It has been a golden summer in St. Louis, a charmed season for the Cardinals. We have been gifted with a team few expected; a team with heart, a team with heat, a team with hunger. We have witnessed players exceed our wildest expectations, and have thrilled along with them in their moments of fulfillment. We've seen joy and bitter disappointment. Most of all, we have been treated to a season of contention that we never saw coming. I, for one, have been thankful for every single second of it.
Unfortunately, I think those days may be coming to an end, dear friends.
I look around at this team and this organisation, and I suddenly see chaos. I no longer see a team moving toward something great, something nearly magical. This team suddenly feels more like the staggering husk we saw in 2007 than the rangy, hungry young pack we've enjoyed so much in '08.
After yesterday's loss, the Cardinals fell to seven full games back of Chicago, the biggest deficit of the season. They're still in the thick of the wild card race, but while the teams around them are getting stronger, our Cardinals seem to be sputtering out.
One of the worst teams in all of baseball released their utility infielder, and the Cardinals pounce to sign him. They drop one of their middle infielders to make room, and the defense gets worse. They then play him in left field, making both the offense and defense worse. And why does this happen? I have no idea. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
The team's long time closer continues to slide downward. The manager's faith has been misplaced, it seems. The Izzy era is over, but the message seems to have taken an awful long time to get here. In fact, we still don't know if the message has reached the right ears or not.
Wainwright struggled, but they think they'll just rush him back and throw him in the ninth inning.
Reyes was brilliant, for another team.
Roy Hobbs is bleeding, yet somehow the team seems set on rejecting reality, see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.
Jim Edmonds, one of the great Cardinals of our time, has apparently washed his hands of the organisation entirely. I knew there was bad blood between he and La Russa after Tony once again proved unable to just let something go, but I never thought I would see the day that Jimmy Baseball would walk away from the Cardinals. Maybe it's the media, maybe it's just Tony, I don't know. Still, though, there's more drama, more chaos, where there should be peace. I felt fine about the way Edmonds left; I felt that we could watch him walk away without regrets. I cheered when he came back, and I still love Jimmy. I can't help but die a little seeing how it's all turned out.
There's still a giant hole in the ground outside Busch Stadium. The water's gone, at least, but we're less than a year from the All Star Game, and Ballpark Village is as much a fairy tale now as it was when the old stadium still stood.
Are all of these things part of the same big pattern? Are any of them? Honestly, I can't say. All I know is that even after the Brewers came in to the Cardinals' house and took over the place, I still felt that this season was going to be okay. A little bullpen help, a couple of returning gunslingers, and all of this was going to turn out all right. Now, though, I see the sand running through to the bottom of the hourglass, slipping away from us.
We still have plenty of contests against the Cubs to make a dent in their lead. We still have enough games against the Brewers to take the wild card from them. And yet, somehow, it just doesn't feel the same to me anymore. The schedules all line up against the Cardinals, and April seems so long ago.
I question how much direction there really is with this team. All along, I've believed in Build From Within. I wonder, though, if the team believes in it as well. We still see them stick to slot in the draft and then pick up Miguel Cairo. We still see a reliever languishing in Triple A, striking out over a batter and a half per inning (Jason Motte), all the while the team tells their best starter on the year to prepare for closing out games.
We still see the same old tired patterns, the same old lack of imagination that was so distressing to witness last season as Rome burned. We see only reaction, with no apparent direction.
Regardless, even if it turns out that I'm right, if the end of our charmed summer is here, it's been all that I could have hoped for, and more. For that, at the very least, I am grateful.
I love this team, and I'll love it until the bitter end. No matter what happens, they're still my team. But I look around, and I no longer believe it's all going to turn out fine.
I think summer may be over.