Shooting for the Stars by Bob Ryan

We’re just about at the half-way mark of the season. The Cards seemingly take 3 steps forward, 2 steps backward over & over again. Many fans are agitated by the silent bats, the use of the bullpen, the questionable quality of the starting staff, the seemingly lack of urgency by management & coaching staff. But…..despite our almost 80 games under our belt this year….with one of the brightest stars of last decade who has dimmed recently, Albert, returning to the Lou this weekend….I thought that it’d be appropriate to look back at 2011.

In 2011, the Cards finished in 2nd place, 90-72, 6 games behind the Brewers. Both teams recorded high number of wins because Houston (in the same division at that time) was in a “rebuild”and finished 56-106. Jeff Luenow was still working for the Cards in 2011. The Cardinals highest average belonged to Yadier Molina @ .305. Lance Berkman held a .301 mark. 3 other Cardinal batters hit in the .290’s (Pujols, Freese and Holliday). While this veteran team was in 1st place for 73 days of the season, they were actually 10.5 games BEHIND Milwaukee on Sept 5th! The stars sure didn’t look aligned at that point! The Cards won the final 7 series’ of the season. During that last month of September, Octavio Dotel won 3 games (out of the pen) with 2 saves. Jason Motte was a winner twice and notched 8 saves in September. The Cards packed together one 5 game winning streak and another of 4 games in September. Most observers and….probably….most StL fans, gave the Cards only a tiny chance to go “deep”. Then came October.  The Cards got crushed 13-6 in game 1 of the 1st post season series with Philadelphia then fell behind 3-0 in 1st inning of game 2 as Chris Carpenter was knocked around for 4 runs in 3 innings. The patchwork bullpen of Fernando Salas, Octavio Dotel, Marc Rzepczynski, Mitchell Boggs, Arthur Rhodes and Jason Motte held the fort down as the Cards scored 3 runs in the 4th, 1 in the 6th & 7th innings to win it 5-4. Dotel again got the win and Motte the save. Phils won game 3 when Ben Francisco belted a 3 run HR in the 7th as Philly edged the Cards 3-2 and took a 2-1 lead in the series. Game 4 saw Cards starter Edwin Jackson (he’s STILL pitching in the MLB!!) surrender 2 runs in the 1st inning. Cards still trailed 2-1 in the bottom of the 4th when David Freese drove home 2 runs with a double giving the Cards a 3-2 lead. In the 6th, it was Freese again with a 2 run blast off of Roy Oswalt making it 5-2…..final score 5-3 Cards. Now, the series tied 2-2. The final game of the series, game 5,  was a tremendous pitching dual between Chris Carpenter & Roy Halladay. The game was actually decided by the first two Cards batters in the bottom of the 1st. Rafael Furcal tripled and Skip Schumacher doubled…that was it….Cards won it 1-0. Carp gave up 3 hits, Halladay 6 hits….game lasted 2:29 minutes…WOW!!! In the National League Championship Series the scores, generally, weren’t nearly as close: game 1—Milwaukee scores 6 runs in the 5th to win in 9-6 despite David Freese’s 3 run HR against Zach Greineke. Cards romped over the Brewer 12-3 in game 2 with Albert & yes….once again…David Freese hitting HR’s. Cards scored 4 runs in the 1st inning of game 3 and made it stand up for a 4-3 win. Motte with the save. Milwaukee evened the series at 2-2 with a 4-2 win in game 4. In game 5, the Cards fivesome of Jaime Garcia, Octavio Dotel, Lance Lynn, Marc Rzepczynski and Jason Motte guided the Cards to a comfortable 7-1 win. Cards exploded for a 12-6 win in game 6 to end the series. It was Albert & Freese again taking round trippers. Of course the World Series against Texas concluded this impossible dream. In game 1, the Cards snapped a 2-2 game with a run in the 6th David Frees doubled and Allen Craig drove him home with the game winning run. Colby Lewis (Tx) outpitched Jaime Garcia 2-1 in game 2. Game 3 saw the Cards racing around the bases continually in a 16-7 romp as Albert banged out not 1, not 2 but 3 home runs. Game 4 saw Texas ….miraculously… shut out the Cards 4-0. In game 5, Cards jumped out to a 2-0 lead after 2 innings but the Rangers scored the final 4 runs of the game to take a series lead of 3-2. Then the never forgettable….still totally unbelievabe…game 6. It was a back & forth game—Tx 1-0 after midway 1st, Cards 2-1 after 1…..2-2 after 2 innings…still 2-2 at end of 3 innings….3-3 after 4 inn..tx 4-3 after 5 innings….4-4 after 6 innings…tx 3 runs in 7th , so now Cards down 7-4. Allen Craig belted a solo HR in the 8th, Cards still trailed 7-5 going into the bottom of the 9th. David Frees tripled to RF driving home Pujols & Berkmann to tie it up and send the game into extra innings. Texas scored 2 runs in the top of the 10th only to see Ryan Theriot drive in the 1st run on a ground out and Lance Berkman the tying run with a single.  Then, in the bottom of the 11th, it was David Freese hitting yet another HR. We’ve all seen it many times…. Freese… about 20ft from home, throwing off his helmet between his legs…jumping high with a looked of complete joy …and I think ..some incredulation…..sooooo….where does this take us. Note the many familiar names that pushed the Cards along to the World Series championship….but also note….the many, many nondescript players who made HUGE plays along the way and gave the stars a chance to win it all. Sure…we didn’t expect David Freese to be the brightest star of the post-season but…ya just never know. The stars seemed aligned “just right” for us….but were they really? A team MUST have certain ingredients to line up the “Stars”.  How does all this tie into the Cards of 2019?

Here are some suggestions for the Cards of 2019 to realign their stars for this season. They really need an ACE on the mound. Carp was the man in 2011….we need that type of pitcher that brings the players confidence that today we’ll …..most of the time….have a well pitched game. Do we have that guy now? For the last 2 years, Carlos Martinez was touted as the “ace of the staff”. For some reason….I guess arm issues….he’s now a bullpen man (one with an undefined role). If he can’t be the ace any longer….the Cards must obtain a real #1 starter. Baumgartner comes to mind. Trade some of our highly touted “prospects” and get a proven commodity. Jack Flaherty seems like he’ll be proficient pitcher but he’s not a #1 in his first full year. Without that ace, StL’s starting staff still needs reinforcements. Long time heroes—Wainwright & Wacha just can’t get it done consistently. There are way too many 4 and 5 innings outings from this pair. I would even suggest going to a 6 man rotation and finding 2 “long” relief men …like Carlos….who can pitch 3-4 innings. Save those arms in the pen….already Brebbia and Gant are already looking showing signs of wear & tear. In the lineup, I’ve noticed on rare occasions some Cardinals actually bunting…and getting on base …against the shift…do that a few times and there won’t BE ANY SHIFT!  Although his average isn’t high, his OB% is the same as Carp…sooo.. lead off with Bader….use his speed(his best quality). The trick to winning in most sports is to use the best qualities of your players to the maximum.  Make Bader realize that a walk and getting on base IS important. Not much we can do about Goldschmidt other than wait…and pray…. I suppose…that he’ll get back that bat speed. RF is still an issue…..Martinez is a real liability in the field and Dex’s laissez-faire approach isn’t what we need… let’s get some guy with a little fire and “stir up” the boys. Oh…..and its trivial….maybe even petty….but don’t use Jack Flaherty as a pinch runner any more….in his 2 chances, he was thrown out at home because he looked back over his shoulder @ 2B and was picked off second base by the Angel.  I can’t remember that last time that I heard ANY MLB player getting picked off 2B. The last time I saw it was when my 7th grade team picked off a runner…about a hundred years ago! The Cards, often making us feel discouraged or disgusted this year, are still right in the NL Central race…just like 2011… but the stars aren’t completely configured just right……yet.

 Quick flight around the sports-world…

….the stars did shine brightly in the Lou this weekend with Albert’s return. The fans, put aside their resentment of Albert leaving for mega-bucks 8 years ago, treated Pujols with an outpouring of appreciation with repeated standing O’s, long applause and royal treatment.  I just have the feeling…that somehow….someway…Albert will buy himself out of that service contract shortly after retirement so that he can wear his Cardinal hat at his HOF induction & become part of the Cardinal vets who return to St Louis on occasion to “work” with the team, visit and just enjoy former teammates.

….while Barry Odum is having much better recruiting success in St Louis(that’s great), it’s rather awkward that his own brother leaves his staff to join the Oklahoma football coaching staff

…for the past couple weeks, the Houston Astros have seen Jose Altuve, George Springer  and Carlos Correa on the IL but still have a 48-27 record for the season. To give you an idea of how good that is….if the Cardinals with their 38-35 record were in THAT division, they’d be 9 games out of 1st place.

…I sometimes wonder how the Cards define “young” players.  To me …it’s 20-23 years of age….I assume that most players peek out physically between 24-30 years of age. Here are some “young” (as the Cards promote them) current players….Kolton Wong is 28, Michael Wacha -28, Jack Flaherty is 23, Austin Gomber-26, Harrison Bader-25, Paul DeJong will be 26 on Aug 2nd, Dakota Hudson is 24 (25 in sept), Tommy Edman-24, Andrew Knizer-24, John Brebbia is 29, Marcel Ozuna is 29.

…with starting pitchers sometimes being “openers” and many not making the required 5 innings to record a win, is it possible that CC Sabathia will be the LAST 250 game winner?

….why are the hitting woes of Bryce Harper not receiving much sympathy across the USA? J

…apparently Tampa Bay is being pushed by MLB to consider some games in Montreal…. Haven’t we don’t that before?  I know TB has one of the best teams in the MLB… yet draws only flies. I’ve always wondering why a team in Oklahoma or Tennessee wouldn’t be considered by the MLB.

Let’s hope the Cards get their “stars aligned” quickly

Comments

  1. Great article on the Cards. If Shildt can’t make Carpenter bunt for a sure hit when the shift is on, thus raising his average, he should bench him. He got a double last week when he bunted…what a surprise, duh. It’s not about him, it’s about team. 19 million a year for a .225 hitter? SV

  2. As always, I sure enjoy what you put together each week. Obviously, a labor of love. Getting folks to remember ’11 is certainly instructive and I hope you’re right…only time will tell. I also thought your analysis of the Pujols personal services contract was interesting as well. After this past weekend perhaps it does have a chance of becoming a reality. VERY, VERY special treatment for a player that deserves every bit of it. Even though him leaving probably was blessing in disguise at the time and didn’t really hurt the team at all, it’s still a shame that someone who could have been Stan Musial to a different generation chose to leave. BH

  3. JP 1 Part I says:

    Well, the Pujols “ lovefest” has come/ gone. 45-48,000 for each game of 3 game series. Cards win 2 of 3. I’m sure I’m in the minority, but I felt things were a bit over the top. Yadi acted as though they have not seen each other or have spoken since Albert left ( not the case) Game 1, recognize his contribution to StL, standing “O” and all. With exception of Yadi & Waino, no other current Cards played with Albert.
    I remember the winter meetings when DeWitt & Mo flew to meeting to hopefully Re-Sign Albert.
    I also remember how DeDe Pujols felt ownership didn’t respect Albert with their offer over 200M !
    I understand that sports are now a business and the players fight for every buck. Loyalty, both players & owners is no longer in vogue in most cases. Obviously, we got Alberts best years & the Angels overpaid, with his injuries being how LA will probably remember him. But I truly believe the Cards made what they felt was a very fair offer at the time.

  4. JP1 Part II says:

    Now there is talk of a statue? He will get the Red Jacket, which he deserves, but when you choose to leave the organization, I don’t feel a statue is warranted. One thing hit me over the weekend. Albert was a member of a team with a group of high character, great players! Chris Carpenter, Rolen, Berkman, Edmonds, Eckstein, Kile, and the list goes on. You didn’t produce, you didn’t play. The 2019 Cards fall a long way from that group. 1 regular hitting over .270. 1 starter with an ERA under 4.00. Post Season?? JP1

  5. JP I,II,III IV and V says:

    Well… time to turn to the Cardinals. You hit many points right on the head – but they are pretty obvious. Last I heard our leadoff position as hitting .191 for the season. That was before the juggernaut Oakland A’s came to town to sweep our local nine and complete our 4-5 homestand.

    The pitching staff that in the spring was said to be 10-deep (and how were we going to keep them all happy) has not been as advertised. There were many “ifs”. You know, if he does this or if he pitches the way we expect…. DOH!!

    I have been discouraged by Jack Flaherty. He looks like he has some much potential – hopefully he turns this bad stretch around. I might add Mr. Wainright has been more than serviceable as a fifth starter (especially at home). How will we remember the Jordon Hicks era? You can’t say he was overused.

    When Goldschmidt, DeJong, Molina, Fowler, Wong and Bader all go into a slump at the same time (for this long) obviously, things will not be good.

    Their defense is much improved. Base running is better. We’re only 2 1/2 games out – so that is the good news. There is so much more than I could add but I think I will watch highlights of the Stanley Cup playoffs. I have one goal left for the summer – to touch the Cup. It will happen!!

    I heard a rumor there was a World Cup going on… And we have a patriotic, flag waving, white haired captain that loves playing for her country – oh wait, that may not be true or as they say these days – fake news. I’ll have to check that out more thoroughly….

    Did I miss the NBA draft?

    When do the training camps start for football. ESPN has nothing to talk about these days….

    Keep entertaining us Bob and pulling out these comments from your many readers. Heck, next week we will be busy watching all the Cardinals in the All- Star Game. Wait, what – more fake news? Who is our obligated representative???

    Okay, I have to stop before my sarcasm is looked at as being too negative. Wait, what??

    JP I,II,III IV and V

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