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mark-mcgwire-failEditor’s Note: Yes, it’s that time of year again – the time for us to settle back into our protective bubble where the Chicago Cubs are destined for greatness, and every other team in the National League Central is bound for spectacular failure. If you’d care to check out last year’s fare: St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Houston Astros. Already featured for 2010: Cincinnati Reds, Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers, Pittsburgh Pirates.

The 2010 Major League Baseball season is nearly upon us, and that means two things: (1) we’re all so deprived of real baseball action that we’re willing to treat meaningless Spring Training games like they’re the playoffs, and (2) the prognosticators are out in full force. Yes, every sports publication in the world puts out a season preview. Some are interesting, some aren’t. For the most part, folks just don’t have the time necessary to do the kind of in-depth preview that is going to be of any use to a reader that actually follows the team being previewed.

So most previews end up being pretty surface level, and boring. Well, we’re not going to do that here at Bleacher Nation. It’s much more interesting (notice how I subtly pat myself on the back?) to simply examine why the team currently sucks and is going to suck in 2010.

So enjoy – we’ve been previewing the suckiness (suckosity?) of the other teams in the National League Central over the past five weeks. Last – and least – the hated rival of the Chicago Cubs: the ugly, stinky, poopy, but unfortunately kind of good, St. Louis Cardinals. And how appropriate that the preview lands on April Fools Day – because the joke is probably on us.

Baseline for Suckitude

The baseline is high (or low, depending on your perspective) for the Cardinals, after winning the NL Central in 2009 with a 91-71 record. They finished a full 7.5 games ahead of the Cubs, in what was a bit of a laugher of a September. Fortunately, many of them still had the outward appearance of guys who suck, so there’s that.

Last year, we had this to say:

Given the team’s unsuccessful overtures this offseason toward Brian Fuentes and toward acquiring Matt Holiday, it is likely the Cardinals will have extra money in the coiffers to make an addition. One move will not, of course, take them from suck to not suck, but it might be just enough when combined with the Cardinals’ uncanny superability to play over their heads to be a thorn in the Cubs’ side.

And so it was – the additions of Matt Holiday, Mark DeRosa, and John Smoltz all helped the Cardinals pull away late in the season. Watching DeRosa help the Cardinals was, naturally, an extra kick in the crotch.

As far as Cardinal fan comments last year – well, it was a universe unto its own that is worth perusing if you have some spare time: 147 comments of humor, insight, and drool.

Sucky Offseason Moves

Sad Arrivals: RHP Brad Penny (free agent), LHP Rich Hill (minor league free agent), INF Ruben Gotay (minor league free agent), INF Felipe Lopez (free agent).

Happy Departures: RHP Brad Thompson (released, signed minor league deal with Royals), INF Joe Thurston (free agent, signed minor league deal with Braves), 3B Troy Glaus (free agent, signed with Braves), INF Mark DeRosa (free agent, signed with Giants), INF Khalil Greene (free agent, signed with Rangers), OF Rick Ankiel (free agent, signed with Royals), RHP Joel Pineiro (free agent, signed with Angels), RHP Todd Wellemeyer (free agent, signed minor league deal with Giants), RHP John Smoltz (free agent, unsigned).

On first glance, it looks like the Cardinals added almost nothing, and lost a ton. But digging deeper, that might just be wishful thinking. Of the players that left, only Joel Pineiro was a full-year contributor who will be missed. Rick Ankiel was terrible last year when he wasn’t trying to eat wall, Mark DeRosa was only around for a couple months and wasn’t terribly productive in that time, and Todd Wellemeyer never quite became the Dave Duncan ball of magic that, well, Joel Pineiro became.

Speaking of whom, Pineiro’s loss is mitigated by Brad Penny’s arrival – a guy who is a virtual lock to have a frustratingly dominant 2010. You can also consider Matt Holliday an improvement since the Cards get him for a full year this go around.

The big addition, of course, was new hitting coach, Mark McGwire, who will doubtlessly serve as an appropriate and excellent mentor to the Cardinals’ young hitters.

Their Very Own Blogoverse Thinks They Suck

It may shock you to learn that finding tidbits of misery from hardcore Cardinal fans is no easy task. If there is a fan base, outside of St. Louis, more diametrically opposed to that of the Chicago Cubs in terms of confidence in their team, I don’t know ‘em. Thus, you have to dig deep to see any signs of concern or trouble. For example, from a recent state-of-the-Spring type post at Viva El Birdos:

On the pitching side, it’s a little harder, honestly. Very few of the Cardinal pitchers have really stood out to this point. All the starters have been very up and down. Franklin has been non-ironically awful; most of his bullpen mates have failed to distinguish themselves with great performances.

Ok, so some Cardinals pitchers have struggled this Spring. You don’t have to be a chicken little of Cub fan proportions to note something like that. Still, there is a sense that if Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter aren’t absolutely dominant, there could be trouble. And it is true that the bullpen could be a glaring weak spot for the Cards. So, well, there’s that.

The Suckiest Part of Their Suck

Indeed it is the bullpen. The main body of the Cardinal pen last year was a Frankenstein monster of misfits, melted down and slapped together in a manner that would prove disastrous for, well, any other team. But they put pixie dust in the water down there, and the pen was fantastic. Closer Ryan Franklin was out of his mind, with an ERA under two. Setting him up were a group of guys you’ll still scratch your head to pick out of a lineup, but who were simply fantastic: Kyle McClellan, Trevor Miller, Dennys Reyes, Blake Hawksworth, and the list goes on.

cardinals gayI know what you’re thinking – um, so where exactly is the suck?

Isn’t it obvious? The law of averages. Ryan Franklin – very good for his career, but never dominant – is not going to repeat his 2009 performance (he was falling off at the end of the year as it was). Trevor Miller is old and was kind of average-ish until last year. Kyle McClellan and Blake Hawksworth were guys who finally stepped up in the bigs, but they’re, like, in their mid to late 20s. Thus, it was a fluke, not a case of top prospects coming up.

Convinced? Me either. But it’s what I got.

And in the End

They … (pause) … suck.

Writing this post brought a curious mix of pleasure and trepidation. I was up against the countervailing forces of a natural, strong antipathy for the Cardinals (which made it so very pleasant and easy to explain how they suck), and the brutal truth that this is the best team in the NL Central on paper (which makes me cringe just saying it).

The Cardinals are not a particularly deep team, but as they’ve proved for years, concentrated talent often wins out over depth. They’ve got two of the best pitchers in baseball and two of the best hitters in baseball. Like it or lump it, that means something, and it leads to wins.

The rotation could have some issues. Chris Carpenter was tremendous last year – but more importantly, he was relatively healthy, which is always the rub with him. Behind him, Adam Wainwright continues to dominate, which is frustrating as hell. Losing Joel Pineiro will hurt, but then again, who would have thought he would have been so great for the Cardinals last year? So I’m sure Brad Penny will have no problem getting his career back on track, and taking up Pineiro’s mantle. Behind the front three, it’s Kyle Lohse and Jaime Garcia, who just won the spot, and has a girl’s name. Not at all inspiring, but Cardinals pitchers always pitch over their head. In that regard, Dave Duncan is everything that Mark McGwire – I’m guessing – is not. Short of injuries, the rotation will probably be fine.

Offensively, they’ll hit. There’s just no way around it. Sure, Holliday will not be the best hitter in baseball like he was in his short time in St. Louis last year, but Pujols probably will be the best hitter in baseball. Rasmus will probably improve, and could very well bounce back. The left side of the infield is relatively unproven, so there’s some hope for negativity there. Maybe Ryan Ludwick will continue his disappearing act and the Molina de jure will do nothing at the plate.

So in the end, while the Cardinals do suck – and suck hard, they do – they don’t really suck for all the right reasons. The on-the-field reasons. They suck because I will it to be so. They suck because I’m jealous. They suck because they’re, well, the Cardinals.

Like a fresh face in Hollywood who just doesn’t have the chops to land that CSI: New York role on the merits of her acting ability, I guess the Cardinals suck for all the wrong reasons. I’ll take it, but I’m not thrilled about it.

And now, a slanderous photoshop of Tony LaRussa, because, well, parody is protected.

tony larussa drunk

  • Bric

    I love the driver’s license photo. Very fitting. In deference to your article, I would say the suckiest part of the Cardinals suck is the image that they’re dirty. Not the team itself, just elements of it. As a Cub fan I enjoy the Cubs- Cards rivalry more than any other in sports.I don’t hate the Cards, I just love when the Cubs beat them. But since all that has come out about steroids, every time I see them these days I wonder who’s still juiced and hasn’t been caught. Look at all the stars that have been linked to steroids and played for LaRussa: Canseco, McGuire, Glaus, Vina, Ankiel, Franklin, Tejada, Giambi (I know they didn’t actually play for him, but were in the A’s system when he was fired), and others. And then there are the tragic deaths of Kyle and Hancock which have never really been adequately addressed. The suck, to me, is that until LaRussa fesses up everythng he knows about abuse in their system, every time I see Pujols, Ludwick, Carpenter, Wainright… hell, everybody on the team… I wonder what juice they use and how they don’t get caught. I don’t write this out of hate or jealousy, it’s just disgust. Go Cubs.

    • Ann

      One thing: Darryl Kyle died of a heart attack. His death has been “adequately addressed.” Hancock may have died under the influence, but Kyle’s was clean.

    • Cardfan

      Let me get this straight… the Cardinals are now the MLB equivalent of the Oakland Raiders? I suppose when they dumped Aaron Miles, the intimidation factor went up exponentially, but come on…

      … and exactly how does one “adequately address” a “tragic death”? Did somebody in Chicago knock off Kile in his hotel room and strategically block 90% of two of his arteries before leaving the scene? For Hancock, should the newspapers have used more adjectives in the headlines (eg. HANCOCK DIES IN REALLY STUPID AND UNNECESSARY DRUNKEN CAR CRASH).

      Disgust is a by-product of hate…

      • Brian

        Ann and Cardfan(s): I know I probably sound like a crazy hatemonger when I use Kyle’s death as a talking point against LaRussa. It was a horrible tragedy for his family (especially his wife and young daughters). But really. Who are we kidding? Darryl Kyle was a 32 year old professional athlete who worked under the constant supervision of a professional trainer and team physician. This was a man who’s in other wise good physical condition and capable of throwing 90 mph fastballs 70+ a game plus swing the bat and run the bases for 3 hours in the hot sun. When a vascular surgeon stands up and says it’s possible he could walk around the dugout with 90% of his heart blocked and no one would notice, then I would consider it adequately addressed. Other players go on the DL for sneazing too hard but somehow he was able to show up everyday and pitch with one tenth of his heart functioning properly? I’m not a doctor or steroid expert but because of LaRussa’s history, I tend to think something was in his system that caused his heart to stop. Just a crazy, hate filled conspiracy theory, or common sense? That’s why I don’t like or trust LaRussa.

        • Cardfan

          Brian-
          I will reserve judgement on your sanity, although if you hate the Brewers, you are mentally sound IMO.

          During my residency at Johns Hopkins, I was particularly interested in early-onset heart disease. It is not unusual for someone in the 20’s and into their early 40’s to be asymptomatic. To put it in lay terms, at Kile’s age, he would have never known there was something wrong – he was used to the way he felt. The cardiac muscle would compensate for the decreased intake and noone would be the wiser. We assume “He’s an athlete so he’s in great shape”. Team physicals are not designed to assess cardiac flow and function. There are thousands of time bombs out there in their 20’s and 30’s. We all know of someone who took great care of themselves, seemed perfectly healthy, and dropped dead to everyone’s surprise. Could he have done something to exacerbate his condition – no doubt. The underlying disease was present, though, and you can’t blame that on McDrinkin’.

          Dr. Cardfan

          • Brian

            Dr. Cardfan,

            Thank you for your insight into the medical aspects. However, my issue is not to place blame, but rather to hope for some transparency and honesty from the organization. My original assertion was that LaRussa has some explaining to do (for his own name and the orginization’s). Consider this: if Darryl Kile had been a 32 year old musician or rock star who was found dead in a hotel room, the toxicalagical reports showing no evidence of any wrong doing would have been shouted from the rooof tops from them. A quick google search of all the articles will tell you that this didn’t happen. The fact that he still sticks by McGuire as if the steroids never happened should tell you that this dude’s living in denial. Is it possible that Kile’s death was a tragic coincidence? Of course. But LaRussa’s entire attitude and cut throat approach to all of these past questions makes him a very shady character. IMO. The court of public opinion always says guilty until proven innocent. Johns Hopkins, huh? Impressive. Enjoy the season.

            • Ace

              I don’t think any rational person – Cardinals fans included – could say that there isn’t something at least a little bit shady about Tony LaRussa.

              • Cardfan

                Not a LaRussa fan, not a McGwire fan, I am a Cardinal fan. LaRussa has serious issues and I think his success is artificially inflated by the incredible talent of Dave Duncan.

                PS The Johns Hopkins residency consisted of a hotel room for a couple days and a tour of the hospital. I had neither the patience or smarts for an MD. Know enough to be dangerous. The research on early-onset heart disease, however, was derived from research and conversations with some respected Cardiologists around the time a 38 year old co-worker met the same fate as Kile.

                • Brian

                  I agree, Duncan rarely gets the credit he deserves (outside of St. Louis) for getting the most out every player he works with. 9 out 10 teams win primarily because of their pitching. And 9 out of 10 pitching staffs are good because of the pitching coach much more than the head coach. P.S.- thanks again for toning down my ranting about everyone being juiced and conspiracies around every corner. It’s just unfortunate these days that every player who appears to suddenly put on 20 pounds and start poundng the ball (including Soto and Colvin) have a dark cloud following them regarding what suddenly woke them up. But at least Colvin doesn’t have the outward appearance of a typical juicer (hey, Kinsler- I see you’ve been working out your forehead muscles again. That’s gotta play well with the ladies).

    • Cardsfan

      You are right. The cubs have never had a star on steroids. Oh wait. “Steroids been very very good to me………..I can’t speak English anymore.” -Sammy Sosa.

      • Bric

        I never said that the Cubs have never had a star on the juice. Read the full statement before you get all hot and bothered. I said LaRussa (who speaks perfect English) has been connected to more all stars who have either admitted it or have had others point the finger at them than any other manager, and yet he still pretends like all these players are drinking is gatoraide. Who’s more of a dirt bag – the students who try to cheat on a test or the teacher who pretends not to notice?

    • Cody

      Yeah thats y Troy Glaus is playing like a beast man this guys an iddiot

      • Ace

        Yes, Cody. I’m the “iddiot.”

  • Cardfan

    “They suck because I will it to be so.” – classic!

    Gonna be a long season, my friend…

    • Ace

      Just remember: the 2009 Cubs were the ABSURDLY prohibitive favorite in the Central.

      • Cardfan

        Good point, although I don’t recall St. Louis signing any certifiably insane people to 3 year contracts in the off-season!

  • http://bleachernation J Lenon

    bottom line: If the Cubs and Cards stay healthy this year, both teams will win 90 plus games. It remains to be seen if the Braves can win more, (let’s assume the Phillies win their division). Also, the Wild west is wild. The Rockies could run away with it. The Dodgers and Giants may win (if they hit and they improved their offense with DeRo and Huff). Nevermind if Brandon Webb gets healthy, the Diamondbacks now become possible thorns in all of our sides. At the end of the day, I like either the Cubs or Cards to win the division, and the other one goes as the WC. Just like we can’t lose Aramis….the Cards cannot lose Albert for any period of time. Healthy means wins. Go Cubs.

  • KB

    Cardfan,
    There’s no Cub fan who doesn’t fear your team, believe me. But as the author of this site, Ace, correctly states, at this exact time last year, the Cubs were even MORE prohibitive favorites in the Central than the Cards are this year…and we saw how that turned out.

    Everything went right for the Cards last year. Damn near everything went wrong for Chicago. I’m not saying that this will totally reverse itself in 2010, but the odds of BOTH things happening again are small.

    Your team demands respect; you feature the baseball’s best player, and two Cy candidates in your rotation. But I think it’s fair to also assume that the Cubs are a legit threat to win 90 games, and if they have one-tenth the good luck that you guys had last year, it will be a dogfight for first place.

    • Cardfan

      Fair enough. Looking forward to seeing how it all unfolds…

    • Simz1

      But things never go right for the Cubs. It might look like it for a while, get your hopes up, but in the end the Cubs break your heart. You are all gluttons for punishment. That’s why it pays to be a Cards fan.

      Go Cards.

      • Ace

        I have no doubt that you are right.

      • JackHandy

        You are an idiot sir. Why would be a Cards fan be so good? I mean, you have to live in that crap hole called St. Louis.

        • Cardfan

          Careful Jack. Make sure that weapon you are pointing is actually loaded.

  • Fredbird

    Funny how Chicago is looking down St. Louis when it comes to development from the tops of all those skyscrapers, but always looks up at St. Louis when it comes to baseball standings.

    Cubs suck for all eternity, bottom line. I would rather be a Cardinals fan when they are playing terrible, than a Cubs fan during their best days.

    Go get mugged losers.

    Fredbird

  • brian

    For the record you’re more likely to be mugged in St Louis than in Chicago… Just saying… reference: http://www.cityrating.com/crimestatistics.asp and for your sake Fredbird I hope you don’t get mugged, its more likely to happen to you so be careful.

  • Dave

    I’m going to have to defend St. Louis there, because you’re far more likely to be mugged at a Cubs game than a Cards game. Have you ever been to the new Busch? There isn’t a goddamn thing for miles around, so people come in and park, or hop off the MetroLink so they dont have to pay $20 to park, go to the game, then file out back to their cars or the MetroLink because there seriously isn’t a fucking thing nearby. Its got to be one of the worst gameday experiences in the majors. There are a couple of sleazy bars a few blocks away from the stadium, but there really isn’t anywhere for a group to go for a few drinks after the game, or anywhere for families with kids to check out before the game. Just a couple of statues and the freeway.

    • CardsFan223

      i guess your beloved Cubs suck so bad you’ve decided to accept your shitty team has seale their fate forever a loser. Your all garbage and don’t have any room to talk about another team being bad especially one that has won a world series in the last 5 years.

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