Far be it for me to spread artificial optimism and phony Happy Talk through our baseball colony. After a disheartening 3-8 sideslip that includes the current streak of five consecutive losses, it isn’t easy to see the sunshine or inhale fresh air.
Well, take a deep breath.
Just for a couple of seconds.
There’s still hope for your 2019 Cardinals.
Yep, even though the Cardinals just scored seven total runs in a two-stop, five-game, 0-5 visit to California to serve as pitiable sparring partners for the A’s and Dodgers.
Yep, fresh opportunities exist — even though this faulty St. Louis team has only two trustworthy starting pitchers, too many clipped-wing hitters, and a manager somehow looks at Tommy Edman and sees Frankie Frisch. And then there’s the front office, which has taken an unusual position of hoarding prospects without promoting them to help an unwell Cardinals’ lineup.
Many of these absurdities stopped making sense years ago, and the new Cardinal Way, the Wrong Way, is causing mouths to foam all over our village. Basically, this team is driving its followers into a constant state of going bananas-bonkers.
Um, no, Bill DeWitt Jr. is not Stan Kroenke. But I just wish Bill DeWitt Jr. could become Bill DeWitt Jr. again. And build an enviable farm system that cranks out elite prospects … which would save the Cardinals from pouring money into aging veterans … which would prevent the Cardinals from having an inefficient, bad-value payroll. The problem isn’t about DeWitt being cheap … the problem is that his baseball operation is throwing away money. They could have the same record, and probably a better record, by spending about $30 million LESS than they are now.
The temperature is rising — but enough about my blood pressure.
And yet …
There is no reason to give up on the season or this idiosyncratic team. But if your confounding 2019 St. Louis baseball Cardinals plan to do anything about reversing their losing trend and taking a hatchet to the deficit in the NL Central standings, this would be a swell time to get after it.
On this Friday morning-afternoon, the third-place Cardinals (58-55) trail the division-leading Cubs by four games. The Brewers are tucked into second place, a half-game above the Cardinals.
The NL wild-card features eight contestants that range from the Nationals at the top (61-53) to the Reds at the bottom (54-59.)
The Brewers, Phillies, Cardinals and Mets are essentially glued together in the wild-card standings. But the bottom line is, the Cardinals are a half-game out in the WC bonanza.
The goal, of course, should be winning the division. But we’re just relaying all of the possibilities for the Cardinals’ return to October baseball. So don’t take it out on me. I didn’t build this marginal roster, waste money on the payroll, stick with Michael Wacha as the fifth starter or decide that Tommy Edman was the second coming of Rogers Hornsby, OK?
If the Cardinals can get their act together — and that begins by reanimating a moribund offense to life — than this weird team can stay in races on two fronts.
The next plot of schedule makes it possible. It’s a second-chance schedule. A chance for the Cardinals to improve their baseball health. But only if everyone involved — manager, coaches, pitchers, hitters — maximize the capability of their God-given brains.
Between now and Sept. 12, the Cardinals have 32 games. Based on today’s standings, the Cardinals will play 26 games against teams with losing records. They have only six games vs. teams with winning records.
Actually it’s only one winning team, the Brewers. The Cards and Brewers play six times during this stretch.
If past performance records are meaningful, then the schedule matters. The Cardinals enter this weekend’s three-game home series against Pittsburgh with a 28-20 record when competing against losing teams. And the Redbirds are 30-35 when taking on winning teams.
Yeah, so this open runway — 26 of the next 32 games vs. losing sides — can put the Cards in position for takeoff. If they hit better, pitch better, manager better, and think better.
One note about this sked: the San Francisco Giants have a losing record right now; they’re 57-59. So by the time they get to St. Louis for a four-game series beginning Sept. 2, the Giants may have a winning record. And one way or another it isn’t a big deal.
Point is, the Cardinals have a favorable schedule from now through Sept. 12. And that includes the Busch Stadium portion of their schedule; 14 of their next 17 home games are against losing teams. And this should help their cause; the Cardinals are 31-23 at home and 27-32 on the road this season.
It’s mandatory for the Cardinals to stack wins. Because when they’re done with a four-game home series against the Rockies that ends Sept. 12, the Cards move into the final countdown.
Here are their final 16 games:
3 vs. Milwaukee, home.
3 vs. Washington, home.
4 at the Chicago Cubs.
3 at Arizona.
3 vs. the Cubs at home.
At the moment all four of those opponents have winning record — though the Diamondbacks are only a game above .500. But even if the D-backs fade, this closing bid won’t be easy.
Not with 13 games against the Cubs, Brewers and Nationals. And not with having to play seven of their final 10 games against the Cubs. Not with four at Wrigley Field, where the Cubs are 41-19 this season … including a 6-0 mark against the visiting Cardinals.
Unless the Cardinals dominate a row of mostly losing teams over the next several weeks, the late-season games won’t be as important. If the Cardinals go on tilt and topple over in encounters with losing teams, the damage would be severe. They may not be able to fly. They may be grounded again in October. To beat the good teams at the end and make it count, it’s imperative for the Cardinals to beat up on the bad teams — starting now.
Thanks for reading … and have a wonderful weekend!