Halfway home: Cards' back-and-forth 1st half likely status quo

Halfway home: Cards' back-and-forth 1st half likely status quo

Credit: Getty Images

CINCINNATI, OH - MAY 24: Mike Matheny #22 the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals watches the action during game against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on May 24, 2014 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)


by Mike Bailey / BaseballStL | @MikeBailey4


Posted on June 30, 2014 at 10:06 AM

(BaseballStL) —Baseball analysts and columnists dig deeply into statistics and data at season’s midpoint to fashion thoughtful perspectives on a team’s progress.

That is not necessary for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2014. Three sentences will do it. 

They are neither a good team nor a bad team. Pitching has been robust but offense feeble. It is not going to change.

The last sentence hurts the worst.

Teams do turn around seasons at midpoint but it seldom comes without outside stimulus, such as a major trade, the promotion of a star rookie who ignites an offense or the activation of a star from the disabled list. 

Currently, no one is coming off the DL who meets the third condition. The Cards have already tried number two without any measurable success. Oscar Taveras is indeed a talent who one day may become a very good player. But he isn’t right now and won’t be of much help this year. Just about everyone else who might help offensively has been up for at least a while and those who haven’t are not the stuff dreams are made of. Other than Zach Petrick and Tim Cooney, just about every viable pitching option has been explored and the former’s call-up could come soon if Shelby Miller’s back condition recurs or if Joe Kelly struggles in his rehab starts.

That leaves major trade. Until recently, the Cards certainly had the pieces to land a major talent. Now? Doubtful. If David Price is the player they covet, they have virtually no pitching to surrender and few position players of any consequence. Matt Adams is the closest thing to a stud they have and just about everyone else was just signed to long-term deals to ensure the team’s nucleus.  

Certainly Jaime Garcia will never be a consistent contributor to the rotation again and Michael Wacha’s injury is deeply troubling, but renting Price for a year and half at the expense of major damage to the current team makes no sense.

And while pitching is certainly the crisis du jour, a wholly unacceptable offense is the major hitch in the get-along now and for the foreseeable future. Facing quality Dodger pitching, the Cards crossed the plate five times in 36 innings, an output inconsistent with playoff runs. 

So, with few spare parts to package, the options for a major deal appear limited.

Which leads us back to sentence number three. It is not going to change. Certainly there will be ups and downs, a few spurts here and there, a few series in which it appears they will fall out of contention.

They won’t, however. Not because of some mystical late season aura they have heretofore displayed, but because of the parity (read mediocrity) of the rest of the National League. First Atlanta appeared invincible, then San Francisco, now Milwaukee. The first two have faded and the third certainly will. 

Looking for a clue what the second half will be like? When the Cards return from San Francisco, they play 12 of the next 15 at home. A good home stand puts things right and break-even or worse over those 15 games is serious trouble. Both Pittsburgh and Cincinnati are over .500 and charging.

But if you are hoping for the September magic of the past several seasons, you might be disappointed. The Redbirds play four in Milwaukee followed by four more in Cincinnati right after Labor Day and end the season with six on the road. 

Given what we have seen so far, magic may not be enough.