Continuing their downward slide, the St. Louis Cardinals were defeated by the Colorado Rockies 5-2 this cloudy Monday afternoon. The Rockies, statistically one of the worst teams in the National League, humiliated the Cardinals, pounding them all weekend at Busch Stadium, completing a rare four game sweep.
It is obvious to anyone that was unfortunate enough to watch this series that the Cardinals and their playoff prospects are in big trouble.
They appear to be weak in most every measurable area: fielding, pitching, and mainly, hitting. Pujols is the only effective bat in the lineup. If he is intentionally walked every at-bat, the Cardinals' entire offensive strategy would completely fall apart.
Yadier Molina is a great catcher, but has never been too much of a consistent offensive threat. Skip Schumacker has never done much to justify the faith that LaRussa seems to have in him. Ryan Ludwick isn't nearly as good as he was last year. Chris Duncan and Rick Ankiel are perennially in their starting lineup now; they're both erratic hitters that don't produce reliably at all.
There are small glimmers of hope in their crop of young rookies, but with their lack of experience and consistency, their contributions to the team cannot be constantly counted on.
Pitching seems to be another weak spot for the Cardinals. Pitching against the Rockies, Thompson proved that he's not a legitimate solution to the team's starting pitching problems. They currently have two reliable starters, but one of them is Chris Carpenter, the most injury-prone star in the Major Leagues. That doesn't do much to inspire the confidence of a city rabidly needing a baseball team that is worth rooting for.
The middle part of their bullpen is murky at best. Ryan Franklin is a good closer, but if the rest of the bullpen keeps blowing games wide open, his opportunities to make a difference in the late innings will be limited.
The Cardinals also have major gaps in their fielding. Molina and Pujols are great in their positions, but the rest of their infield is unpredictable and unreliable. Duncan is as incompetent in the outfield as he is with a bat. Clearly, steps need to be taken to change this and make it stronger.
It is difficult not to like Tony LaRussa and not to appreciate the strategic eccentricity that he brings to a game, but clearly the steps that he is taking with the Cardinals and the lineups that he keeps calibrating are not working.
He needs to start learning from his mistakes and change his approach. Otherwise, the Cardinals will keep doing what they did this weekend; making terrible teams look like great ones by comparison. Next, they will have the opportunity to do just that in both Florida and Cleveland.
I do not think that is the role that this once proud franchise wants to be playing in the National League.