The 2023 season for the St. Louis Cardinals was an absolute disaster. Though they entered it as the NL Central favorites, even if by default, they lost 91 games as pretty much everything went wrong. The epicenter of their collapse was their starting rotation, which contained pitchers that couldn’t strikeout anyone, were three days older than water, couldn’t stop walking guys or all of those things at once. Heading into the offseason, the needs were clear.
Which makes their winter so far a bit curious. Sure, one of the big fish that the Cardinals were rumored to be hot after, Aaron Nola, decided to stay put in Philadelphia. Blake Snell and Sonny Gray, and every other big-ticket starting pitcher, are still playing the field. That doesn’t mean the Cards have to sign anyone they can for the sake of it. But that’s exactly what they’ve done.
First, it started with the signing of Lancy Lynn. You may remember him from the last time you saw him, giving up four homers in an inning in Game 3 to the Diamondbacks as he threw Wiffle ball after Wiffle ball in the general direction of the plate. That was pretty much him for the all season, as his f*ck-you-here’s-a-fastball approach doesn’t really work when that fastball declines to golf-cart speed.
It continued with the signing of Kyle Gibson, who the pitching-desperate Orioles decided they could do without (though to be fair, the Os are allergic to any money exiting their own pockets). He had an ERA of 4.73 last season, is 36, and has only been better than average in terms of ERA- twice in the last seven years.
We can’t sum it up better than this:
The Cardinals know how baseball works, right? They certainly tell us how they’ve defined the game often enough that we just assumed . . .
Sure, the Cards could still decide to pick off a Gray or Snell. Although committing a lot of money to Snell would be kind of hilarious given all the warning lights that are on there. As of right now, four-fifths of the Cards rotation is older than 32, which means its potential to arc up is pretty low and has already turned into gasoline. Not that anyone minds, because it’s the Cardinals and when they’re bad everyone gets a chuckle.
And hey, if the Cards want to lead off their rotation with guys who turn around quickly a lot, we’ll get a lot of chuckles in 2024.
Wild night in international soccer
It was a wonderfully goofy night in international soccer, though it started off pretty scary. Argentina’s visit to the Maracana to play Brazil was the headline game of the day, but it couldn’t even get started before a skirmish from visiting Argentine fans and Brazilian police delayed kickoff half an hour. What exactly spurred the police into the Argentine section is a little unclear so far, but the fighting between fans and cops was not.
Once the match started, it barely resembled soccer and more like some side challenge out of Grand Theft Auto. Brazil attempted to “high press,” if you were to describe the first attempt to siege Troy a “high press.” Both teams were ready to kick each other into plasma. Neither could completely three straight passes before an opponent hurled themselves into an opponents’ ankles, and this being COMNEBOL, no player shied away from making it quite clear just how assaulted they’d been. Argentina’s Rodrigo De Paul spent more time trying to perform the landlord’s cycle from The Big Lebowski than actually playing football, and succeeded in getting Brazil’s Joelinton sent off in the second half when he acted like a waving Joelinton arm that was more aimed at his lower ribs was a right cross to the jaw from Joe Louis. All in all, Brazil committed 26 fouls.
Argentina finally humped a goal off a corner from Nicolas Otamendi, and Brazil never ever looked like they would ever claw it back. Which they didn’t, and hence Argentina became the first team to ever beat Brazil in Brazil during World Cup qualifying.
Which apparently was too much for Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni, who seemingly hinted at retiring from the job due to burnout. But when you’ve won the World Cup and beat Brazil in Brazil twice, there isn’t really anywhere to go but down.
Meanwhile, CONCACAF CONCACAF’d hard too. First, in their Nations League quarterfinal/Copa America qualifier, Canada blew a 3-1 aggregate lead at home in Toronto to Jamaica, getting shunted to to loser’s bracket for Copa qualifying after a 4-4 aggregate draw and losing on away goals.
They should have been joined by Mexico, who faced a 2-0 deficit from the first leg against Honduras while playing in front of a half-filled Azteca, an Azteca that was never admonished for going back to the homophobic chant that Mexican soccer just can’t seem to get rid of. Mexico trailed, 2-1, heading into injury time, when everyone was told it would be nine minutes of extra time. Mexico equalized in the 11th minute of injury time. You put that together.
It got better, as the game went to penalties. With Mexico leading, 3-2, Mexico’s Cesar Huerta was allowed to retake his penalty twice after Honduras keeper Edrick Mejivar was ruled to be off his line when Huerta took his kick (and he was, but it’s so rarely called). Seems like CONCACAF wanted Mexico to not embarrass itself once again, even if their fans continue to do so.
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