Just when I thought it was safe to venture into my backlog of blog pieces, I remembered the December project for the United Cardinal Bloggers (UCB). The project is the top 5 stories of 2010 in Cardinals baseball, and it shouldn’t be a difficult piece to write.
5. Cardinals sign Albert Pujols to mega-deal extension for 8 yrs / $72M.
4. Cardinals sign LHP Cliff Lee in surprising November move to bolster rotation.
3. TLR, Brendan Ryan, Steve Kline, Dennis Eckersley, and Kirk Gibson form new “boy band” and hit clubs during the All-Star break, performing Kum-Ba-Yah and ending each performance with a big group hug.
2. Albert Pujols wins new “Player of the Decade Award” along with Silver Slugger, Gold Glove, NL MVP, and “MLB SuperMANG” award.
1. Cardinals win NL Central division by 12 games, and then go on to win all playoff series by narrowest of margins. Ryan Franklin sets postseason record by loading the bases and bringing the tying/winning run to the plate in each of his appearances. Broadcasters coin new phrase “semi-closer” in honor of Franklin.
Okay, so those didn’t really happen. On to the REAL top 5:
5. Holliday edges Pujols for team lead in batting by the slightest of margins. It wasn’t so much about what Matt Holliday did as it is about what Pujols didn’t do. Albert’s typically ridiculous line of .312/.414/.593/1.011 with 42 hr and 118 rbi hide some numbers that concern me as a fan. In 155 opportunities, Albert grounded into double plays 15% of the time which represents the 2nd highest percentage of his career. His contact percentage of 84% was the 2nd lowest of his career behind his rookie season (79%). His swinging strike percentage of 11% tied for 2nd worst of his career with his 2nd season and only surpassed by his rookie year (15%). Finally, Albert’s percentage of extra bases taken hit a career low of 40% in 2010. Now, all of these are still really, really good compared to the average MLB player, so it’s not like there’s any reason to panic. However, it’s worth pointing out that these could be good indicators of a slow decline in his game. It’s inevitable, but that doesn’t mean that it’s welcome, especially with a potential extension on the horizon.
4. Cardinals are decimated by injury to 5th, 6th, and 14th starters. The Cardinals panic and trade Ryan Ludwick (.281/.343/.484/.827, 11 hr, 43 rbi) to San Diego for some shiny beads, some Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans, and a very small bucket of waterlogged golf balls. Okay, actually the Cardinals got Nick Greenwood from the Padres and Jake Westbrook from the Indians, and the Indians got Corey Kluber from the Padres, but you get my point. The team was concerned about the affordability of Ludwick in arbitration, so now they are paying Lance Berkman $8Mto patrol RF instead. That’s like swapping your rental car from a midsize to a compact only to end up paying an extra $40/day fee and ending up driving a cargo van. If Ludwick leads the Padres to the 2015 WS, I’ll weep uncontrollably and blog about it for a week.
3. Colby Rasmus trade request. Colby Rasmus non-trade request. The Colby Rasmus trade request that didn’t really happen, and that nobody knew about, even though John Mozeliak talked to somebody about something that may have implied that he knew that Colby had asked his friend’s neighbor about his college roommate’s best friend’s podiatrist who knew a guy who asked about a trade request in 1983. I thought the whole thing was a bunch of foolishness. People get frustrated all the time, and they say a lot of things that they don’t really want repeated as “newsworthy”. Let it go. In my mind, the real newsworthy part is the way Albert Pujols reacted when baited into reacting. He really jumped the shark on that one and showed his true colors, and I got a good laugh about it. He tipped his hand, and I think it did really provide a good indicator about who is calling the shots in the clubhouse and in the organization. Some people say it’s about the veteran’s like Carpenter and Pujols. Forget Carp. It’s not that he’s not a respected voice in the clubhouse. I think he is. It’s just that he’s about as close to “lame duck” status as it gets in baseball, and the team hasn’t done anything to change that. As an aside, I’d like to see them do something about that as soon as possible and lay to rest some of the rumors (including the ones started by me). It’s all about AP. He blew up without knowing all the facts, and it was great watching him lose his cool.
2. St. Louis falls apart like a cheap suit in August. As of August 1st, the Cardinals held a 1/2 game lead on the Reds. By August 31st, the Cardinals were 7 games back and working on a 4 game losing streak. I was reminded of the golf saying that you “drive for show, and you putt for dough”. Looking back, that really was the month to put the pedal down. The schedule looked pretty good with series against the Pirates, Astros, Marlins, Reds, Cubs, Brewers, Giants, and Nationals. They even swept the series against the Reds, so there was no excuse for not making that the “close out” month.
1. I think that the top story of 2010 for the Cardinals is the one that just keeps on giving. It’s the Pujols extension that hasn’t happened yet. It’s playing out completely in Albert’s favor, because it’s being kept completely private. That allows AP to maintain his privacy and keeps all the pressure on Mo and the Cardinals, and I for one would like to see the tables turned just enough to square things up a bit. It’s really not about the money. He can ask for pretty much just about anything, and a huge percentage of the fanbase won’t even blink. I’d like to see the team make a public offer big enough to make people question Albert’s commitment to staying in St. Louis. They’ve already pushed the 2010 payroll to over $110M in what I believe is an effort to make him happy and make the team competitive for a single season. That’s a huge show of good faith. It’s time to ask for something in return. Make the contract extension the biggest story of 2011.
Like the list? Wonder why I didn’t include the Ryan and/or Theriot trade? Find me on Twitter or leave a comment!