I gotta admit, there’s never been a season where I didn’t care if the Cardinals won or lost. I was thrilled with the 1985 and 2004 seasons. I didn’t really like 1986 or 1995. 2020 gives me a strange feeling. I care about the team, I want them to play and play well, but once they return to action, whether they win or lose, it doesn’t matter to me. In fact, if baseball would say “you guys can play, but because of circumstances, we aren’t going to allow you to participate in the playoffs if your winning percentage is good enough,” I’d be fine with that.
It’s not their fault, but the Cardinals won’t have fulfilled what teams that have played sixty games have. Sure, it MIGHT be more impressive if their winning percentage is better than a team that played sixty games. They’ll have done so playing a bunch of doubleheaders haver being off for two-plus weeks. But if the Cardinals play a dozen fewer games…if they play 48 and go 26-22…is that more impressive than a team that goes 32-28? There are a lot more obstacles for a team that plays sixty games than a team that plays 48, especially this year.
That’s likely a moot point anyway. The Cardinals haven’t played in more than two weeks, and it’ll be at least three weeks since Jack Flaherty and Adam Wainwright pitched next time they climb the mound. The players have either been in quarantine at the Pfister hotel in Milwaukee, or in their homes in the St. Louis area. They haven’t thrown. They haven’t run. They haven’t lifted weights, for the most part. For a pitcher to be able to go lots of innings, he needs his legs. He needs to get his running in. If the Cards have just a couple of workouts before their next game, it would be irresponsible to try and make their pitchers go more than a couple of innings.
Hitters? They need to see pitching. Cardinal hitters haven’t seen major league pitching since they were in Minnesota on July 29, and even then they got shut out. How long will it take for Cardinal hitters to catch up and get their timing? When spring training starts, we always hear about how pitchers are ahead of hitters, and how it takes about half of spring training, three weeks, for hitters to catch up. When the Cardinals return to action, they’ll be facing teams that are rounding into mid-season form, teams that have had three weeks of Summer Camp (presented by Camping World), and three weeks of games. The Cards will have six weeks left to play in the season.
Defense, all of those fundamentals that the staff re-teaches for the first week of spring training? Inevitably, those have deteriorated. Over the course of a season they can be reinstalled, but the reality of this situation is that it’s impossible for a team like this to start off being crisp and efficient in their first games out of the gate.
St. Louis is a baseball town that historically has been pure. Sure, we’ve become spoiled with all the winning over the years but this, to me, is a great reason to return to our roots. Pay attention to and appreciate the entire roster. Watch young players evolve. Understand again what it takes to play winning baseball. We probably won’t see that at the restart of the Cardinal season, but should watch them get better the more they play.
At the end of September, I’ll be happy to have returned to being a baseball purist. To watch baseball for the beauty of the game. To appreciate the greatest matchup in sports, pitcher vs. hitter. Do I want them to win? Yes. Is it fair or reasonable for me to EXPECT them to win, or for MLB to allow them a playoff spot? No.
I’ll just be glad baseball in any form is back and available for me to watch every night.
AP Photo/Jeff Roberson