There is no doubt that this Cardinals season has seen more than its share of frustrations. It seems to me that there needs to be some sort of scale, of a level that you can quickly identify where you personally or the fanbase as a whole is sitting at. I mean, some things are just more frustrating than others. Struggle to hit but still win 100 games? That’s frustrating, but not probably as frustrating as losing games to no-name pitchers on a regular basis.
What I’m putting forth here can be adapted to each game (for instance, a game like Wednesday night, where the Cards win but scuffle early, might be Level 4 while a game like Tuesday, giving up a game-winning homer in the ninth, might be Level 2) but my general plan is to use this more like the DEFCON levels or the terror alert, where it adjusts based on new data but is more of a cumulative thing. We’ll see how it works.
STL-FIL 5: Smith
Things are going great. The club is clicking, things are looking up, and there are no major issues to deal with. Sure, they lose a few games here and there, but nobody wins them all. There may be weaknesses on the club, but they are pretty minor and are fairly easily dealt with. Pretty much everyone is happy and getting along, just enjoying another season of Cardinal baseball. This is a fairly theoretical level, as the only time in recent history that this level might have been attained was in 2011, in the few days between the World Series win and Albert Pujols filing for free agency.
STL-FIL 4: Isringhausen
For the most part, things are successful. How the club gains that success, though, has some people a little uptight. Perhaps it is a lot of late inning glitches making for some tight games. Maybe it’s a pitching-heavy club winning games for an offense that’s quiet. Could even be a spate of errors that don’t necessarily cost games, but make them more challenging to win. Obviously, much of 2015 was spent at FIL 4, at least the first half of the season. Warning signs: the rise of a small but vocal faction focusing on the weaknesses, a handful of Twitter accounts that can’t be happy, a lot of “this is a great team but….” comments around the Internet.
STL-FIL 3: Ankiel
This is where things start to unravel. The club is up, then it’s down. You get a great performance against a top opponent one day, only to see a meek showing against a cellar dweller the next. The pitching is great while the offense struggles, then the offense comes around only to lose a 9-8 ballgame. And if everything does come together, then the bullpen winds up losing the lead. There’s no sort of consistency, good or bad. Warning signs: a growing deficit in the standings, nightly Twitter spats, a series of “what’s wrong with this team” posts and articles, a focus on a player or two as a major problem.
STL-FIL 2: Rasmus
It seems to be all going wrong, but there is still some hope. Just about when everyone’s given up, the club wins two or three in a row and starts to remind folks of all the good they could do. Of course, that hope doesn’t last long as the pitching staff gives up six a game and the offense sputters. While a given matchup may still seem to get people excited about the nightly possibilities, more and more folks have the “they are going to lose” mindset before first pitch even happens. Warning signs: the level-headed or positive folks are the minority, social media is even more negative than normal, significant empty sections can be found at Busch Stadium.
STL-FIL 1: Drew
There’s still good out there, but it’s like finding it inside Darth Vader–you’ve really got to work for it and it may cause some pain in the process. Nothing at all is going right and the team couldn’t see first place if you gave them the Hubble telescope. Every night is just an exercise in futility and more than once you wonder why you are even bothering to turn the game on. There’s consistency here, but it’s the kind you never want to have to deal with. Thankfully, this level is also fairly theoretical, as you’d probably have go back to 1990 and definitely pre-DeWitt days to find the fanbase getting this low. Warning signs: Twitter actually settles because fewer and fewer folks are engaging, all the red at the games is from the empty seats, even players are making comments in the press about how bad things are.
I think that, if you look at the fanbase overall right now, we are probably at Ankiel levels of frustration. There’s pretty much a direct correlation between the frustration levels and the record, in my mind. As it’s often said, winning cures a lot of ills. The Cardinals are still winning a little more often than they are losing, so I don’t think folks have dropped below level three yet. That said, if they don’t pick it up, we might have to consider dropping to FIL 2 by the end of the year. I don’t think we’ll get that bad off, but we’ll see.
Also, if anyone is interested in working this chart up into Photoshop, I have some ideas but no skills to do it. Contact me and we’ll talk!