Stick a fork in the Cardinals

As a Cubs fan living in Cincinnati, I’m always amused that I’m the beat writer for another NL Central team, the Cardinals.  Given that I’m supposed to  hate the Redbirds, I tend to be overly-negative of them every spring and feel like they have too many holes to compete. I turned out to be right last year.

This year I was even more dubious. The Cards were basically counting on David Freese, Lance Berkman, Colby Rasmus, Skip Schumaker, Ryan Theriot, and Yadier Molina to be better than last year, for Ryan Franklin to somehow continue to be a good closer, and for Jamie Garcia (who I like, but his WHIP isn’t so great), Jake Westbrook, and the abysmal Kyle Lohse to be 60|PERCENT| of the rotation.  Oh, and they had to avoid the distractions of Albert Pujols and his contract mess.  Still, with the 1-2 punch of Pujols and Matt Holliday in the offense and Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright in the rotation, this looked like a team that could win about 84 games, which might be enough in the NL Central, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Now comes the news today that Adam Wainwright will certainly have Tommy John surgery.  A starter who couldn’t even beat out Lohse (take your pick: Lance Lynn, Adam Ottavino, P.J. Walters, Ian Snell, Raul Valdes, Brian Tallet, and various has-beens and free agents) is now going to be filling the shoes of one of the most valuable pitchers in the league.  The Post-Dispatch is pushing Kyle McClellan, who is probably the best of a bad lot, but that would put a big hole in their bullpen, where he was quite valuable last year.

The Cardinals have already lost key reserve Nick Punto until at least May, and Jim Edmonds retired a week ago. The fourth outfielder (and keep in mind this is on a team in which Berkman, who can’t hit lefties anymore, is supposed to be an every-day outfielder) looks like Jon Jay or Allen Craig.

With all of the turmoil already, if the Cardinals get off to a bad start, do they actually trade Pujols? I’ve seen some rumors of Carpenter to the Yankees, though that’s probably just wishful thinking on the part of Yankees fans.  This team is hanging by a thread right now, and it would not be crazy to see a total collapse and the end of the Tony La Russa era.  And the Albert Pujols era.  I’m not going to dance on their grave just yet, but I can think of a really nice coffin.