What More Can You Say?

A view of the current state of the St. Louis Cardinals affairs delivered straight from the World According to Joe Mammy, wherever that may be. This time, Joe looks backward at the 2006 season and forward to the playoffs.


It's not the end of the world.  The Cardinals barring a late season swan dive (in which any other team in the division doesn't follow suit, that is…) are in line for their sixth trip to the postseason in seven years.  All that while missing our starting center fielder and shortstop, the #2 starter in the rotation, having no regular left fielder and about 3/5's of the starting rotation inexplicably replaced by t-ball tees on any given week.


And in the meantime Albert Pujols continues to be the biggest freak on the face of the planet.  I think there's got to be a support group set up by now and I'm guessing Brad Lidge and Odalis Perez are charter members.  While I like Ryan Howard and appreciate all that he's done for the Phillies this year, there's no way that Albert hasn't earned a second MVP.  How much more clutch can this guy get without this being a Disney "based on a true story" film?


The 2006 campaign has been one of the more frustrating ones in recent memory.  While the Cardinals are in first, they definitely haven't played like a team that's earned another division title for significant stretches this season.  The Cards as of late haven't seemed as lackluster as, say, the Cards right after the All-Star break, and there have been some signs of improvement.


Chris Carpenter had been injured and a few starts afterwards he still wasn't quite up to snuff.  Since then Carp has been just as dominant as his Cy Young award season and just when the Cardinals needed stability and someone intimidating on the mound.  Jeff Suppan has once again completed his second half transformation and turned into the second coming of Woody Williams.  The emergence of Chris Duncan has helped relieve some of that "Who's in left" second-guessing.  Time will tell if Duncan has won himself a spot in the Cards future plans, but it's hard not to think Tony La Russa and company have a little asterisk by his name for next spring.


It's also been nice to see the metamorphosis of Jeff Weaver.  While I think he might be just a stop gap for the remainder of this season, it's been nice to see that Dave Duncan has been able to work some of his magic already.  The results have been hit and miss, but at least Weaver's learned some poise.  When he first came over whenever he didn't get a call I would've sworn he was going to cry.  He'd pout to the umpires and look like he was falling apart.  He's still got an animated streak, but he looks more in command of his emotions on the mound and he's been at least a little better pitching-wise.  Now if they could just do something about pitching to left-handers.


On a side note, I'm glad the Cards got to face Milwaukee on last time this season.  I love Derrick Turnbow—he looks like a hybrid of Napoleon Dynamite and one of the Hanson brothers from "Slapshot".  Did I mention that if his location is on he's a flame throwing machine?  Baseball is fun that way.


Anyway, back to Cardinals.  I was wondering who was going to fill the Einar Diaz role on this year's club and so far Jose Vizcaino appears to be the front runner.  I was happy to see Walt Jocketty try and fill the hole with a veteran and Vizcaino came cheap after being released by the Giants.  Apparently what the Cardinals really needed was someone to keep the edge of the bench warm.  If you're a glass half full type it's because Aaron Miles has answered the call effectively at short.  But like Einar last year, you have to wonder what a guy has to do to see some playing time every now and then.


One of my big gripes with the Cardinals this season (and in the past) is how they deal with injuries.  Jim Edmonds, Jason Isringhausen, Mark Mulder and even Albert Pujols have been playing hurt.  In the case of Edmonds and Mulder it's not easy to figure out if the coaches and training staff turned a blind eye to their physical ailments or if they kept soldiering on insisting that nothing was wrong.  Izzy is a harder issue because after insisting in the preseason and in the early going that this was the first season he had been 100% healthy and yet he struggled.  He was so inconsistent throughout the season it's hard to believe that he was healthy at all this season.  According to reports published earlier here on the Birdhouse, it seems quite possible that Izzy might be forced to retire due to his recurring hip problems.


Pujols has a notorious dislike of sitting games out but with elbow, wrist and back injuries continuing to swirl, Tony La Russa needs to have Albert sit a few.  While I admire Pujols and Edmonds and all the other walking wounded on the Cardinals roster, it should be growing increasingly clear that moderation needs to be used with the iron man mentality.  There aren't many things I like seeing less than "season ending" preceding the word injury, or worse yet "career ending".  As they say, an ounce of prevention.


So what more can you say?  The Cardinals have some questions with injuries going into the postseason, but if history has shown us anything in recent years, all it takes is a late hot streak at the end to take home the hardware.  It's easy to be down because things haven't gone as smoothly as they have in past seasons, but it's hard to argue that the Cards don't have enough talent to put together a run.  With October right around the corner now is when it all gets really interesting.


Fall in love with Joe all over again at Joe@Joe-Mammy.com

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