What's up with this years Jekyll and Hyde Cardinals? Just when I think that the team is starting to gel and fire on all cylinders they go all apocalyptic. Just when Jason Marquis or Jeff Suppan look like they're bearing down they turn in a t-ball performance. And the bullpen, good Lord, the bullpen, they seem to have the ultimate team mentality—either they all perform or they all just throw batting practice.
To make it worse, I'm not sure if I
should complain or not. While not
running away with the NL Central, the Cardinals have remained in control of
their own destiny. They haven't
dominated, but they've been good enough—at least on paper. Sure the interleague games weren't
anything to brag about, but keep in mind that in '04 the Cards had the best
interleague record in baseball and won exactly no games in October—when it
counted. And ending the first half
of the season with three straight wins against division rival Houston and
sweeping the Dodgers in a four game series made it look like the ship had been
righted. But the first two games
And who do you blame? The pitching? Jason Marquis has 11 wins. Jeff Suppan has been effective and is cheap. Reyes has been solid if less than lights out since his strong debut. Isringhausen, Wainwright and Looper have all been more or less dependable as of late. Of course it's not the "more" that's the problem.
Is the problem in the lineup? Who do you get rid of? Chris Duncan has been a nice bat in the lineup. While the rotating cast in left field hasn't been as inspiring as a regular left fielder, I can't think of any one acquisition that would have been available at the same price that would have done any better. The front office has already said that reinforcing left field is a priority, but unless I'm missing something there is no knight in shining armor on the market—at least nothing that comes for anything less than a Faustian deal.
Ultimately the frustration I have (and I don't think I'm alone) is that this team isn't as bad as they've looked at times. The problem is that having the potential to be very good isn't the same as being a good team. Life would be easier if there were a clear scapegoat—if there was one guy or position that could be bolstered, traded or promoted that would take care of everything, but I'm just not seeing it.
Maybe we've gotten spoiled, but in other years it seemed like when the team struggled they were trying to beat expectations. This time around, it just feels like something's missing. It's hard to say because with Albert Pujols having one of the freakishly clutch seasons I've ever seen and guys like Rolen and Eckstein gutting it out each and every day, I don't want to be too down on the team because it's clear that the Cards could rebound with a vengeance. It's just hard to see that from here.
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