Fear and loathing in St. Louis

It hasn’t been an easy week to be a Cardinals fan. Actually, let’s be honest – it hasn’t been an easy few weeks. Just last Saturday I wrote (in typical tongue-in-cheek fashion) about how the Cardinals front office is really just screwing with us, to elicit a reaction on social media. That was before the Cards dropped two of three to the Cubs…before the team couldn’t support Tyler Lyons in yet another fantastic outing.

I’m not throwing my hands up, but there are some real areas for concern. Luckily, your humble reporter is armed with a copy of Twitter on his phone, and I’ve been digging to come up with the salient points being made on this Mecca of baseball managerial wisdom. To an extent, I agree with some of what I see. Other comments are just plain funny.

What follows is a rough summary of my Twitter timeline for the past week, paraphrased and abridged for your convenience, and because people under 18 might frequent this site:

– The Cards have the most intensely frustrating offense to watch right now.

– The frustration of watching them hit is surpassed only by the frustration of watching 3rd year manager Mike Matheny double-switch out the best hitter on the team in nearly every game.

– The frustration of watching Matheny not have the double-switch intervention he so desperately needs, is surpassed only by the frustration of watching the wrong lineup take the field nearly every game and for all the wrong reasons.

– This team is loaded with potential. But so far only a few players are meeting that potential. Who can be held responsible when an epidemic like that takes hold on a team.

– It’s hard to blame the same coaching staff that oversaw the impressive offense from last year.

– Even if the team just isn’t that good, it is inexcusable to have a squad full of guys raking in Memphis while the front office is whistling Dixie in St. Louis.

– Wong is on fire right now. Whatever the reasons for sending him down, how can they justify keeping him there?

– Get rid of Bourjos. If they aren’t going to play him, then admit what the trade was, and move on. They wanted to free up 3B for Carpenter, and they really didn’t care how they freed up the position.

– Play Bourjos!!!

-SWING. THE. BAT.

And, of course

– WHY IS JON JAY PLAYING?!?!?!

Does any of this sound familiar? No, I’m sure none of this has appeared in your feed. This is the portion of the post where I’d normally like to instill some sanity and reason into the frustration Cards fans are feeling. I’ll admit, it is tough. Let’s get started.

For starters, the entire team is struggling. Outside of Carpenter, Peralta, Molina, Adams, and Holliday it’s been pretty flat. Wait, what? That sounds pretty good. It is pretty good. Oh, and this just in: Peter Bourjos started Wednesday against the Braves and went 3 for 4. Yes, you read that correctly, but feel free to go over it again if you want to basque in the glory. Also, Peralta homered in Friday night’s game against the Pirates, giving them (at that time) a 4-3 lead.

The problem is that while they’re hitting the ball they aren’t translating those hits into runs crossing the plate, outside of games like Wednesday’s and a few other outliers. We all knew the 2013 batting with RISP couldn’t last, but I don’t think anyone saw it crashing this fast. I’d put that squarely into the category of letting the law of averages work things out over time.

Another problem — a huge problem — is Allen Craig. I don’t believe that guys just forget how to hit, and there have been flashes of brilliance. Just not nearly enough. Matheny even tried benching him Wednesday. While he has been slumping, he was responsible for three of the Cards’ four runs Friday night.

What you don’t need to worry about is the rotation, at least not yet. Lyons is the replacement for our fifth starter. If you’ve watched any of his outings, call the police department, because you’ve just witnessed a robbery. He has been excellent, and yet he can’t pick up a win to save his life – and that’s the replacement for the number five starter. He’d easily be a third starter on other teams.

Wainwright struggled against the Cubs, but has had an otherwise stellar season. He had a bounce-back appearance against the Braves in his next start, lasting 8 innings and giving up one run. He’s allowed an occasional bad outing. Wacha isn’t going to strike out 10 batters every time he takes the hill. He’s still been largely OK. Although, he does need to watch his walks, and get deeper into games. Mike Matheny, on the other hand, needs to learn when to pull the hook. He’s not been reading Wacha very well early on, although he did better on Friday. Wacha is struggling to get into the 6th, much less the 7th. While many focus of pitch efficiency problems for Shelby Miller, little attention is paid to Wacha’s own potential issues.

Lance Lynn is, well, Lance Lynn. Either love him or hate him, he’s been good for the team. I don’t know what he puts in the drinks clubhouse drinks for the team (I hope it’s legal), but it works. He usually gets run support (but not always). What can you say about a guy who’s 4-1 with a 3.51 ERA? He’s been good this season, and despite picking up the rear in ERA, he tends to win. He also piles on the innings, which is more than I can say for Shelby Miller. What does the 7th inning look like for Shelby? It looks like the shower in the clubhouse. That’s something he needs to work on. Yet, even he posts a winning record (4-2) with a 3.20 ERA.

I would urge Cardinals Nation to exercise a little more patience. This team has all the elements for success on paper. I won’t give you a line about “warm weather heating the bats up” or any such nonsense, but let’s at least see how things are going by Memorial Day before we hit the panic switch.

  • Tulsa Terry

    I’ve already lost patience with this team and now on the verge of losing interest. Wong and Taveras seem to be in jail to save 5 dollars 3 years from now.

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