about a month. The Cardinals made fielding errors at the worst possible times, they ran bases like they had a little to much to drink and it seems like every game they play anymore is a chance for the opposing hurler to bag his first career no-hitter. After they compiled a 4-5 record in their previous three series against the bottom dwellers of the National League, I don't think a lot of people were optimistic the Birds were going to fare better against the teams at the top of the standings.
As expected, a Chicago team that got shut out in two of three games in their previous series with the Milwaukee Brewers found all the runs it was missing from those contests.
It is fairly obvious that this wasn't just a bad weekend. St. Louis just doesn't have a team that's capable of contending for a playoff spot the way it's currently configured. All the Cubs had to do was wait around for the Cardinals players to make an error — forced or unforced — and then flood gates were opened. Let's not make excuses. It's obvious that Yadier Molina isn't playing at 100 percent after coming back from a horrific groin injury. And it hurts to be with the teams starting shortstop, Paul DeJong, for a long period of time. But you have to find a way to win with the guys who are available. Even with a healthy Molina and DeJong, I don't think it would overcome the fact that two starters, Dexter Fowler and Kolton Wong, are hitting well below .200 and have basically lost their regular jobs despite their long-term contracts.
I don't think it would overcome the fact that the Birds have a miserable bullpen outside of Bud Norris, Jordan Hicks and a couple of other guys who run hot and cold. I don't think it would overcome the fact that Matt Carpenter isn't the same offensive player he's been in past years and his defense is brutal. At first base, Jose Martinez hits for higher average and has collected some home runs. But it's hard for him to overcome his brutal work with the glove.
In a series that was completely non-competitive, the Cardinals also allowed Carlos Martinez to pitch with what was obviously not his best stuff. Since he came back from the disabled list, Martinez has had terrible command of his pitches, walking a half a dozen opposing hitters in an outing. St. Louis needs to either get Martinez right — or shut him down for safety's sake. We don't need another Alex Reyes situation on our hands.
It's not just me who's down on this club. I have never seen so many Cardinals fans bail on their tickets as I did this weekend. At least a third of the people in the seats were wearing blue Saturday night. Maybe the Cubs can get away with that in Milwaukee. But, whether they're in first place or out of the playoff picture, the Birds are usually in the top handful of teams as far as attendance goes. Why? Because they sell so many season tickets. When you see the other team's colors in large numbers at Busch Stadium, it's a bad sign. It means that the people who invest most heavily in the team have become emotionally unattached to the franchise.
I'd like to think that it would serve as a wake-up call for the front office to see that the fans are so turned off by this product. Hit 'em where it hurts — right in the bank account, right? But I guess it doesn't make any difference to them who goes to the games as long as the tickets were sold and the person who shows up buys lots of concessions. Cardinals season ticket holders were probably glad they were able to make a little bit of money on the secondary market, so everybody's happy, right? They shouldn't be. Things aren't going to get better as long as the team keeps making money.