A few weeks ago, it looked like a match made in heaven.
The St. Louis Cardinals were steaming along in the National League Central, and the Washington Nationals were sinking further and further behind in the National League East.
In the last year of star pitcher Max Scherzer’s deal, rumors began circulating about the Mizzou alumnus and St. Louis native returning home before the Major League Baseball trade deadline this year.
The two situations seemed to fit like a hand in a glove. The Cardinals needed to improve their starting rotation by at least one, if not two or three, additions, and who better to start with than a native son who just happens to have been one of the best pitchers in baseball for over a decade?
Adding a player like that to a contending team was enough to make any Cardinal fan’s mouth water.
However, things have changed a lot in the last couple of weeks.
Since the first annual Lou Gehrig Day, June 2, the Cardinals have lost nine of their last 10 games, including series sweeps at the hands of the division rival Cincinnati Reds and Chicago Cubs.
As of Monday morning, the team was six games behind the division leaders and had fallen from first place to fourth in the division standings.
There is still a lot of baseball to be played. However, at the rate things are going, if the Cardinals don’t make some kind of adjustment soon, it could well be too late in another month.
Another issue gumming up the works on such a dream trade is Scherzer’s status after making an early exit from his last start Friday with a groin injury after throwing just 12 pitches. Despite this, Scherzer is reportedly hoping to make his next scheduled start for the Nationals Wednesday and not miss any time, which is good news for Cardinals-Scherzer “shippers.”
Scherzer would go a long way toward getting the Cardinals back on the winning track, but that might be too much to ask from a management staff that has refused to take such steps in several years.
The last big trade deadline acquisition I can recall the Cardinals making for a bonafide star player was Matt Holliday in 2009.
Nickel-and-diming their way through it has been the style much preferred by President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak and General Manager Mike Girsch.
I fully expect the Cardinals to either pull off a few lower leverage deals or collect some depth for the starting rotation through waivers, regardless or whether the club also makes a blockbuster trade.
With staff ace Jack Flaherty making an extended stay on the injured list and few others, if any, proving reliable among those starting pitchers who are healthy, the seeming lack of any urgency from Mo & Company is disheartening — almost maddening.
If you read this column two weeks ago, you know that age doesn’t mean as much as it once did, what with 43-year-old Tom Brady winning the Super Bowl and 50-year-old Phil Mickelson winning the PGA championship both this year.
With that being the case, an outside-the-box, short-term option to fill a hole in the Cardinals rotation comes to mind.
At 48 years of age, former MLB pitcher Bartolo Colon, who made his major league debut in 1997, pitched a complete game Saturday for the Acereros de Monclova in the Mexican professional league. Colon allowed just two runs and five hits in the winning outing.
Colon last pitched in MLB for the Texas Rangers in 2018, but he was surprising the league with how much he still had left in the tank all the way back in 2013, at age 40, when he posted a 2.65 earned run average for the Oakland Athletics and was an all-star that season.
Colon was an all-star again in 2016 for the New York Mets. He was still pitching 190-plus major league innings all the way up to age 43 and 140-plus innings at 45.
Granted, Colon hasn’t had an ERA below 5.00 since his 2016 all-star campaign, but perhaps, like Mickelson, even though Colon’s not as good as he once was, he could be as good once or twice as he ever was.