It's way more fun to write about dysfunctional teams than good teams. Pointing out shortcomings is just more of a charge than admitting another's job well done. That said, Walt Jocketty has done an excellent job assembling a St. Louis team to defend last year's National League pennant. As I alluded to earlier, the Cardinals probably won't win 105 games as they did last year. A lot has to go right to win that many, and last year's Cards were lucky in terms of injuries and getting career years from starters like Chris Carpenter and Jason Marquis. This year Jason Isringhausen has spent some time on the DL and the great Scott Rolen is out for a while.
An article in today's Rocky Mountain News effectively outlines how St. Louis retooled on the fly. Woody Williams was replaced by Mark Mulder -- huge upgrade. Mike Matheny's job was given to youngster Yadier Molina -- not any better or worse, but a great deal cheaper. The old keystone combo of Tony Womack and Edgar Renteria gave way for Mark Grudzielanek and David Eckstein, a slight on-field gain for a huge drop in salaries. Womack (.616 OPS) is making $2 million for the Yankees (and playing left field), while Grudzielanek's numbers are .846 and $1 million. Renteria: .764 and $8 million for the Red Sox, Eckstein: .767 and $2.3 million.
Of course the guys who make it all go get paid the big money, but they do happen to be Albert Pujols, Larry Walker, and Jim Edmonds, and they deserve it. Reggie Sanders is having himself a good year, and John Mabry has been more than adequate in a super-utility role. The Cardinals lead the league in runs and OPS. Their pitching staff checks in at a very respectable fourth in the league to boot. In short, they're the class of the league.
Besides Rolen's absence, the Rockies will get no favors in this four-game series with Marquis, Mark Mulder, and undefeated Matt Morris set to start the first three games. Wow, that's a lot of M's. Jeff Suppan, a better fifth starter than a lot of teams have #2 guys, will go in the Thursday day finisher. Colorado counters, such as it is, with Wright, Jennings, Kennedy, and Chacon in that order. Marquis and Suppan have relatively swell Coors numbers in limited exposure, while Mulder and Morris haven't pitched there (at least since '02, which is as far back as ESPN's splits go).
The Rockies have had their two best series of the year at home against fairly hot teams (LA and SF), but St. Louis is a whole order of magnitude better than either of those clubs. I have been overly optimistic too much lately, with no good coming of it, so I'm going to predict a Cardinal sweep. We're in rain delay, so technically this preview isn't tardy.