Darn thing told me my response was too long! Ha! I guess that should tell me something (AKA stop talking so much you long winded fool)...But nevertheless, here was my response.
I was greatly disappointed when I saw that Garland had signed with Arizona. I thought he was the perfect fit for the Cardinals. Not necessarily a Peavy-type pitcher, but a solid middle of the rotation guy who would eat up a lot of innings. And what's more, he was the type of guy that wasn't going to cost you top of the rotation money. This became even moreso apparent when the economy started to drive down the price of free agents. Perhaps it was their thinking that they could let a guy like Garland slide until early March and pick him up on the cheap like they did with Lohse last season. In any case, I think that the Cardinals missed out on a solid acquisition by not pursuing the guy for a rather pedestrian $7mil for one year.
However, I don't think that we can write this club off just yet. If anything, I think they showed us that last year. So maybe Carpenter can't get back to his Cy Young form this year (could we really even ask for that anyways), but I DO think that he'll be able to contribute. Even a rusty Carpenter is better than a shiny Pineiro. You've also got to remember that Wainwright missed a significant amount of time last year due to injury. Give us a healthy Wainwright, a so-so Carpenter, a repeat performance by Lohse and Wellenmeyer, and a fifth spot rotation of Pineiro/Boggs/Garcia?...not too shabby, if you ask me. Of couse, it involves a lot of luck. But isn't that baseball? I mean, how many perfectly good teams have had a season wasted simply because of injuries or untimely slumps? With a grueling 162 game schedule that spans across half the year, you have to rely on your training and a little bit of luck to get you through unscathed.
Another thing I think we're underestimating is just how much the experience of last year is going to help us this year, especially in that bullpen. With the playing time McClellan and Perez saw in 2008, you have to expect some sort of improvement from them in 2009. Afterall, they were adjusting to a completely new league last year as rookies. Motte, Garcia, and Boggs also all cracked the big league roster for the first time. That experience shouldn't be taken for granted as another year under Duncan is bound to pay at least some dividends.
Another advantage I think we gain from last year is knowledge. The knowledge that our bullpen is our weak link. While we all knew going into '08 that Isringhausen was on the back side of his career, I don't think any of us (including Larussa) thought that he would just completely lose it last year. And I think that was our real undoing. We weren't prepared. We thought that Izzy had the ninth taken care of. We'd break in Perez with an appearance here and there and sooner or later he'd be able to take over, but we most certainly didn't think it'd have to be in May or June. This year we know from the start that the ninth is a question mark. And hopefully, based on last year, we know that Franklin isn't the answer. Which means that guys like Perez and Motte will have had all offseason and spring training to prepare themselves to take that next step. Sure, we may not feel as comfortable heading into this year with a couple of unproven guys vying for the closer spot, but I think come June we'll be in a better position than we were last year.
I'm not even going to go into how I think experience and the arrival of Khalil Greene is going to improve our offense. But, I do want to reiterate that I don't think the Cards are a team you can write off...just yet. Yes, I do think that moves will be necessary to get us to the postseason. And I'll most certainly be disappointed if Mozeliak sits on his hands once again as the trade deadline rolls around this year. But let's give the guys a chance before we pick up a stone. And if May rolls around, and we're in last past in the Central, I'll be the first one to throw so no one else feels bad.