If you’re one of those people who doesn’t like to read anything bad about the St. Louis Cardinals, please don’t continue.
Because, although I have tried to remain optimistic even after an extremely disappointing off-season in which the front office did very little to address obvious needs of this franchise and a first third of the 2016 season in which the players on hand underachieved dramatically, I am fresh out of excuses for this lazy and sloppy bunch of ballplayers.
The Cardinals are terrible at clutch hitting and moving runners up on the base paths. They’re terrible at fielding. They’re terrible at running the bases and their inconsistent starting pitching can only be eclipsed by their horrific bullpen.
It’s an inaccurate science, most times, to calculate how many runs a team might have scored or prevented from scoring if it had played better. But, being very conservative, I believe the Redbirds left at least six runs on the table Sunday in their disgusting come-from-ahead loss to the Texas Rangers.
That’s pretty bad -- and entirely decisive -- when there were only nine runs scored in the game.
The Cardinals twice loaded the bases with one out and were very fortunate to get two runs out of the deal. One came on a Matt Holliday sacrifice fly. The other was a gift in the form of a walk to St. Louis back up catcher Eric Fryer -- after slugging first baseman Matt Adams struck out pathetically for the second out of the inning.
But that was far from the end of the Redbirds shooting themselves in the foot offensively. And it was by far the most excusable example of their lousy play.
-- Tommy Pham broke the golden rule of not making the last out of an inning at third base when he somehow managed to get himself thrown out there on a ball he skipped past the Rangers right fielder.
-- Matt Carpenter decided to go for a double on a ball that was cut off in right center and got himself thrown out. Instead of a runner in scoring position and nobody out, the Cardinals found themselves out of a rally before it could get started.
Of course, St. Louis gives away as good as it doesn’t get.
-- Texas was staked to a 1-0 lead in the first inning when shortstop Aldemys Diaz not only failed to catch a throw from Fryer that had a chance to cut down a stealing Rangers runner. But he let the ball get away from him into short centerfield and the runner -- who should have been on his way to the bench, was instead allowed to go to third base where he was easily driven home on a sacrifice fly.
And the whopper of the game came while the Cardinals clung to a one-run lead in the top of the eighth.
-- Elvis Andrus hit as routine of a ground ball to Diaz as you’ll ever see. Instead of charging the ball, Diaz took a little nap while he waited for the ball to get to him and then flipped it to second base.
I guess the umpire was shocked to see such a routine play screwed up because he called the baserunner out -- although it was obvious to me in the stands that he was easily safe. No worries. Instant replay overturned the inning-ending call and Texas had a second chance.
Unlike the Cardinals, it didn’t waste it. Jurickson Profar singled in the tying and go-ahead runs. And the Cardinals might as well have taken the rest of the day off because everyone in the place knew it was over for them.
Of course, we all had to suffer by watching the Birds waste Greg Garcia’s lead-off single in the ninth be turned into a disaster.
Fryer flied out for the first out. Then Class AAA superstar Kolten Wong came to the plate and tried to do nothing but hit a 500-foot home run. That may play in Memphis. But all it gets you against a major league pitcher is a pop out to third base.
Carpenter walked, adding to Cardinals fans’ agony as the winning run was no on base. Diaz came to the plate with a chance to atone for the three free runs he handed Texas. But he grounded out weakly and the Cardinals found themselves 0-5 on a five-game homestand for the first time since 1983.
It seems all the Cardinals corner cutting and penny pitching has finally caught up to them. They have a team full of incomplete and seemingly disinterested ballplayers who are what their record says they are: a .500 club.
Carpenter is probably the only position player the Birds have that can contribute in more than one aspect of the game.
I don’t see, at this point, what the club can do to instantly make itself fudamentally better in all aspects of the game from defense to hitting to pitching to baserunning.
It’s starting to look like, barring an unforeseen monumental trade, that it’s going to be a long, bleak summer in St. Louis.