Posted on December 31, 2008 at 12:00 AM
Filed Under: St. Louis Cardinals
| United Cardinal Bloggers
As we wrap up 2008, the United Cardinal Bloggers are taking a look back and giving their opinions on what the top five stories of the year were in relation to the Cardinals. There was a lot that happened in the past twelve months and the lists are sure to be very different (but all well thought out and entertaining). So check out the following blogs for their spins as well:Cardinal Nation GlobeThe Cardinal VirtueFungoesLa BeisbolistaPitchers Hit EighthPlay a Hard NineThe Redbird BlogRedbird RamblingsStan Musial's Stance
Coming up with the top five was a tough chore, but here are my selections:
1. The Contending Cardinals
Coming into the season, most everyone expected the Cardinals to be an also-ran. There were even some picking them last, though expecting any team with Albert Pujols on it to finish behind Pittsburgh really seems to be a stretch. The consensus seemed to be a fourth-place team and that's exactly what happened. But the way
it happened, that was the story.
The Cardinals came out of the gate red-hot, sporting the best record in baseball for most of the month of April. Even through the summer, they were either atop the divisional or wild-card standings or very close to it. It took a late swoon for them to slide out of contention, but the final hammer didn't fall until the last week of the season, something few would have predicted back in March.2. The Bullpen Betrayal
The reason that final hammer did fall, though, could be laid at the feet of the bullpen, which ranked as one of the worst in baseball.
After a 2007 that led most to believe that he was back, Jason Isringhausen returned to his '06 ways, blowing save after save and finally hitting the DL twice, unable to reach the 300 save milestone he was aiming at. Ryan Franklin took over the closer role but struggled as well. Chris Perez was finally called up and had some initial success before blowing a couple of leads.
The only strong points in the bullpen were Russ Springer and the remarkable story of Kyle McClellan, but even McClellan ran out of gas down the stretch and allowed a few games to be lost.
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3. Rick and Ryan Rake
There were a lot of expectations on Rick Ankiel coming into 2008. His march up the minor league ladder plus his power display in Memphis and in St. Louis in 2007 gave fans hope that his remarkable story wasn't over quite yet. Ankiel didn't disappoint, hitting .264 with 25 HR. Those numbers likely would have been better had he not finished the year by playing with a sports hernia. His defense was jaw-dropping at times as well, as the Rockies found out to their detriment when he threw out two guys at third in the same game.
On the flip side, there wasn't a lot of buzz around Ryan Ludwick before the season started. Expected to be a fourth outfielder or a platoon type, his right-handed bat became an everyday thing around June, when it was obvious that his power had to be in there as often as possible instead of working matchups. He more than doubled his career total in home runs, blasting 37 to go along with 113 RBI and an almost .300 average.4. Glaus Goes Grass
In January, John Mozeliak made his second trade of a Cardinal icon, shipping Scott Rolen to Toronto for Troy Glaus. It was a move I was personally not fond of, being a Rolen fan and seeing this as catering to the manager rather than a player that could help us win. Glaus was really second fiddle in the discussion. He'd had some strong years in the past, but he'd struggled recently.
The grass of Busch Stadium, though, was apparently a balm for him. (Even if, early in the year, the nights weren't, aggrevating allergies so badly he couldn't see.) A very streaky hitter, his final numbers (.270/27/99) were well above Rolen's recent production and the expected dropoff in defense never materalized, as Glaus fared well on all defensive metrics and set a new record for fewest errors at third base in a Cardinal uniform. 5. Deadline Doldrums
Gregory: "Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
Gregory: "The dog did nothing in the night-time."
Holmes: "That was the curious incident."--"The Adventure of Silver Blaze"
The biggest news at the trading deadline in July was that, really, there was no news. Anthony Reyes was shipped off for a minor league reliever, thus ignominiously ending the Cardinal career of a once top prospect. Other than that, though, Mozeliak didn't pull the trigger, even though he was rumored to be in talks with the Braves for Will Ohman. Whether the lack of action affected the Cardinals, either physically or psychologically, the Cardinals fell out of serious contention by the end of August, leaving people to speculate what might have been had the GM been a bit more aggressive at the deadline.