slack, sloppy, sad

there was a little good news: carpenter's elbow didn't swell. dennis dove made a successful big-league debut. tyler johnson, pitching with a broken heart, retired the only two men he faced.

but these tiny life rafts were swamped by waves of grief of shock. it's a disheartened team. the cardinals already were unsure of themselves before this happened, already equipped with thin reserves; i'm sure we'd like to see them "dig down deep" or whatever the cliché is, but there isn't a lot of depth to mine.

for the time being, i'm releasing them from judgment. if they gather themselves and start clawing back to .500, i'll be impressed; if they take a nosedive --- well, they don't owe me a thing. i don't dispute what pujols told the p-d: "We still have to go out there and perform. It's our job." he's right --- life goes on and the cardinals have to get on with it, same as any of us who've suffered a personal loss. but how many of us performed like champions when we were dealing with our grief? you do the best you can do, but you're really just trying to get through the day. that's where the cardinals are right now, and there's nothing anybody can do about it. take the "no excuses" stance if you want; personally, i wouldn't take kindly to anybody putting expectations on me while i was mourning the loss of a friend. i wouldn't demand peak performance of myself. and i won't place that demand on the cardinals.

to be perfectly honest, i could give a rat's ass whether they win or lose their games right now, nor whether they look good or bad while doing it. at the very least, i'll wait until they have buried their teammate before i start holding them accountable.

the season has 5 months left to run, and i'm not writing them off; i am a long way from declaring the season over. let's just see where they are in two weeks, in a month; let's see if carpenter can pitch, if edmonds can sock, if encarnacion can play at all . . . . . the cardinals' on-field problems are enough to sink them even in the absence of a death in the family. this slack, sloppy, sad first month may prove, in the end, to be an accurate measure of the team. but it is a long season, and i'm in no hurry to draw any conclusions or make any pronouncements.

i will say this much: the brewers won't be easy to catch. they have a very good rotation, above-average hitters at 7 positions, a deep bench, and a solid bullpen; they also have two of the game's top triple-A prospects in 3d bagger ryan braun and starting pitcher yovani gallardo. they're the one nl central team that appears capable of blowing the doors off the division. but even they have their flaws; despite the .640 winning percentage, milwaukee had a run differential of just +3 in april --- 117 scored, 114 allowed. the team with the division's best run differential, +21, is tied for last place with st louis --- the cubs.

* * * * * * * * *

it's beginning to look as if hancock was driving drunk. should that prove to be the case, there will need to be a reckoning; but that, too, should wait until the man has been buried. there is no hurry to do anything right now --- to play good baseball, to catch the brewers, or to proclaim the moral of the story. just get through the day.
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