clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

tugging at loose threads

New, comments

yesterday's game put me in mind of a july 4 comment from The Dude, an infrequent but always perceptive poster. writing after the cards' 1st 8-game losing streak, and while they were dropping their fifth consecutive series, he said:

Losing is a Disease
Baseball's a strange game. Pujols gets injured and suddenly, at that very moment, Mulder goes does, Ponson loses whatever it is he had at the beginning of the season, Thompson loses whatever it is he had last season, and Marquis goes on one of his bad streaks. . . . I can't help but think that the L-8 streak wrought some serious damage to the Cardinals morale and pscyhe.

There's a great montage in The Natural that focuses on a motivational speaker who advises the Knights after every loss that "losing is a disease." If so, the Cards appear to have come down with a bad case of it.

The Cards may not be the best team in baseball this year, but they're better than their recent record. I hope Tony finds a way to get this team back on track, and soon.

that sums it up, no? they caught the fever and still haven't shaken it three months later --- much as the 2004-05 caught the opposite bug and fed off it for ~ 275 games. in may 2005 -- a long time ago -- after the redbirds had lassoed another win and tautly tied 'er up, i wrote admiringly of their
teamwide vigilance, a kind of hyperconcentration -- the do-no-wrongness that lets you win games despite being outhit and outpitched. some dismiss it as luck, others exalt it as "character" or "professionalism" -- but whatever it is, you can't manufacture it; it evolves.
that finely honed quality seems to have gotten shattered in chicago and detroit; the cardinals stopped finding ways to thread the needle to victory and began finding loose threads instead -- and tugging at them. the 3d inning yesterday -- which found the cardinals chucking the ball around the infield like little leaguers while baserunners (some of them doubled over with laughter) skipped around the diamond -- shows just how tattered the fabric of this ballclub has become.

the other metaphor begging for overwork is, of course, the concussion. the cardinals sustained two of them before/during the period of interleague play -- eckstein on june 15, edmonds on the 21st -- and have staggered dazed and confused ever since. it's impossible to exhibit "hyperconcentration" when you're seeing double, i guess; tough to uphold the standard of "do-no-wrongness" when you're not quite right in the head. since those two concussions -- i'll use june 22 as the cutoff -- the cardinals have kept pace with the pittsburgh pirates:

record on
june 22
record since
june 22
hou 37-35 (.514) 33-37 (.471)
stl 42-28 (.600) 33-39 (.458)
pitt 26-47 (.356) 32-39 (.451)
cin 39-33 (.356) 32-39 (.451)
mil 36-37 (.493) 29-41 (.414)
chi 28-43 (.394) 32-39 (.489)

of course, the disease / concussion metaphors don't explain the pitching staff's collapse . . . . or do they? couldn't the same mental laxity that manifests itself in terrible fielding also account for the team's terrible pitching? that's the common wisdom where marquis is concerned -- his problems are between the ears. and neither sid ponson nor jeff weaver has ever been accused of having steely will on the mound . . . . . does it all simply come down to izzy's hip and mulder's shoulder?

in my mind, the answer is both yes and no. the cardinals have sustained significant injuries this year, ones that couldn't help but show up in the w-l column. but last year's infirmary was even more crowded -- walker and sanders were lost for two months apiece, molina for six weeks, rolen for half the season. it reached the point that guys like grudzielanek and molina were routinely batting cleanup. yet the team kept winning. i think they did because the roster had qualities this year's lacks: depth. balance. a margin for error. the 2006 cardinals just weren't built on a bedrock foundation -- that was clear from the get-go, even during april and may, when the slogan was (remember) "you can beat the cards this year, but you still can't beat pujols." had they stayed completely injury-free, they were probably a 95-win team, with albert accounting single-handedly for wins 86 through 95 -- ie, a .500ish club with 1 transcendent player. when injuries eroded that already thin base, the cardinals became a .450ish team with 1 transcendent player. . . . .

which brings us right up to the present .

and now more bad news: reyes has a tired arm and will take a turn off. according to the p-d, reyes self-reported the fatigue -- came to the coaches and told them his arm wasn't right -- and he sure looked weary friday night; he's at his career high in innings pitched. under other circumstances i might wonder why the rookie is getting shelved after 1 bad start, whereas mulder marquis et al have received 4th 5th and 6th chances to bring things around this year; but if it's true that reyes himself expressed concern (and i'm taking that at face value), then la dunc are doing the right thing to give him a rest.

however well or poorly he pitches in his remaining starts (if any), i wouldn't expect to see anthony on the playoff roster.