The Cardinals recent play has been embarrassing. In the heat of a pennant race, the Redbirds seem to be wilting and they don’t seem to care either. That’s the most disappointing part of it all. The reason ballplayers play ball is to compete and to win and to win in October. The goal is the same every year. Everyone wants a ring. And every April, excitement and anticipation for a summer of baseball go through the roof. This April was no different in cities across the baseball landscape.
St. Louis had every reason to believe their Cardinals would cruise to another division title and maybe make a run at the shiny trophy at the end of the year. The excitement stayed strong going into August, the beginning of the stretch run in baseball. It wasn’t as easy as expected — the Cincinnati Reds elbowed their way into the race from the season’s start and never let up — but the Cards were still there. After a big sweep of the pesky Reds, it looked like St. Louis’ experience and winning tradition would carry it over the up-and-coming underdogs from Ohio. But the Reds dug in and the Cards started to fall — fast.
The winning tradition and pride of St. Louis Cardinals baseball was invisible. This team had no fight, no spirit, no energy, no fire. And that’s a shame. Losing five out of six games to the Pirates and Nationals is a shame for a team fighting for October. You know, that month that ever ballplayer, fan, and front office exec has circled on the calendar when April rolls around. It’s when the magic happens and it’s when one team will stand above the rest and take its place in history. The 2010 Cards don’t appear too concerned with the chance to do something special. They don’t even look like they care about the division. And that’s too bad.
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It’s also too bad to see Colby Rasmus disengaged from this whole race. He may be the perfect snapshot of what’s wrong with this team. Talented but uninterested. Rasmus has garnered the praise of writers across the country for his baseball talent and natural ability to play this game. He has it all and some even thought he deserved some All-Star love in July. Since then though, the centerfielder has been M.I.A. when St. Louis needs him most. A calf strain has kept him out longer than expected and Tony La Russa hasn’t been pleased with him for reasons only they know. But it doesn’t matter why the manager and the player are feuding. What does matter is that the player doesn’t seem to care about what he’s missing. He could be anchoring the outfield for a World Series contender. Instead he’s been anchored to the bench. He could be treated like a god in the baseball kingdom of St. Louis. Instead he’s rubbing fans the wrong way. He could be a winner. But he seems content with losing. And in sports, that’s unacceptable.
While La Russa is far from loved by a lot of people, he is a competitive and winning personality and he has been for a long time. This may be his last go around in St. Louis and missing the postseason would be the ultimate failure. That’s not the way he wants to go out.
There is still time to fix the mess. With a little over one month to go, a lot can happen. The road starts now and it gets tough soon with a big series in St. Louis with the Reds. The Cards need to show some fire this week leading up to that series for their sake and to show the fans they still care.
Albert Pujols has been the lone bright spot during the Cards collapse. While the rest of the team scuffles, Pujols has put himself in the middle of a Triple Crown race, reached a milestone, made some history, and received an award at a Glenn Beck rally in Washington.
The Cardinals slugger was honored for his charitable work off the field this past weekend. He was given a Hope Award at the “Restoring Honor” rally at the Lincoln Memorial. Pujols does a lot for the community through his foundation which is based on family values and religious faith. His foundation focuses on helping those with Down Syndrome and the poor in the Dominican Republic. Pujols often deflects attention from himself with praise and thanks to God for his talents.
Pujols has certainly made the most of his gift with a strong work ethic and drive for perfection. Even in a down year, he could win the Triple Crown in the National League. He just hit his 400th career home run last week. And by the end of the year he will surpass some all-time greats in achievement by the age of 30. Sports Illustrated’s Joe Posnanski shared this fun tidbit on Twitter the other day: “By year’s end, Albert Pujols will have more HRs than Ruth, hits than Rose, RBIs than Aaron and runs than Rickey at age 30.”
Wow. The king of each category in history can’t match up with Pujols. Unbelievable.
From the less than pleasant tone of this news update, it’s clear things aren’t going the Cards way right now. In need of a change, most of the team shaved their heads before Monday’s game in Houston. Tony La Russa won’t be shaving his head unless the Cards build a five-game lead of their own before the season’s over. Right now, I’d be agreeing to a shave for a playoff birth if I was Tony.
Either way his hair is safe for now. The Cards managed just two hits in a 3-0 loss to the Astros to continue its troubling slump. The Cardinals season is slipping away at the hands of the bottom feeders of the National League.