ST. LOUIS — Right when you thought baseball and its caretakers were going to deprive the public of games in 2020, they actually agreed on something. Or I think they did. Maybe not. Take it or leave it, there could be baseball by the end of July.
I use the word "could" because there are still players testing positive from the advanced testing methods of the past few weeks and if those continue, it could halt the return of the sport. But let's count on the testing measures and safety protocols helping the sport maintain its goal.
While the news is still warm and positive, let's look at five quick things for the St. Louis Cardinals as summer camps start to open up in the next week.
5) Expect a lot of moving parts, especially in the lineup
I expect the lineup to be different for the first 25-30 days of the season. Mike Shildt and Jeff Albert are going to spend some time searching for the right equalizers and sequencing to make a true dent. Two areas will change frequently. The batter leading off and the one carrying a broom in the fourth spot. Right now, Kolten Wong and Tyler O'Neill will be filling those slots on July 29, but it could change. Wong may not stay healthy and O'Neill may not hit enough to give Paul Goldschmidt the proper protection.
Dexter Fowler could make his way to either of these spots, due to his ability to get on base and the occasional pop in his bat. Tommy Edman could get in there. Spinning wheels is going to be a constant term, so expect daily discussions on Twitter, Facebook groups, and other various chat rooms on what it should be and definitely won't be.
For an example of that, here's my hopeful tweet this afternoon:
Let's talk more about that later.
4) The Cardinals are getting a soft schedule, so take them down!
In a 60 game season, every single game is going to feel like a must-win. You don't the extra 2-3 months to cover up a severely bad stretch of play. For the Cardinals, they must take advantage of a schedule that ranks below .500 when you take the 2019 season finishes into account. You must beat up on the Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates every chance you get. Blowing a game in the ninth and losing a possible sweep is going to be felt in October. No one is saying 55-5, but lost weeks can't be common. The Cardinals can't go silent offensively for too long.
3) No, Nolan Arenado isn't coming
Could they trade for the Colorado Rockies slugger at the trade deadline? Sure. The Cardinals can pull that off right now-but I wouldn't bet on it. The Cardinals were already hesitant to let go of property for Arenado last winter, so why would their minds suddenly change now? They are going to feel the effects of this pandemic financially, and that will only make the DeWitt Jr. bank loans more cost-friendly. But I love being surprised.
2) Six man rotations aren't a bad idea
With John Brebbia joining the land of the not-pitching in 2020, the Cardinals will have one less versatile arm in the bullpen. They will be without Jordan Hicks at least to start the season, so constructing a six man rotation could work very well this summer. It allows the team to alleviate pressure on the bullpen while allowing John Mozeliak the chance to see a young Cardinal in a role that would have eluded him in a normal season. Look, pitchers don't routinely go 7-9 innings anymore, so lean into that narrative and shake it up. Make use of the expanded rosters and add another starter to the fray. Or something like my Birds on The Black pal, Ben Cerutti, puts here:
1) Expect to see a few closers in first month
Without Hicks and more than likely wanting to keep Giovanny Gallegos in a multi-inning role, the Cardinals could be testing out the ninth inning position for the first few weeks. I'd expect a decision on a single arm to be made eventually, because there will be a lot of one-run games with this team and you can't fool around with a closer by committee. But in this special season, I think 4-5 pitchers could finish the season with saves. As long as Pedro Borbon doesn't make an appearance, I'm good.
There will be more news, from both the good and bad corners of the market. Players are back in spring training mode, so there will be more reveals. After all, 2020 still has six months left to toy with us. Rosters will formulate. Rotations set. Tacticians initiated. The Manager of the Year award will be earned this season. Believe those words.
Here's the thing. The Cardinals have as good of a shot as anybody to steal this 2020 World Series. They have pitching depth, 78 outfielders, and salary to toss around at the deadline.
Let's see what happens-and if there actually is baseball. I'm not stepping all in until there's a first pitch thrown in an official game.
Thanks for reading.