Part of the fun of writing a blog like this is interacting with a lot of people who are like you. They put their opinions and stories together and post it out there for others to read.
Today in the FightinPhillies blog were going to hear a little about the reigning World Series champion, St. Louis Cardinals, from a writer of a St. Louis Cardinals blog, called C70 at The Bat, and also someone who has put a lot of time in organizing baseball blogs like FightinPhillies.com and many more into the Baseball Bloggers Alliance which was formed in 2009.
His name is Daniel Shoptaw, and recently I got his opinions on certain points of what has happened with the Cardinals since they’ve won the World Series, and about this upcoming season.
1. How does it feel for you being the defending World Series champs this season?
Feels pretty darn good. After thinking back in August that this was another disappointing year, to see the team catch fire and (thanks to Atlanta's epic stumble) get into the playoffs was pretty wonderful. Having them win it all, especially in such dramatic fashion, will be one of the memories that stays with me for the rest of my life.
2. If you were ownership of the Cardinals, what would you have done differently to keep Albert Pujols, or would you have done anything different at all?
Probably not much of anything. The only thing that they might have been able to do was not start out with a five-year deal as their opening proposal. The organization thought that might appeal to Pujols because he could get the highest ever annual salary and still have a chance for another contract later on. They misread him, though, as he apparently was looking for the long-term commitment. While they regrouped and eventually offered him at least a nine-year deal, I think the damage was done and when the Angels swooped in and promised him the moon, he took it.
That said, the organization went to a level where they were uncomfortable, so you can't fault them for their effort. Also, while the team will miss Pujols, the club has already taken that money and used it to acquire Carlos Beltran and Rafael Furcal, plus extend out Yadier Molina and will likely be able to do the same for Adam Wainwright. The club didn't just sit on the cash once Pujols didn't take it, which I think has helped the fan base move on.
3. How is the starting rotation shaping up for the Cardinals this year?
The Cardinals get Adam Wainwright back. The fact that they won the Series without him should probably go down as one of those minor baseball miracles that happen on occasion. Getting a Cy Young-caliber pitcher dropped into an already solid rotation is a major boost.
Chris Carpenter has battled a bulging disc in his neck this spring, though it appears that treatment is going well and it's likely he'll be ready to go, if not on Opening Day, then very soon after. Carp threw a lot of innings last year and may be monitored this year, but we all know what he's capable of and he shouldn't decline too much.
The back of the rotation is the key between this being a good rotation and one of the best in baseball. If Jaime Garcia can mature and get consistent, he's a #1 on some teams but a #3 here. Kyle Lohse led the team in wins last year and was finally healthy, helping the Cards get some return on his big contract. I expect that to continue this year, which is his free agent year as well. Jake Westbrook struggled last season in his first full year in the NL, but came to camp 25 pounds lighter and, even if he can just be average, that's a lot better than most people's fifth starter.
4. What was the best addition to the Cards in the offseason this year?
It's tempting to say Mike Matheny, because after Tony La Russa left, the club could have easily gone a more traditional route. Tapping Matheny showed that they were willing to take some risks and that they put an emphasis on the way things had been going. Matheny knows the Cardinal Way, as it were, and will keep things rolling along. He'll need some time to learn all the tactics of the game and the nuances of the managerial position, but so far he's showing that he's got a good feel for what he's doing.
However, I think Beltran probably is the best addition to the club. Not just because he's gotten back to his normal dangerous self the farther away he's gotten from his 2010 knee surgery, but because it showed that the Cards weren't going to stand pat and that they could be a player in the free agent market. I'm looking forward to seeing where Beltran will bat in the lineup and watching him help fill the Pujols void.
5. How do you see the Cardinals finishing in their division and their chances to get to the World Series in 2012?
It's amazing that the Cards can lose a sure-fire Hall of Famer in the prime (at least the latter part) of his career from a World Series team and, as Lance Berkman said, they have a chance to be better. Adding Wainwright to the rotation will do that, plus the fact that the bullpen hopefully won't be blowing 10 games in the first half of the year like the old guard did. Factor in the possibility of a full season of David Freese, better defense at shortstop with Furcal, and the addition of Beltran and I think that all at least makes up for the loss of Pujols and any decline Berkman might have.
I think the Cards can win the division this year. I don't think 90-93 wins is out of the question. And while this organization has never won back-to-back titles, I think this is one of the best chances they'll have to do it. October is a crapshoot, of course, but they have the odds on their side.
Unless there is some cosmic debt to pay for Game 6. Then all bets are off.
Thanks very much Daniel for taking us a little closer to what is happening with the 2012 Cardinals. It’s a stark contrast when the Cardinals won the World Series, and the Phillies did back in 2008. It’s a new look for the Cards this year, it will be interesting for sure.