I am still not quite ready to throw it in just yet, but the towel is, indeed, in hand at this point. Contrary to what Cardinal fans everywhere were hoping/praying for, the perplexing trend of the second half has continued and will, ultimately, cost the team a shot at another ring. It is true that they are not mathematically eliminated yet; and, as the Rockies have shown us over the past 3 seasons, it ain't over til it's over. However, the Reds' magic number has lowered to 5 with the latest loss to another bottom feeding juggernaut.
As further proof that the Cardinals are obviously distracted by the prowess of the bottom 1/6 of the league, here is the list of pitchers who have recorded wins against the Cardinals since the Cincinnati series that was supposed to be the springboard for the club: Zambrano, Dempster, Bush, Wolf, Bumgarner, Hanrahan, McCutchen, Slaten, Hernandez, Lannan, Happ, Rodriguez, Figueroa, Wood, Narveson, Capuano, Moylan, Kimbrel, Samardzija, Wells, Zambrano, Adams, Volstad, and Maholm. All but a couple of those are starters so it is not as if they are all no-name relievers who just happened to be the pitcher of record when their team took the lead. They actually had to shut the team down for the majority of the game. That, apparently, is not that daunting of a task. Taking a deeper look into that list is just a bad idea, but let's just take a few demographics from it. That list includes ten pitchers with .500 winning percentages or lower, a guy who got suspended from his team because he could not get along with teammates, and some guy who used to catch passes from Brady Quinn.
Only adding to the disappointment will be the lack of major hardware that the team manages to bring in this offseason. Barring the epic comeback that it would take to propel the team into the postseason, it does not appear that there will be a need for any pre-game ceremonies next season to recognize the Cy Young, MVP, or Rookie of the Year winners from this year. The flirtatious affair that Pujols and Wainwright had with their respective Triple Crowns has long since ended, as well.
Ok. That is enough dwelling on the negative. There has got to be a bright spot somewhere.
The bright spots are really more moral victories than true bright spots, but we will run with this for a bit, I suppose.
Matt Holliday has "quietly" had another fantastic year. After yet another "Teixeira-like" slow start to the season, Holliday has built his numbers back to a level that everyone is more accustomed to. We all had a feeling he would get to this point, but it sure was not a fun wait for him to heat up. He has actually played well enough down the stretch to potentially be the first player other that Albert Pujols to lead the team in batting average in a decade- or, since Pujols first buttoned his jersey. A feat that many great hitters attempted but never achieved. He is a single RBI away from his fourth 100 RBI season and is a single big game away from reaching the 30 home run plateau for the third time in his career. So, if nothing else, at least Holliday cannot be blamed for the early off-season again this season. That line drive to the gut is all too fresh on our memories as it is, anyway.
Adam Wainwright will, more than likely, miss out on the Cy Young again this season. The difference being that it is his own fault this season. He took it out of the voters' hands this time around. Here comes the positive spin: he will, in all likelihood, win 20 games for the first time (of many) in his career. His ERA will also be the lowest of his career, to date. The more impressive part about those figures is that he did them as the staff's ace. In previous years, he was overlooked to some degree. But he pretty well put his name on the map last season so everyone knew what to expect this time around. And he was unfazed by the pressure- like he has been his entire career. I mean, this is the same rookie who recorded the final outs of both the NLDS and World Series back in 2006. He set the bar high for himself. Even as good as Carpenter continues to be, it is still pretty clear that Waino has supplanted him as the ace of the staff and should hold that title for many years to come. Or until Jaime Garcia gets a couple more years under his belt.
Let's not forget about the draft the team managed to pull of this season, too. Yeah, maybe I'm reaching a little bit here. But the Cardinals' draft was rated extremely high by every draft analyst and many of the players that they got signed project to be good major league talent. This is important after the yard sale that was last season. Now, don't get me wrong, I loved just about every move the team made last season but, whether they were good deals or not, the farm system was turned into a barren wasteland without a doubt. That made this season difficult when the need for another pitcher became apparent. Decisions were made that genuinely saddened the team. Although, now that Luddy plays for the Padres, there is still a reason to cheer against the Reds other than just not liking Brandon Phillips and Dusty Baker- not that another reason is needed or anything.
Last but not least: at the end of the day, at least this isn't a Cubs' blog. They are to the Cardinals what Mississippi is to Arkansas. Someone else always has it worse.