Missouri is a baseball rich state that has had it's share of World Series glory. This can be seen as recently as 2006 with the St. Louis Cardinals' victory over the Detroit Tigers and though they lost to the Boston Red Sox in 2007, they defended their titles to the last out. The Cardinals will have a difficult season ahead of them.
The Cardinals have as one rough off-season. The distraction of the Albert Pujols contract negotiation was enough to frustrate any member of the Cardinal faithful. Add to that the loss of team ace Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals season is in jeopardy.
We have yet to see if there is any acrimony between Pujols, the team and his teammates due to the lack of signing an extension before the start of the Spring Training. I highly doubt that we should see anything less than a Pujolsian type season from "El Hombre". The only chink in his proverbial armor will be an injury ad he really doesn't show any signs of slowing down. In the end, I believe Pujols and the Cardinals find a way for him to stay in St. Louis where he belongs. The Cardinals should also expect another product season from outfielder Matt Holliday. The one-two punch of Pujols and Holliday should be able to put runs on the board provided those in front of them get on base.
It remains to be seen if the soap opera between manager Tony LaRussa and outfielder Colby Rasmus will carry over from last season. To be perfectly honest, I don't know what the issue between LaRussa and Rasmus stems from but it seems to me that the team is better with Rasmus than without it.
The outfield trio will be without Jim Edmonds who chose to retire. What I find puzzling, is that Cardinals' GM John Mozeliak chose the plodding Lance Berkman to replace Edmonds. Berkman showed nothing while with the Yankees down the stretch last season. He played first for the Houston Astros since he didn't have the range to play in the outfield and he's going to play one of the corners for the Cardinals. Unbelievable. Colby Rasmus is going to have to take his vitamins daily to have the energy to cover the range that Berkman can't cover. Not to mention that Berkman is no longer the hitter he was during his heyday with the Astros. Maybe returning to the NL will be good for him. It better for the saie of the Redbirds.
The anchor in the infield is obviously Pujols. Joining him will be Skip Schmacher at second, free agent signing Ryan Theriot at short and Ryan Freese, who is recovering from surgeries to both of his feet at 3rd. The biggest hope for the team is at catcher, where veteran Yadier Molina is located with young prospect Bryan Anderson starting the season in AAA. Though Gerald Laird is listed as being the back-up catcher to start the season, I believe Anderson will get some significant playing time behind the plate this season. The rest of the bench is made up of infielders Daniel Descalso and Tyler Greene and outfielders Allen Craig and Jon Jay.
The team will definitely miss its ace Adam Wainright. Luckily for the Cardinals, veteran pitcher Chris Carpenter is more than a suitable replacement. Carpenter posted a 16-9 record with a 3.22 ERA with 235 innings pitched in 35 starts. After Carpenter, the optimism wanes somewhat. Following Carpenter is second year player Jaime Garcia who is looking to follow up his positive 2010 season. Garcia posted a 13-8 record with a 2.70 ERA and ended up third in the 2010 NL Rookie of the Year vote. Rounding up the rotation will be mid-season acquisition Jake Westbrook, Kyle Loshe and former reliever Kyle McClellan. Luckily the Cardinals' bullpen is strong enough to balance out the pitching staff.
The strength of the Cardinals lies with the bullpen. Anchoring the bullpen is closer Ryan Franklin who is joined by right-handers Bryan Augenstein, Miguel Batista, Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte. On the left-hand sound of the bullpen, free-agent acquisition Brian Tallet (formerly of the Toronto Blue Jays) and Trever Miller.
The St. Louis Cardinals are faced with a tough road ahead of them. The loss of Wainright, with the inevitable drama of Pujols' future compounded with the 2010 Division winner Cincinnati Reds and improved Milwaukee Brewers will test the abilities of the Cardinals. I don't think this season will be played into October as the Cardinals faithful will be left disappointed.
- Click Here for Matthew Leach's article Cards set 25-man roster as Opening Day nears from MLB.com dated March 28, 2011