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Looking Up to the Reds

By: J. Owen

Back when Albert Pujols was called up from the minors to replace the injured Bobby Bonilla, after a quick time we realize we had a player that would bring you great success for years to come. And success we have had. This season when we signed Matt Holliday, I thought it was fortunate to immediately declare ourselves the team to beat this season in the NL central. Then Colby Rasmus found his swing and had us all reminiscing of 2004, not to mention Ludwick who when healthy is a top class right fielder in the National league. Each one of these players has produced solid numbers this year. Rasmus has hit .284 with solid power numbers raking in 42 RBIs and 16 dingers. He is 3rd on the team in slugging, putting up .545, 16 points ahead of Matt Holliday. Speaking of Holliday, although a dismal beginning, he got red hot and ended up hitting 16 homers and 51 RBIs. He’s 3rd on the team in average at .300 and even rode his hot streak to a game winning run in the all-star game. And the anchor to this heavy hitting lineup, Albert Pujols, is just 1 hot streak away from leading in each of the Triple Crown stats. Surely with these players the Cards would be well on their way to a NL central crown. I haven’t even started to talk about our pitching.

The Cardinal’s have the most talented pitching staff in the national league. And considering we do have 2 pitchers on the top 3 National League ERA list, we can settle with Carpenter being 14th in the league at 3.29. Brad Penny looked like the Penny that started for the National League 3 years ago, and would’ve bumped Carpenter to 4th on the team in ERA if he were healthy. Pretty set in the playoffs if you go that route for your starters. Of course I doubt whether we will be seeing Penny at that time and we don’t even know for sure because any Cardinal’s injury port might as well have came from a 5 year old. But even with Penny out the Cards could boost the best 3 starting pitchers to any team.

But bullpens win games. And although our bullpen has embarrassed itself a few times this year, look back to the most recent series in Colorado, I digress. But this is to be expected by a pretty young bullpen. Motte and Boggs have had a lot of pressure on them this season, and they have answered the call. They both post well sub 3 ERAs, and that was after having a rough start, eek. So with that young talent and fully competent veterans such as Trevor Miller, Dennys Reyes, and Ryan Franklin, your bullpen is well set up to win at the end of the day. Our closer Ryan Franklin has 16 saves, not near top in the league, but he’s overall been steady and maintained an ERA of 3.63. But you even sense La Russa’s hesitation on his closers role, especially with a fireballer like Motte in the pen. This bullpen could use another acquisition, and we hope Mo comes through, but even so, judging the pitching staff by its first half, well done.

So why is this team 2 wins behind the Reds? The way I see it, mainly 3 reasons. The Reds are a good team, lazy play by the Cardinals and more lazy play. I have seen more short hoppers get by Albert Pujols this year than in his entire career. The man is a Gold Glove first basemen, he doesn’t miss short hops. The play we have seen at shortstop from Brendan Ryan is not close to the caliber he has displayed in previous years legitimately earning him the role of starting shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals. To bad this year he is playing like a AAA ball player. He leads the team in errors with 12, and has struggled to bat his weight all season, but he is dieting. Yes it was all fun and games when he put on that heroic performance in San Diego, going a wowing 4 for 4 with 3 runs and a game winning homerun. It looked like that would be the jolt to get him to start playing like a major leaguer again. Still the only time all season he has had more than 2 hits. Schumaker and Lopez are 2 and 3 in the team in errors, which is very uncharacteristic of a Cardinal infield, Oquedo is one of the best infield coaches in the league. It seemed like this team was poised to cruise in the central all year and then when it counts, October, leave it all on the field.

Unfortunately the Reds are a World Series contender, legitimately. This lackluster performance is not going to cut it if we want to make the playoffs. I have seen a Dusty Baker team beat the Cardinals in the central division before and I don’t want to see it again. Another cold hard truth is that the Reds will probably only be better in the second half, as that is typical of a Baker managed team, not to mention their general manager has a tendency to pull some strings for some key acquisitions come trading deadline, Cards fans know that all to well, he used to do it for them.

But at the end of the day, the Cards are an extremely talented team, arguably the most talented in the NL, so hopefully they can put the talent together and earn 100 victories by the end of the season like they ought to. If we could just get one middle infielder to step up and play consistently that would be huge. And if Ludwick’s injuries are habitual, then I hope La Russa gives the starting right fielding job to John Jay, after all he is leading the team in slugging.

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