It’s easy to get disappointed. It’s easy to get sad. It’s easy to get frustrated, even mad when something doesn’t go the way we like. But, no matter what we must maintain faith.
The Cardinals have by no means had a great season so far, and it’s easy to criticize every little problem we see with the team. I myself am guilty of this—it’s just so easy to condemn things when we are merely the observers. Heck, Cardinal’s fans are considered the best fans in baseball in large part due to our passion and our understanding of the game, so it makes sense that the team’s recent performance has resulted in so much panic.
But even though the Cardinals haven’t had the greatest start, and there may be a plethora of problems with the team, it’s important that we remain to have faith in OUR team, especially in a sea of negativity. Sure, the team may not have as good of a record as last year’s team, and our playoff chances may currently appear dim, but we have to remember 1) it’s early in the season, 2) management has yet to let us down, and 3) the future as a team is still bright.
Lets start with the first point. Just because the Cardinals are 7 games back from the Cubs a third of the way into the season doesn’t mean that they’re out of contention. The Cardinal’s have had one of baseball’s best offenses so far this season: sixth in batting average with .267, second in runs with 250, and second in OPS with .800. The Cardinal’s have possessed a 24-22 record thus far because of their miscues with pitching and fielding. This is new and scary territory for all of us Cardinals fans, as in previous years we have prided ourselves on great pitching and fundamental defense.
This year’s team holds a 4.17 ERA, coming in at only 20th in the MLB. This is shocking when we compare it to last year’s team ERA of 2.94, the best in the MLB. This year’s Cardinals team also is first in errors with 41, compared to 96 all of last season. But even though it’s easy to get frustrated and disappointed with our teams production, especially on the mound, we must look at the positives and keep faith in all of the Cardinals pitchers, along with the pitching coaches.
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) May 24, 2016
During the first half of the 2011 season, where the Cardinals eventually went on to win the World Series, the Cardinal’s were 19th in team ERA. During the second half of the season they held the 6th best team ERA. Although a lot has changed between now and the 2011 season, it just goes to show that a team’s pitching can improve throughout the course of a season.
On the defensive spectrum, the team definitely needs some work. But in my opinion it will undoubtedly improve as the season progresses, especially as players get more reps in practice and in games. This year both the team’s pitching and defense has obviously been worrisome, but since the Cardinals posses one of the best offenses in the MLB, an improvement in pitching and defense could create a very dangerous team going forward.
If I’ve learned one thing over my time of being a Cardinals fan it is that the team’s management is by far the best in the game. Their homegrown approach and ability to make decisions unbounded by emotion has made the team a dominant force for as long as I’ve been alive. It’s odd in any sport for a team to be so good for such a long stretch of time; since the year 2000 the Cardinal’s have made the playoffs 12 out of 15 times, 9 of those by winning the division. The Cardinals’ ability to be in contention year in and year out stems from the way the team is run: an incredible farm system, lack of mega-contracts, trading for effective veteran players without giving up all too much.
The stretch the team has been on is no fluke, and looking to the future the Cardinal’s still have a young core of players despite the opinions of our pal Jason Heyward. Heck, our best players so far have been Stephen Piscotty, Aledmys Diaz, and Carlos Martinez. The first two are only 25, and the former is only 24. With other youngsters such as Tommy Pham, Greg Garcia, Randal Grichuk, and Kolten Wong, in addition to hot prospects such as Alex Reyes and Harrison Bader, the Cardinal’s still look to have a lot of promise for future seasons. That’s pretty incredible for a team that has already been competitive for over 15 years straight. If that doesn’t give the team’s management your trust then, quite honestly, that’s pretty sad. John Mozelaik has yet to give us a reason for us to doubt his judgment (other than possibly the Shelby Miller for Jason Heyward trade), so we should show our respect by giving him and his staff trust, at least till proven otherwise.
As we sit here, a third of the way into the season, we can’t be certain whether or not OUR Cardinals will or will not improve. Don’t get me wrong, discussing and making arguments about the team is in no part wrong, but actually important. Losing faith in a player, being skeptical of Mike Matheny’s decision-making, and being scared of the production of our pitching staff are all arguments that foster discussion within our community. Opinions like these allow us as a community to engage about a sport we love—with a team we love. They let us be known as the best fans in baseball as they challenge and grow our perceptions, knowledge, and love of the game. But to lose faith in the team, lose the spirit of conversation, is to lose something much more.
Looking on Twitter there seems to be a lot of fans that have lost that faith and have already given up on the Cardinals this season; For example, people saying they’re going to stop watching games. Although a majority of it is probably just an emotional response of frustration with the Cardinal’s mediocre record so far, it’s something to be weary of. To lose faith in the team is to lose hope, and to lose hope is to lose happiness and the strength of our community.
When times get rough we can either lie down or keep moving. In the words of Rocky Balboa, “It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” Cardinals Nation, times like these are the ones where we must stay strong, continue to have faith in the team, support our players, and be even louder than usual at games.
As observers of the sport it may seem as if we can’t influence the direction of the team. As a community we can foster a mood of positivity, hope, and faith, or we can foster an atmosphere of negativity, pessimism, and disappointment. It’s up to us which one we choose, but honestly what’s the fun in being negative.
And who knows, maybe it has more of an impact on the team than we think.
Photo taken by Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports