Answer: The St. Louis Cardinals offense.
Thanks to my readers for patiently enduring my summer break. My wife and I welcomed our sixth (!) and final child, another daughter (#4) named Chloe Elizabeth. I was also wrapping up three different summer college classes while preparing for my fall classes. Today is my first day back to work on my fall schedule; thus, my first post of the new season.
I'm going to do my best to post as regularly as possible, and I know there's a lot of sports news to cover: the pennant and playoff races, the return of hockey, NFL training camps and season predictions, the PGA Championship, and on and on. There will be plenty of time to cover it all.
But first, let's address that giant sucking sound coming from Busch Stadium: the Cardinals offense. They're fortunate to have a big lead in the Central, because if they didn't, they would cough it up with this pitiful group LaRussa is forced to put up at the plate day in and day out. It's like we're back in the days of Maxvill and Torre instead of Jocketty and LaRussa.
Eckstein is wearing down in the summer heat because there's no one on the bench to give him necessary rest for the stretch run. Abraham Nunez was a cast-off from the Pittsburgh Pirates, which should tell you all you need to know about him.
John Rodriquez spent eight years in the minor leagues because he hits the curve ball about as well as Pedro Cerrano in the first 1:45 of "Major League." John Mabry is an adequate bench player but completely inadequate at the plate on an everyday basis. So Taguchi is likewise solid off the bench defensively and has delivered some big hits, but he's not Ichiro or Matsui by any stretch of the imagination.
Some guy named Mike Mahoney is playing catcher.
I'm not complaining about any of these guys defensively; they're doing the best they can under the difficult circumstances of the myriad injuries the Cardinals have suffered. But it's getting frustrating watching these guys continue to fail at the plate over and over again.
What's worse, it's put additional pressure to perform on the Cardinals three decent hitters, Pujols, Edmonds and Grudzielanek. Pujols is putting up big number again this season, but without anyone else to pick him up--like when he fails to hit a sacrifice fly to score a run from third with less than two outs--his failures seem all the more glaring. Same thing with Edmonds. He's always been a streaky hitter, but his cold streaks are more exposed by the weakness of the surrounding lineup. As a seventh hitter, Grudzielanek is great, but what's the point of a single or double when no one ahead or behind can even make contact?
Broadcast announcers say that we can expect Larry Walker and Reggie Sanders to return in 7-10 days, and catcher Yadier Molina shortly after that. Scott Rolen may not come back at all. The fact of the matter is this: Walt Jocketty has got to rent a power third baseman and a hard-hitting outfielder--even if Walker, Sanders and Molina return healthy and stay healthy--if the Cardinals have any chance at all to advance in the playoffs.
The Cardinals have got to find a way to score more runs; their pitching staff has done about as well as anyone could expect. Marquis and Morris didn't pitch all that bad this weekend in Chicago, but the offensive was simply putrid. We can't expect perfection from our pitching staff, but that's what it's come down to with what has suddenly become an alarmingly anemic offense. The simple fact of the matter is that the Memphis Redbirds have no chance to advance to the World Series, even though that's what we're left with on the field.