Looking Ahead

At least the last couple of nights have been pretty good for the Cardinals. That power show in Philadelphia Sunday night was great to see! Even Adam Kennedy got into the act, then homered again last night down in Florida. If he can actually get his bat going, that’d almost be like a trade. However, a couple of good games after the All-Star Break does not a revitalization make, so we’ll have to keep an eye on him.

VEB yesterday and today has been taking a look at next year, as lboros has joined the “it’s not happening this year” crowd. Doesn’t mean we aren’t rooting for the team or hoping for the improbable, but it’s being rational and reasonable–a couple of things that don’t always fit into fandom.

Anyway, I didn’t realize just how tied up next year is. You look at the money already allocated to next year and the players that’ll be under contract, and it’s going to be difficult for the ’08 version of the Birds to have a much different look than the ’07 version. That doesn’t mean that ’08 will be as disappointing, of course. You should have Carpenter back all year and healthy (depending on what this latest setback is), as well as Mulder. If they can pitch at close to their top level, that’s a huge boost right there. Wainwright is going to continue to improve, most likely, and the experience of this year will help. The pitching staff, in general, should be better than it has been in 2007.

The offense is going to be interesting. I think we can determine that Chris Duncan really isn’t a fluke. He should be a solid producer for a few years to come. Albert had a terrible start to the year–you wouldn’t expect that to happen again. The real turning point is going to come from Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds. Both are getting up there in baseball years. Both have had injury problems in the past couple of years. Will they be able to get closer to their career norms in 2008? Or are they inexorably on the downhill slide? Rolen only has 4 home runs so far this year–a far cry from his normal 25 or so. Can he get back to a 15-20 HR pace next year? If so, that boost to the offense will help a lot.

It doesn’t look like there is going to be much change in the personnel, so we can only hope that there will be changes in the performance. There aren’t a lot of trading chips in the system. There’s some talent in the lower levels of the minors (AA and below), but they probably won’t be much help until 2009. It’s not likely teams will give up much to take on the expensive veterans that we have (Jason Isringhausen being the exception, and there’s a legitimate debate on whether the Cards should move him or not) , so it’s not going to be easy to get younger.

A lot of this is tied into whether Tony LaRussa and Walt Jocketty are back next year. The team makeup is going to be a lot different if Tony is in charge (a more veteran team) or someone who has a youth focus is in charge. It may be that a new GM and manager give away some vets to try to freshen up the place. I personally think both of them will likely be back next year. TLR might retire–this year has taken a lot out of him–but I think he’d want to take one more shot at making the team a contender. If there aren’t any issues with the players–and while there have been rumors of some, it does seem possible those rumors are overblown–I think he returns.

It’s been a long time (1999) since a team wearing the Cardinal colors has been effectively out of it this early in the season. And, I know, the Cards still have 20 games with Chicago and Milwaukee and can make hay with some solid wins. But this team can’t seem to put together a winning streak of more than 3 games. I can’t see them winning consistently enough against those teams to really get back into the race.

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