Though this title may seem cliche and could certainly be applicable to any part of the season, I am here to explain why this point in time is extremely critical for the Cards.
St. Louis fans are somewhat shocked and disappointed this Monday morning. Recently, the Cardinals party train has been quietly humbled by the 2011 Big Red Machine. What started off as a seemingly great weekend quickly transitioned into a forgettable one for Redbirds fans. Just a few days ago the Cardinals had a comfortable division lead, but now that lead is gone and Tony La Russa’s squad finds itself in too familiar a position: trailing the Cincinnati Reds (down 1.5 games) in the NL Central.
In order to reverse this haunting 2010 trend the Cardinals will have to bounce back quickly from the recent sweep that the Reds handed to them.
But there is more to this current situation that makes it a critical one. Not only did the Cardinals just get swept, but they are also plagued with many unanswered questions that must be confronted going forward.
I know that they say most news is bad news, but usually we like to hope that this general rule of thumb is not applicable when it comes to the city’s baseball team. Unfortunately, today this rule is true. Simply log on to the Cardinals official website today and you will be bombarded with negative headlines projecting nothing but uncertainty towards the Cardinals’ future. The optimistically negative headlines that were on the site last night (and some into today) read as follows:
“Carp sputters as Cards drop finale”
Oh, ok that’s fine they only dropped the finale. What’s that you say? They got swept?
“Berkman unfazed by May downturn”
Well, that’s great that he’s unfazed, but then again he is having a May downturn now isn’t he?
“Theriot playing through defensive slump”
Ok, yeah, Theriot has had a bit of a defensive slump recently. That’s not good. By the way, what exactly is the evidence that he’s playing through this slump, again?
“Rasmus out with stomach issue”
One of the Cardinals’ most consistent offensive producers and the team’s everyday center-fielder has a stomach bug? Can I please maybe get just one inkling of concrete, good news?
“Homers haunt McClellan as Cardinals fall out of first”
“Cards bullpen jobs remain unsettled”
“Holliday plays on despite sore foot”
Awesome, his foot is painful enough to the point where he needs to play through it.
These sometimes humorous headlines nonetheless perfectly highlight what is going on with this team right now. To me, a simple observer, it seems as though the 2011 Cardinals have yet to find their true identity. It seemed as though the Cardinals were clicking on all cylinders one day and then they hit a sudden skid the next.
What will happen if Berkman sputtering is actually him getting tired this early in the season? It’s no surprise that Theriot is making more mistakes playing short than Brendan Ryan normally would. And just who will emerge as the consistent closer for the Cardinals?
The Cardinals still have lots of time to sort out their kinks. But despite the fact that this is a 162-game season, there never very much room for error in Major League Baseball. It is times like these where a strong leader can steer the team right back in the positive direction (Pujols…Albert! Where are you? That was your cue!)