We're not gonna fall for the banana in the tailpipe.
Last night I noticed the Cardinals had played 82 games, pretty much the halfway point of a 162 game season.
Any surprises this season?
I'm thinking 2. First, the Cleveland Indians. Who expected them to do much? I know I didn't. Pretty much the division winners are playoff teams, so no shock there.
However, the biggest surprise of 2011 so far has been the St. Louis Cardinals and their improbable success that has at least kept them competitive.
If you've been following them, it's nothing short of unfathomable that they're in first place in the division at this point. Granted, the competition in the division seems down this year, but still.
Former Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter started the season 1-7 and looked like he was aiming at the sweet spot of the opposition's bats, giving up far too many home runs. The Cardinals lost the best starting pitcher (Adam Wainwright) for the season in Spring Training. They would have been better off had they lost their all-star closer (Ryan Franklin) before the season, since all he could do was blown saves or surrender leads. Last year he had 2 blown saves. This year, he blew 4 of his first 5 saves chances, before losing that role. Sporting a 8.46 ERA, he was completely cut from the team this week.
But it's not just the pitching staff that's taken a hit. The starting 3B Freese has missed significant time with injury, necessitating a move of Albert Pujols at times to play third. But, Albert himself has had his worst start ever. He got record streaks for games without a homer and no extra base hits. He seemed to have turned a corner and then broke his arm/wrist, putting him on the DL for 4-6 weeks. So, far they have a losing record in his absence.
All-star Matt Holliday has missed some time with injury and you'd think there's no way they'd be anywhere but the division's cellar, right? Well, some young kids have stepped up, but on a team that's been surprising this season, the highlight surprise has been Lance Berkman.
Berkman gets my vote for Cardinals MVP so far. It pains me so to applaud the former disAstros slugger who was always my most hated opposition player. He was always such a Cardinals killer.
It was almost as bad for me as when the Cowboys signed Terrell Owens. I remember when I heard the announcement thinking, C'mon, we're not gonna fall for the banana in the tailpipe, are we? This can't go well, can it?
But, unlike Owens, Berkman bounced back from a sub-par 2010 that left many convinced he was done. Now, I'm a fan. He's been the most consistent offensive player and it's been consistently good. In fact, he leads the team in homers & RBI and much of that has been rather clutch.
I said all that to say this. With Wainwright's season ending injury, Albert's slow start, and Franklin's meltdown, I thought the team should start thinking about 2012 back in April.
But, if Albert can come back healthy and if they can string together a few nice runs, they can win the division. Regardless of what happens the rest of the way with Berkman, fans are indebted to him for keeping hope alive in 2011.