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Cardinals Moving On

Posted By Chaz Ingram On Mar 27 2012 @ 7:52 pm In St. Louis Cardinals | 2 Comments

As the “grapefruit” league winds down and the “real” season prepares to open the question that rings loud in Cardinals nation in 2012 is: “How resilient are the Redbirds?” [1]

After winning the 2011 World Series against the Texas Rangers the Cardinals almost immediately lost several individuals who played major roles in building the foundation that produced two World Championships in the past seven seasons.

[2]Only a few days after leading the Redbirds to victory manager Tony LaRussa decided to call it quits. He retired after 16 seasons with the Cardinals and 33 seasons as a major league manager.

Then on December 10, 2011 the Cardinals absorbed the biggest blow of all when all star first baseman and arguably the greatest player ever don a Cardinals jersey uprooted and signed a $254 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  [3]

Dave Duncan, the Cardinals pitching coach the past 16 seasons and LaRussa’s right hand man during his entire managerial career “unofficially” retired to care for his ailing wife. Duncan is considered one of the best in the business and will be sorely missed for his amazing ability to get the most out of  “average” pitchers.

So, can the Cardinals overcome these major departures, particularly Pujols, who barely missed an 11th consecutive season of batting .300, hitting 30 HR and batting in 100 runs when he hit .299 with 37 HR and 99 RBI’s? Can they compete at a high level and maintain the level of competition that St. Louis fans have come to expect over the years? In my humble opinion, I answer with a resounding YES!

Keep in mind that, despite his heroics in game 3 of the World Series in which Pujols  went 5 for 6, hit three HR and drove in six runs, the Cardinals did not win the World Series on his heroics alone. In fact, game 3 was Pujols’ only productive game of the series.  He managed only one hit in 19 at bats in the other six games of the series.

It was the heroics of 3B David Freese, who by the way remains with the team, who produced one clutch hit after another in the NL Championship Series and the World Series to secure wins for the Redbirds.  He became only the sixth player in major league history to be named the MVP of the NL Championship Series as well as the World Series in the same post season. [4]

Despite the departures of key individuals the 2012 Cardinals appear to be in great shape. Although he has no managerial experience in the major leagues new Cardinals manager Mike Matheny inherits a team that, for the most part, is still intact from their championship season a year ago. Not a bad position to be in for a new guy.

[5]With the addition of veteran Carlos Beltran,  American League rookie of the year with the Kansas City Royals in 1999 and six time all star,  the Cardinals fill a void left by Pujols’ departure. While Beltran is not expected to produce the type of numbers king Albert produced, his added fire power and experience to the team combined with the rising star of Freese and Matt Holliday should help Redbird fans forget about Albert Pujols, if that’s possible.

One could choose to count the Cardinals out after the loss of Pujols, LaRussa and Duncan.  But after watching the 2011 team mount a comeback of epic proportions and  dig themselves out of a hole big enough to swallow up the Grand Canyon to win it all and make a mockery of their many nay sayers in the process I wouldn’t be so quick to do that.

Though the 2012 Cardinals don’t have marquee names on the roster this team is very  capable of winning their division and possibly even more.  They will surely continue to compete on a high level and provide the excitement that is synonymous with Cardinals baseball.

The Cardinals open their regular season on  April 4, 2012 against the Miami Marlins.

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