Monday, August 16, 2010

Where Did the Fight Go?

I had the best intentions of writing a post about the now infamous fight in Cincinnati last week, but the reality of life with a 6 month old child and 40+ hour a week job (not to mention being old and needing sleep) got in the way. With the extra few days of perspective, my viewpoint changes, and not really for the better.

The Cardinals finally looked like the team most expected them to be during that series versus the Reds. They were ticked at Brandon Phillips calling them "little bitches", and they set out to show him and his team why they were still the team to beat in the NL Central. It was a much anticipated series, and turned out to be a bit of a yawn. With sweep in hand, the Cards returned home to face the lowly Cubs and a roster that looked like it belonged in Des Moines. I was thinking sweep, or 2 of 3 at the very least.

Now that the Cards have dropped 2 of 3, I'm starting to become more and more convinced that this is a team destined to go out with a whimper once October rolls around -- assuming they even make it that far. For the second straight series, the Cardinals can only manage one win against the Cubs. Had the Redbirds shown any streak of consistency at all in 2010, I might chalk this up to the rivalry and the fact that these series against their biggest rival are about as close to meaningful baseball as the Cubs are going to see from here on out. We've seen this series after series with this year's Cardinals, though, and unless that mythical switch is out there just waiting to be thrown, we might be seeing a team falling far short of expectations. A shame, given that so many things are going right:
  1. Wainwright is having his second straight Cy Young worthy campaign.
  2. Pujols has turned things on and just became the only player in history to hit 30 HR in 10 straight seasons.
  3. Matt Holliday is putting up numbers consistent with a guy who commanded huge money on the free agent market.
  4. Jaime Garcia has more than made up for the departure of Joel Piniero and softened the injuries of Lohse and Penny.
  5. Rookie Jon Jay has been raking and is an almost permanent fixture in the 2 hole.
  6. Colby Rasmus still has some room to grow, but is clearly blossoming into one of the team's best players.
In spite of all of this, the Cards still find themselves trailing the Reds on 8/16. Why is that? You can point to some of the under-performers -- Ryan, Schumaker, Lopez, etc. Then there are injuries to guys like Freese, Lohse, Penny and (since traded) Ludwick. The big problem, though, is that the team doesn't seem to play with that "Win or Die" mentality that Tony LaRussa managed teams seem to carry. Tough to pinpoint a simple reason why that is missing, but if this team doesn't find its heart soon, then we'll be talking 2011 much sooner than any of us would have thought.

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