Posted on November 30, 2007 at 12:30 AM
Filed Under: St. Louis Cardinals
This is the first attempt at a Cardinal blogger collaborative project. I hope that the bloggers involved enjoy it enough to try doing more things together in the near future.
Those scheduled to post their selections today include Readin' Redbird, Redbirds Fun, CardinalsGM, Rockin' the Red, Redbird Ramblings, and CardinalsNationGlobe. Check all of them out (I'll direct link to their post when they get them up) and then come back here next week for a consolidated ballot. (Future Redbirds has theirs up now as well.)
So, without much further ado, let's see my selections for the CBA. My selections are noted in bold.
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1. Cardinal Pitcher of the Year
Really, this was pretty easy, mainly because most of the Cardinal pitching was so atrocious in the past year. I mean, I don't think you'll see too many selections of Kip Wells (no matter his good stretch this summer) or Anthony Reyes for this category. The Cardinals fashioned an ERA of 4.65 with a 1.41 WHIP. It wasn't much fun watching the descendants of Gibson, Carlton, Tudor and Carpenter this season.
That said, even in the darkest times there are points of light. Jason Isringhausen made an impressive comeback from his hip problems. He might have had 40 saves this year if the Cardinals weren't routinely in games with large score differentials. Ryan Franklin and Russ Springer both had very solid years out of the pen, with Springer fashioning a 2.18 ERA. In fact, it could and has been said that the bullpen was the strength of the team in 2007. They definitely had to pitch a lot, with the starters leaving so early most nights.
However, I'm one that believes that a good starter beats a great reliever and Adam Wainwright fits that to a tee. On June 7, he stood at 4-5 with a 5.19 ERA. After that he went on a tear, including an August with a 2.00 ERA and two wins, to finish at 14-12, 3.70. He became the guy everyone wanted to see, the stopper, the one that could keep the bleeding to a minimum and give the Cards a chance to win. When that was so rare last year, it makes you appreciate it that much more. So, to me, Wainwright was the Cardinals' pitcher of the year.
2. Cardinal Player of the Year
There were a number of players that had good years with the bat. You had Rick Ankiel giving the team a boost in August, but he didn't play in MLB all season. Chris Duncan did great early in the year, but those injuries got to him down the stretch and put him on the shelf eventually. You had Yadier Molina showing that he's closer to the 2006 Playoff Yadi than the 2006 Regular Season Yadi, plus playing (should-have-been) Gold Glove defense. For an all-around player in 2007, you could do a lot worse than Molina.
The problem for all of these people, both now and in the near future, is that they are on the same team as a no-doubt Hall of Famer, who even in his down years puts up .300/30/100. Albert Pujols will be winning this award for many years, and when he's done winning it, we'll have to rename it the Albert Pujols award.
3. Game of the Year
Most years, I make a list of impressive and important games as they happen. Games like a low-hit shutout or three home runs. In 2007, I made no list. There weren't a lot of exciting games to note down.
The early August game that saw Rick Ankiel make his triumphant debut, returning from his demon-scarred pitching background to return as a slugging outfielder would have to be one of the most stirring moments of the year. The fact that he added a home run in that game was just about Hollywood. Of course, for some, the HGH story that came out afterwards tinged that memory.
The rally against the Phillies probably would have topped the list if they had been able to completely overcome the 11-0 deficit. Losing 13-11 was much better than a blowout, but the end results was the same.
My pick for the game that defines 2007 is September 7 against the Arizona Diamondbacks. After such a terrible year, going into that game the Cardinals were one game out of the NL Central lead held by Milwaukee and Chicago, with the new ace, Wainwright, on the hill. During the game, the team sees that both the Brewers and Cubs have lost, meaning a win gives them the lead in the division by percentage points. The Cardinals go into the bottom of the sixth leading 2-1, but can't hold on and lose 4-2, starting a nine-game slide that took them completely out of contention.
It was so symbolic of the Cardinals season. They were so close, both in the game and in the standings, just to see it slip away and collapse around them in a heap instead of a slow trickle. Say what you want about this team, but they rarely did anything in half measures.
4. Cardinal Rookie of the Year
There wasn't much to choose from in this category. You had pitchers like Troy Cate, who only threw 16 innings (though they weren't bad innings) and Andy Cavazos, who pitched more innings but they weren't good ones and was released at the end of the season.
The only hitter was Brendan Ryan. Ryan played in 67 games, batted .289, and even filled in at third passably when he'd never played the position before. It's pretty obvious he was the only choice to make here.
5. Surprise of the Year
If someone had told you where the Cardinals would stand as of November 30, 2007 on November 30, 2006, there'd be a lot of things that you wouldn't believe. Finishing third in the weak NL Central? Losing Chris Carpenter for the year? Troy Percival coming out of retirement to be one of the best relievers in the pen? Braden Looper actually becoming a serviceable starter?
All those things were fairly surprising, but I think what tops them all was the dismissal of Walt Jocketty as the Cardinals' GM. Walt had been here for so long and been so successful that it was surprising when he left and not entirely of his own accord. The situation apparently was intolerable to him and Bill Dewitt was willing to let him walk without much of a fight. While the game may have changed on Walt, he did a lot of great things in St. Louis and not having him around now is probably the most surprising thing that happened in 2007.
6. Cardinal Blog of the Year
It's almost like the voting for Player of the Year. As long as Larry keeps churning it out, Viva El Birdos is likely going to win this vote. You get your stat work, general discussions, and it seems to be a focal point for Cardinal Internet Nation. Sooner or later, everyone comes to Larry's.
A close runner-up, though, would have to be the fine work of the folks at Future Redbirds. Erik and azruavatar keep us up to date with the minor leagues. Who is doing what, who is doing better than expected, what should we actually expect out of them. If you want to know about the baby birds, you have to go to FR.
That's not to slight any of the other great Cardinal blogs that are going or have started up this year. It's been great to read all of the different takes on Cardinal baseball and starting to work together on things like this.
7. Surprise Player of the Year
For such a tortuous year, there were a number of good surprises on the field. Few expected Ankiel to be up at the beginning of August, and even fewer expected he'd make the impact that he did. Ryan Franklin, Troy Percival, Russ Springer and Jason Isringhausen combined to make the bullpen one of the few reliable parts of the 2007 Cardinals. We might have expected it out of Izzy (though after '06, that's debatable), but very little out of the other guys.
My choice here, though, is Yadier Molina. We all knew he was good behind the plate, though his penchant for picking players off first was something kinda new and very much worth watching. And I think most of us thought that he'd improve at the plate. But to get up to .275 with 6 home runs and 40 RBI was pretty much out of the blue. It got to the point where I wanted Molina at the plate with a runner on second and two out, because I was pretty sure he'd get the hit. His numbers may have been even better without his wrist injury (he struggled some after returning from that) and the knee injury that ended his season. When you combine the whole package, it was a very impressive year and one that surprised most of the Cardinal faithful.
8. Disappointing Player of the Year
Where do you start? There's a long line of players that could be considered disappointments. I mean, if you really wanted to stretch it, Pujols's year was disappointing, but not anywhere in the realm of the players we are considering. Still, it seemed to infect everyone. Jim Edmonds was hurt and struggled more than we wanted to see. Scott Rolen couldn't hit, though he still had that defense thing going on. The big off-season signing, Adam Kennedy, was lost at the plate and not nearly as strong in the field as advertised.
The pitching staff, mainly the rotation, wasn't any better. Kip Wells had his moments but was shelled way too often to get an invite back to St. Louis. Mike Maroth, well, unfortunately there was more than a roster reason that Detroit released him. Mark Mulder didn't come back like we hoped and when he did pitch, it was another reminder of how bad that trade had turned out for St. Louis. Chris Carpenter got hurt Opening Night, raised our hopes with a strong rehab, then was out the rest of the season with surgery. Any of these players are worth candidates for the title.
However, as much as it pains me to do so, I have to select Anthony Reyes as the most disappointing Cardinal of the year. After seeing those flashes in 2006, the one-hitter against the White Sox, the dominant Game 1 in the World Series, we expected more out of Reyes in 2007. If nothing else, around a 4.00 ERA as he alternated between strong outing and struggling. Whether it was because of the conflict between his ideas and Duncan's ideas or something else, the good Reyes never seemed to show up in a season where we really needed him to. He always seemed to have the one really bad inning that put the Cardinals in a hole they couldn't get out of. Hopefully he'll turn it around next year and be more of what we were expecting.
9. New Cardinal Acquisition of the Year
A lot of Walt's acquisitions didn't pan out the way he would have liked, which is probably why he's resting this week instead of planning for the GM meetings in Nashville. Kip Wells showed flashes here and there but on the whole was a disappointment. Adam Kennedy was terrible. Mike Maroth was worse.
The best of the bunch had to be Joel Pineiro. Not only did he seem to come to life down the stretch, providing the Cardinals with someone besides Wainwright that we as fans could feel confident in, but he also pitched well enough to get a new contract from the team. I'm on record saying I think he'll regress somewhat next year, but if this turnaround was a sign of things to come, he'll be a big help in 2008.
10. Most Anticipated Cardinal
I'm a pitching guy. I love the new young pitchers around the league, so if the Cardinals had someone like a Francisco Liriano or a Felix Hernandez in the minors, I'd be selecting them in a heartbeat.
The Cardinals do have some pitching prospects, people like Jamie Garcia or P.J. Walters, but none of them seem to be the shutdown, #1 type pitcher that I'd love to see the Cardinals develop. That's why I'm going with Colby Rasmus.
Besides the fact that I can't wait until my cheese-loving wife finds out the Cardinals have a guy named Colby, Rasmus is showing that he likely could be a power/speed combination that the Cards haven't had in a while. His stint with Team USA only solidified his potential and I still think a strong spring and he could break camp with the Cardinals next year. Even if he gets some Memphis time, we should see Rasmus next year, something that may help break up a tough 2008.