It’s hard to believe it’s only been a few weeks since the Cardinals stormed into Cincinnati, engaged in a wild brawl with their new arch rivals, and emerged with an impressive three game sweep and sole possession of first place in the NL Central. Since that time, the fates and fortunes of both teams have completely reversed, heading into the final month of the season. The Reds are solidly in the driver’s seat as the Cardinals desperately try to hang on for dear life.
What happened? The offense has been inconsistent for most of the season, but now has become nonexistent. Their current road trip probably looked like a great opportunity to fatten up on the National League’s three weakest teams – the Pirates, Nationals and Astros. Fat chance. Despite some pretty good pitching, the Cards have been manhandled; victimized by an anemic offense and lackluster style of play that is reminiscent of the team Whitey Herzog deserted halfway through the 1990 campaign; a team only three years removed from a World Series appearance; a team destined to finish in last place for the first time since 1918.
Certainly, this current Redbird edition won’t finish last; at the rate of their current demise, second place is no sure thing, however.
Yes, the situation is bleak. Is it hopeless? Not yet. Here’s why: The Cards still have the best three starting pitchers in the game, and they will be home soon for an extended period where they generally flourish. They still have the single best player in the game – Albert Pujols – who may wind up the season with a Triple Crown in his possession. That is how good he is. By his standards, he is having a “so-so” season, but he is still in position to do something no National League player has done since Joe Medwick turned the trick in 1937; ironically, playing for a mediocre Cardinals team that only finished eight games above .500, en route to a distant fourth place finish.
Is it deja vu all over again? The Cards are currently eight games over .500…
Although I am far from optimistic about the prospects of postseason play for the Cards, I have not quite jumped on the “Cards are dead” bandwagon yet. We have seen flashes of brilliance from this team all year long. Why not one more one-month burst of brilliance, just for old time’s sake? For anyone who can remember the miracle of ’64, there is always a glimmer of hope that history could repeat itself. Back then, as late as September 20, they trailed the Phillies by six and one half games. Thanks in large part to some of the worst managing in the history of the game, Gene Mauch’s Phillies went on to blow that lead, handing the pennant over to St Louis in the process.
By comparison, the current plight of the Cardinals is a walk in the park compared to the uphill climb the Lou Brock-Ken Boyer-Bob Gibson squad overcame.
As Whitey Herzog used to say, it is time to “fish or cut bait.” If this is going to be a September to remember, the Redbirds will probably need to win 70% of their remaining games to stand much of a chance of overtaking Brandon Phillips’ “Dreds”. Perhaps he and Yadi can continue their “discussion” when Cincy makes their final visit to Busch later this month.
It may appear to be over for the Cards, as August melts into September…I’ve got a feeling it is far from over, folks.