It was a tough road trip. A record of 2-5 against the two teams the St. Louis Cardinals have to beat. A road trip marred by poor starting pitching performances and an offense that appears to have taken a vacation. Only Joe Kelly and Michael Wacha stand out among the starting pitching performances. On the offensive side, only Matt Carpenter has remained his usual stalwart self. If only those three players could be bottled or cloned, we’d have a World Series Championship for sure. But, that only works in fantasy novels; the reality is there are some serious issues looming for the Redbirds. Issues that need to be addressed. Frustrated fans are lashing out all over the cybersphere. The End of the World is Coming.
Okay, maybe not the end of the world, though you wouldn’t know it by the way fans are reacting. Fans are unhappy, and that is an understatement. Frustrated by inactivity by the GM during the trade season, by a manager whose somewhat robotic manner during post game interviews suggests he doesn’t get it, and by players who seem lost at the plate or unable to pitch with any consistency. It’s a perfect storm that would make George Clooney turn that boat around sooner.
Yes, it’s maddening but is it as bad as it’s being made out to be? Everyone knows a baseball season has its ebbs and flows. Perhaps it’s the timing of this particular ebb that has the fan base standing on the ledge. Picked a bad week to stop sniffing glue as Steve McCroskey laments in the movie Airplane!. It’s not that there aren’t clearly issues plaguing this team. The recent pitching performances of starter Lance Lynn stands out among them. Let me say this, I am just as frustrated by Lynn’s struggles as the next person; I just choose not to react in the apocalyptic manner about it that others do. I know that Lynn has talent. I know that he wants to do better. Wanting and doing are separate issues. I’m going to say something that does not sit well in the sabermetric community, something that would probably lose me my saber card if there was such a thing and I had one. I think some of Lynn’s issues are locked in that cerebral area above his shoulders. Mike Matheny described it as “clutter” in Lynn’s thought processes. Losing focus for the next pitch after something goes awry with the prior one. It is something that seems to have permeated throughout the rest of the league, right or wrong, because Reds starter Tony Cingrani was quoted as saying he acted with that idea about Lynn in his head in his first at bat in the second inning. Whether Cingrani has it right or what followed was just a coincidence that leads to the evil narrative that the sabermetric community hates so much, has to be left for argument. The result was as we all saw. And now, the fan base is screaming for Lynn’s head on a platter, metaphorically speaking, and the organization (who thankfully doesn’t take advice from the fan base) has to decide what to do from here on out. What a tangled web.
The offensive struggles are another can of worms entirely. Is it just the proverbial “down times” or the “part of the season where you just don’t click” as Mike Matheny puts it? Or is there more to it? Is it possible that the team is just gassed? There have been long brutal stretches of games without off days in the last two months. There are players that have ouchies and players that are at an age where fatigue can be more of a problem in a not young body. The conspiracy minded no doubt want to speculate about clubhouse issues or the tough love crowd wants to accuse the manager of “coddling” players and cry out for a “swift kick in the keester”. These are all great script fodder for a baseball reality TV series, but the hard fact of the matter is that the Cardinals are locked in a tight battle for the division with 22 games left to go and something has to change. Whatever is troubling this team, if anything concrete is, it needs to be identified and steps taken to fix it. If it is nothing more than a normal ebb, then we all need to pray to whatever deity we believe in or hope for whatever change in fortune we think is needed, or this season may turn out to be not we envisioned it to be.
I don’t have the answer. If I did, well, things would sure be better for me than they are. But I don’t see knee jerking panic and cries of bloody tortuous punishment for the uncaring offenders as a particularly soothing balm for the ills of this team. You wouldn’t want me in your reality TV series.