Posted on December 31, 2009 at 9:27 AM
Filed Under: St. Louis Cardinals
| United Cardinal Bloggers
There is no doubt that 2009 was a very eventful one for the St. Louis Cardinals. From the surprising dismissal of Adam Kennedy right before spring training to the continued pursuit of Matt Holliday as the year comes to a close, there was little time this year when something wasn't happening. The United Cardinal Bloggers are doing their annual look back with the Top 5 Stories for 2009. Below are my selections:
1) Midseason Madness
Time was, Cardinal fans were used to moves in the middle of the season. Walt Jocketty cleaned up at the deadline numerous times, including a very active 2000. However, even when Jocketty was wheeling and dealing, he didn't make the impact moves that John Mozeliak made this summer.
First off, Mozeliak made the move most everyone was clamoring for, trading off Chris Perez and a PTBNL (which turned out to be Jess Todd) for versatile player Mark DeRosa, who was toiling away for a Cleveland club that was well out of contention. While the price was steep, especially in retrospect, Mozeliak made the move that made the most sense for the team at the time.
So, after getting possibly the second best hitter on the trade market, Mozeliak then pulled off a deal for the first. Giving up on top prospect Brett Wallace, along with Clayton Mortenson and Shane Robinson, was a steep price to pay for a player that wasn't guaranteed to return to the club in 2010. However, Holliday sparked the Cardinals and provided another big bat in the St. Louis lineup.
To go along with all of that, Mo still made moves to rid the team of Chris Duncan, something many never thought they'd see, and to get a productive player for him to boot. The team also signed John Smoltz after he was put on waivers from Boston, and while he wasn't exactly vintage Smoltz, he definitely was a boost to the rotation.
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2) Terrific Tossing
It's rare enough that there is a Cy Young caliber season in
St. Louis. Chris Carpenter won the first
such award since Bob Gibson a few years back, which indicates just how long it
has been. So to have two Cy contenders
going in the same rotation was a spectacular part of 2009.
I'm a huge pitching fan, so it was wonderful to see Carp and
Adam Wainwright matching each other every time out, throwing up low scoring
games right and left. Either one of them
would have been worthy of winning the award, though it went to Tim Lincecum of
Those two weren't the only stars on the mound, though. Joel Pineiro had a career year, relying on
the ground balls from his sinker to put himself in position for a large
contract. Ryan Franklin inherited the
closer role early and, until the last part of the season, really claimed it as
his own, locking down games on a regular basis.
Even middle relief shined, as Trever Miller and Blake Hawksworth were reliable
after the starters left the game, which was rarely before the seventh inning.
3) Awesome Albert
Some teams, having a player win the MVP would rank much
higher up on the list. In St. Louis,
Albert Pujols not winning the award would have a bigger impact. All Albert did was carry this team
offensively until help arrived from the midseason acquisitions. His final line of .327/.443/.658 with 47
homers and 135 RBI put him in the top three in all the traditional Triple Crown
marks, even with the fact that he didn't hit a home run after September 9th.
The other part of the Pujols story was the continuing
discussion about an extension for the franchise player. No negotiations were undertaken, even though
the fan base clamored for it. Pujols
came out and said that he didn't need an extension right now, which provoked
much discussion and worry. He clarified
that remark by saying the team needed to focus elsewhere, which provoked much
discussion and worry. Until he puts his
signature on a long-term deal with the club, almost anything he does will
provoke much discussion and worry.
4) Dodgers Deal
After looking like the best team in the National League soon
after the acquisition of Matt Holliday, the Cardinals struggled in September, losing
five of their last six going into postseason play. While some hoped that they would flip a
switch and get back to that winning team, it never happened.
The team in NLDS against the Dodgers wasn't anything like the
team from late July that was firing on all cylinders. Chris Carpenter picked the worst time to have
his worst game and the only Cardinal rally in Game 1 was snuffed out by a
double play. Adam Wainwright looked to
have Game 2 won, until Ryan Franklin and Matt Holliday combined to snatch
defeat from the jaws of victory. In the
2-0 hole, the team didn't seem to show up when the series shifted back to St.
Louis, getting down early and never really making a comeback. A disappointing end to a stellar season.
5) Skip to Second
It was stunning when the
Cardinals released Adam Kennedy right before spring training began in 2009. Most observers figured that St. Louis would
be in the market for a second baseman, but instead transplanted outfielder Skip
Schumaker to the slot. While early
returns defensively were brutal, Schumaker continued to hit at his regular pace
and gradually the defense improved.
While it's unlikely that Skip will ever win a Gold Glove at second, he
is going to be one of the rare players in recent history to hold that job for
the Cardinals for more than one season.
His progress and attitude in the shift were overlooked somewhat as the
season went on, but were definitely noteworthy.
A lot of other things could
have made the list, such as the pursuit of Matt Holliday this offseason or the
unlucky season that Kyle Lohse had, but I think these are the top stories to
take away from 2009. Now, what will 2010