Coffee is for closers. 

That famous line – delivered by actor Alec Baldwin to a bewildered Jack Lemmon in Glengarry Glen Ross – applies to the Cardinals. Baldwin’s character, trying to motivate an underperforming sales team, spots Lemmon pouring a cup of coffee in the back of the room. 

“Put that coffee down,” Baldwin barks. “Coffee is for closers.”

This applies to the Cardinals. 

No coffee for the Redbirds, who have failed to close out all five series they’ve played so far, and it’s flattening them in the standings. 

To review, in order: 

Had a chance to salvage a 2-2 split at Los Angeles in the season-opening series but lost the fourth game to go 1-3 against the Dodgers. 

After winning the first two against former manager Mike Shildt in San Diego, the Cardinals deflated and scored only two runs in the final game. The 3-2 loss to the Padres cost St. Louis the sweep.

Up 2-0 after two games against a winless Miami team in the home-opening series, the Cardinals failed to sweep by getting clubbed 10-3 in the Sunday afternoon game. 

The Cardinals and Phillies split the first two games at Busch Stadium last week, but the Cardinals came up short in a 4-3 loss in the finale to drop the series. 

After winning the opener at Arizona the Cardinals lost the next two games. The series, tied 1-1, was there to be claimed on Sunday but the Cardinals couldn’t close the deal. Or score a run, for that matter – in a 5-0 loss. It was their second consecutive series loss. 

In going 0-5 in the final game of each series, the Cardinals were outscored 27-12 but also lost three one-run games.

This pattern is sort of a big deal … well, at least as much as anything can be a big deal after the first three weekends of the season. 

If the Cardinals had won the final game of every series instead of losing all five, they’d have a 12-4 record today instead of a 7-9 record. Even if they had won just two of the five final games of their series played, the Redbirds would be 9-7. And we’d feel a lot better about where they are. 

The Cards continue to squander opportunities to maximize the result in each series. It’s already cost them a fast start to 2024. And if this troubling pattern continues, the Cardinals will be in the deep mud and stuck in the mud. 

“(It’s) something we need to do better as a team,” starting pitcher Miles Mikolas told the media after absorbing the loss Sunday. “We need to close out games, need to close out series. You get a team on the run or on their backs, you got to put them away.”

Coffee is for closers. 

What about espresso?

The Cardinals could use some extra caffeine. Only 16 games into the campaign the fellers are already dragging the bottom of the seemingly improved NL Central. 

This is where I come in with the obligatory and annoying “there’s long way to go” reminder. And it’s true; 90 percent of the team’s regular-season schedule remains. OK, fine. Understood. Gotcha. But it sure would be swell to see more toughness and less fragility from this team. These flashbacks to 2023 are difficult to watch. 

After rising to a 5-4 record with a win over the Marlins on April 6, the Cardinals have gone backward by losing five of their last seven games. In their five defeats during this stretch, they’ve scored 11 runs for an average of 2.2 runs per loss.

The Cards’ starting pitching was a negative at Arizona. The hitters are flopping in too many opportunities to drive in runs. The Cardinals have lost a few outs on the basepaths in recent games —  this was a factor Saturday – and the defense has leveled off some. On Sunday, manager Oli Marmol inexplicably rested his .349 hitter, shortstop Masyn Winn and a 5-0 loss ensued. More on this later.

Through their first 16 games last season the 2023 Cardinals were 7-9, four games out of first place and had a minus 7 run differential.

This season through 16 contests the Cardinals are 7-9, four games out of first and minus 9 run differential.


This downturn has brought back some unfortunate memories of the way the Cardinals were in ’23. That could be an overreaction on my part, but I don’t think so. They have to reverse some early trends — but that’s impossible to do when you spin into reverse during a weekend series at Arizona. 

I’d like to state, with confidence, that the Cardinals will handle the Oakland A’s in the three-game series that begins Monday night. But these two the teams have identical 7-9 records, so you never know. 

BIG INNINGS, BIG TROUBLE: Arizona scored 15 runs in the series, with 14 of the 15 coming in one specific inning of each game. The Diamondbacks scored six in the fifth inning Friday, three in the sixth inning Saturday, and put up all five runs in the fifth inning Sunday. In the other 22 innings of at-bats, Arizona scored one run. 

Starting pitchers Steven Matz, Kyle Gibson and Mikolas collectively allowed one run in the first four innings of their starts at Arizona, translating to an 0.75 ERA in 12 innings. But their ERA was 24.30 in the fifth and sixth innings. They faced 23 Arizona hitters in the fifth and sixth and were destroyed for 12 runs, nine earned, in 3.1 innings. 

LOST IN THE DESERT: The St. Louis starters were doing well for a while, pitching to a 3.58 ERA in the previous nine games leading into the Arizona series. But Matz, Gibson and Mikolas struck out only 10.8 percent of their batters faced in Arizon, and the Diamondbacks had no problem putting the ball in play. The Cards starters couldn’t dance around the 17 hits that stayed in the ballpark. 

Combining their starts at Arizona, Matz-Gibson-Mikolas were peppered for a .310 average, .354 onbase percentage and .448 slugging percentage. And they were horrendous when pitching with runners in scoring position getting smashed by the  Diamondbacks for a .385 average, .474 onbase percentage and .692 slug. All but one of Arizona’s 13 runs scored against STL starters came with runners in scoring position.

It was certainly a disappointing series for St. Louis starting pitchers, who yielded 13 runs (10 earned) in 15 and ⅓ innings for a 5.87 ERA. 

THE OFFENSE, MUCKING ALONG: After an encouraging nine-run outbreak in Friday’s victory at Arizona, the Cardinals scored only two runs over the final 18 innings and predictably lost two in a row. In the final two games they had 15 hits (11 singles) and batted .224. They reached base in only 26.8 percent of their plate appearances and had a feeble slugging percentage of .299. Worst of all, the Cardinals went 3 for 17 (.176) and struck out five times with runners in scoring position in the back-to-back losses that ruined their weekend. 

Other notes on the disappearing offense through 16 games: 

The Cardinals have scored three or fewer runs in seven of their last 10 games. 

For the season, the Cardinals have scored three or fewer runs 10 times, the most by an NL team. They’re 2-8 when scoring no more than three runs in a game. 

Since the start of the 2023 season the Cardinals have scored three or fewer runs in 85 games, the most by a NL team. Their record in the 85 games is 14-71 for a .165 winning percentage. 

This season the Cardinals are tied with Washington for the worst batting average (.224) in the NL with runners in scoring position. 

Through 16 games, the Cardinals’ average of 3.81 runs per game is 14th among 15 NL teams. Only Washington (3.73) has done worse. 

The Cardinals rank 14th in the NL in batting average (.230) and onbase percentage (.298) and are 13th in slugging (.366). 

The locals are tied with Washington and Miami for the fewest home runs (13) in the NL. 

Based on OPS+, the Cardinals are 18 percent below league average offensively this season. That ranks 13th among NL teams. 

WHERE WAS WINN? Masyn Winn leads the Cardinals with a .349 batting average which is also the best by a MLB rookie so far this season. He’s slugged .465 and is 25 percent above league average offensively per OPS+. Winn didn’t start Wednesday’s game vs. the Phillies but entered later and had two at-bats. And the Cardinals were off on Thursday. 

Winn was able to get some rest – even if he actually needed it. But Winn didn’t play Sunday. It was a scheduled day off for Winn, and manager Oli Marmol started Brandon Crawford at shortstop. 

Winn is 22 years old, and I find it hard to believe that the rookie “needs a day” off as Marmol explained to reporters when asked about Winn sitting against the D-backs. 

“Masyn needs a day,” Marmol told reporters after Sunday’s blanking. “We talked about it and his body can use it. He’s swinging it well, playing good defense and running the bases — he’s doing everything you would want him to do. But in conversation with him, today would be a good day for him to have it off. This is going to be a long season for him and keeping him fresh will be important. Our conversation has been good, and we agreed that today would be a good day for him to rest.” 

To repeat: Winn is 22. The Cardinals have played 16 games this season, and Winn has started 12 of the 16. He’s appeared in two others.

Keep in mind, the Cardinals have had two days off. One following the home–opener, the other before the Arizona series. So if we include the team’s off days, Winn has started 12 games in 18 days so far in 2024. And he’s appeared in 14 games in 18 days. Either way, that’s a lot of rest during the first two-plus weeks of the season. 

Wynn needed a rest break Sunday when the Cardinals had a chance to win the series in Phoenix? Really? 

None of us view Winn as Cal Ripken Jr. Winn doesn’t have to be an Iron Man. But why would a 22-year old rookie need so many days off this early? After playing the next three at Oakland, the Cardinals have another scheduled day off on Thursday. So that gives Winn another chance to take a breather. This dude loves to play baseball and he’s wired competitively. Nothing in his performance points to a weary, raggedy player. 

Did I mention that Winn leads the team’s slothful offense with a .349 batting average? Yes, I did mention that. But I’ll also mention this: in the first two nights in Arizona, Winn went 4 for 8 with two RBIs, a stolen base and two runs scored. That was part of a five-game stretch in which he went 7 for 17 for a .412 batting average. Did Winn look tired to you? 

In four starts as a Cardinal Crawford is 1 for 11 (.091) with five strikeouts. Sunday, he struck out looking with the bases loaded and one out in the second. Later, he stranded a runner on third base with two out by popping up to end the inning. 

I thought Marmol might have opted for Crawford against right-handed Arizona starter Zac Gallen for a reason. Winn bats right. Crawford bats left. Platoon–split advantage and all of that. Or maybe Crawford had done well against Gallen during his career. Maybe left-handed batters do better against Gallen. But none of that applied in this case.

Winn is 5 for 14 (.424) with five RBI and a .944 OPS vs. righties this season. As for Gallen, right-handed hitters have better numbers against him during his career compared to left-handed hitters. And Crawford came into Sunday’s game hitting .208 in 25 career plate appearances against Gallen. After a lost Sunday, that average is now .192. 

This situation was a potential concern going into the season. When the Cardinals signed Crawford to a one-year deal in spring training, we knew he would play with Tommy Edman (wrist) unavailable to back up at short. But I didn’t expect Crawford to start four of the first 16 games. 

Crawford, 37, wouldn’t have signed here without some unofficial assurances of playing time. He’s now batting .190 since the start of last season. I’m guessing that Crawford will get another start at Oakland. He played 13 seasons across the bay for the San Francisco Giants and is a very popular player in the Bay Area. 

The Cardinals wanted more leadership in 2024, and by all accounts Crawford is a plus there. He’s been great about being there for the young Winn if any advice is needed. But the Cardinals also need base hits and RBIs and wins. The Redbirds are 6-6 this season when Winn starts at shortstop. They are 1-3 when Crawford starts at shortstop. 

REALISTICALLY SPEAKING: The Cardinals offense should get better … but how much better? And I believe Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and Jordan Walker will do more offensively. Put it this way: the three hitters couldn’t do much less offensively than they have so far. And truth is, the Cardinals will have a sloggy, low-scoring season if Goldy, Arenado and Walker slump through much of it. 

Here’s what the three hitters combined for last season. And I’ll add what they’ve combined for so far in 2024.

Batting average: .270 last year; .220 this year.

Onbase percentage: .341 last year; .275 this year. 

Slugging percentage: .447 last year; .315 this year. 

At-bats per home run: 23.4 last year; 84.0 this year.

In 185 combined plate appearances in 2024, Goldschmidt, Arenado and Walker have collectively contributed eight doubles, two homers and 17 RBI. They’ve also combined to make 141 outs. One positive: the three are collectively hitting .314 with runners in scoring position. 

FOLLOW-UP NOTE ON WALKER: In his first 50 plate appearances of his second MLB season, Walker has a slash line of .178/.240/.311. His ground-ball rate (56.3%) is up 9.4 percent from last season. And his strikeout rate (28%) is up by six percent compared to last season. But unlike Goldschmidt and Arenado – who are down in average exit velocity, hard-hit rate and barrel rate this season – Walker made some gains. His hard-hit rate is slightly down but still healthy at 41 percent. And his average exit velocity,  barrel-rate percentage and chase rate have improved from 2023. 

That said, Walker hasn’t homered in 2024 and his expected slugging percentage is .334. That xSLG was .443 last season. Goldschmidt and Arenado have suffered similar drops in expected slugging percentage. Goldschmidt had an xSLG of .491 last season and it’s .321 this season. Arenado had a xSLG of .435 last season and it’s .343 this season. 

STATE OF THE OUTFIELD: The return of Lars Nootbaar was a plus; he had two hits, four walks, a homer and three RBIs in three games against the Diamondbacks. He reached base in 46.2 percent of 13 plate appearances and slugged .556. But overall the St. Louis outfield produced little offense over the first 16 games, ranking 15th in the NL in batting average (.184), 13th in OBP (.284) and 13th in slugging (.337.) Barring setbacks Dylan Carlson and Tommy Edman will return before long, but I don’t know how to set my expectations for them. And I won’t mention that new Boston outfielder Tyler O’Neill has seven homers and a .761 slugging percentage in 14 games. I won’t mention it because that would be a cheap shot. 


* The Cardinals have scored at a rate of 1.6 runs per nine innings in the four starts made by Mikolas this season. As a group, Cards starters have received 3.0 runs per nine innings which ranks tied for 22nd. 

* Here are the team run differentials in the NL Central: Milwaukee +31, Pittsburgh +24, Cincinnati +22, Chicago +13, St. Louis minus 9. 

* The Cardinals are 1-3 in one-run games.

* Sonny Gray, Lance Lynn and Steven Matz have a 1.87 ERA in their 33 and ⅔ combined innings. The others who have started games – Mikolas, Gibson and Zack Thompson – have a 6.17 ERA in their 51 innings. This accounting doesn’t include Thompson’s work as a reliever. 

* After 16 games, Cardinal starting pitchers have a 4.46 ERA that ranks 18th in the majors and 10th in the NL. The fielding-independent ERA (4.87) by the starters is 28th overall and 14th among the 15 NL teams. Not good.

* In eight relief appearances covering seven innings, Andre Pallante has allowed five earned runs and allowed 50 percent of inherited runners to score. His ERA is 6.43. He’s allowed nine hits, walked four and flung three wild pitches. Opponents have batted .300 with an .816 OPS against him and have a hard-hit rate of 50 percent. Pallante throws right-handed, but this season RH batters are 5 for 11 against him (.455) with three walks, a double and a homer. Other than that, everything is wonderful. 

* Nolan Gorman has one home run and a .208 batting average since his two-homer binge on April 7. On the plus side, Gorman has a much lower strikeout rate of only 19 percent over his last six games.

* The Cardinals have scored only 18 of 36 runners at third base with less than two outs. That 50 percent rate is below MLB’s overall 53% success rate in such situations. 

NEXT ON THE SKED: The Cardinals will get after the Oakland A’s with their best three starters: Gray on Monday night (8:40 pm STL time), Lynn on Tuesday evening (8:40 pm STL time) and Matz on Wednesday afternoon (2:30 pm STL time.) Offensively the A’s rank 29th among the 30 teams with an average of 2.94 runs per game. But Oakland’s pitching and run prevention are an early strength; the A’s average yield of 4.31 runs allowed per game ranks 10th overall, just ahead of the Cardinals (4.38) who are 11th. 

Thanks for reading …


A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie hosts an opinionated and analytical sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. Friday. Stream it live or access the show podcast on or through the 590 The Fan St. Louis app. 

Please follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz and on Threads @miklaszb

For weekly Cards talk, listen to the “Seeing Red” podcast with Will Leitch and Miklasz via or through your preferred podcast platform. Follow @seeingredpod on Twitter for a direct link. We recorded a fresh Seeing Red on Monday, April 15

Stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, StatHead, Baseball Savant, Baseball Prospectus, Sports Info Solutions, Spotrac and Cot’s Contracts unless otherwise noted.

Bernie Miklasz

Bernie Miklasz

For the last 36 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.

While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.