Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Unpress the Panic Button

Okay, Cardinal Nation, can we all just relax now? Five games, five quality starts from each member of the starting rotation, and five wins. Jeff Suppan pitched 8+ shutout innings. Jason Marquis was absolutely unhittable after a bit of a rocky start, and the offense got him the win. Chris Carpenter was back in his prime form from last year before his nerve injury. And what was most pleasant from the past two evenings in Pittsburgh, the arrival (at last) of Mark Mulder and the return of Matt Morris.

One of the more annoying things about fans of winning programs, which includes, in baseball, the Cardinals and the Yankees, is the speed at which certain fans start screaming and yelling when the team isn't playing all that well. What we have to remember is that the baseball season, more than any other sport, is a marathon race. Quick out of the gate doesn't necessarily mean anything.

A week ago when the paid "experts" in St. Louis were trying to analyze why Cardinals hitters couldn't hit and why their pitchers couldn't pitch were overlooking one simple fact: It was only the first 5 or 6 games out of 162. It takes a while for some teams—especially veteran teams like St. Louis and New York—to get into the rhythm of winning.

The Yankees may have some age problems, but they also have unlimited resources, so whatever might need fixing will probably get fixed. The Cardinals have far fewer financial resources to work with, but Walt Jocketty and Tony LaRussa didn't spend the winter getting stupid. They kept the parts they needed and replaced the parts that were missing with the best players available that they could afford.

Pitchers don't come right out of the gate and pitch great. It takes them a few real games that actually count in the standings to work out all the details of their delivery, location, pitch selection and physical feel for the game. Not to mention that they're working with a young catcher who's still learning how to handle a big-league rotation on a daily basis. Five games, five quality starts, five wins. Now we know what they're capable of.

The hitting has started to wake up in Pittsburgh, as well. Hitters don't need to make as many adjustments as pitchers, and if anyone out there really thinks that Walker, Pujols, Rolen and Edmonds are all going to have sub-.300 seasons, then you really need to think about cutting back on your pot habit.

And yes, I know it was Milwaukee and Pittsburgh. We should beat those teams, absolutely. We should beat just about every team in the National League at least two out of every three with only a few exceptions. Look who we lost to: Philly and Cincinnati, two teams that yours truly said were going to be competitive this year. Well, they're living up to my expectations, at least so far. By beating the teams we should beat, we put the pressure on the other teams in our division who are already chasing us.

We're 8-4 and in first place in the Central Division. Chill out, people.


TUCK! said...

Okay, comparing Yankees fans to Cards fans is fighting words...please let me spell it out (in much the same way I have my nine-year-old):

Cardinals fans are fans of baseball and love the game played well.

Yankees fans are fans of winning, by any means necessary. Good fielding/pitching/hitting is incidental.

If Yankees fans press the panic button early, it's only b/c they are far too in touch with their inner petulant child.

If Cards fans are pressing the panic button, it's b/c it is painful to see our guys screw it all up. Which is what was happening last week.

Speaking for myself, if the Redbirds are playing out of their minds, I don't care if they lose/get beaten by a better team. It happens. (Of course, if this team is playing lights out, it won't happen much.)

I imagine Yankees fans would consider (the above) to be a fairly foreign proposition.

Again, just my opinion, but I think a more apt comparison would be Cards fan to Montreal Canadiens fan...two products of long-standing tradition who are more-or-less the de facto fan custodians of the game they have chosen as "theirs." (And if pinheaded columnists from Kansas City can't understand that, well, so much the better. But that's another issue for another day.)

Big Pappa Pump said...

I think no one will worry about anything after the way Mulder pitched today. The man was lights out against the Astros. They won 1-0 after Larry Walker hit a shot in the bottom of the 10th to double home the winning run. By the way, Clemens pitched for the Astros. He pitched a good game too.