I'm sure that a lot St. Louis Cardinals fans, like myself, have become increasingly disinterested as the MLB season reaches the midpoint of September.
How many chances are the Cardinals going to have to make their move before the Chicago Cubs or Milwaukee Brewers establish control? In the NL Central race this season, that answer may be without a limit due to the lack strength all three contending teams have shown.
And it's so frustrating! It's almost painful to watch!
Maybe Major League Baseball should take away the automatic bid the NL Central champion gets to the playoffs this season. At only a few games above .500, do the Cubs or Brewers deserve it? No. Do the Cardinals? Not from what I have seen.
If you think about it, the Cardinals have been a mediocre team, at best, for the last two seasons. Yes, I know 2006 was a World Series championship year. But any team that wins 83 regular season-games, and then backs into the playoffs, isn't always going to be celebrating with a trophy.
With the way things are going in 2007, the Cardinals might sneak back into the playoffs by winning an NL Central title with 82 or 81 wins -- or even worse, a record under .500.
Even if that were to happen, what good would it do?
From Opening Night in April, the season has not gone as planned for the Cardinals. Former NL Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter pitched six innings before developing an injured right elbow that would put the rest of his season on the shelf.
The result was the loss of a No. 1 starter from a rotation that lacked a No. 1 and a No. 2 starter all season. Braden Looper, who also spent time on the DL, has pitched well when he's been injury-free. Adam Wainwright is just now rounding into form. Brad Thompson has filled in admirably when he's been in the rotation.
But, essentially, trading Jeff Suppan for Kip Wells was a disaster. Suppan was an innings-eater who could battle through bad performances that would ultimately save the Cardinals from having to rely on their bullpen. Wells never seemed to get past that one big early-inning blowup.
And Anthony Reyes. I don't understand how a pitcher who starts and wins Game 1 of the 2006 World Series begins the 2007 season by losing his first 10 decisions. How is that possible?
At one point in 2006, Wells and Reyes combined for 22 of the Cardinals first 45 losses.
As 2006 progressed, the Cardinals were bit hard by injuries. Catcher Yadier Molina and his backup, Gary Bennett, spent time on the DL almost simultaneously, forcing the Cardinals to sign 37-year-old veteran Kelly Stinnett.
Right fielder Preston Wilson was lost for the year after he needed surgery to repair his right knee. Reliever Josh Kinney tore ligaments in his right elbow during spring training and will not pitch in 2006. Shortstop David Eckstein's battle with lower back problems has handcuffed the Cardinals.
More recently, outfielder Juan Encarnacion was hit on the eye by a foul ball in a freak accident while standing in the on-deck circle. Center fielder Jim Edmonds has been bothered by an assortment of injuries that have significantly decreased his production at the plate during the last two seasons.
Now, third baseman Scott Rolen is out for the year because of his nagging shoulder that, once again, required surgery. And if that wasn't enough, outfielder Chris Duncan has a hernia that may also take him out of the picture.
With all of those pieces to the puzzle missing, how is it that the Cardinals still have a chance to, not only make the playoffs, but by a precedent set in 2006, win the World Series?
It's a prime example of how watered-down the level of talent in all of the majors has become.
As commissioner Bud Selig embraces the MLB era of parity, I long for the days when teams established themselves as contenders early in the season and there was a race to see if they could be caught.
As always, I'm speaking of sports.
Jeff Arenz is the sports editor
of The Standard Democrat.
He can be reached by calling (573) 471-4141 after 6 p.m. or
by sending E-Mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.