Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Bad Time for a Slump

Well, that completely sucked.

The Cards picked a horrible time to get cold. Obviously. The Cardinals finished the 2004 season by losing 7 of their last 9 games between Houston and Boston. The Cardinal offense only managed to score 3 runs over the last 3 games of the World Series. And worst of all, the Cardinals never had a lead in any of the 4 games. Heck, the Sox scored 1 or more runs in the 1st inning of every game!

Much was made, both on the broadcasts and in print, about the number of pitches the Red Sox batters swung on and missed. While those numbers sounded bad - well, were they? We don't have that kind of information made available to us, so for all I know 9 swinging strikes per game is similar to what the Cardinals did all season long. What I do know is that the Cardinals only gave up 7 runs total over the last 2 games, which should have been plenty to win those two.

As far as the Red Sox go - if they had been playing anyone else in the World Series right now, I would be happy for them and their fans. It's nice to see a fan base that has waited for so, so long to get a title. And I personally get a kick out of a team that had the guts to hire a guy last year in Theo Epstein who was 29 years old to be their GM. Many of the "experts" out there thought he would be a failure. After all, he didn't have baseball experience, used crazy stats like "OBP" and "OPS", and even hired the ultimate heretic, Bill James, to work as an advisor to the team.

I mean, think about it. This is a team full of guys that don't field well and don't run the bases well. They do, however, wait for their pitch. If they don't get it, they take the walk. If they do get it, they kill it. As a team, they don't steal, they don't sacrifice. You know - they don't manufacture runs, or do the so-called "little things."

Theo grabbed David Ortiz off of the scrap heap when no one else would. Kevin Millar is another great example. Millar was given up on by the Marlins and traded to a team in Japan. However, he had to clear MLB waivers first, and in the majors there had been a gentleman's agreement to not claim players in this situation. Young Theo, however, bucked the trend and claimed him anyway. And tonight, Millar is celebrating with the rest of the World Champions.

I'm not going to sit here and ignore their payroll, mind you. The guys spent roughly $50 million more than the Cardinals this season. And baseball purists don't have to completely go crazy over this. After all, they can still cling to their "pitching wins championships" blanket. But still - Theo Epstein is evidence of what can happen when you combine "Moneyball" with actual money. So, my hat is off to them. They out-played the Cardinals in just about every aspect of the game.

I hate it that the Cardinals didn't show up, and I'll still remember this season with a fondness for many reasons. I just wish that AL fans could have seen the real Cardinal team.

It also helps that the Cardinals should be just as good, if not better, next season. I'll be posting more in the coming weeks, but here is a quick preview.

Offense

Still should be among the best in the NL next year. Renteria didn't contribute much this year, so if he's gone it shouldn't change much. Edmonds and Rolen will likely be a bit worse, but I think Pujols will be as good or better. And the Cards will have a full year of Larry Walker, 38 years old or not.

Defense

Still likely the best in baseball. I'd like to see Renteria back, so we'll have to see about that position. Matheny may or may not be back, but even if he isn't Molina is likely to be just as good.

Bullpen

Still top notch. Remove Kline and Eldred, who will be free agents, and replace them with Flores and Reyes, who will be cheap.

Rotation

The most uncertainty is here. Of course that's fitting. If there was a weak link on this team, it was the starting five. This was especially a problem during the playoffs. Only 5 quality starts in 15 playoff games, for example, made life tougher during the entire month of October.

Morris and Woody are probably gone, with Haren and Ankiel likely to replace them. And personally, between the Cardinals having some money to spend and some good free agent pitchers out there, I'm hoping the Cards make a splash in the rotation, even if it's only a small one.

So, to wrap things up for 2004 - it was a fun ride. This was easily the best Cardinal team since the 1980's, and even though it's hard to imagine right now, they may even have been the best since the 1960's. Thanks to the few of you that check in on my blog from time to time. Stay tuned during the off-season for some reflections on 2004, with lots of focus on 2005.


4 Comments:

At 8:34 AM, Blogger Cardsgem said...

Such an awesome year.....such a terrible way to end it.

After the great year the Cards had most of the nation will remember one thing...they were the team that laid down and let the redsox finally win another WS title.

 
At 2:18 PM, Blogger sunking278 said...

Cards fans are a class act! If the Sox don't repeat as champions next season, I hope to see you guys win it all.

 
At 7:58 AM, Blogger Socnorb11 said...

The PD today says that Duncan and Larussa are pushing to make a high-volicty, strikeout type of pitcher the highest priority this winter. It also implies that Morris is all but gone, and that Woody wont' be back unless he's willing to take a substantial decrease in pay.

Sounds good to me!

 
At 11:17 AM, Blogger Robb said...

Thanks for the comments, sunking. Hopefully, we can get it done next year.

I've heard rumors, Socnorb, that the Cards may be serious about renting Randy Johnson for the 2005 season. As long as they don't have to give up the farm, I'd be interested. Very interested.

 

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