Now that the current St. Louis shortstop appears off the Troy Glaus recovery program, I felt it was a good time to close out the infield on our, ahem, rather late look at the 2009 Cardinals. Brendan Ryan has every opportunity to lock down a key defensive position for as long as he wants it, but that was not the case heading into the off-season after the 2008 campaign.
Long-forgotten Cesar Izturis (I had to look up who was the starter back in ’08) was not retained, and the St. Louis front office started a trend in December that would remain in effect until July — look out for that info next week! San Diego became the trade target for another left-side infielder, and Khalil Greene was the big acquisition for the offense.
At the time of the deal, I thought it was a no-lose situation for both player and team. The Padres had all but given up on Greene, and a fresh start with the Cardinals had done many other players well. It was also low risk due to a one-year contract that had no strings attached and seemingly only cost a couple of minor league relief pitchers. Oops is the only way to describe how that trade worked out.
Greene has now found himself out of baseball after a recurring bout with social anxiety disorder, and I wish him well in his recovery. While the cost of Mark Worrell and Luke Gregerson can be debated later, the Cardinals proved they were willing to use an improved minor league system to get back in the playoff hunt. This philosophy has to be continued as long as St. Louis wishes to employ the services of Albert Pujols and Tony La Russa which is a strong recommendation.
Back to the task at hand, the Greene situation came to a head early in the regular season but resulted in my pick for surprise of the decade. Yup, I’m going there and here’s why — Brendan Ryan had long lost his prospect status due to injuries and erratic play. TLR could have renamed his doghouse for No. 13 but then the opportunity to shine finally landed on the game’s best mustache. He won the utility infielder role coming out of spring training mainly due to the fact that no one was sure how well Skip Schumacher at second and the 3B rotation were going to hold up in April.
Ryan plays reckless at times and shows his youth far more than is needed, but St. Louis doesn’t make the playoffs without him anchoring the infield in my opinion. He stepped in flawlessly and allowed the front office to address other concerns that ultimately have the team where it is today. That makes it all the more special and unexpected at the same time plus it never hurt that Ryan was sure to do something that made the manager shake his head. I don’t know about you, but I for one love that quality in a ballplayer in the right situation.
Let Pujols and Yadier Molina get all the defensive recognition — Boog was my pick for Gold Glove consideration last year. He makes plays in the field that shouldn’t even be attempted at times, and I enjoy every minute of it. He scores a high A on defense from me, and the expectations couldn’t be higher heading into 2010. As for his offense, I’m not sold that he should be at the top of the lineup. I actually preferred him as the second lead-off man anchoring the nine hole but sadly, those days appear behind us.
Enough with that business, my final grade stands at an A- only because I want him to run more. He should have the green light all the time and be free to give the opposing teams fits from any base. This may be far-fetched I realize, but it is also a recurring theme that would better suit the Cardinals in my opinion.
I’m going to rank the rest of the shortstop crew together, simply because no one stood out of the crowd. Khalil and Tyler Greene, Julio Lugo, and Brian Barden all took turns holding Ryan’s position in a C-/D+ way. If 2009 is remembered for nothing else, I hope it is the start of a long tenure for the best I have seen since the Wizard.