congratulations to rick hummel; condolences to mike shannon. both have been covering the cardinals for decades, day upon day upon day; and then, on a single weekend, both of their journeys reach an endpoint of a sort --- one life celebrated, one life mourned. the universe can mash things together in some extraordinarily strange combinations.
the same might be said --- on a much less significant scale --- of the hometown nine, the bi-polar el birdos (as some of you have taken to calling them). too weak to live, too strong to die. as a measure of the team's manic-depressiveness, i looked up the cardinals' record in blowouts this year (ie, games decided by 5 or more runs); they've won 14, lost 26. that's 40 games --- nearly 40 percent of the schedule. they're on pace to play 63 blowout games, which would be far and away the most in recent franchise history. since the advent of divisional play (1969), the cardinals' highest single-season total of blowout games is 54; that happened in 1971. they played in more than 50 blowouts in 3 other seasons --- 1985, 2001, and 2006:
2007 figures above, obviously, are projected over 162 games. you'll note that all of the other blowout-prone teams won more blowouts than they lost; three of those teams were division winners (two were pennant winners), and the other finished second. another point of interest: the bi-polar birdos have already equaled the highest total of blowout losses on this chart. that's the highest blowout-loss total by any st louis team in the entire 38-year period. with 60 games left on the schedule, the cardinals are certain to surpass that mark (probably the next time mike maroth takes the mound) and become the most blown-out club of the last 40 years --- at least. for all we know, this year's club is on its way to setting an all-time franchise record for getting its ass handed to it.
i also looked up the blowout returns for the other 15 nl clubs this year:
you'll note how the top half of the "lost" column is dominated by lousy teams; good teams don't get the snot beat out of them very often. by this standard, the cardinals --- for all the thrills they provided this weekend, and their stoic refusal to drop entirely out of the race --- are nowhere close to being a good team. in spite of this weekend's results, i still think they should be trying to trade away current-year value in exchange for future potential . . . . but that's not going to happen. for one thing, the trade market is completely dead --- quietest it has been in a long time. and even if it were smokin', the cardinals' most tradeable player says he won't waive his no-trade under any circumstances. izzy still believes: "I think we have a chance, so why do I want to run away from it? Why not be part of something special? It would be something special if we come back from this."
"special" isn't quite the right word; "miraculous" would be a lot more apt. (i wonder: has a team ever sustained 30 or more blowout losses in a season but still gone on to the postseason?) but since a trade for prospects isn't likely, i'll join the rest of you in hoping the current rag-tag roster can hold our attention for the rest of the summer. if you want a precedent, look back at last year's philadelphia phillies. on this date last year they were 49-54, almost identical to the cards' current 49-53 record; their pitching staff had allowed 535 runs, vs the cards' current total of 529. from that date forward, the phillies cut their runs-against rate by more than half a run per game (from 5.3 to 4.7) while increasing their scoring by the same amount (from 5.2 runs / game to 5.8). even with the improvement, their pitching still sucked --- they allowed the 12th-most runs in the nl over the last 59 games --- so they won the only way they could, ie by outslugging their opponents. as we saw in the two comebacks vs the brewers, that's about the only thing the cardinals can hope to do. the best they can hope for is a slight improvement out of their pitchers (and there's no reason even to expect that), but with carpenter gone it's never gonna be better than a below-average staff. but the phils had the same problem, and they managed to stay in the race until the final weekend.
if the cardinals can do the same this year, they really will have accomplished something.
if you want a reason to think there's a sliver a chance this can happen, i'll give it to you in two words: scott rolen. in the 8 games since he returned from his cortisone shot he has hit 2 homers and 3 doubles, knocking in 7 runs (including 2 game-tying ones). the exact same thing happened last october, of course --- he got the shot during the new york series, if i'm not mistaken, and immediately started hitting for power again. why it took him 90+ games to admit that his shoulder wasn't right --- and why it took the team 90+ games to recognize it --- is beyond the scope of the current investigation. suffice to say that the cardinals score more runs when he gets extra-base hits than they do when he pops up to left.
please don't misinterpret me here; i'm not trying to raise anyone's hopes. i still think the cardinals are toast. but if they're too stubborn to acknowledge it, what the hell --- i'll play along. go cards.
a final thought: look back up at the nl blowouts chart. the cubs have the most blowout wins in the league and the fewest blowout losses. . . . looks like a playoff team to me.