Usually, I watch the television broadcast of the St. Louis Cardinals' games alone in a large windowless, underground, concrete bunker in the most annoying part of south St. Louis County. However, sometimes scheduling conflicts and economic circumstances force me to view these games at my crappy retail dayjob. That is exactly what I had to do with yesterday's game against the Cleveland Indians.
I was sitting there at work viewing the contest with my co-worker Craig, who is clueless about baseball and most everything else. He has confessed to me on several occasions that he never watches baseball on television and really doesn't know that much about the Cardinals. Yet, at one point during the game, after Albert's second towering home-run of the game, Craig turned to me and asked, "Is this Pujols guy the only good player on the team?"
I had to explain to him that, when it comes to offense, yes, Pujols is the only truly good player the Cardinals have. They do have some decent starting pitching, (or at least, they do when Chris Carpenter's not injured. Most everyone else is sporadic and unpredictable, with the exception of Wellemeyer, who is just plain terrible) a great defensive catcher, and a good closer.
I do find reasons to like the young guys, like Rasmus, Thurston, Stavinoha, Ryan and Greene, and there are signs that, with a little more experience, they could be the backbone of a pretty strong team. And Ankiel isn't as terrible as he could be.
Right now, however, Pujols is the team.
It's amazing to me that my idiot co-worker, someone who's seemingly never watched a full baseball game, can see what the highly intelligent and well paid Cardinals' general management can't. They can't be a championship baseball club with only one truly effective hitter in the lineup.
I don't mean to be Debbie Downer. There was some hope to be garnered from yesterday's 3-1 win against the Indians. The Cards are only half a game out of first and Pujols is tied with the criminally underrated Adrian Gonzalez for the Major League lead in homeruns.
And seriously, who knew that Brad Thompson could be THIS effective? Maybe keeping him around, giving him some more chances, and, when Lohse is healthy again, dumping Wellemeyer is something that should be highly considered.
However, if the Cards are to maintain their healthy statistical position,, some major tough changes have to be made. The quicker we make them, the better.
Without some more reliable experience in the infield and another steady bat in the lineup, the Cards aren't going to win their division and aren't going to be in postseason consideration. Eventually, if they don't start taking serious steps to win over the long haul, this will give Pujols plenty of incentive to start talking to the rich teams from the coasts when his contract is up in a couple of years.
Currently, without him, there is absolutely nothing keeping this team afloat.