So, what is the good news? You may have to dig a little for it, but I’ll give you 10 reasons why Cardinal fans should be optimistic during the next 6 weeks.
- On paper, the Cardinals start off with a relatively tough schedule, but they tend to play to the level of their competition. They are 2-0 against the Phillies this year, and they face 3 straight RHP (Brandon Morrow, Carlos Villanueva, & Ricky Romero) in their series against the Blue Jays.
- The team’s front office is going to get a good taste of life without Pujols. I can’t help but wonder if attendance will be impacted enough that they will get a glimpse of the real world implications of not having AP5 wearing the Birds on the Bat next season.
- With Albert out, TLR may get really creative with the lineup in order to make it difficult for opponents to pitch around Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman. He has plenty of options against RHP, but it will be really interesting to see what he does against LHP. The good news? Jon Jay is actually hitting for a higher average (.333) against LHP than he is against RHP (.308).
- Nick Punto, Allen Craig, and David Freese should all return relatively soon. While they can’t replace Albert, they can help replace his lost production throughout the lineup.
- The Cardinals play in a “weak” division, right? Okay, this is probably a fallacy perpetuated by people who don’t actually watch many NL Central games. Only 2 divisions in baseball have 3 teams above .500. One is the AL East, and the other is the NL Central. The NL Central is by no means the AL East, but it isn’t the weakest division in baseball, either. Still, they are currently at the top, and they might be able to stay in the mix until AP returns.
- Statistically speaking, the Cardinals are replacing a guy who is about a 2.4 WAR player up to this point, so it’s not like replacing the 2008 or 2003 version of the guy. They haven’t relied on him the way they have in the past, and that’s a good thing in my opinion.
- The door is finally open to see what Mark Hamilton can do at 1B when given some starts, and it might be good to see what Hamilton can do when he isn’t looking over his shoulder after ever pinch hit appearance. Minor league players getting major league experience is rarely a bad thing.
- The Cardinals are rumored to have a little money to spend and have a few assets to trade. If they need to pull the trigger on a trade for more pitching, then they can do so, and not all pitching acquisitions would require much more than the ability to take on salary.
- The timing could be much worse. An early August return is plenty of time to get back in rhythm. Consider 2010 AL MVP Josh Hamilton. He missed almost all of September, 2010, and he ended up hitting .190 in the postseason after hitting .359 in the regular season.
- You never know what will happen. Other teams suffer through injuries as well. You never know who will slump and who will suddenly go on a hitting streak. Heck, Skip Schumaker might even hit a walkoff homer….
TIDBIT: I’m not even considering the “4″ part of the 4-6 week estimate. Even if Albert is a quick healer and returns in less than 6 weeks, I can’t imagine that his swing will be back to normal right away because of the amount of stress his one arm follow-through puts on his forearm. Of course, I’m not a doctor, but I did stay in a Holiday Inn Express a few times.
MORE BITS OF TID: Some may say that this is a great time to get a contract done. I disagree. I think that it would be poor form for the Cardinals to approach Pujols now, and I certainly wouldn’t expect Lozano/Pujols to approach the Cardinals. Maybe the injury impacts what other teams think, but all concerns could be laid to rest by a week or two of Pujolsian mashing upon his return.
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