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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Life shouldn’t be so bad that you can’t take time to laugh at the Cardinals


Leaving the Rockies was supposed to mean a playoff berth for Nolan Arenado.
Image: Getty Images

Nolan Arenado and the St. Louis Cardinals struggling through disappointing season

As you would have no doubt deduced by now, as a Cubs fan, baseball has left me feeling cold and alone this season, and especially in the last week. But you can’t always focus on the pain. You have to do your best to find the light, however miniscule and dim it can appear at times. Thankfully, the St. Louis Cardinals are doing more than providing just a flicker, as they sputter and leak and appear to not really have a plan of any sort.

While I may bemoan the purposeful sabotaging of themselves that the Cubs embarked on before this season to justify blowing up their greatest generation, or that of a few other teams, the Cards were basically in the same spot in the standings as this raggedy Cubs team. Except they wanted to be good this year! Their plan wasn’t to be mediocre enough through their own doing to justify getting really bad (i.e. cheap) at the deadline. They essentially got Nolan Arenado for free, giving up barely anything and having the Rockies pay his salary. Pair him with Paul Goldschmidt across the diamond. And thanks to an underwhelming division, that alone was supposed to lift them up in the standings.

Yeah well, that’s them 10 games behind the Brewers. Seven-and-a-half behind the Padres for the second wild-card spot. Arenado has hit OK, but nothing like we saw in Coors Field, which no one really could have predicted [wink]. His HR/FB rate is some seven to 10 points below what it would run in Denver, which can happen when you’re not playing half your games in a space station. Whoops. That’s OK, there’s still time for Arenado to improve after 30. Worked for Goldschmidt, right? Oh no, wait. Goldschmidt is also having just an OK-to-fine season at 33, while swinging and missing at more breaking pitches than he ever has. Sometimes that suggests a hitter is cheating to get to fastballs. Sometimes it’s just one of those things. Cards fans can find out when he’s 34 next year.

Not that the Cardinals didn’t cheap out in some places even while getting Arenado for free. They declined a qualifying offer for Kolten Wong, letting him walk for nothing rather than pay him $12.5 million. They’ve been trying to fill that void with either misplaced Duke point guard/captain Tommy Edman or the roadkill husk of Matt Carpenter. Combined wRC+? Toast. Meanwhile Wong is having the best year of his career at the plate and providing his usual sterling glove-work in Milwaukee for the team whose ass the Cards need binoculars to get a good look at as it disappears over the horizon.

St. Louis has gotten decent enough starting pitching, it just hasn’t gotten enough of it. It’s not a good sign when Adam Wainwright and the tennis balls over his cleats have thrown 50 more innings than any other starter. Apparently, the Cards thought Waino’s advanced age was the sole reason he’s been so effective, because their deadline move was to pick up equally aged Jon Lester from the Nationals. Except Lester was charred at least two seasons ago, and on his Cards debut last night gave up six runs in five innings after letting the first six batters reach. That performance settled his ERA to a cool 5.38, but hey, he’ll take the ball! It’ll fly at high speeds in all the wrong directions when he does, but he’ll take it!

Lester was the 11th person to make a start this season for St. Louis, by-the-by. But God bless them for trying Carlos Martinez again for the 42nd straight year, only to watch him put together a great four innings and then watch his control go all Jackson Pollock in the 5th every start also for the 42nd straight season.

Maybe that would be OK if the Cards’ pen wasn’t deadset on turning every game into some sort of David Blaine performance, the kind that just involves sitting somewhere for days while everyone watching wonders why anyone would bother. Their walk-percentage is the highest in baseball by nearly two percentage points.

What it is exactly the Cardinals are trying to do hasn’t been able to be identified. On the one hand it looked like they were trying to set themselves up for this kind of thing by letting Wong walk and keep the payroll down. Maybe if they hadn’t gotten Arenado for nothing they would have walked farther down that path. But then they did, and with that move at least had to look like they were doing everything to win. But the addition of Lester smacks of doing something to do something to look like you care, when you really don’t.

But hey, it makes the rest of us feel better. That’s not nothing.

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