As a failed former third baseman, I know just how crucial and difficult this position can be to a successful club. This becomes even more apparent when multiple players are used to try and lock down the hot corner. Some teams can hide an offensive liability around the diamond but rarely, if ever, does the 3B spot stick without the total package.
St. Louis employed a unique effort last year to say the least, but only because Troy Glaus became a non-existent piece of the team while on the disabled list. David Freese began and ended 2009 as the best option, but it took a wild ride for him to come out on top. Instead of looking at every individual, my look at the Cards will be done in a different format so here goes nothing.
MAR/APR: Freese did start Opening Day after Joe Mather all but gave away the spot towards the end of Spring Training. He didn’t look right, however, and ended up on the DL which gives us the lead in for multiple options. The first two who stepped up (literally) were Brian Barden and Joe Thurston. Using the opportunity to their advantage, both became rally starters instead of momentum killers in the lineup. Either one could have nabbed NL Rookie of the Month honors, with Barden taking home the surprise hardware (A-).
MAY/JUNE: How quickly the tide can turn…leaving the Cards with a giant hole and Mo on the phone. Even after the trade for Mark DeRosa, the luck was not on the St. Louis side when you combine THE injury and sub-par play by all parties, including newcomer Tyler Greene. Just take this one stat to heart — all players combined to hit a pair of home runs over both months or one less than Khalil Greene smacked against the Royals (D-).
JULY/AUG: DeRosa came back too soon, he admitted as much. Unfortunately you get very little points for guts, so I’ll chalk it up to being tired of seeing Thurston running into outs. He does get more points for hitting a team-leading seven home runs in July, but that pesky wrist surely contributes to the 18 strikeouts as well. August saw another huge power outage for DeRo and the gang, but then again another newcomer was pulling up the slack. The Cards were on a roll and Super Joe played very little, two things that made me very happy over the summer (B-).
SEPT/OCT: Expanding the rosters brought back Freese and long-forgotten Glaus but didn’t do much for the offense. While St. Louis was on cruise-control into the postseason, the quartet at 3B forgot how to hit a baseball, finishing with more strikeouts than hits. The only possible bright side was a home run by Freese, who overcame his injuries and gave a glimpse of what the future might hold (C-).
Not even a math major could try and figure out those numbers. When everything is factored in, I’m left with a tough decision. No one would consider the DeRosa trade a success, but it was an upgrade over everyone else who attempted to man the spot. Mather was my favorite choice after hearing about Glaus, but that idea went much the same way a lot of 2009 did.
In a strange twist, the injuries may have helped the big club in a huge way. The DeRosa deal and then injury forced another move in July. All of the roster shake-up caused a certain 2008 draftee to get promoted to Memphis. With Brett Wallace blowing up the prospect radar, the last piece of the puzzle was complete. Now that wouldn’t make me reconsider things…
Final grade C- in what could ultimately be one of the strangest years in my memory for any position in recent Cards history.