All through this season, I have tried my level best to avoid getting too high or too low with this team. In seasons past, I've lived and died with this team, one hundred and sixty two times a year. There was no middle ground, every night would find me in paroxysms of joy or in a black fury, raging at the cruel fate that threw an eighth inning double play upon all of us, killing a promising rally.
This year, though, I've largely managed to avoid those highs and lows. Part of it, of course, is simply the fact that I'm older. Part of it is the fact that I now cover the team, and my perspective has had to become more analytical, more measured. Part of it is the fact that I lost something very precious this year. Lost baseball games simply don't hurt nearly as much when you're forced to take stock of real life. Perspective is a harsh lesson to learn. And, finally, part of it is simply that I expected less from this team. I saw a team in transition and didn't see a summer full of delicious heartbreak ahead. Instead I saw a chance to watch an evolution take place, to see the future come into focus.
For all of those reasons, and others I'm sure, I haven't stressed over this season. Mostly, I've simply followed the team and been able to enjoy the games, both the good and the bad, for exactly what they are. I think, after years of following the game, I may have finally found the proper equilibrium for my own personal fandom.
Unfortunately, here on the morning of the 26th of July, even my new zen approach to the Cardinals isn't enough to dull the cut of this past week's events.
We all felt pretty good about ourselves on Monday morning, didn't we? We knew the bullpen was shaky, yes, but it seemed like a middling concern. When you can bash teams' heads in the way the Cards did to the San Diego nine, what is there to complain about? Two games out of first place, still holding on to the wild card, still holding off that rowdy bunch from Milwaukee. The destiny of the St. Louis Cardinals belonged to the St. Louis Cardinals alone. Life was good.
And how do we feel now? Five losses in a row. Four to those same Brewers we were so successfully holding off. The opening game of the series against a Metropolitans club that just recently passed up the Cardinals in the wild card race. Of the four losses in the Milwaukee series, the Cardinals led three of them heading into the seventh inning. The bats have completely disappeared; the Cardinals have managed to scrape out exactly eleven runs in the five losses.
Well, I don't know about you, but I don't feel particularly hopeful.
See, somewhere along the line, this team managed to sucker me once again. They somehow drew me back in to hanging on every out, every single pitch. I've found myself yelling at the television when things go badly in spite of myself. This past week, I even found myself considering calling in to one of the sports talk shows while I was in the car, just to vent my frustrations with the way the Cardinals are letting this season slip away.
So much for perspective, huh?
Well, no more. I am reestablishing my perspective as of this second. This is a transition year. Just because the Cubs, who literally make me nauseous, are leading the division, it's no reason to get all reactionary and upset. It's not as it's the Cardinals' job to somehow keep the Cubs out of the postseason, no matter how much my friend Luke would like to think it is. We've seen a whole lot of exciting baseball this season, and I, for one, am extremely grateful for it. I'll watch the rest of these games, celebrate the victories, and let the losses just roll right off. It's going to be great.
You know, the sad thing is, even I don't believe myself.
We've got five days left until the trade deadline. At this point, I've written pages upon pages of opinions and analysis of all the possible moves that the Cardinals could make to try and shore up the various weak points of the team. So, instead of going into depth again, I thought I would make a list of the moves that still interest me. With the way the race appears to be going (ie, against the Cardinals), I'm more convinced than ever that they need to avoid trying to make a big splash to prop up this year's team. 2009 and beyond are just too valuable to me to see those years compromised to make a run at it this year.
With that in mind, there are still a handful of players that I would still be interested in seeing the Cardinals try to swing a deal for. You'll notice they're all more investment type players, rather than quick help guys. I think the time has come to switch focus a bit.
Huston Street, RHP, Oakland- Yes, I know. The last time the Cards traded for an A's pitcher didn't work out so well. Still, though, Street is one of the better young closers in the game, and has a favourable contract situation. Bringing him in would immediately help establish a long term presence at the back of the bullpen. He and Chris Perez could form a lockdown combination for years to come. There have been some concerns about him this year, but as long as you could be sure he was healthy, I wouldn't be overly worried about his current numbers.
Brandon Wood, SS, Angels- Wood was one of the most highly touted prospects in the game of baseball just a year or two ago. His stock has fallen slightly since then, but he still has a ton of upside. More than anything, he just seems to be blocked on the Angels. Mike Scioscia seems to like guys like Erick Aybar and Maicer Izturis on the field, and Wood is on the outside looking in. He's probably never going to hit for a high average, but the power is very real, and he's proven his ability to handle short.
Brent Lillibridge, SS, Atlanta- Another blocked prospect, Lillibridge is sort of like a much higher upside version of Brendan Ryan. He has outstanding athleticism in the field and excellent speed on the bases. He doesn't offer a ton of power projection, but should hit plenty to be a very useful player, considering the value of his glove.
Arthur Rhodes, LHP, Seattle- Rhodes would be more of a rental player, but I can't imagine he would cost much to acquire, and he's been excellent this season. I'm sure you could resign him for next year too, if you wanted. As a low cost bullpen upgrade, I think Rhodes might be the best bet still on the market.
J. Brent Cox, RHP, Yankees- A righthanded reliever in the Yankees' system, Cox has moved up quickly this year since coming back from Tommy John surgery and has pitched well at each level. Currently at Triple A, he hasn't been great since getting there, but is still making his way back. He succeeded Huston Street as Texas' closer, and Cox has largely fulfilled that same role to this point. He profiles more as a seventh or eighth inning setup reliever in the majors, but he would still represent a very valuable addition. I'm not sure what the Yankees would want for someone like this, but it would be worth the phone call to find out, I'm sure.
Jeremy Sowers, LHP, Cleveland- I wrote about Sowers earlier in the year, and I still find him very interesting. He was absolutely dominant at Triple A this year, but hasn't been able to translate that same success to the majors. With CC Sabathia no longer in Cleveland, the Indians may be looking to hold on to their pitchers a bit more than they were before, but I still think they would be willing to move Sowers. He would be a nice buy low candidate, and I still think he could figure it out eventually.
I'm sure there are others, but those are some names that I would at least be interested in checking on. I would also hope that the Cards are willing to look at any reasonable offers for Kyle Lohse, Looper, and Pineiro. Obviously you can't move all three of them, but I think you could move any two of them and still field a representative rotation with Carpenter on his way back soon.
Unfortunately, with Duncan on the DL, we can't move him. Thus, I think you probably have to hold on to all the outfielders you currently have.
I'll be back later with a game thread. In order to try and turn our luck around, I'll make it a haiku today, I promise.