As part of yet another great United Cardinal Bloggers project, I give you my top five stories of 2008 as pertains to the St Louis Cardinals.
1. Lohse signs late, then signs early
Kyle Lohse was on the rader of GM John Mozeliak for most of the winter prior to the 2008 season. Lohse was reportedly looking for a multi-year deal somewhere in the $10mm per season stratosphere. When the dust settled in Spring Training and Lohse had yet to find his multi-year offer, he signed with the Cards for a one year $4.5mm deal. That turned out to be a great thing for both the Cardinals and Lohse. Kyle was arguably the Cards’ best pitcher in 2008 and he signed a big 4 year, $41mm extension late in the season. Are the Cardinals kicking themselves now that the bottom has fallen out of the free agency market? Only time will tell on this deal.
2. “We got Glaus? What’d we have to give up with Rolen? Nothing? Are you serious?”
Say what you want about Troy Glaus’ inconsistent hitting, his early season slump, etc. Getting Glaus to play third base for disgruntled former Cardinal-for-life Scott Rolen was a small coup in my book. Glaus – .270/27/99, .855 OPS. Rolen – .262/10/55, .780 OPS. Not convinced? Glaus made 4 fewer errors in more chances, and had a higher range factor than Rolen. Want more? The Cards got $1.8m in cash from Toronto in the deal too. Need another one? Glaus’ contract expires after 2009, the Jays are on the hook for another $11mm season of Rolen in 2010. Nice move, Mo.
Another ho-hum .350+, 30+ HR, 100+ RBI season for Albert Pujols. El Hombre caught some flak for winning the award on a fourth place team while Ryan Howard was on a World Series winner, but who was truly more valuable to their team? Pujols is quickly streaking toward being the Greatest Cardinal of All-Time (with all due respect to Mr. Stan Musial), yet somehow folks continue to be underwhelmed by his feats. Case in point, my buddy (who happens to be a Cub fan, perhaps that’s the *real* issue) who muttered to me the other night: “so, you gotta be worried about Pujols after this year, huh?” Me: “uh, why would that be?” “Well, you know, he didn’t really have a huge year…seems like he’s kind of slowing down?” “He won the MVP.” “Well, yeah, but he’s been *awesome* before.” “What about .350, 35, and 120 isn’t *awesome*?” I’ll spare you the rest of the dumbfounding conversation, but is Albert setting the bar for himself so high that folks are motivated to yawn at a .300/30/100 from him? Gross.
4. Youth beginning to serve at Busch
2008 marked the arrival, at one time or another, of eleven players on the Cardinal roster who had no prior Major League experience. None. Not a single at-bat or inning pitched. Some did better than others, some spent more time up than others. Some might never put on a big league shirt again (sorry, Rico Washington). 2009 promises to be more of the same, perhaps even some more full-time jobs being held down by youngsters as Chris Perez, Jason Motte and hopefully Colby Rasmus will all contribute.
5. LaRussa’s (and perhaps Duncan’s, jointly) future in doubt
This one is kind of a 2008 carrying into 2009 story, but one worth mentioning. Tony LaRussa signed a 2-year contract prior to the 2008 campaign that will carry him through the upcoming season. Speculation is rampant that LaRussa is nearing the end of his managing career, that he is looking toward retirement in the near future. There are no tell-tale signs from LaRussa as such, but rumors have long been flying about now that LaRussa might not be enjoying as much input on the roster as he once did with former GM Walt Jocketty. There are those that believe LaRussa isn’t interested in any sort of rebuilding process (which the Cardinals can’t seem to firmly get into or out of). Many others believe that LaRussa is too committed to using veteran players or role players to fill out his roster, rather than bring along youngsters – which the team has focused on under the control of Jeff Luhnow and Mozeliak. What does this all mean? You tell me. All I know is that Cardinal fans could be in for a wake-up call once LaRussa is done. Not necessarily a bad wake up call, not necessarily a good one. Things will just be…different. Pitching coach Dave Duncan may or may not follow LaRussa off into the sunset or wherever he heads. Who would be a leading candidate to replace TLR? Jose Oquendo? Pop Warner? Maybe Dunc himself? Methinks this is bound to become a yearly watch, perhaps even a series of one-year contracts, until LaRussa decides to hang it up. At the least, it seems very clear that the current ownership will give Tony a free pass as long as he wants it.
Agree or disagree? I love to banter with you in the comments section.
Cheers to 2008, here’s looking forward to 2009!