In our latest installment of our Conversation with the Enemy articles, I sat down to discuss Baseball with Daniel Shoptaw of Cardinal70.com. Daniel and I discussed the NL wild Card race, and who he thinks has the advantage down the stretch. I asked him about the recent run of RedBird injuries, The mood of the Cardinal’s fan base during their struggles, and his evaluation of first year manager Mike Matheny. I hope you pull up a chair and join us! Read below…..
1. The Dodgers, Cardinals, and Pirates are all tanking. This has allowed the Brewers, and Phillies back into the NL Wild Card race. Who do you think will win the second wild card spot? Who do you think has the biggest advantage down the stretch? And why?
The Cardinals may have the biggest advantage because they still have six games left with Houston and three with Chicago. If they can get through this weekend without taking on a lot of water, they could put together some wins and get on a run. Even their last six, coming against Washington and Cincinnati, may play into their hands. Both of those teams should have clinched by that time and may rest players or look at some prospects during that time. (Though I expect Cincinnati especially will try their best to knock the Cards out of October.)
Even after watching last year–maybe because I watched last year–I have trouble thinking that Milwaukee and Philadelphia will be able to get over the hump. They will lose some games eventually and they are running out of time. 2011-type rallies don’t happen every year or they wouldn’t be considered miracles. I’m going to say St. Louis gets the last slot, but I’m not confident about it.
2. The Cardinals have been struggling like the Dodgers have. How is the mood around the Cardinals Fan base right now?
Well, when I’m talking about losing Cutlery you gotta figure it’s not good. There’s a lot of angst around what’s happening on the field, which I imagine is the same as what the Dodger faithful are going through. It’s tough to be optimistic right now, but two wins in a row could turn attitudes around in a hurry. I’ve likened it to one of those cartoon cars. They go as fast as they can, parts flying off, and just slide in under the wire. Maybe not the speed part, but the rest seems strangely apropos.
3. I know the Cardinals have been hit hard with the injury bug as well. Can you give me an update on the injuries? I know Hit Machine (Furcal) is out for the season. What are the updates on Lance Berkman, Chris Carpenter, Jake Westbrook? Do you expect to get any of them back in time for the Dodger series? What are their statuses for the rest of the season?
As you say, Furcal is out for the year. (Expected out, at least. He wasn’t doing surgery, just some aggressive rehab and some platelet-rich plasma therapy. He wants to come back if the Cards make the playoffs, but I really think that’s a pipe dream.) Lance Berkman is done for the year and, most likely, his career after having yet another knee surgery in the past week. Jake Westbrook strained his oblique on Saturday (something that most of the Cardinal bloggers found out when John Mozeliak addressed us on Sunday as part of UCB Weekend) and the Cardinal history with obliques has not been good. Mozeliak says there’s a 50/50 chance he’d return this season, but I’m thinking that’s awfully high.
The only good injury news revolves around Chris Carpenter. Most Cardinal fans were hoping that he’d replace Jaime Garcia on Saturday, given Garcia’s horrendous record away from home. Instead, he’ll throw one last simulated game of about 90 pitches and likely be ready to return against either Houston or Chicago next week. The Dodgers will miss him, but the Cards will be very excited to have him back this season.
4. How would you rate new manager Mike Matheny’s first season as manager? Do you think he could be another tpny LaRussa? What is his managing style?
Interesting that you should ask that, because I contributed a piece to the third issue of Big Leagues Monthly that should be out today about that very topic. Matheny has been growing into the job, and though he’s still learning he’s been pretty acceptable this season. He had a penchant for bunting runners to third after lead-off doubles that was annoying–something that he seems to have grown out of but Yadier Molina did on his own yesterday–and he’s not completely figured out bullpen usage to the fan’s satisfaction. I don’t think he’ll be another TLR–who would be?–but I think he’ll be an acceptable manager for quite some time.