It was about this time last year that I counted the Cardinals out of a playoff spot in the National League. They were 8.5 games behind Milwaukee in the NL Central, and 8.5 games behind Atlanta in the NL Wild Card race. They had been incredibly inconsistent, and hadn’t put together a good streak in months. Of course, they rebounded to win the Wild Card, the NLDS, the National League Pennant and the World Series.
This year, the personality of the team so far has been similar. For different reasons, the Cardinals haven’t been able to put together a string in which they’ve played good ball for a month. They’ve lingered on the periphery of the playoff race, but this year have hung in there, lurking just two games behind Pittsburgh for the second wild card. While they have an identical record to last year’s club, this year’s Cardinals have a much better chance of getting to the post-season.
They have a shot, but they need to develop the same sort of consistency at the same time last year’s champions did. With Houston on the horizon, the Cardinals desperately need to put together a streak. Last year’s team actually fell to only four games over, at 67-63, before winning ten of fourteen. After losing two-of-three to Pittsburgh, the Cardinals have Houston at home, then a trip to Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Washington before coming home to face the Mets. Like last year’s team that won ten-of-fourteen, the 2012 edition would do well to win ten or eleven during this upcoming fifteen game stretch.
As we’ve seen, anything can happen. It’s just hard to get something that has never happened before to happen twice in a row. It’s time for the inconsistent Cardinals to win some games and take hold of this second wild card. They’re the most talented team in that race, and perhaps the most gifted from a physical baseball standpoint in the whole league. There’s no excuse for the performance they’ve turned in this season. It’s time to start playing like they’re capable.
It was also about this time last year that I became really fired up about the Rams. Coming off a 7-9 season, they had moved to 2-0 in the pre-season with a 17-16 win over Tennessee. Sam Bradford had played well, and new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels had led his charges to 50 points. They averaged 22 a game in a 4-0 pre-season, and I looked at them as at least a ten win team, and perhaps an easy winner of the NFC West. As Steven Jackson said last week, “I think we all know how that worked out.”
We learned that what we see in the pre-season is not an indicator of what’s to come in the regular season. While the Rams looked very good Saturday night against Kansas City, I’m not buying in to the idea that they’ll be a winner this season. I think they’ll get better as the season goes along, but I think if the Rams go 8-8 they, and their fans, should be thrilled.
Bottom line, regardless of how the Cardinals are playing in late August, we really don’t know what’s going to happen in September. And regardless of what the Rams do in late August, we don’t know what to expect from them, either. All we can do is make predictions, and hope any forecasts of losing prove to be as wrong as I was last year.