I’m going to take my best shot at wrapping up what I saw as the best stories of the year. The Cardinals Bloggers are doing this as part of their wrap-up and I like to throw my opinion in with those who actually know what they’re talking about. I’m sure there are going to be some outrages and difference of opinion in my stories, but what am I if not a differing opinion. So here they are, starting with the stories that were pretty cool to the one that shaped the season. I present…
THE BEST OF THE CARDINALS IN 2009!
Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Mo’
#5 The Intern
I feel like that is an appropriate title for what Colby Rasmus was in center field this season. He basically got to study the position under Rick Ankiel, but all the while knew that he was our boy for the job and Ricky was on the way out. It may just be that I have a thing for young talent, whether it be the clutch hitting center fielder, or that stripper that you look at and wonder if she’s still in high school. There’s just something exciting about talent today that may become bigger talent tomorrow. The kid showed that he had the hard part of the job down. Colby was nothing if not clutch this season, knocking in walk-off home runs and being one the the Cardinal’s top performers in the playoffs. I’m really thinking this kid could be the big show next season and if a certain signing goes our way, we might be looking at an MV3-peat.
#4 The Art Of Pitching And Bitching
Dave Duncan showed the great city of St. Louis one thing this season: He has us all by the balls. When Chris Duncan was traded to Boston for Julio Lugo (a solid, productive move for the ball club since we have Lugo for all of 2010 and they had Chris for about 30 minutes before deciding that he was a lost cause) Dave Duncan showed why from T-ball on up a dad should not be the coach of his son’s team. Dave said he was disappointed by the way the situation was handled and that he considered not returning to the club after the 2009 season. St. Louis reacted in the way any self-respecting baseball city would: We freaked the f@*# out! I’m pretty sure that the city was under the impression that if Dave Duncan wasn’t in the dugout, Adam Wainwright would walk out to the mound, pick up the baseball and wonder “What the hell am I supposed to do with this?” and St. Louis would be forced to forfeit every game. Duncan eventually came around, put the past behind him and is returning in 2010 so baseball will still be played at Busch Stadium, but he sent a message to the front office which was sorta to the tune of “Got you by the balls, Mozeliak! By The Balls! P.S. The club is still looking for a backup outfielder for 2010 and I hear that Dave’s son is actually looking for a job right about now. I’m not sayin’… I’m just sayin’.
#3 Pitcher’s Duel Battle Royal
The 2009 Cardinals had the best pitching squad I’ve seen in…well period. Overshadowed by the Cy Young battle between Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright (I can’t remember which of the two won it, but at least they BOTH didn’t get screwed out of the award) the entire Cardinal staff (almost) had an amazing year. From the starting rotation of Wainwright, Pinero, Carpenter, and later edition of Smoltz, to the emergence of an all-star caliber closer in Franklin, the Cards hurlers were firing on all cylinders. Hawksworth, Miller, and McClellen provided solid numbers and becoming really reliable middle inning guys and pretty much everyone fulfilled expectation. So props to the entire staff as this year was an amazing one for Carpenter, Wainwright, Pinero, Lohse, Smoltz, Boggs, Thompson, Wellemeyer, Reyes, Miller, Motte, McClellen, Hawksworth and Franklin!
#2 Stuck In The Middle With You
I thought long and hard about this one, and instead of making these two the #4 and #5 stories, I decided that I would make the emergence of our middle infield the second biggest story in Cardinal Nation this year. First we’ll start with Skippy. Skip Schumaker made the transition from outfield to second base virtually overnight. The club said adios to Adam Kennedy and since the Cardinals had a plethora of outfielders to choose from, Skip made the transition from outfield to second base. The amazing part about this one? No one really noticed. Skip Schumaker put up really similar offensive numbers while completely changing positions. The fact that he didn’t look like a new-born giraffe at second base was impressive enough, but that he became a reliable, everyday second basemen? Well that’s pretty damn impressive. Skip may actually solve the second base problem that the Cardinals have been dealing with for years and be a constant at a position that seems to have the same curse that the Defense Against The Dark Arts teaching position has in Harry Potter. To quickly take your attention away from the fact that I’m a Harry Potter nerd, lets talk about Brenden Ryan. Brenden seemed to be the proverbial joke coming into 2009. He was like that friend that you really like at parties, but would never trust babysitting. Khalil Green suffered from a debilitating mental disorder and it really seemed like the Cardinals were going to need to use all of our trade chips to pick up a shortstop before the trade deadline. I’m sure Brenden was only supposed to be there until we found a “real” shortstop. What happened? He became the Wizard’s Apprentice. Everyone has been saying that Skip is great at 2nd, but “won’t be winning any gold gloves.” The same can’t be said about this kid. If he can stay serious and keep up the range he has going (he can really grab any ball hit between the opposing team’s dugout and Albert standing on first) then we might not only be talking about a gold glove, but maybe even an All-Star appearance or two. And all those trade chips he saved us? Well they were put to good use when…
#1 John Mozeliak Pimps Our Team
We had 2 MVPs this year, one off the field and one on it. We expected Albert to be amazing and I really apologize that him having the best season of any player in recent memory didn’t make my list, but to me, that’s just Albert being Albert. The big story this year was the front office. First, we got rid of Adam Kennedy and put our faith in Skip Schumaker to play 2nd base even though he’d never done it before. Who would have thought Skip could make a successful transition from outfield to 2nd? John Mozeliak, that’s who. How’d that work out? Just see story #2. Then he capitalized on the fact that we were a playoff contender and built a team that could compete. He ditched Duncan for Lugo, swapped Chris Perez for DeRosa, some minor league prospects for Matt Holliday and picked up John Smoltz for peanuts. You wanna team that competes Mr. Pujols? How’s that? Then Mozeliak entered into the off season to get all the pieces to build a dominant team for the ENTIRE 2010 season instead of just the 2nd half. When all of the other top stories stopped competing, Johnny Mo was just getting started. First he picks up Brad Penny to fix the hole in our rotation left by Pinero, then he starts in on Scott Boras’ chess game for Matt Holliday. The way things sound, he’s about the pull off the biggest deal in Cardinal history. Mozeliak is sending a message that baseball isn’t going to just be about the Red Sox and Yankees anymore, but that the Cardinals and Phillies are going to rock the boat a little. Some people are worried that he’s spending too much money, but considering that a 100m deal for Holliday would be about 1/2 the price Boras was looking for in the first place (180m Texiera money) I’d say that’s pretty good. Last year wasn’t supposed to be our year. We had an ace coming off of an entire year’s rest with an injury, a 2nd baseman who had actually never played 2nd base, our shortstop was MIA and a goofball was standing in his place, Troy Glaus, our 3rd baseman, was injured for most of the season, (should I go on with why last year shouldn’t have been our year?) but When Albert carried us through the first half of the season, Mozeliak carried us through the 2nd. And now that he’s out-Scott-Borasing Scott Boras, it appears that 2010 actually SHOULD be our year. For the first time in history, I wasn’t saying, “Our front office is cheap, cowardly, or whatever,” but instead, “Damn, our front office is pretty much full of badasses.” That’s a big story in baseball and in my humble opinion, the top story from Bird Land this year.