It’s that time of year again – time for the “Best ____ of 2011” lists. Below is my list on the top 5 Cardinals stories of 2011. Your mileage may vary, so comment below if you agree or disagree.
1. 2011 World Series Championship
If you had asked me in the middle of August whether I thought the Cardinals would win the World Series this year, I would have laughed in your face. After all that happened in the 2011 season, who would have thought they would win the World Series? It was destiny, written in Heaven by a benevolent God who must enjoy baseball. How else do you explain a September Cards surge/Braves swoon, or the Rally Squirrel, the dramatic comeback in Game 6, or a fortuitous rainout that allowed Chris Carpenter to pitch Game 7?
2. Albert leaves the Cardinals and signs with the Angels
Contract talks broke off between the Cards and Pujols before the season began, which led to a season of speculation – would Albert stay or would he go? Albert did indeed leave and signed a 10 year contract with the Angels. There are not too many people upset about Albert leaving, however. Not signing Albert means there is money available to sign other players such as Carlos Beltran, etc. At least Albert will be playing in the American League, where the Cards won’t be facing him unless they play the Angels in interleague play or the World Series. Wouldn’t playing the Angels in the World Series be divine justice?
3. Tony LaRussa retires
Cardinals fans were still aglow about the World Series win when Tony announced his retirement. It was like a bubble had been burst. The Cardinals manager with the longest tenure was retiring. Love him or hate him, you have to wish him well for the future and congratulate him on what he accomplished while managing the Cardinals.
4. Mike Matheny named manager
Surprisingly, the Cardinals named the candidate with the least amount of managerial experience to be the manager. This puzzled many Cardinals fans. But those of us who remember Mike as a player know that he had a great deal of experience running the game from that position behind home plate. He has a great rapport with players and coaches from his playing days here. I’m sure he’ll do just fine.
5. Adam Wainwright’s season-ending injury in spring training
Imagine how different the season might have been if Adam hadn’t injured his elbow. The Cards could have won the division outright rather than sneaking in via the wild card. Tony probably wouldn’t have to use the bullpen in middle relief so often. With Adam pitching, the playoff series would have ended earlier, since he would win one game in each series.
The 2011 season was anything but boring. I’m looking forward to the Cardinals’ 2012 season and perhaps 12 in 12? Thanks for reading! I wish for you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!