Today is the day that Cardinals fans everywhere have anticipated since the last out of the 2011 World Series. Today is the day the Cardinals defend their World Series title and hopefully add a 12th World Series trophy to the trophy case. Can’t you just feel the electricity in the air?
This season will be very interesting, for a number of reasons. Three big factors are missing from this year’s team. Manager Tony LaRussa retired, first baseman Albert Pujols left for greener fields (literally and figuratively), and pitching coach Dave Duncan is on an “extended leave of absence” to take care of his wife, who has cancer.
Will the Cardinals be able to overcome these missing pieces? Tony LaRussa’s replacement is Mike Matheny, who was a favorite when he was a Cardinals catcher, but who also has no major league managing experience. But of the players who become managers, catchers are the best, due to their knowledge of what happens on the field and their ability to handle pitchers. Ironically, Mike is now managing Yadier Molina, the catcher who replaced him in the lineup.
Lance Berkman has replaced Albert Pujols at first base. Lance has plenty of experience playing first base from his days with the Astros, so there are no concerns here. Lance’s move to first base left a hole in the outfield, which was filled by Cardinals killer Carlos Beltran. Cardinals fans are thankful that Beltran is now hitting for us, instead of against us.
Dave Duncan’s replacement is Derek Lilliquist, who was Dave’s assistant. Dave will be impossible to completely replace, for obvious reasons. Dave could take old, washed up pitchers and make them able to pitch well again. Whenever the Cards signed a new pitcher, I would joke with my husband that “here comes Dave Duncan’s latest reclamation project.” But surely Lilliquist has observed Duncan’s techniques over the years and will be able to put them into practice. He ran the pitching staff during Duncan’s absence in September and October last year, and I think things went rather well during that time, don’t you?
And there are other questions as well. Who will start at second base? Will this be Tyler Greene’s year? Or will Daniel Descalso (a personal favorite) take over the position? Will Skip Schumacher get any playing time at second once he recovers from his injury? And will WS and NLCS MVP David Freese be able to play for a full season without injury?
As usual, there are injuries to report. Chris Carpenter is once again having shoulder problems and as of right now, it’s not certain when he’ll be able to pitch again. Allen Craig is coming off of knee surgery, but his return has not been scheduled. Skip Schumacher is suffering from a pulled oblique muscle.
Now let’s move on to some good things. Adam Wainwright is back and pitching like it was 2010 all over again. Yadier Molina, unlike Albert Pujols, did not make the team and the fans wait all season to see if he would sign with the Cardinals or move on to greener pastures. He got the deal done during spring training and Cardinals fans everywhere heaved a big sigh of relief.
The Cardinals signed Rafael Furcal to a 2 year deal to plug the hole at shortstop. The shortstop it position has been a rotating door, so it’s good to have this position filled on a permanent basis. And Jason Motte has finally been designated the closer.
All in all, I believe 2012 will be a promising year. The Cardinals cannot rest on their laurels; they will have to go all out and play as a team. If all comes together and there are no major injuries, I think the Cardinals will win a 12th World Championship in 2012.
And now for the giveaway! The folks at A&E Network Home Entertainment/MLB Productions have given us Cardinals bloggers 3 more sets of the 8 DVD 2011 St. Louis Cardinals World Series Collectors Set to give away. Send the answer (and your name and address) to firstname.lastname@example.org to the following question: In what Midwestern city did the Cardinals hold spring training during World War 2? If you’re not lucky enough to win, click on the link to purchase a set of your own: http://shop.mlb.com/product/index.jsp?productId=12179276&cp=2366583.2498437
Thanks for reading! See you next time!
P.S.: I am no longer writing for Diamond Diaries, since they decided to go back to a two writer format. I will voice my Cardinals opinions here on this blog, so please bookmark it for future reference. Thanks!