There's something to be worried about.
No it's not Albert's troublesome heel. It's not Jim Edmonds' and the myriad of bumps and bruises he's been nursing most of the season. It's not Larry Walker and his self-destructing neck. And it's not the fact that we haven't seen Reggie Sanders back.
No, it's Jason Marquis.
His struggles have been notorious and extensively documented. He's been labeled uncoachable and arrogant, and his results seemed to back up those assertions. And then something happened: he went into a 1-10 slump in 13 games and then he got a talking to and a bullpen session where he was required to throw his #1 pitch repeatedly. Apparently it broke through and suddenly Marquis looks like a right-handed version of Mark Mulder.
So yes, there's something to be worried about, but not for the boys and girls of Cardinal Nation. No, it's the other seven teams that make the playoffs realizing that suddenly they might have to face a rotation that features five guys who are all hitting their stride and shutting down offenses like there's no tomorrow. As if facing Pujols, Edmonds, Walker and the rest of the guys wasn't daunting enough, now with Chris Carpenter healthy and dominant, Mulder finally living up to his preseason hype, Matt Morris has been reliable and despite a few second-half struggles is still miles ahead of his '04 form when he was the designated ace of the staff and now Jason Marquis has finally joined the fold and the result is downright scary.
It's always nice to be able to label teams and players which might be oversimplistic, but for all my kvetching and critiquing there seems to be a theme to the '05 Cardinals that Jason Marquis falls into. I'd say that the 2005 Cardinals are a team of second chances—from Bill Pulsipher on the Opening Day roster, to the signing of David Eckstein (who had been released by the Angels), to Matt Morris trying to rebound from offseason surgery and an underwhelming '04 campaign, to the team as a whole looking for a second chance in October.
A part of that I attribute to Tony LaRussa's newfound aggressiveness on the basepaths. For as much speed as the team lost with the departure of Womack and Renteria, the Cardinals are relying on intelligent baserunning, defensive lapses and aggressiveness to keep their opponents off-balance. The Cardinals have added a dimension to their attack that was missing last season and seems to have the Cards looking hungrier and more determined than ever.
Holler at Joe if you'd like at Joe@Joe-Mammy.com