GAME TIME 6:15 CDTi'm back from vacation; hugely successful and enjoyable family reunion. my thanks to everybody who handled the front-page posting during the week and kept an eye on the site --- outstanding job by everybody. the team didn't look too bad either, for whatever that's worth; yes they're about to get healthier, and they still have 21 games against the two teams they're chasing, but you can't like their chances. immediately after the all-star break, the cardinals face a 10-game road trip to philadelphia, florida, and atlanta, while both the cubs and brewers will enjoy 10-game home stands. milwaukee is 30-13 at home this season; how far off the pace will the cards be by late july, when they finally get to face the brewers head to head? maybe too far back for the games to mean anything.
some assorted impressions for a saturday morning:
- the wreck of reyes continued last night at triple A; anthony gave up 3 homers and 4 walks in 4.2 innings. the dimming of his prospects this year is a significant blow to the organization, no matter whose fault it is --- and i'm as sick of going around in circles on the "whose fault" debate as you are, so let's try not to go there. young pitchers are the most highly prized talents in the game today; you hate to see one of those fail, for any reason. while it's still too soon to call reyes a failure, i think it's not too soon to conclude that his opportunity to succeed in this organization has expired. he needs a change of scenery. the cardinals need to move on. bad outcome.
- the cards might partially redeem that failure by leaving brad thompson in the rotation the rest of the year. once carpenter comes back, there'll be one slot left in the rotation, and la russa has declared wells, wellemeyer, and thompson to be in a "competition" for that slot. how short-sighted; how ridiculous. one of la russa's biggest weaknesses as a manager has always been his faith in competition --- the belief that player abilities can prove out over an arbitrary two-week (or two-month, or whatever) period. in truth, they prove out over the long haul. both wellemeyer and wells have a longstanding record of ruinous control problems ---- they're not able to throw strikes consistently. if they should happen to throw strikes in the next two or three weeks, so flippin' what? they'll still be pitchers who don't throw enough strikes. brad thompson throws strikes --- always has, always will. he doesn't do anything else particularly well, but a lotta guys have built 10-year careers on strike-throwing alone --- one of them, mike maroth, ranks as a front-line starter in the cards' current rotation. thompson is young, cheap, and above all unformed --- unlike wells and wellemeyer, he's not a proven failure. so screw the "competition"; give the job to the player who might have a future.
- during my vacation, i watched part of a game with somebody who has gotten to know mike shannon and family pretty well, on account of mrs shannon's illness. (her outlook is pretty grim.) my source said that shannon characterizes this team as an extraordinarily unhappy one --- a bunch of guys with long faces who seem not to realize they're the luckiest peple on earth, getting paid millions of dollars to play a game. according to my source, shannon avoids contact with these players except when he's working --- doesn't share beers and stories with them away from the ballpark, at the bar on road trips or whatever. add that hearsay to the various impressions and hints relayed by miklasz and the rest of the p-d sportswriters. the cardinals went through similar throes in 1986 and again in 1990; this season bears much in common with both of those fruitless campaigns.
- the cardinals' team era over their last 17 games is 3.39. over the first 35 games of the year, their team era was a respectable 4.10. but during the 31 games in the middle (from may 14 through june 17), the cardinals' team era was 6.39.