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back to the future

last year at this time the cards stood 7 games in front and we fans were all pinching ourselves. now the team cruises into the midseason pitstop 11.5 games in front, and all is ho-hum in The Nation. the only amusement left to us -- idle trade talk. can we get to october already?

here's a little time-passer: on april 1, writing at my old blog, i posted my predictions for the 2005 season. at that time i projected the cardinals as a 93-69 team, which now appears to have been just a wee bit conservative. i did pick them to win the division -- hell, i picked them to win the world championship -- but foresaw trouble along the way. "a great big cloud of triumphalism has billowed up among the cardinal faithful this spring," i cautioned back then, "particularly during the last week or so of camp, and it seems to me badly misplaced; i think this is going to be a rockier ride than anybody wants." looks like the triumphalists had it right. here are a few choice passages from that preview, held up to the ridicule of all-star-break reality:

the fluke factor: "a lot of cardinals played at the top of their games last season, and hence may be due for a bit of a letdown in '05. . . . . . some of last year's stalwarts are going to have lesser years in '05, and one or two may flat-out suck."
partly true: rolen's production is way off, and so is mabry's off the bench; walker has shown his age, and edmonds may be starting to. but the pitchers who had breakout years in 2004 -- carpenter, tavarez, and marquis ---- are all pitching at least as well again this year; no dramatic regressions to the mean.

the pen is mightier: "the bullpen in particular seems primed for a busted bubble. tavarez's 2.38 era was two runs below his career average; he won't have calero to take the heat off him this season and strikes me as rather liable to get exposed. . . . the rh setup corps -- tavarez eldred and al reyes -- will not scare anyone."
they're still not scaring anybody, but they are getting them out, which is probably at least as important.

mad matt: "bad shoulder and all, morris fanned 6 guys per 9 innings, had a whip of 1.29, and won 15 games last season; that's one of the best `bad' pitching lines in franchise history. he returns healthy, slightly pissed off, and pitching for a new contract -- he could win 20."
okay, so i wasn't wrong about everything . . . .

mark my words: "rarely has an offseason acquisition been burdened with such portent as this one. if he's on, mulder goes 21-5 and the cardinals return to the series. if he's off, he spends more time on the d.l. and the sports psychologist's couch than on the mound, and st louis labors to 86 victories. if the former, jocketty supplants billy beane as baseball's reigning front-office genius; if the latter, he supplants paul depodesta as the reigning front-office schmuck. i'm betting that jocketty knows what he's doing."
for now, all bets are off; mulder is the most conflicted 10-game winner in mlb, an admitted mechanics abuser now attempting dunc's 12-step program. he's definitely not "on," and no 21-5 pitcher; but the cards may well get back to the series with the mulder they've got.

short division: "the cards are far from invincible . . . . . with the league (especially the central) so far down, though, i don't know that anyone will vince them."
okay, they're invincible -- baseball prospectus puts their odds of winning the central at 95 percent.

prior intent: "the cubs are sloppy and stupid, but they sure can pitch. i foresee a tense summer in st louis."
if you only read up to the first comma, that's a pretty astute observation.

enjoy the break ev'yone.