I think what's going on with the Cardinals is that both the front office and the players have this mindset:
Hey, we're in the NL Central. All we have to do is go .500 on the road, win 2 out of 3 at home, and that will get us to 95 wins, which will be good enough to win the division. With the talent we have in Pujols, Rolen, Carpenter, and Edmonds, the rest can be stopgaps, and that shoudl be good enough. Nobody else in the division can come close to matching those top four, so we can pretty much cruise.
And the playoffs are a crapshoot anyway, so it's no use trying to gear up to win the World Series. If we don't win in the playoffs, there's always next year. No big deal.
I think there are some people in the organization who don't have this attitude -- notably the manager, and some players like Eckstein, but I think this is the dominant attitude of the club.
This bugs me for a couple reasons.
-- I don't think the playoffs are a crapshoot, and I don't think the Cardinals can just turn up the intensity when the playoffs start.
-- One of these years, one of the teams in the NL Central is going to pull a Detroit Tigers on everybody and have a great year (maybe the Brewers next year). You just can't count on winning the division by default every year.
I would have really like to have seen the Cardinals bring in someone who would have changed this attitude. Maybe a veteran for whom this would be his last chance to win a World Series, and would be desperate to maximize this opportunity, and would call on his teammates to do the same. Like the Will Clark and Larry Walker acquisitions of previous years. I was trying to think of a parallel for today, and it escaped me -- Ken Griffey?