St. Louis Cardinals fans applaud Angels’ Albert Pujols at Busch Stadium
I hear it every day. Despite their lousy play, St. Louis Cardinals fans point to the fact that the team is only two or three games out of first place in the NL Central.
It’s their rallying cry. “We can Still do this. We’re only three games out. There’s a lot of baseball left to be played. (Notice that it’s always “we” when it’s a hopeful thought but it’s “Why are THEY so awful?” I can’t believe THEY lost the game last night. But I digress.)
Why is the fact that the central division is so lousy so encouraging to Cardinals fans? If playing in a bad division was a benefit for the Cardinals, they’d be beating up on their NL Central foes. Sadly, the reason they’re in third place is because the other teams in their circuit have beaten on St. Louis more than the other way around.
The Cardinals have won only three of nine games against the Chicago Cubs. They’re 5-5 against the Milwaukee Brewers, 3-3 against the Pittsburgh Pirates and only 4-3 against the Cincinnati Reds. That’s not exactly encouraging when it comes to speculating about how the Cardinals can get back out in front. And they’re going to have to win this division somehow, because their exceptionally mediocre play has just about dashed all hopes of getting into the playoffs through a wild card berth. While they’re only two games out there, St. Louis is buried in fifth place in the wild card standings. It’s pretty difficult to imagine leapfrogging the field when the local nine can’t string together three wins in a row. The chances are much better of managing to beat the Cubs and Milwaukee head to head.
That’s perfectly OK because it’s a much better shot at postseason glory to play in a five-game series than it is to have to make it past a one and done wild card game. But if the Cardinals can barely get past some of the most mediocre teams in baseball, what are the odds that they’re going to be able to beat the best teams in the National League East and West should they get that far and face them in the playoffs?
The Cardinals were extremely fortunate to win two out of three against the lowly Seattle Mariners on their current road trip, pulling both games out late. They were down to their last batter in the middle game of the set when rookie Tommy Edman managed to strike the deciding blow with a three-run homer.
The bottom line is that not only do the fans need stop making excuses for a Cardinals team that is not living up to expectations, this club and its coaching staff need to stop making excuses for themselves. There is a lot of talent on this team — the players just need to execute better. Waiting for the other guy to collapse isn’t a winner’s mentality. If the Cardinals could play baseball like they’re supposed to, they have an opportunity to run away from this division. But they’re blowing it. It’s the sports version of procrastination: Why do today what you can get away with putting off until tomorrow? Tomorrow doesn’t cut it. All the games count the same and a win now still counts as a win at the end of September.
What’s wrong with Michael Wacha?
What’s the deal with Michael Wacha? He’s been alternating good starts with absolutely atrocious ones. On Thursday, he absolutely let his team down when it needed him, managing to pitch only four innings before getting pulled from the game. That’s unacceptable. The bullpen has routinely had to pitch four innings a night, which is too much. Five is ridiculous and if Wacha can’t do better, it’s time to flip-flop him with Daniel Ponce de Leon who came into the game on Independence Day and threw a nice 2 2/3 innings, allowing no runs or hits. He walked one but struck out three.
Competition, competition, competition. If Wacha wants to stay in the starting rotation, he needs to pitch better than the next guy. Adam Wainwright has certainly risen to the occasion. I’d say the vast majority of Cardinals fans believed in spring training that there was a better chance that Wainwright would be retired now than that he would still be in the group of five starting pitchers. He hasn’t been the Cy Young Award contender that he used to be in his prime. But Wainwright has struck out close to a hitter an inning and gives his team a chance to win every time he takes the mound. That’s a lot better than Wacha and Jack Flaherty who recently have given up close to a run an inning.
These players need to stop making excuses and start making things happen or one day their going to check the standings and find out it’s too late to dig themselves out of the hole they put themselves in.