I think what is more mind-blowing is when you analyze how the
Redbirds are getting it done. Going into the weekend, the Cards were
batting something like .212 with runners in scoring position for the
month of May! Up until this most recent West Coast road swing,
Redbird starters were 5-7 with an ERA over 5.00-plus in their
previous 12 starts. That sounds a lot more like last year's
disastrous results than it sounds like a team vying for the
Then how is St. Louis among the leaders? That, my
friends, is a very good question. Well, for starters, take the
starters (how's that for a play on words? -- and they say I'm no
journalist). In April, Cardinal starting pitchers were 15-5 with a
sparkling 3.30 ERA. I don't have to tell you that if they keep that
up, they'll be in the race a lot longer than yours truly told you
Or, how about the play of Ryan Ludwick? The casual baseball
observer may not even know that he emerged onto the scene at the end
of last season. Since his insertion as a regular starter, he is
among the top three players in all of MLB in slugging percentage,
homers and RBIs. Not bad for a kid who has struggled with injuries
the last two to three seasons.
And what about the new guy ... third baseman Troy Glaus, who had
the unenviable task of replacing fan-favorite Scott Rolen? Oh, he's
only hitting .280 with 32 RBIs, which is one more than a teammate
named Pujols and good for 13th in the league!
And speaking of Sir Albert ... he's only humming along at a .351
batting average, 11 homers, 31 RBIs and has failed to reach base in,
I think, only two ballgames! Ho-hum!
Don't forget the leadoff work of Skip Schumaker, who is hitting a
solid .301 and playing fantastic defense. And speaking of stingy D,
have you happened to see Rick Ankiel throw anybody out lately? Just
kiddin' ... that guy is sic!
Even Aaron Miles is contributing even more than he did last year,
currently hitting a robust .323. And don't look now, but enigmatic
shortstop Cesar Izturis, who was a desperation signing mostly for
his glove late in the proceedings, is carrying a .327 average over
the last four games!
I talked a little about the hitters because I didn't want to
forget about them. I also wanted to point out that this is a true
epitome team and will only continue to produce these successful
results if and only if all 40 members of the roster (24 at a time)
continue to battle and claw their way to victory. Chicago is better
on paper, so St. Louis will have to display more grit and heart.
[to top of second column]
I was remiss and didn't say enough about the pitching. But what
can you say about Todd Wellemeyer? Wasn't he a pitcher left on the
scrap heap by the Kansas City Royals? If they leave you for dead ...
you're dead! Not so fast, my friend. Enter Dave Duncan ... Cardinal
pitching coach extraordinary and career resurrecter. He gave
Wellemeyer a plan. In his 20 Cardinal starts going into this road
trip, Wellemeyer has gone 7-2 and fashioned a 3.45 ERA. You're
probably reading this in your office and thinking to yourself, "Hey,
that's not too bad." That's what makes you readers some of the most
astute in the sports world. Not only is that not too bad, but it's
as good or better than anyone in baseball over their last 20 starts
(as always ... I implore you to look it up, and you'll be as
surprised as I was when I discovered the results). BTW, the Cards
are 14-6 in the games that he started. He's also in the top 10 when
it comes to strikeout ratios and may even assist the team trainer in
his spare time for all we know.
What I'm trying to tell you is that if a reclamation project can
produce that kind of results, what kind of effect do you think
that's having on the rest of the Cardinal staff? One word: profound.
I think Adam Wainwright and Braden Looper will be fine ... though
they've had to carry enormous weight the last two seasons. Joel
Pineiro hasn't been that bad either ... just has pitched into some
bad luck on a couple of outings, and he needs to pitch deeper into
games. But all in all, the starters have been stellar.
The bullpen hasn't been bad either. Outside of the Jason
Isringhausen meltdown, you'd have to give this Redbird contingent
pretty high marks. Put it another way and St. Louis isn't still
hanging around without them. I'll write more about them in the
Going into the season, this wasn't a team that I thought Tony La
Russa would excel with. In the past he's been great with
veteran-laden teams. I just thought that this team would be too
young and too inexperienced to make much noise. However, if they're
gonna fight for their right ... and if they're going to be mentally
tough night in and night out ... maybe they can hang around awhile
I'm cautiously optimistic and just going from one holiday to the
next. I'll be working this one while most of you are playing, but if
the Cards are still in contention come July 4, it could shape up to
be a fun season. In the word of Cardinal great Joaquin Andujar, "Youneverknow?!"
[By JEFF MAYFIELD]
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