The Cardinals started the season on a rollercoaster and have quickly become the Tea Cup ride…they are simply spinning in circles. Their wins happen against losing teams, and sometimes, that is not a given. They lost 2 of 3 to the Orioles and failed to sweep the supposed worst team in baseball, the Phillies. The two games they won in that series went to extras. Leake is the last hope to salvage one solitary win out of this series against the Pirates, who are also below .500, but now a full game ahead of the Cardinals. Having won the first two games of this series, they are in 3rd place in the Central and the Cards are in 4th.
I never know exactly what to write about anymore. Watching my favorite team is feeling less like entertainment and more like a habit…sometimes a chore. I’ve written before that I’m committed to them, and that remains the same. However, we’re in a lull right now. I looked forward to this season for what felt like 72 months of offseason and now I find myself grasping at any last little tiny thing that can give me any hope. Those moments are happening few and far in between and even then, they’re fleeting.
Rest assured, Carlos Martinez will always give us something to look forward to every 5 days. Pitching now as the third best pitcher in the National League, he is more brilliant and exciting with every inning. Tommy Pham has thrown guys out at the plate and hit some homers…all fun to watch. His attitude about winning and competing is even more refreshing. Not content with needing extra innings or his own strikeouts during a game where he hit 2 home runs and had 2 outfield assists, he told the media exactly how he feels. And, as everyone knows, my love for Adam Wainwright is one that will never be shaken.
Tonight during the broadcast, Tom Verducci informed the viewers that Piscotty was simply resting due to the team’s heavy schedule leading to the All Star Break. I’ll be honest with you-this information only aggravated me further as I watched the runs pile up for the Pirates. If the team was performing well, if the energy level was where it should be, if a full effort for all 9 innings from every player was always given…okay, rest them. However, the team is 7 games below .500 and I never think “effort” and “energy” when I watch this team anymore. 2 of the 3 players resting tonight came in to pinch hit, both getting hits. Could they possibly have hit at other points throughout the night and produced more runs? We’ll never know.
In an article posted Tuesday, Derrick Goold wrote about the team learning to support each other. This is baffling to me, for many reasons. Clubhouse issues were supposed to be solved in the offseason. Last year’s clubhouse got a bad rap. In spring training, multiple players talked about how there were groups and cliques…the lack of cohesion prompted Wainwright to take them on a field trip to escape rooms to learn to work together. Now we’re hearing the players are having meetings to discuss supporting each other. Shouldn’t this be a given? Why aren’t they supporting each other? In this climate, with all the losses, leadership in flux, players leaving and finding success on other teams…wouldn’t supporting each other seem more crucial than ever? Imagine everyone acting like Adam and Carlos…energy, hard work, enthusiasm, watching every game intently more times than not at the top step or at the top of the dugout. Both of them bring their personality and their comradery with each other to this team. The water splashes, the hugs, the “good eye goofiness”…maybe if this energy flowed throughout the whole clubhouse, it would lead to more wins. Pham is another player who has brought a refreshing take to the clubhouse. He is a competitor and he wants his team to be equally as competitive…he is disappointed with anything less. All three of these players have attitudes worth emulating.
My general takes:
1) No one on the team deserves days off at this point before the break simply to have a day off. If injured, I would be fine with using the 10 day DL so the team does not have to play short so often. Play hard during the game, work during time away from the game on any weaknesses in their game, and be prepared to play every day.
2) I’m not a fan of getting big trade deals done for this team this season. Until every aspect of their game improves to even an average level, one bat or one glove most likely won’t be enough to increase the wins dramatically.
3) Right now, I can suggest one or two immediate changes that wouldn’t cost any players or money but would still be beneficial. The first suggestion would be to be relieve Mike Matheny of his duties. The second suggestion would be to do the same with John Mabry. Either one could happen in either order. The roster is not necessarily the most talented roster it could be…it has roles that need to be filled and might not be with the current players. However, they have not lost all of their talent and skills as each game is played. Inspiration and motivation are lacking. Helpful instruction of the fundamentals of the game are seemingly not present. Taking responsibility seems an abstract concept and having the starting position seems to be taken for granted…work ethic slipping with too big a safety net underneath. Real solutions to the hitting problems all the players are experiencing are not being created. All issues could be improved with new leadership. In the offseason, roster issues should actually be fixed with a strong effort from John Mozeliak instead of one sided players getting big contracts (i.e. only good defense but no offense or vice versa).
4) Players need to play as though every game matters. Losing out on the postseason by ONE game last season seemed to not be enough of a lesson for most. I’ve heard Pham and Wainwright mention it, maybe others have, but for the most part I’ve heard too many interviews where they say “it’s a long season” (not just from the players and manager, but media as well). At this rate, 4th in Central, 7 under .500…it is long overdue to start playing like every game matters. Every inning matters. Every run matters. Every play matters. Every at bat matters. Play like it matters.
Here’s the bottom line for me: I’m in this. I always will be. Win or lose is the “in sickness and in health” part of our relationship. For better or worse, this team is the one for me. My effort is here. I watch every game and DVR the day games while I’m at work. My commitment hasn’t wavered. Game after game I feel them abandoning their commitment to me though. I don’t want to get to this point with the team I have loved for years…the point of feeling so let down that I can’t hold on anymore. They need to give me something here. I get my good days when Adam and Carlos pitch and occasionally a good moment or two provided by someone else, but I need more. I’m not asking for much. I’m asking for heart and hustle…I’m asking for some fight. Every day, I’m here willing to fight for them. I want them to work with each other and fight for every win. I want them to fight for me…every relationship is a constant work in progress. The Cardinals need to start putting work into our relationship. It’s not too late. I’m still here.