Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Cards win 2-0; Cubs Get Harden from A's

My work-league softball game was last night, and while warming up one of my buddies casually mentioned the Cubs trading for Rich Harden. My initial response was "Get out of here!" It was only Sunday that (at least to my attention) the rumor of Chicago trying to acquire Harden from Oakland was broached anywhere (specifically Baseball Tonight on ESPN), and now 2 days later he's wearing blue?

Of course, it's true - Harden and Gaudin for Gallagher, Murton, Eric Patterson, and a minor league catcher.

There was a Calvin N Hobbes cartoon several years ago where the two main characters were having a water fight - first Calvin hit Hobbes with a water gun, then Hobbes hit Calvin with a water balloon, and so on. At one point, Calvin exclaims, "Aha! He's escalated the war!" That memory is what leapt into my mind when I realized the Harden trade was official. And it applies not only to the Brewers, who doubled down with the Sabathia trade a day earlier, but to the Cardinals as well.

John Mozeliak will be under some pressure to make a counter move in the starting rotation now. Not only because the Cardinals rotation, as currently constructed, can't match the 1-2 punch Milwaukee and Chicago can field, but also to lift spirits in the locker room, which I'm sure are a little bit down right now as the guys realize their quest for a playoff spot just got a whole lot tougher. You never want to give up on a season; it's too rare a thing to be in a position to make the playoffs (I think as a whole we Cardinals fans don't realize how lucky/blessed we've been this decade by the quality of teams St Louis has put on the field, and the runs they've made in October), and once into October anything can happen (a la 2006); but this team has, realistically, played over its head for 3 months.

So I implore Mozeliak: Don't make a rash move in a narrow-minded attempt to stay with Chicago and Milwaukee. You've done a tremendous job rebuilding the farm system since stepping into the GM position, and your trades/free agent signings have been deliberate and tactically sound. Don't misstep now and overreach, which jeopardizes the team's chances to compete in 2009 and beyond.

From yesterday's game, Piniero pitched his butt off, and the Cardinals got just enough offense to win 2-0. Solo shots by Ankiel and Ludwick provided all the offense Piniero would get; thankfully, it was all the offense he and a trio of relievers would need. However, the offense has become a big concern lately. Going back to the Cubs series over the weekend, the Cardinals have scored exactly 9 runs their past 4 games. 5 of those 9 runs have come on solo HR (Ludwick 2, Ankiel 2, and AP). In fact, the only inning they manufactured any kind of rally was the ninth inning of Saturday's game against Kerry Wood. I'm not sure if they've faced superior pitching lately (which is possible; Zambrano, Lilly and Hamels will make any lineup look bad), or if their lack of patience which first manifest itself when Albert went on the DL is now endemic in their approach at the plate, or if they continue to struggle mightily with RISP to get a hit. Whatever it is, they need to straighten it out pronto, or they'll get buried.

We already are functioning at a high level with a spit-and-bailing-wire rotation, that's been bailed out partially by a competent offense; if the bats go to sleep, we'll drop like a stone. I for one would rather not see that happen.

Mark Mulder's High Wire Act gets the start tonight. I don't want to watch, but I can't look away. I've got a $5 bet he won't last 3 innings; prove me wrong, Mark.

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