Blame for Cardinals’ hitting struggles will fall at feet of coach. But should it?

“Deserve’s got nothing to do with it,” Clint Eastwood’s Will Munny snarls at Gene Hackman’s Sheriff Bill Daggett near the climax of “Unforgiven,” winner of Best Picture at the 65th Academy Awards.

Fate came in the old west no matter what was done in the name of avoiding it, and that was rough justice.

The St. Louis Cardinals have very little in common with arguably Eastwood’s last great western, up to and including acknowledging that “hit” is something only one of the two has thus far been able to pull off.

Entering a weekend series with the moribund Chicago White Sox, the Cardinals are treading water behind a pitching staff that has exceeded even optimistic projections and a strong defense that minimizes mistakes and keeps the run environment sterile.

But to date, they simply can’t hit, and the clock is ticking loudly on finding solutions.

Following the close of play on Wednesday, St. Louis was averaging a putrid 3.52 runs per game, good for 27th in MLB and more than .8 runs below league average. They’ve hit the fewest homers in the majors, have a mere .300 on base percentage, and are 28th in the league in OPS, ahead of only the White Sox and Miami Marlins.

Those two teams have a combined 14 wins over that span, the same as the Cardinals themselves, speaking to both their ability to exceed their offensive limitations so far and also the utter hopelessness of their company buried at the bottom of the offensive standings.

Given that the power outage seems to be blanketing the entire roster, it scarcely comes as a surprise that the chorus demanding blood has found its newest target in hitting coach Turner Ward and his staff.

A month into the season, with sample sizes too large to swat away, an anxious and amorphous demand for change is finding a defined form, and many Cardinals fans are finding familiar footing in one of the game’s most tried and true traditions – demanding people are fired.

The honest truth is that modern approaches have come to a place where laying all the failures of an offense at the feet of its coaches seems jarringly out of step. Ward is approaching the end of his second decade in coaching after a long playing career; it seems unlikely that he would suddenly fall apart as a messenger, losing complete touch with a game that he’s navigated his entire adult life.

Is it on the hitting coach that Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt have combined to hit the same number of home runs this season as Iván Herrera, the backup catcher? Arenado has one home run in his last 219 at bats; is that because he’s being improperly coached? Goldschmidt’s five hits in three games in Detroit pushed his OPS above .600, and he’s just more than a week removed from being nudged down the lineup. Would bringing in a new coach reverse his decline and return to him the ability to hit breaking pitches?

In a piece for Defector which examined the role of private swing and pitching coaches in the modern game, Ward described his place in those situations to Zach Buchanan as, “just being a watchman. That’s hard because everything in me wants to help. Sometimes, the help is a silent voice.”

Big leaguers, Arenado and Goldschmidt included, spend their winters in private instruction which spills over onto the seasonal calendar. The hitting coach is responsible for integrating not only the team’s prescribed approach but also that of those outside voices, working to find harmony among disparate parts of a choir which can’t always hear each other.

Goldschmidt in particular stands out here, because it’s his connection to Ward which is largely responsible for the Cardinals leaning on his expertise in the first place. The Jeff Albert era was fraught with complaints about his lack of communication and inability to speak understandably to players, having not spent any time in the majors himself.

Ward, whose connection to Goldschmidt dates to managing him at Double-A Mobile in 2011, had that perspective and communication in excess, and to date has been lauded by his charges. If a primary driver of the offensive failings to date has been Goldschmidt’s decline – and it has – it’s difficult to imagine that reversing by removing the one person from the equation to whom Goldschmidt is closest.

If there was one thing that was obvious about Albert’s time in the dugout, it was that he had to go because players found him so interpersonally grating that whatever he had to say was never going to get through. Ward, operationally, is the opposite. He’s respected and beloved, and while he may not be the same sort of innovator Albert was, he’s far more advanced in integrating modern techniques and tools than his exterior might reveal.

Still, Will Munny knew the truth. Whether or not Ward deserves the raft of criticism washing up on his shores, it’s coming. Last season’s Cardinals blew all four tires and limped to the finish line of a season-long race on spares. The fresh set applied to the pitching staff has totally smoothed out the ride, but suddenly, it appears someone forgot to put gas in the tank. That can’t go ignored, or tolerated, much longer.

Firing coaches is part of baseball, and it’s what rudderless teams do when they’re out of answers. The Cardinals, even with their failings at the plate, are a team with a design and an identity, being steered firmly out of the fog. It would be an unseemly reversal to start throwing the crew overboard at this point.

It just sure would take the pressure off if they started to hit.