The St. Louis Cardinals baseball team is looking up at a 5 game deficit, with many people scratching their heads and questioning what is really plaguing the team. Some say it is all the injuries, others the underperforming bullpen, and still more the lack of runs of late; the list goes on. However, there is no team with more fight, more magic, and more chutzpa than the one that graces the Gateway City and Busch Stadium field with its presence. Anyone who has ever been to a game at Busch, new or old, will tell you that there’s something magical about the place. It’s the atmosphere that the people of St. Louis create that rubs off on the team. The team mentality of everyone who lives in this great city makes me believe that the Redbirds will fly again quite soon. Mark my words!
I’m not so naïve as to think that the Cardinals will make a dramatic run without an at least somewhat healthy lineup and an improved bullpen, but I do look at the positives and recent history as a benchmark to predict what will come next.
Mike Matheny: Though he’s just a first-year manager and is taking over for the legendary Tony LaRussa, the versatile former St. Louis Cardinal backstop is a quick study, and will get his team performing. I’ve been paying very close attention to his interaction with the players and media after games, and one will quickly notice how he never speaks ill of anyone, doesn’t make the same mistake twice, and rallies around his team. He has already been put in many unenviable situations that would seem daunting to even the most seasoned manager and he has faced all the challenges head on.
The idiosyncrasies, superstitions, and mindset of baseball personnel is not lost on a man who has been around the game of baseball since he was a young child, growing up in Ohio. His faith has forged him into a man with tremendous dedication who doesn’t allow for a short bout of struggles become a prevailing way of life or thinking. He won’t be LaRussa in year one, and maybe not ever, and that’s a good thing. I don’t mean to sound blasphemous, but he will be Mike Matheny, like it or not, and he’s not going to apologize for it – nor should he. In the end, his workmanlike mentality, strong faith, baseball brain, and will to win will prevail. The Cardinals will be a perennial contender under his tutelage and anyone who thinks or talks otherwise will just have to eat crow very shortly.
The other upsides:
The Wain is getting (W)right With the exception of his June 1 start against the Mets, Wainwright hasn’t allowed more than 3 runs since May 22. He’s also got a 40:10 walk-to-strikeout ratio in those 6 starts. Not too shabby for a guy who had Tommy John surgery last Spring.
The Redbirds have their own version of Lynnsanity Lance Lynn has been an absolute force on the mound. When you consider the fact that he has taken over for the perennial ace of the staff, Chris Carpenter, it makes what he’s been able to accomplish on the mound even more impressive. In his 13 starts, he’s composed a brilliant record of 10-2 in 81.2 innings pitched, an 86:27 strikeout-to-walk ratio, a 1.09 WHIP, and a sparkling 2.42 ERA that has him near the top in almost every pitching measurable. There’s no reason to think that his success can’t continue either, and he’s durable. Given the number of St. Louis Cardinals on the DL right now, that is something that’s a huge plus.
Beltran has been belting. The NL leader in homeruns (19) has been a more than pleasant surprise. He’s been healthy up to this point, and is near the top of the leader board in RBI and OPS as well. If everyone else can fall in line and take a page from Beltran’s book, there’s no reason to think the Cardinals bats can’t heat up. With a little luck, and some health on their side, it’s not out of the question to think that their early season (first 30 games) average of 5.56 runs per game would be again the norm.
Last year’s historic comeback: Let’s not forget that at Labor Day last year, the St. Louis Cardinals trailed the Atlanta Braves by 8 ½ games in the Wild Card standings and didn’t let off the gas until their torrid September run culminated in an October World Series Championship. They not only passed the Braves in dramatic fashion with an 8-0 win against the Houston Astros on the last day of the season, but they also won their 11th title. While the 12 in ’12 seems like a distant and ever fading hope, the reality is this my Redbird brothers and sisters, the Cardinals will fly and won’t look back until they soar once more!