With approximately 11 days until the MLB season begins, it’s time for the first annual Cards ‘N Stuff “Predictions That Count”! Sure, Roster Predictions and Division Predictions are all well and good…but everyone’s doing those these days. Fans want something new and exciting…fresh and real!
Well…you get this instead. So on we go with the 2010 Predictions That Count!
Best Non-Cubs Rivalry:
Already we start out with a tough one. The Reds are supposed to be much-improved and could challenge early for the divisional lead – and who can forget the “We’re comin’ home in first place!!!” prediction last year? – but ultimately, Scott Rolen and Walt Jocketty will more than likely keep that team under wraps. The Astros/Cards rivalry has always been more respectful than not (Brandon Backe not withstanding), and the Pirates will always be everyone’s annoying little brother – sure, you like to hold ’em down and let your spit hang low, but they aren’t really a threat. That leaves the Brewers. Ugh.
Milwaukee has GOT to be out for blood after last year’s disappointing season. Let’s face it…they’ve got a team full of arrogant you-know-whats, chips on their shoulders, and Jim Edmonds begging for plate appearances in the dugout (does Jimmy E. remind anyone of “Mr. 3,000” this year? Returning to the game when he realizes his numbers aren’t quite what he wants them to be?). All that adds up to a choreographed rivalry between the Redbirds and the Brew Crew as the Best Non-Cubs Rivalry of the season (although, a non-divisional rivalry with the Mets seems to be brewing).
With the departure of Chris Duncan, Busch Stadium fans are fretting over who to bash from the relative safety of their couches. Joe Thurston was a fun stand-in for much of the 2009 season, but he has mercifully gone elsewhere as well. So who is left? Well…with such a loaded lineup, it’s difficult to find someone to bag on…but in the end, I gotta’ go with Julio Lugo.
After the signing of Lopez, Lugo became obsolete and entirely forgettable overnight. As such, fans will love to demand he perform at a high level with his 6 at-bats per week off the bench. At least…they will until he’s traded. At that point, I gotta’ believe Felipe Lopez will inherit the title. As the only bench player capable of hitting from the left side of the plate, Flip will undoubtedly carry quite a bit of responsibility. Normally, that wouldn’t be a problem – he has hit .300 for much of the last 2 seasons – but I’m not convinced Lopez is going to repeat his .300 performance as he floats around the field and the order with irregular appearances. The fact that his signing was so highly publicized and anticipated will not help lower expectations either.
Since the decline of Isringhausen, Cardinal fans have traditionally chosen a whipping boy in the bullpen to routinely bag on. This typically takes the form of, “Oh crap…(Blank) is coming in! There goes the game.” This season, I gotta’ believe it will be Mitchell Boggs. TLR and Dunc are setting this kid up for a beatin’. He’s got strong stuff, and I like his bulldog attitude, but he just ain’t gonna’ get it done from game to game. When he starts droppin’ 8th inning leads every other night, THEN things will get hairy. I mean, we’re not talkin’ about puttin’ him in for mop-up duty. They’re lookin’ at Boggs as the go-to-guy for men-on-base, game-on-the-line situations. He just hasn’t shown the control or consistency for that. Poor guy. I’ve always liked Boggs, too…but this year, he’s gonna’ be the Bullpen Goat.
Best Tango-with-the-Truth Medical Situation:
Gotta’ be Brad Penny. Think about this for a second. Lohse doesn’t get those kinds of injuries. He just gets publicly drilled and swells up like a ripe tomato. If Waino or Carp get an injury, the Cardinals will send them on a four-month Disney World vacation to avoid long-term damage. Same with Jaime Garcia and his gimpy arm. But Penny…well…that guy’s a rental. We all know we ain’t gonna’ see him after 2010. And he’s of the same mind, so he wants to pitch through as much as possible to get that contract in 2011. All of that combined with the fact that Penny is in a comeback year makes him the most likely to struggle with some mysterious and rarely heard of injury.
Why am I focusing on a pitcher, you ask? Because with starting pitchers, there are just WAY too many ways to play the Hokey Pokey with the media. “Uh…well…he’s experiencing some elbow discomfort” or “You see, he was playing Guitar Hero the other night and tweaked his strummin’ thumb” or the ever popular “No, no…his shoulder is completely fine…he just can’t get the right arm angle/position/feel/mechanics/delivery/diet/jersey color/shoe size/etc.” However you slice it, Penny is this year’s choice for Best Tango-with-the-Truth Medical Situation.
Most Second-Guessed TLR Decision:
This is tricky because Cardinal fans LOVE to second-guess their manager and it’s such a specific prediction to make. He’s not hitting the pitcher 8th any longer, we finally have 3 regular outfielders, and Franklin has established himself as the best option in the ‘pen to close out games. So what’s left? I suppose we could go with something bland like who hits in the two hole or should Skip/Colby play against lefties…but that’s no fun, huh? So let’s go with an oldie but a goody…how Tony handles young talent (specifically David Freese and Jaime Garcia).
I can almost guarantee you that at some point in the season, the following two statements will gain momentum: 1) Tony hates kids and rookies and that’s why he plays Felipe Lopez so much at third base instead of Freese…2) Tony ruins young pitching arms – just look what he’s doing with Jaime Garcia!!! Every stinkin’ year, man…
Every year fans jump on the club for not calling up some young slugger that’s tearin’ it up in Triple A. But this year, Brett Wallace has been traded, Rick Ankiel signed with KC, Colby Rasmus is on the team, Jaime Garcia is in the rotation (most likely), and Joe Mather and Allen Craig are likely on the bench. Who could possibly be anointed as the SAVIOR of the Cardinals fresh out of Triple A?
Mark Hamilton. Let’s face it…the Cardinals’ lack of a power-hitting, left-handed bat off the bench is a significant hole on a TLR-coached National League team (although it could be argued that our LH bench bats last season weren’t any better than a right-handed option most days). Although green, Hamilton does have power and does hit from the left side. With a lack of any major left-handed possibilities in the minors this year, I predict fans will be clamoring for Mark Hamilton to get a call-up as a left-handed power hitter by July.
What I’ve Learned…
What I’ve learned in putting this post up is this: There are a lot of worthless pictures on Google Images. Ugh.