St. Louis Cardinals: My first rant of 2023 season

Atlanta Braves v St. Louis Cardinals
Atlanta Braves v St. Louis Cardinals / Dilip Vishwanat/GettyImages

It's never too early to rant about the St. Louis Cardinals

This site is called Redbird Rants, and I intend to take full advantage of that fact.  I know it's early in the season, but it is never too early for a good rant.

We all love the Cardinals because we are either writing for this site or visiting it and making comments.  But there is nothing wrong with tough love and taking someone you love to task when appropriate.

The Cards have been pretty awful to start the year.  Taking two of three from the Blue Jays was nice, but getting swept at home by the Braves and shutout in the first meeting of the year with the Brewers is downright bad.

I don’t want to dive into the dispute between Oli Marmol and Tyler O’Neill.  Whether or not O’Neill was hustling on the play I hope the incident does not mean that Marmol has lost the clubhouse or is a sign that frustration is already setting in for this team.

Let’s face the fact that we do not have the pitching necessary to make a serious run at the pennant or World Series.  You can sugarcoat it all you want but our rotation is just not that good. 

Assuming Adam Wainwright comes back from his injury at full strength, we are still talking about a 41-year-old man clearly past his prime.  I am very happy to see him retire as a Cardinal but we can’t count on him to eat innings like he used to in the regular season, let alone to hold up down the stretch or in the postseason.  His replacement in the rotation, Jake Woodford, gave up six earned runs and three homers in his first start of the season.

I am not going to complain about the Miles Mikolas extension just yet, but he is clearly not the ace the Cards need to compete with the elite clubs in the NL.  His ERA currently sits at 9.64 and opponents are hitting .413 against him.

While Flaherty’s first start was somewhat encouraging, his control was not good and with his injury history I don’t see him ever returning to his top-of-the-rotation form.  He has given up 13 walks in his two starts.  Matz and Montgomery are back-of-the-rotation guys with ERAs above 5.00, and I don’t know that anyone would be thrilled with one of them starting the first game of a playoff series.

I don’t know if there is much help available on the farm.  Tink Hence is still at least a year or two away, and I understand the calls for bringing up Matthew Liberatore but he has struggled mightily in the past against big-league hitters.

As for the bullpen, it was expected to be a strength for the team but so far has not been very impressive.  Jordan Hicks, despite incredible stuff, continues to struggle and has given up eight hits, six walks, and six earned runs in 4.1 innings pitched.   He has simply not proven that he can handle high-leverage situations with any consistency. Ryan Helsley has not yet notched a save, blowing two opportunities and allowing opposing hitters a .364 batting average.  Thankfully, both Zack Thompson and Drew VerHagen have looked good so far this year out of the pen.

The Cards’ offense is very good, but you can’t expect to score six or seven runs every game to cover for shoddy pitching.  While the season is still young, it is discouraging to see our worst fears about the pitching staff come to life and the poor performance could be a sign of things to come.

All options to improve the staff should be on the table. I am pretty tired of hearing that certain players are off the table when it comes to trade talks, especially in light of our pitching.  No one is untouchable if a trade will make the team better.  You would not anticipate trading a Paul Goldschmidt, but if the Angels offered Ohtani and Trout you would have to consider it, right?

That is an exaggeration and will never happen, but it illustrates my point.  We all love Lars Nootbaar but is he really so good that he can’t be traded?  What about Dylan Carlson or Tyler O’Neill?  I don’t believe that trading O’Neill will have much to do with this spat with the manager, but instead would be done if the front office thought the deal would make the team better.

Even if the rotation improves, which it should, it is simply not good enough to take the team far into the playoffs.  I hope I am wrong of course, but I have not seen anything yet to make me question my opinion.

The Cards need to acquire at least one starter at the trade deadline, but it won’t be easy even assuming the front office is willing to make the effort.  Aces don’t grow on trees and most of them already pitch for contenders.  Shane Bieber is at the top of the list for many Cards fans, but Cleveland will likely be in the playoff hunt come the deadline.  The Brewers will trade Corbin Burnes but not to a division rival.  If anyone has any ideas for potential trade targets I would love to hear them.

My father was a huge Cardinals fan, and the first World Series I really remember was in 1982 when the Cards beat the Brewers. I grew up in Kenosha, Wisconsin, just south of Milwaukee, and I think we were the only house in town rooting for the Cards.  I have seen the last three Cards’ championships, and I want to experience at least one or two more before I shuffle off this mortal coil.  I just don’t see it happening this year. 

Like you, I will keep watching the Cards and hoping for a miracle.

Next. 2 trades the Cardinals could make for pitching. dark