How embarrassing that, as all but one St. Louis Cardinals player sat out the All-Star Game because the team is mired in a roster-wide slump, the talk of the All-Star Game break revolved around accusations that Major League Baseball juiced the ball during the first half of the season to artificially inflate offense.
Sheesh. This Cardinals team doesn’t have a regular hitting anywhere close to .300 (and only has one player hitting better than .261). How bad would the Cardinals offense be if the offense wasn’t (allegedly) being unfairly aided?
I would have never figured from watching St. Louis games all year that anyone thought the ball was juiced. I just thought the Cardinals pitchers were really bad about giving up home runs. If anything, I would have thought that Major League Baseball was letting pitchers throw Wiffleballs because of the way St. Louis has piled up the strikeouts.
The All-Star Game is usually something that I look forward to every year. But it was really depressing this season to watch a game with only one player wearing the Birds on the Bat.
While dreams of seeing Paul Goldschmidt ride a .320 average and 20 first half homers into the All-Star Game while Jordan Hicks blazed into a roster spot with his three-figure fastball went up in a puff of smoke, maybe Cardinals fans will benefit from the All-Star festivities in another way.
I bristle at the idea that guys who play a children’s game need a vacation in the middle of their six-month-long recess. But, with the way the Cardinals have been mired in a season-long, team-wide slump, there is something to be said for being able to press the reset button. When things are going bad in baseball, sometimes it’s hard to break out of the rut. Getting a little bit of perspective and coming back with fresh eyes might be just the thing the St. Louis hitters need to find their strokes.
While in some ways I feel like that is wishful thinking, I honestly believe that almost all the players on the offensive side of the roster are capable of more than they have shown so far. If this team could play .500 baseball with only a fraction of its expected run production up to this point, 10, 15 or 20 percent better could make quite a difference — especially with the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers struggling so badly lately.
The break could also be beneficial to pitcher’s arms, especially in the bullpen where St. Louis has relied mightily guys like John Gant and John Brebbia night after night to try to bail out the starters who don’t push deep enough into games.
Mike Shildt needs to make changes to the Cardinals lineup
It would be nice if manager Mike Shildt took his time off to reconsider the batting order. It’s silly that the Cardinals brought in Paul Goldschmidt to be the imposing force in the middle of the lineup, but then the skipper installed him in the second spot in the batting order behind Matt Carpenter who isn’t getting on base at his customary pace this season. Shildt finally (and mercifully) decided to move Carpenter around a little bit before the break.
The team doesn’t have a lot of obvious answers for a replacement at this point. Dexter Fowler doesn’t have the speed he once did to leg out hits or steal bases. Kolten Wong hasn’t gotten on base enough, nor has Harrison Bader, the other team speed demon. It makes sense, at least while Carpenter is on the injured list, to continue to find playing time for rookie Tommy Edman. While Edman has been hot and cold at the plate, he has managed to come up with some major offensive contributions in his limited amount of plate appearances.
We’ve all been sitting around all spring, waiting for this team to click. If that’s ever going to happen, it’s going to happen now.