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It was a lot of fun watching the relentless St. Louis Blues win the Stanley Cup. But now all eyes are back on the underachieving Cardinals

Molina, Fowler and Wong take batting practice

Three key Cardinals expected to lead St. Louis in 2018 get some important swings in during Spring Training.
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Three key Cardinals expected to lead St. Louis in 2018 get some important swings in during Spring Training.

Watching the St. Louis Blues win the Stanley Cup was amazing. Especially for the members of the St. Louis Cardinals who were able to keep their underachieving ways off center stage as our town’s lovable underdogs finally had their moment in the spotlight.

But it was a bad look for the Redbirds to get stomped upon by a hapless Miami Marlins team on the night the Blues won their first Stanley Cup. Especially when the Cardinals were happily celebrating the hockey win, despite their poor showing in a game that didn’t really seem to attract their full attention. Losing is one thing. But losing 9-0 to a team that’s won about one-third of its games is another entirely.

It was interesting that Cardinals President of Baseball operations finally said last week what fans have been clued into for two or three years: This club wastes a sizable portion of its offensive potential by playing for the big home run instead of taking advantage of smaller — yet higher percentage — chances to score. It’s simply not a well-rounded offense, even though it has the pieces to score in many different ways.

The bottom line is that it’s very unlikely this team is going to get any offensive help from outside the organization. Where would the team seek to upgrade? Paul Goldschmidt, Paul DeJong and Matt Carpenter aren’t going anywhere. Yadier Molina will probably be buried in his St. Louis uniform some day, and he’s earned that right.

Marcell Ozuna is the team’s most consistent hitter and Jose Martinez is usually at the top of the stat sheet in batting average. When you consider that Harrison Bader is probably the best spark plug on the team with his ability to take extra bases, steal bases and to bail out the team’s other defensively-challenged outfielders. So that really only leaves second base, where Kolten Wong is a chronic underachiever, as a place where the offense could be improved.

The Cardinals would have to give up important pieces to make room for new hitters. And I don’t see the team being willing to give up a lot of talent — or to spend a lot of money on bolstering the roster — when it’s already got the sixth-highest payroll in Major League Baseball. This club is simply going to have to learn how to make more out of what it already has.

It’s ironic the Birds are in that position because it used to be the Blues who would go from a coach who was too friendly with the players to one who was a taskmaster back to one that was too friendly. Now it’s the Cardinals players who couldn’t wait to get rid of Mike Matheny for a manager who better understood younger players.

So, they got Mike Shildt and his Memphis Redbirds staff because those guys helped develop the players on the major league roster today. The guys who were supposed to teach these players to hit behind base runners, bunt and consistently put the ball in play are now paying the price because the kids they developed can’t do the job.

The Cardinals botched their way into third place at the one-third mark of the season, so they need to make up for it now when they’re in a stretch of playing teams with sub-.500 records. St. Louis sports fans will probably bask in the glory of the Blues for a few days. But when they come out of their euphoric haze, they’re going to be pretty disappointed if the Birds are more preoccupied with trying to reach third place than they are focused on first.

There really is no excuse for a team with a $160-million payroll to be this bad. Especially when the the problem for the team has been more about the pricey offense than it has been about the young and developing pitching staff which lately has done a pretty good job of giving the team a shot at winning just about every night.

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