The St. Louis Cardinals were in a great place to sneak into the playoffs just a few days ago. But after getting swept by the Brewers, things are not looking as good.
Amidst the frustration of a difficult series against a very good team, it is easy for emotions to flare up. With each loss, the playoff hopes continue to dwindle down. While they are not out of it, my sights are set on the future for the St. Louis Cardinals.
The playoff chances are not gone. Close, but not gone yet. This is why the game is played, and this is why we love baseball. Anything can happen.
This year has been a roller coaster, with some extremely comforting highs and equally as depressing lows. One thing is certain this year, there was a strong youth wave that took over the Cardinals.
Young And Hungry
Experience is such a key part of any team hoping to succeed, and that is something that St. Louis just does not have in their current core. Yes, players like Yadier Molina Matt Carpenter, Carlos Martinez and Adam Wainwright are the veterans, which has come to the forefront. However, even some of the veterans are not experienced when it matters.
Look at Marcell Ozuna, who is in his sixth season without playing in a playoff game. Even the top pitcher of the year, Miles Mikolas hasn’t been in this situation before. Add that in with the nine players who made their MLB debuts this season and this team lacks the type of presence needed to finish this run.
On the flip side, this gives them a taste. Sometimes that is all it takes. Look at the World Series winning Cubs team, they failed the year before and came back stronger the next season. While it might not be postseason play, the St. Louis Cardinals young core is learning what it is like to play in big games.
For years the St. Louis Cardinals fan base has been spoiled with postseason berth after postseason berth. Now, the team is skidding. But this season feels different than the last two. This year, the rookies with expectations are actually playing up to them.
Arms like Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson have all the potential on their side to rise to the top of the future Cardinals rotation. The flame-throwing abilities of Jordan Hicks screams success at the back end of a bullpen. Fingers crossed on this one, a healthy Alex Reyes added into the mix adds even more excitement.
On the offensive side of the ball, Harrison Bader has played above some expectation, and Edmundo Sosa got his first taste of the majors. Though we didn’t see Max Schrock, his contact ability bodes well at the second base position in the future. Farther behind, Nolan Gorman, Luken Baker, and Elehuris Montero look more advanced than we all could have hoped.
What is missing is the true star power, the Albert Pujols of the lineup. That is why there is clamoring for a Manny Machado or a Nolan Arenado to join the fold. The answer, however, might be right under our noses.
The one jaw dropping rookie I haven’t mentioned, Tyler O’Neill. Eno Sarris of The Athletic recently listed the two toolsy young players. The first was Ramon Laureano from Oakland. The other was ever powerful O’Neill. We’ve seen his power on display, and it is simply fantastic.
Tough Road Ahead
With all of these pieces ready to be put in place, there is just one more giant obstacle: The NL Central. The Brewers, Cubs, and even the Pirates are all tough teams to beat. That does not make the road back to October a smooth one.
The good news is that the St. Louis Cardinals navigated their way into the conversation this season. While that means nothing heading into 2019, it means that a more experienced group should perform at a higher level. “Should” being the operative word.
Under the direction of Mike Shildt, this team was different. And next season, Dexter Fowler can bring his experience of big games to the table…if he is still around. My point being, next year this team will be more geared up for a postseason run than they are this year.
At the end of the day, this is not the team that is built for October. It is just not their year. It says nothing about the talent on the St. Louis Cardinals roster, it just speaks to the reality of the season. Next season, things look a lot better.