(BaseballStL) -- During a recent St. Louis Cardinals broadcast, announcers Dan McLaughlin and Ricky Horton asked the rhetorical question whether either had ever seen a .500 ball club engender so much disappointment as the Cards have so far this year.
And as they pointed out, the disappointment isn’t centered on unrealistic fans who don’t understand the long grind of a 162-game season. It extends to the players, coaches and the front office. The Cardinals always expect excellence, but this is a World Series team that returned largely intact and was expected to steamroll the division.
A few players had career years last season and some got new contracts, a disincentive to playing like you have rabies. But it isn’t even Memorial Day yet so it is a little early to despair.
Taking a look around baseball, the somewhat uninspired first quarter of 2014 by the Cards is not an isolated event. Take a look at these 5 teams.
1. The Los Angeles Dodgers
Apparently $230 million doesn’t buy much these days. The pre-season World Series favorites are just a game over .500, this despite having marquee names like Zack Greinke, Josh Beckett and Clayton Kershaw whose three salaries alone equal half of the Cardinals’ entire payroll.
Not only are they behind the San Francisco Giants, they also trail the Colorado Rockies who spent much of the past three seasons in last place in the division
2. The Boston Red Sox
If the Dodgers were a lock to win the World Series this year, the club that did it last year is a gruesome example of a team unburdened by ambition.
Their pitching was nearly flawless in the post season but this year they can’t get anybody out. Clay Buchholz, Jake Peavy, Felix Doubront and John Lackey all have ERAs over 4. The Red Sox run differential is -12 (the Cards is +11.)
Oh, and Edward Mujica’s ERA is approaching 8. Another good non-signing.
3. The Arizona Diamondbacks
They were expected to contend for the National League pennant but instead are competing with the Cubs for the worst record in the league.
No starter has an ERA under 4 and the Diamondbacks run differential – sit down for this one – is -60. Take away Paul Goldschmidt and this is easily the worst team in baseball.
4. The Pittsburgh Pirates
The feel-good story of last year has reverted to the mean. These look like the old Pirates. Their run differential (-18) is actually worse than the lowly Cubs. Pedro Alvarez has nine bombs but is only hitting .209.
But pitching is their real downfall. Francisco Liriano channeled Sandy Koufax in his prime last year but might not outpitch the 79-year-old Koufax this year.
Ironically, the Pirates ERA leader is Charlie Morton, the Cards’ personal batting practice pitcher.
Gregory Polanco will soon be promoted from Triple A (.389) as soon as the Pirates have safely postponed his arbitration eligibility for an additional year.
5. The Cleveland Indians
I like Terry Francona. He managed the pompous egos of overpaid stars and the savage Boston media to win two World Series titles. He’s an honest guy in a game that punishes honesty. So I want Cleveland to be good. But they’re not.
Perennial disappointment Nick Swisher is hitting under .200 but has contributed a remarkable 41 strikeouts so far for his $15 million.
Carlos Santana (no, not the guitar player) is hitting a big league-worst .152. Wait, maybe it is the guitar player.
Three pitchers - Justin Masterson, Zach McAllister and Danny Salazar – have 27 starts between them this year and just 6 wins. None of the three has an ERA under 5.
Disappointment is relative. We can’t take satisfaction from the failures of others but should keep something in perspective; if everything always went the way the experts thought it would, there’d be no reason to play the season.