Just like we all predicted going into the 2023 season, the St. Louis Cardinals are in last place in the NL Central, while the Milwaukee Brewers have jumped out to a strong, first-place start. As a matter of fact, 4.5 games separate these two teams in the division standings at the writing of this article.
Will this separation and current hierarchy last? Or are the NL Central’s current standings a reflection of a small and early sample size?
Let’s play two truths and a lie to find out.
Truth: The St. Louis Cardinals are not a last-place team in the NL Central
Seems obvious, right? After all, the St. Louis Cardinals employ arguably the best infield tandem in baseball with Nolan Arenado and defending NL MVP Paul Goldschmidt manning the corners. Rookie Jordan Walker is off to a fast start and the Cardinals have the makings of a potent lineup.
But things haven’t gone according to plan for St. Louis in the early going. Manager Oli Marmol recently had a public grievance airing with outfielder Tyler O’Neill over a lack of hustle, and the team doesn’t seem to be responding well to it. And after a Wild Card round disappointment last season, perhaps Marmol isn’t the right man for the job.
It doesn’t help that the pitching staff hasn’t quite done its job, either, as the Cardinals lack a true ace. Between Miles Mikolas’ and Steven Matz’ struggles and Jake Woodford’s ineptitude, St. Louis is left to depend on Jordan Montgomery and Jack Flaherty (though the latter will once again need to display his former dominance to reclaim his ace status once again).
Fortunately for the Cardinals, the NL Central is still pretty weak. The Pirates just lost Oneil Cruz to a fractured ankle and the Reds aren’t there yet. More on the Cubs and Brewers later, but it seems more than fair to say St. Louis has too much talent to stay a last place team. And dysfunction has never been the name of the game for one of baseball’s most well-run organizations.