The St. Louis Cardinals returned from the All-Star break in third place in the NL Central, 2.5 games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates, and they had an opportunity to quickly jump back ahead with their first nine games after the break against division teams.
Unfortunately, the Cardinals won just two of the first seven of those games heading into play Saturday. They were unceremoniously swept by the Cincinnati Reds and lost two of three to the Milwaukee Brewers before beating the Chicago Cubs 4-1 Friday. That stretch dropped them five games behind the division-leading Reds.
It would be easy to sound the alarms and demand an overhaul at the trade deadline. People say the bullpen is terrible, Jon Jay can no longer hit and the team could use another starting pitcher. However, those problems need only minor solutions, not major changes.
It would be short-sighted to say the Cardinals are a bad team. This team still has as much talent on its roster as any team in the National League. The problem of late has been they just haven’t come up with the key hit.
The Cardinals went 1-5 on their road trip to Cincinnati and Milwaukee to begin the second half of the season, but they were outscored by only seven runs in those six games, and three of those losses were by one run where the Cardinals had men on base in the ninth with a chance to win.
A stretch where a team can’t come up with a timely hit doesn’t mean the team is bad. That is just part of the ebb and flow of a major league season. Too bad we live in a world where every move a player or manager makes is scrutinized to the point where it sounds like people are shocked these players are good enough to be in the big leagues.
For example, Lance Berkman returned to the Cardinals lineup July 14. He went his first 10 at-bats after he came back before he got a base hit.
OK, he went on an 0-for-10 stretch. So what? By the reaction of fans and media folks, one would have thought Berkman was on the verge of announcing his retirement because he could no longer life a baseball bat. Yes, he didn’t go on a rehab assignment, and I’ll give the critics the benefit of the doubt and say maybe that would’ve helped his return. But it was only 10 at-bats. Shoot, Tyler Greene sometimes goes 30 at-bats without more than a hit or two and nobody says anything. Why panic this time?
More than anything, be thankful the pitching has been good so far in the second half. The Cardinals haven’t given up more than four runs in all but one game since the All-Star break.
The Cardinals are still a good baseball team, folks. All it takes is one two-week stretch when the Cardinals win three of every four games, and they will be right back in the thick of the division race.
Sure, the Cardinals still need some help in the bullpen and another starting pitcher would comfort the minds of Cardinals fans everywhere, but the trade deadline is still more than a week away. A lot of moves will happen between now and then, and the Cardinals are likely to make a move of some kind.
So, instead of panicking that the Cardinals, can’t hit, can’t hold a lead can’t beat anybody in their division, how about we sit back and allow the team to play the remainder of its schedule. The Cardinals still have more than 65 games left to play.
It’s not fun to be patient, but the Cardinals are not as bad of a team as people make them out to be. They have a talented team, and with an addition or two through trades they will be likely be playing extremely important, exciting games at the end of the season.
Just wait, it will be fun.