Posted on December 28, 2012 at 4:50 PM
Filed Under: St. Louis Cardinals
| United Cardinal Bloggers
It's telling about this offseason that I can not write for over a week and still not necessarily have a backlog of things to talk about. Sure, Ty Wigginton got signed and that's pretty inexplicable, but others have covered that better than I have. Other than that, what? Listing all the Cardinal stuff I got for Christmas? (That'd take a little time--it was a good Christmas.)
Thankfully, the regular monthly project of the United Cardinal Bloggers
comes along and helps me at least get some words on the metaphorical page. As we do at the end of every December, we take a look back and see what were the top stories of the last 12 months. Your mileage may vary, of course, and I suggest you read the others that participate between now and Monday to get a full idea of 2012, but these are my picks for the biggest news stories of the year.
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5. Cardinals continue "unkillable" meme.....
St. Louis began developing this legend around them in September of last season, when their frantic run coupled with a Braves collapse got them a wild card slot and led to an October that was highlighted by Joe Buck intoning, "They just won't go away."
The Cardinals carried that aura into 2012 as well. It took another late season push to secure the new second wild card spot, then they defeated the favored Braves in the one-game playoff (aided by an interesting interpretation of the infield fly rule) and then took out Washington in an epic Game 5, including a four-run ninth inning where all the runs scored with two outs.
To have a team win two postseason games in two years after being down to their last strike is an incredible achievement and one that would make you think that destiny had taken a hand with this team.
4. ....until they don't.
The problem with relying on magic is that, occasionally, the well comes up dry. Perhaps it was because they weren't in a position to need it. Perhaps the Giants knew where to find a few spells as well. Whatever the case, the Cardinals were up three games to one in the NLCS and were a step away from trying to set some team history, to be the first team to repeat as World Series Champions. Instead, they added to the dark part of team lore, being the third Cardinal team ever to blow a 3-1 lead.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing was that the Game 5 loss was against Barry Zito, one of those pitchers that so many teams are able to crush. Instead, the Cards fell victim to the wiles of the left-hander and apparently put the bats in storage early, scoring just one run in the last three games and ending the series with twelve consecutive scoreless frames. An extremely tough loss after being in the position that they were in four games into this series.
3. Chris Carpenter rewrites the meaning of "season-ending".
When Carpenter spent much of spring training having some discomfort and getting pushed back from pitching, most Cardinal fans feared the worst. That worst seemed to occur around the All-Star break, when it was announced that Carpenter would have surgery to remove a rib, ending his season.
Apparently ending his season, that is. Because almost from the moment he had the surgery, Carpenter started rumblings about a return. Nobody really thought much about it until he started to actually throw some bullpens. Then, on September 21, Carpenter took the mound at Wrigley Field, allowing just two runs in five innings against the Cubs. While he wasn't necessarily his dominant self, the fact that he was able to come back and get a handful of starts and then pitch in the postseason was an amazing feat, one well suited to his legendary temperament.
2. Yadier Molina, from contract to MVP votes.
Going into spring training, the talk was about whether Molina's contract situation would become another Pujols drama, dragging throughout the year and then seeing him leave at the end of it for greener pastures. While nobody wanted to see Molina leave the Cardinals, there were a lot of winces and eyebrows raised when he received a five year, $75 million deal from the team before the season began.
All of those questions and worries quickly vanished, however, as Molina put up yet another career year. He was the most consistently productive hitter in the lineup and was no slouch on defense either, which was not as surprising. Molina won the Platinum Glove (an award that he has won both years it has been in existence) along with his Gold Glove and his offensive exploits (including a whopping 22 home runs) earned him a fourth-place finish in the NL MVP race, a finish that arguably could have been higher.
1. Adam Wainwright returns, shows he's in good form, isn't extended yet.
After a lost season due to Tommy John surgery, there were questions around Wainwright's return. Would he return at all? Would he still be bueno? Could he last the whole season? The answer to most of those questions was affirmative.
Wainwright was ready to go from the opening bell, though he struggled in April mainly due to an elevated home run rate. He started to get back into his rhythm in May, posting a complete game shutout of the Padres, and was fairly good from there with a few bumps in the road. He was strong enough to start Game 1 of the NLDS, striking out 10 and leaving with a slim lead. He didn't fair as well in Game 5, giving up six runs in two innings, though as we've noted the rest of the team bailed him out from that.
This 2012 story will have major ramifications on 2013, however, as for the third straight spring the Cardinals will go into Jupiter with the possibility that this will be the last season for one of their iconic figures. It seems likely that John Mozeliak and Wainwright's camp will get something done, but it also seems reasonable to expect that contract to be a record-setter for the organization, even if it comes with some sort of hometown discount. If they can't do what they did with Molina, though, expect this storyline to have a Pujols-like life span throughout the season.
Those are my top five, but there were numerous honorable mentions. The signing of Carlos Beltran and his resurgence. Mike Matheny's first year at the helm of the club and how they transitioned from the Tony La Russa era. The influx of young pitching like Joe Kelly, Trevor Rosenthal and the debut of Shelby Miller. For all the lack of interesting topics since the season ended, 2012 has been a fairly interesting season all the way around.
Happy New Year to all and hopefully I'll figure out a way to get some more content up here during January!