The best thing about the All-Star Break, in some regards, is that it gives fans a chance to sit back, look over things, and decide that maybe things aren’t that bad. When you go four days without a chance for a crushing loss, things start to look better than maybe they should.
There was a good bit of optimism building in at least some corners of Cardinal Nation. We looked at the fact that Chris Carpenter would be back in a few days, that David Eckstein would be activated Friday and that Jim Edmonds didn’t seem to be far behind and thought perhaps the cavalry was coming after all. 7.5 games back is tough to make up, but the Brewers did strike a lot of people as playing over their heads and, well, Cardinal Nation always has trouble taking the Cubs seriously. No one was calling Busch Stadium and asking about playoff tickets, but the odds seemed a little better than the 3% Baseball Prospectus was giving them based on simulations.
However, when the games left the papers, the internet sites, the blogs and returned to the grassy fields of reality, our gonfolan bubble was pricked faster than you could say “starting pitcher, Kip Wells.” With the improvement that Wells had shown in the bullpen, some fans, and I’d probably include myself in that number, were cautiously optimistic that he had learned something and would at least acquit himself decently being put back into the rotation.
That thought lasted all of about two batters. By the end of the first inning, the Phillies had seven hits, five runs, Wells had made an error and basically the evening was over. Whether the same could be said about the second half might still be in question, but you’ll find a lot fewer people on the “We can do it!” bandwagon this night.
Basically the only highlight this evening was the ending of Albert Pujols’s homerless streak, one that had stretched to a career high 22 games and 77 at-bats. Pujols has been swinging the bat fairly well, just not getting it over the fence. As one commenter at VEB put it, “How cool is it that when Pujols is going bad he’s Tony Gwynn instead of Ted Williams?” After all the talk a few years ago when Bobby Abreu lost his power after the Home Run Derby, it’d be nice to think that AP participating this year would have the opposite affect and get him jump started. We’ll see in the next few days, I guess.
And then, to make matters worse, we have this headline: “Carpenter Experiences Setback in Rehab.” Not at all what you want to hear, especially when it is accompanied by the words “swelling” and “stiffness”. The surgery was supposed to take care of that problem, so having it flare up again is ominous, in my decidedly non-medical opinion. At the best, it looks like it’ll be August before we see him in St. Louis, and my gut feeling is he’s done for the year. I don’t know if it’ll take another surgery or what, but he’s still not right, and the Cards really need him to be right for 2008.
So what it all comes down to that everything is not quite all right. And, most likely, it’s not going to be for a while.
Tomorrow, the Cardinals try again to hang historic loss #10,000 on the Phillies. In the past, they’ve been pretty good with milestones–ask Roger Clemens–so maybe at least before the Cardinals pack up for Florida they’ll be able to win one. Fairly new Cardinal Mike Maroth takes the mound in an afternoon game that’ll be televised on Fox. Though if it’s not any better than tonight, they may have the FCC on them for vulgar and indecent programming during family viewing times.