Up From Rock Bottom

Yah that’s right, someone else actually blogs here too. College will do that too yah. Good to be back if only for one post. Too early to tell if I’ll be able to drop some more knowledge on this blog. Anyway, let’s get to it. I have a lot of stuff I’ve been wanting to talk about since the season began and no time to put it into words. So I’m gonna break this post into various topics I’ve been wanting to address. Here are the topics: What Offseason?, Slow Start and LaRussa, Surprises, Chris Duncan is the Man, Hancock, and Outlook. Enjoy.

What Offseason?
When looking back to the start of the season, I was surprised that the big two moves the Cards made were to acquire Adam Kennedy and Kip Wells. Those were the blockbusters for the Cards. After losing Suppan, Weaver, and Marquis (it was ‘lol’ at the time) and needing help in the outfield, we get Kip and AK. Fine. Not great, but it should have worked out okay. I mean we were moving Adam Wainwright into the rotation and he was nearly untouchable last year – so I expected a little drop in production but it would have been acceptable. Carp was still there. Reyes is on the verge of studom. So the questions were Loop and Kip. I figured Dave Duncan would craft one of them into acceptability. So the rotation was worrisome, but at least the offense was still there (LOL). Still though, this team needed to be broken up a little more. Not even broken up – it just needed new blood so the attitude in the clubhouse would be tweaked just enough to bring some desire. As we’ve seen the season transpire, it’s become more and more obvious that Jocketty should have either sought to trade a big name to give everyone a jolt. Or add a big name, to get the atmosphere different. It’s obvious to this point that the Cards lacked motivation going into the season.

Slow Start and LaRussa
The guy’s a first ballot Hall of Famer as a manager when he retires. He brought a championship to the STL, so he’s gonna be thought well of after he leaves for quite a long time. Even so, I feel like the slow start is something that is on Tony’s shoulders. I just got done smacking up on Jocketty in the previous section a little bit, but technically, that is just an ideal. The Cards have enough on the roster to field a good team. I’m not sure if they are playoff caliber anymore, but they are NOT cellar dwellers. It’s ridiculous. And their failure during the first two months of the season has stemmed from a major problem with focusing and concentration. That’s LaRussa’s department. He needs his team ready to play, prepared to play, and fixing the problem when that’s not happening. It’s taken a lot of time for the Cards to very slowly move out of their two month slump. And that’s not to say the slump is over yet. They have looked better in the last week or so, but we still aren’t up to the level we expect – especially on offense. The other thing about LaRussa is that he’s been a lot more intense and argumentative this year. He’s never been on exactly friendly terms with the media, but he’s lost it a couple times. There was the nonsensical Bernie Milklaz vs Tony post game argument, LaRussa telling his team that the media is out to get them, and other assorted nastiness toward the press crews. Tony has been short and probably rude with the media before but it has been out of hand this year at times. I just have the feeling that LaRussa is actually in a slump. He was slumping right along with the Card’s bats. I don’t know if he did something different this year in the clubhouse or if the players just aren’t responding and it’s affecting LaRussa. We can’t tell being on the outside, but something has been up. So do I think he should be fired? LOL. No. Who’s better out there? Didn’t he win us a championship last year? Tony LaRussa can eat my lunch everyday of the week. I completely disagree with a whole lot of his ingame strategic moves, but his W/L record is pretty hard to argue with. If I were managing, I couldn’t do it in the style that Tony does. I’d have my own style. Tony’s has proved very effective for him however. Like I said, he’s been in a slump and I, for one, liked seeing Tony switch the lineup (particularly leadoff) like 7-8 different times while trying to shake the team up. That was the best thing he could have done. They needed a wake up and he tried to give it to them. I’m hoping he can help them into a grove and we can see some real Card’s winning baseball. Two series wins in a row is a start.

Surprises
Loop. Enough said. He’s been the second best performer on this team as far as I’m concerned. He’s played extremely well. Props to Dave Duncan again. The lack of run support in particular for Reyes. The kid is on the verge. I don’t know if he’s gonna be a #1 or an allstar, but he’s gonna be a solid starter for the Cards for a long time. Sure he had problems in the early innings but he’s handling a different kind of pressure pretty well so far. The Card bats have not helped the kid at all this year. If he had even a little more run support, he’d have a winning record at this point. Carp going down. That hurts big. Thompson and some minor leager just can’t replace him. Let’s just pray the other 4 starters pick up their game even more. Wainwright hasn’t been AWesome. Below average at best until yesterday. I didn’t expect him to drop this far. I have faith in him tho. He’ll finish okay – more Ws than Ls I think. And of course….

Chris Duncan is the Man
He’s the MVP of this team after two months. Batting is there. RBIs are there. His fielding is awesome. If he keeps working, he could be a gold glove contender. I honestly thought he’d be serviceable in the outfield but nothing spectacular. You keep him in the game early and middle for his bat and then take him out for a defensive replacement near the end of a close game. Wrong. Duncan is a huge asset in the field. He has made huge strides defensively over the offseason. Credit Duncan and the coaches (McCay & Walker) for making Chris into the Card’s everyday left fielder for a number of years to come barring injuries. Great job so far.

Hancock
I’m not gonna hit on this too much since so much has been said elsewhere. Let me throw out two points I thought were interesting however. There has been a lot of comparison between Kile and Hancock’s death. After all the facts have come out, I don’t see that at all. Kile’s was a freak accident that really had no cause at all (unless you count that Cards medical personnel should have caught the problem…) whereas Hancock basically killed himself on accident by being foolish. You don’t drink and then get into a car. Ever. Period. The Card’s are lucky he didn’t kill anyone else in that incident. I felt saddened by the senseless death of Kile, but Hancock’s has been a different experience. I come away from Hancock’s death thinking he did it to himself. I don’t have a problem with the Cards honoring him with jerseys in the dugout and pen. After all, it’s horrible to lose a friend no matter the circumstances, but I can’t get away from the idea of “What was he thinking?!?” The other point is concern about the Cards players. Was Hancock’s drinking and drug use isolated? Was anyone else in the club house right there with him in drinking, doing drugs, etc? You can’t have that in major league baseball. I’m not saying anything yet about it, but it raises these questions and a few more. I haven’t seen this talked about anywhere and I think it’s curious.

Outlook
Encarn coming back means nothing. He’s sucked in AA ball. Carp will still come back. I hope it’s in time. Mulder is interesting. My gut tells me he won’t be much of a factor, but you never know with baseball. I’m sticking to the idea that the Card’s will not suck this year. We just aren’t a last place team. I look for a 3rd place or better finish in the division still. The bats are starting to show signs of life and I think it will continue as the season goes on. Pitching has been solid overall. I look for Reyes to finish with more Ws than Ls. Wainwright will end up the same way. Loop will tail off. Pujols will be Pujols again. Edmonds-Rolen. One of these guys is done but the other is not. I can’t figure out which is which though. I think Rolen is done but Edmonds has enough left to make it to the end of this year with decent numbers. That could be reversed though. We’ll just have to watch the games. Trades are even tougher. I don’t think we’ll see anyone big leave (maybe Rolen if he starts hitting better). Looper and Izzy could be trade bait if they continue to perform well. I just don’t think the Cards will make major trades until the offseason. I’d like to be proved wrong though.

The Cards hit rock bottom after Hancock’s death and I think they were heading there anyway. Hancock just accelerated the process. As the saying goes, no where to go but up. I think they’ll finish decently. Here’s hoping they make the playoffs. And here’s hoping I make another post before then. =-)

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