Cardinal Collapse: What's Wrong in St. Louis?

.Contributor ISeptember 17, 2007

IconLast year at this time, the St. Louis Cardinals were in a tight race for a playoff spot.

This year?

They're doing everything they can to avoid the postseason.

After falling seven games behind the Cubs with their 10th loss in 11 tries, it's pretty safe to say the World Champions won't be defending their title.

Surprising as it seems, the outcome has been in the cards for some time.

Most notably, the team is and has been getting old. Once-dominant players like Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen aren't what they used to be. Both are due for retirement in the not-too-distant future.

Injuries haven't helped. The Cardinals lost their best player other than Albert Pujols when Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter went down before the season started. Worse still, Carpenter will likely miss most if not all of next season after Tommy John surgery.

The most traumatic loss for the Cardinals, though, was about more than just baseball—pitcher Josh Hancock lost his life in a car accident at the beginning of the season.

Hancock was far from a star player, but a tragic death will rattle any organization.

Scott Spiezio was also abruptly taken away from the team when drug problems sent him to rehab. Again, he wasn't a vital cog, but upheaval and uncertainty aren't conducive to winning.

The bad news finally culminated with the Rick Ankiel saga. In the wake of revelations about his HGH use,  Ankiel has shown the same mental toughness he demonstrated as a pitcher—going 2-31 since the story broke.

In the end, the bottom line may simply be that the Cardinals are disappointing this year because they overachieved last year. St. Louis was not an exceptionally talented team, but they're aging veterans pulled out a World Series title nonetheless. This season, they're only  older and less talented.

It may be time to start rebuilding in St. Louis.