The St. Louis Cardinals have pinned much of their hope for the future on a trio of young pitchers expected to be the anchor of the team’s pitching staff for years to come.
I hope it works out better than the last time they did that.
Jack Flaherty, Alex Reyes and Dakota Hudson look like they have the tools to be a latter day version of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, who served as the core of a perennial contender in Atlanta for the better part of a decade. But it’s not the first time in recent memory the Redbirds looked like they had three young aces. Five years ago, Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller and Jaime Garcia seemed to have the goods. Unfortunately, they were all diminished by injuries.
Garcia retired Thursday after a career that spanned 10 years. When he was healthy, he was very, very good. But Garcia was injured so often that some fans started to believe no one could have that many problems and the issues must have actually been between his ears. Shelby Miller was a bit of a knucklehead when he was younger, getting into minor trouble repeatedly because of immaturity. But he was supposed to have the physical stuff to be an ace. The one of the three that I was really high on was Wacha, however, who showed his mettle when pressed into a high-pressure role down the stretch during his rookie season. Wacha flirted a couple of times with no-hitters and was forced to start a win or go home playoff game in Pittsburgh against the Pirates. That’s the game they like to show on the big screen at Busch Stadium with the Pirates trying to intimidate the kid with taunting chants of Wa-cha, Wa-cha. The kid didn’t bite and he shut down the Bucs to bring the series home to St. Louis.
I sure hope things work better this time around. Back in 2013 the Cardinals were in the World Series and the fans of the Chicago Cubs were saying wait ‘til next year as they waited for their tank job to pay off. I wasn’t concerned. After all, St. Louis had a young core to match up with anybody. Besides the starters already mentioned, they had Trevor Rosenthal throwing 100 mph bullets out of the bullpen and Allen Craig hitting for average and power in the middle of the batting order. Kolten Wong was going to be the best second baseman in St. Louis since Tommy Herr and, oh, Oscar Taveras....
We never know what’s going to happen tomorrow. Reyes has already shown cracks in his potential in the form or elbow and shoulder trouble. Wong is still around but has yet to prove he’s worth the faith the team has showed in him and it’s hard to tell if the Birds are a team on the rise — or one that could be in rebuild mode this time next year if Marcell Ozuna, Paul Goldschmidt and Wacha decide to leave as free agents.
Regardless of the fanatical devotion to statistics that supposedly predict the future performance of players, there is little accounting for injuries that can turn a future star into a woulda, coulda, shoulda.
I’m sorry to see Garcia’s career cut short. While I realize he drove a lot of people nuts, I loved to watch him work when he was on. His breaking stuff was unreal when he had it going. It crossed my mind as the Redbirds looked for a lefty reliever this off-season that Garcia might have excelled in that limited role. Instead, he’ll enjoy the giant pile of money he made when the Cardinals optimistically locked him up before he became too great for them to afford.