Problems? You think you have problems? Just because your team has fallen out of first place by half a game? The Cardinals and their fans would love to have that kind of problem. Not that I expect you to have any sympathy for them. You'd probably rather the Cardinals take it easy on your team, which has lost its last 10 games in St. Louis entering tonight's contest at Busch Stadium. I'm going to make a wild assumption here. I'm going to assume that you might be interested in reading about the Cardinals' struggles. We'll call it bonus coverage, courtesy of my friend Rick Hummel. For more years than I know, Rick has ably covered the Cardinals for the Post-Dispatch. Among scribes with the Baseball Writers' Association of America, he's known as the Commish. He's sort of the dean of the BBWAA. Anyway, the Commish forwarded to me a few notes on the Redbirds, and here they are:
1 _ Some numbers to explain the Cardinals' demise:
They have dropped eight straight series to teams with losing records. That's two each with Houston, Chicago, Milwaukee and one each with Pittsburgh and Washington. They are 5-19 in those games.
They are 44-47 against teams with losing records. They are 22-29 against National League Central clubs not based in Cincinnati, against which the Cardinals were 12-6.
After being outscored by the Cubs, 19-6, in a three-game sweep, manager Tony La Russa said, "The scores weren't really close. That's troubling. We're all troubled."
On Aug. 13, the Cardinals were 65-49 and one game ahead of the Reds. In the next 30 games, they were 9-21 and eight games behind. A losing season is still a possibility.
"There will be a record and that will define a lot of what we've been about," said La Russa. "You don't get special points for having a winning record for awhile. It's the total season that will go into the book."
La Russa said, "It's kind of painful to watch. Over the course of the season, we know what this club has gone through. To see them struggling is kind of painful. To see guys pushing it.. . . nobody's taking an easy way out. . . you're hoping there's a reward there somewhere."
Second baseman Skip Schumaker is as puzzled as anybody. "We can't find a reason for what's going on," said Schumaker. "It's frustrating. It's wearing on a lot of guys."
2 _ La Russa announced Wednesday afternoon that LHP Jaime Garcia, the club's outstanding rookie, was being shut down for the season because of arm fatigue after he had worked a career-high 163 1/3 innings. But Garcia, after meeting with La Russa and general manager John Mozeliak, almost unbelievably talked the other two out of it. He will miss just one start, so far.
"He was really forceful about how he doesn't want to give the impression that he's deserting the team," La Russa said. The manager, who apologized for how he handled the situation initially, said, "What he had to say was great. You have to respect what he was saying. So we're going to be careful, but we're not going to slam the door. He's earned that."
3 _ Garcia, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright lost in succession against the Cubs. It was the first time the top-drawer threesome had lost three consecutive games this season.