It seems that Cardinals Nation is in full panic mode today. First the Cardinals drop a weekend series to the Cubs and were within a whisker of being swept. Next word comes out that Mark Mulder is going to start a game for the Cardinals this week in Philadelphia of all places. Then the biggest news came from the Brewers who completed a deal for Cy Young Award winner CC Sabathia. The question now becomes is it right for Cardinals fans to panic? I think the answer right now is no but there is certainly reason for concern.
Let's start with the weekend series against the Cubs. The fact of the matter is right now the Cardinals just aren't as good as the Cubs. Fans may not like to hear that but that is the case on paper and in the field. That is not to say the Cubs are a lock to make the playoffs or a lock to win the division or even a lock to beat the Cardinals in a playoff series but as of today the Cubs should beat the Cardinals 2 out of 3 in a series. The weekend was no surprise to me. There is no reason to panic about that. The season is only half over and the Cards are only 3 1/2 games out. A whole lot of things are going to happen between now and October. Things will happen that will change the dynamics of the race.
The Mark Mulder situation is a more daunting issue. I think the Cardinals are throwing the Hail Mary on Mulder's career as a Cardinal. They are running out of options on starters and I don't think the Cardinals think he is a reliever so they must find out if he can start or scuttle him for the season. I don't totally disagree with that line of thinking but giving him a start in the launching pad at Philadelphia probably isn't fair. If by some miracle he doesn't get shelled the Cardinals have bought another start before Wainwright's return. If not then they have to go to plan F or G or whichever letter they are on at this point.
The biggest cause for panic in Cardinals Nation today seems to be the Brewers acquisition of Sabathia. Milwaukee has made it known that they are going for it now and good for them. They are going to lose Ben Sheets at the end of the year. Fielder is not happy and wants out of Wisconsin supposedly and JJ Hardy is also apparently not going to be sticking around so there are a lot of good reasons to go all out for 2008. Sabathia no doubt gives the Brewers a great 1-2 punch in their starting pitching.
There is one main reason though why I think Milwaukee still has to prove something to me before I consider them the favorite over the Cubs or the Cardinals. That reason is Ned Yost. I am not a big believer that the manager affects every game but I do think that a manager is directly responsible for about 25-30 games a year. When the race is as close as this one appears it is going to be Yost is clearly outclassed. Both Tony La Russa and Lou Piniella way outclass Yost. La Russa almost single handedly knocked the Brewers out of the playoffs last year because he goaded Yost into a beanball war in a meaningless game for the Cardinals. That tells you what kind of a manager Yost is.
Cardinals' fans have plenty to worry about. If Adam Wainwright doesn't come back soon they are done. If Ryan Ludwick and Kyle Lohse fall back to Earth they are done. If Todd Wellemeyer totally goes back to being Todd Wellemeyer they are done. But this team should not have been this good this year to begin with. So maybe they will continue to surprise and stick around in the race and find their way into the playoffs. Now is not the time to panic but there are clouds on the horizon to be wary of.