In the last two weeks the Cardinals have a series record of 1-2-1. The best team, the Blue Jays, was only a .500 team—which won the series 2-1. The only win was against the Devil Rays, who were in the middle of chaos in the locker room at the time with Lou Piniella nearly begging for his walking papers—not that they were very good before all that. The next two series were harder to swallow—a loss to the Reds and a split with the Pirates. Both teams had been soundly dealt with in earlier series and neither team was within five games of .500 while the Reds were occupying the basement in the NL Central.
My concern was not because of a "rough patch" but because it was the end result of what many had seen coming. The starting rotation was performing quite well, but the offense was often listless. The defense hasn't been as sharp as we'd come to expect with a fielding percentage dead middle in the NL. The Cardinals lead the National League with 42 unearned runs—a sting which has been felt in many efforts by Cardinal pitching (most recently, Matt Morris in his first loss…) that has often changed the outcome of the game.
I doubt anyone believes that this team is living up to expectations thus far although fortunately it hasn't hurt them significantly record-wise. The team just has failed to hit on all cylinders. While their have been some injury problems with the core of Pujols, Edmonds and Rolen, it seems like the team at large is in need of jump start. I know we as Cardinals fans can be both very forgiving and very demanding, I just hope that some sort of relief comes soon, whether it be a new acquisition through trade or someone from the minors—whatever it may be to get the team to really gel.
Now the All-Star Game is rolling around soon and, as ol' Bud wants us to be painfully aware of, this time it counts (again). Many people have said it and I'll go on record as saying that making the All-Star game "count" is still stupid. And as far as I'm concerned the biggest indication it's stupid is that suddenly debates about starters for the game aren't fun anymore; the game isn't an opportunity for the best in the game to relax and have fun like kids—at least not for players on teams who have a shot at post-season.
What baffles me is the current DH controversy between Albert Pujols and Derrek Lee. My response is simply this: are you insane? I don't care who starts at first—they'll cycle through at some point anyway. Have Mike Piazza DH so we don't have to sit and watch him flounder behind the plate. And so help me if Clemens starts again I don't want Piazza anywhere in sight—I can't sit through another shelling like last year.
Of course this is the same game where Nomar Garciaparra is in striking distance of being voted in to start even though he's played a handful of games and stunk while he did it.
Gosh I'm sure glad it "counts"…