Deadlines and Disappointments

All the injuries, all the talk and what was the biggest element of the trade deadline for the Cardinals?  They put a team on the field that wouldn't have qualified for an official spring training game.  Only four regulars in the lineup (if you count Diaz as a regular) and what's the word from the general manager: there's nothing out there to be excited about.


The sad thing was he was right.  Say what you will about the Wild Card, it has taken a lot of the fun and intrigue from the non-waiver deadline and replaced it with burning questions like: where will Geoff Blum end up, how many uniform changes will Eric Byrnes make and did the Red Sox really believe they could move Manny Ramirez's contract?  With so many teams in contention, or still believing they're in contention (look at the NL West, the best team is three games under .500) no one's selling and with so many teams needing something—outfielders seem to be popular this year, the seller teams can ask for everything and a player to be named later.  Brian Walton has done a good piece on the absurdity of the trade deadline post Wildcard.


On that level I'm glad to see that Walt decided to stand pat.  As much as I would have loved to see one of Reds outfielders make the move to Cardinal red, having to send all of AAA Memphis and cash to get one of them seems a little excessive.  But that wasn't the biggest surprise to me over the weekend.


What surprised me was the 4-2 road trip.  I was hoping for a split at best.  With so many starters out, Pujols occasionally looking bothered by his shoulder, Edmonds continually plagued by some malady or another, Eckstein trying to get on base things looked downright grim.  Add into that an outright owning that the Padres handed the Cards earlier in the season and I was just hoping the Astros would cool off.  Well, the ‘Stros didn't cool, but the Cardinals still managed to pull it off.


I suspect that should things settle down now, this weekend will make Walt Jocketty look like a genius.  But the powers that be seem to believe that Sanders, Walker, Molina and Rolen will return and be healthy and productive.  I myself have my doubts, especially about Walker and Rolen, but that's almost beside the point the extended wear and tear on the remaining regulars: Eckstein, Pujols, Edmonds and Grudzielanek, is likely going to result in some DL time for at least one of them before the end of the season.  And what's more, Matt Morris is starting to give up the gopher balls and the starting rotation seems to be showing a little fatigue from the first half.


While it's been fun to see John Rodriquez do well, it's hard to feel too happy for the new kids when they're half your roster.  At some point the most dominating lineup in the National League underwent a "rebuilding phase" makeover.  I'd love to see these guys do well, but perhaps I've joined the Tony LaRussa's school of thought because while the call-up guys are crucial for a regular season, it's imperative to have the veterans ready for the post season.


So while I applaud the Cardinals management for not selling out to get someone now, I don't think it's a stretch to say that to stand pat for the rest of the season would be a mistake.  Here's hoping Walt has another Rolen-esque deal somewhere in his bag of tricks for a long-term impact guy because a starting outfield of Taguchi, Gall and Rodriquez seems like a game of Russian roulette and while a 9 ½ game lead is nice, it's not September yet and to underestimate the Astros or even a healthy Cubs team is not a mistake I want to see played out over the next two months.


And finally, Rafael Palmeiro tested positive for… something.  No one's saying what or when but apparently it's happened, gone through arbitration and settled.  And suddenly I wonder how much better the game really is.  Palmeiro has already invoked the "I didn't know" defense, or, as I like to refer to it, the "Bonds Clause."  On the one hand, supporters of the testing policy finally have a "high profile" player to point to as an indication that it works.  Critics would answer that Palmeiro is hardly a superstar, and with specters of Giambi and Bonds still floating around the league (although Bonds seems to be playing the injury hokey-pokey—he's in, he's out, turn him around and that's what it's all about…) it doesn't offer much satisfaction to those who notice that Palmeiro is really the only real full-time major leaguer to be suspended to date.


As a fan, I guess I'm not sure what I expected.  Attendance has been up around baseball, power numbers are down and, to hear MLB tell it, all is right with the world.  Unfortunately, and I don't think I'm alone in this, there seems to be a continual denial on the part of baseball that they have a creditability problem—players, owners and MLB alike.  So they finally snagged a potential Hall of Famer, we can breathe easier.  The game is fairer today than it was a year ago, hooray.  But I can't help but think that the game is a little worse off every time and while it's important to punish cheaters it's just sad that we need it.  So the message is being sent and baseball is trying to take of its problems, just don't expect me to throw a parade when something like this happens.


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