Spring Training games are finally underway…what better way to start the Baseball Blogging Season than by injecting a little flamboyant hope into the denizens of Cardinals Nation? So…here they are…the Cards ‘N Stuff “Top 10 Reasons to be Optimistic” about your 2009 St. Louis Cardinals.
(I considered going in order of least to greatest…but the OCD in me doesn’t like having the number 10 on top…too top-heavy. So deal…)
1. Chris Carpenter I’ve heard some chatter about the Cardinals counting too much on Carpenter’s health. I disagree – strongly. The Cardinals can’t go out and sign anyone capable of filling a mid-rotation spot just to watch him sit on the bench if Carp is healthy. And if he’s not healthy? K-Mac, anyone? And if someone else goes down? Well…that’s why we have Thompson, Boggs, etc. Don’t worry…we’ll make it through. For now, just revel in the glorious anticipation of watching a healthy Chris Carpenter flingin’ it old style from the mound.
2. Adam Wainwright The Wagon Maker makes the rotation go ’round. Waino is now the heart of this pitching staff – dependable, healthy, and capable. The guy knows how to compete, and despite his fluke finger injury last year, you can count on him to run out their every fifth day. He’s a pitcher any team – any team – would love to have right now. The mere presence of a pitcher of his caliber is reason enough to be optimistic.
3. Our Starting Rotation Okay…I know it’s kind of cheating to use Carp and Waino as 1 and 2 and then make the overall rotation number 3…but it’s warranted. Think about it – Carp and Waino are self-explanatory…but the rest of our rotation looks like this: Lohse, Wellemeyer, and Pin-head (I refuse to call him anything else until he pulls his head out of his posterior). In ’08, Lohse should have been an All-Star (’nuff said). Wellemeyer won a Pitcher of the Month award and was one of the best in baseball when he was healthy. And Pin-head? Well…I really think he’ll be better than last year…but even if he’s not, Tony won’t let him flounder there. He’ll make a move fairly soon. J.P is on a very short leash. Overall, our rotation certainly makes me optimistic.
4. Kahlil Greene A significant upgrade to the lineup at SS, Greene has the potential to be a huge hit (pardon the pun) this year. Expect him to hit closer to his 27 homer season than his dismal 10 homer performance of last year. Sure, he won’t be a .300 hitter, but he’s going to fill a large hole in the order.
5. Not-So-Holey Lineup Again…cheating. With the addition of Greene at SS and the departure of Kennedy at second, we have the potential to conceivably fill every hole in our lineup this season. Schumaker has a very real shot to stick at second base, and that improves this lineup in more ways than one. First, Skip upgrades our second-base position by about 20 BA points and 7 home runs. Second, by fitting Skip into the lineup at second, we get to upgrade his previously held starting outfield spot with either a power upgrade (Duncan) or 5-tool player upgrade (Rasmus). Third, simply by moving Skip to second, we’ve not only upgraded an outfield spot AND a 2B spot – we’ve upgraded the bench. By not being forced to add a so-so hitting second baseman to our lineup, we get to add a clear offensive threat in Mather/Rasmus/Duncan/Unknown to our roster. Our bench can go back to being an asset as opposed to a liability – like in 2004. That’s right…I just compared this lineup to the 2004 offensive powerhouse. Think about it…put a lineup together that includes Skip at second base and hitting in the lead-off spot. Where’s the hole? That was the one thing that was so effective about our ’04 lineup – there was no hole in the order.
6. 3rd Base Depth This is something we lacked last season. When Glaus couldn’t go…we might as well put a sheet of plywood up next to the third base bag and take an automatic out at the plate. Now, however, not only do we have Freese, Mather, and one or two other viable options, but we even have the ability to spell Glaus every once in a while to keep him strong. I think he got winded last year and had a few stretches where he was either just worn out or just a bit outta whack. Without a viable backup, he couldn’t really take a day off. This year is different. Having a good backup will make Glaus and the team better.
7. No Sheets/Sabathia Last season, I could’ve thrown my head against a brick wall more than once at the prospect of facing a rotation like the Brewers in a short series. This year, we have the upper hand. With Carp, Waino, Lohse, and Wellemeyer facing a Sheets/Sabathia-less Brew-Crew…I gotta’ say I feel good about our chances in the division.
8. Albert’s Elbow While he didn’t have the major surgery we all fear, he did have a minor surgery to hopefully relieve some of the pain he’s decided to play through. He should be even more impactful to the lineup this year than he was last year…especially since the guys behind him are a bit more established in the eyes of MLB pitchers.
9. One More Year Last year, we all wondered how Ank would hold up serving a full season in an MLB outfield; we had no clue what Luddy was capable of doing; and Dunc was a non-factor at the plate and a distracting topic in the fan base. THIS year, however, things are different. Ank is healthy and ready to build on the success he had last season. Dunc is healthy for the first time in two years and ready to reclaim the raw power we all know he has stowed away in that large frame. And Luddy…he’s finally put it all together as an everyday player…the first quality everyday player we’ve had in right field since Larry Walker (who had to be spelled here and there due to age and wear and tear). What a difference a year makes…
10. They’re STILL the Cubs ‘Nuff said.