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the spirit of 1990

you may recall ken rosenthal's article last week that referenced sharp divisions within the st louis front office. this morning bernie miklasz has more on that story --- one that may eventually become the story of 2007. bernie writes this morning: "The Luhnow promotion didn't go over well with the old-school baseball men, La Russa and general manager Walt Jocketty. It's fair to say that there's tension in the ranks." And: "[I]f the players don't believe La Russa will be the manager in 2008 -- and they don't -- then why worry about pleasing him?"

that puts jim edmonds' recent remarks in a new light; apparently he sees the team quitting on the manager. it also makes 1990 --- the last year of the whitey herzog regime --- a pertinent reference point. like the current club, that was an old team (starters averaged 30 years old) that had been together a long time and won a bunch of division titles and playoff series. but changes had been brewing (hah! lousy pun) at the top of the organization for some time, as herzog's padrone, gussie busch, was eased out of day-to-day decision-making in the late 1980s; when he died in september 1989, whitey lost what little remained of his clout. he quit in mid-1990.

through 38 games that year, the cardinals were in about the same shape as they are today: in last place, 6 games back, with feeble bats (10th in the nl in scoring) and grim faces. their record stood at 17-21. the cards were even worse over the next 38 games in 1990, going 15-23; four games after that, herzog was gone. he left with his team 14 games under (33-47) and in last place, 15 games out. a lot of popular, long-time cardinals followed herzog out the door: willie mcgee was traded to the athletics (managed by tony la russa) on august 29; terry pendleton and vince coleman left via free agency after the season; john tudor retired.

that's how it happened in 1990; what do you think will happen in 2007? what do you think should happen?

a lot depends on how things unfold in the standings, of course. although the likelihood decreases with each passing day, the chance still exists that the cardinals might rally themselves for a run at the playoffs. at this point, even getting into contention would have to be viewed as a triumph. there are small signs of hope. after edmonds' stinging remarks sunday night, the cards had their best hitting series of the season --- the first one all year in which they scored 4 or more runs in every game. also for the first time this year, they strung together three games of 10 or more hits. perhaps most important, they are about to hit the easiest stretch in their schedule. after the detroit series this weekend, the cards will play 16 of their next 22 games against sub-.500 teams, including 13 games against last-place teams (the rockies, nats, reds, and royals). it's a golden opportunity for st louis to reel off a little run and get back to .500 --- and maybe into second place, or close to it --- by the middle of june.

but we can hardly count on that. the cards' starting pitching is perched at the brink of the abyss; wainwright's hurt, and kip wells is about to crack (if he hasn't already). i gotta wonder whether the waiver claim of todd wellmeyer might have been intended to give them the option of moving ryan franklin to the rotation. the only other potential reinforcement (and one is almost surely going to be needed) is randy keisler; everybody else down at memphis is either hurt (narveson) or pitching poorly except for blake hawksworth, who has been pitching quite well but still needs work. when i saw the redbirds over the weekend, dyar miller (the memphis pitching coach) told me jocketty was pissed about the reports back in april that hawksworth might be called up to take carpenter's slot in the rotation. according to miller, that was never considered.

should the cards put on a little run, attention will shift back to the play on the field and away from the politics of the organization. but if, a month from now, the cards are still 6 games under (or worse), the curiosity about la russa's future --- and possibly jocketty's --- will only intensify.