Was 2010 really so long ago?
Of all the Cardinals on the roster at the time, the two that looked like they would probably be in St. Louis for life were Albert Pujols and Colby Rasmus.
For some fans, however, Rasmus' flaws were obvious enough to consider trading him to address multiple needs on the team. But most felt it was insanity to surrender a young five-tool player with many cost-controlled years left to help balance the payroll.
And at age 23, Rasmus showed plenty of major league potential (.276 AVG, 23 HRs, 66 RBI, 12 SB)—certainly enough for the club to take a patient approach with a player coaches seemed to have trouble reaching.
With Pujols, it became clearer and clearer he would entertain no thoughts of a "team-friendly" contract. If the Cardinals wanted to keep Albert, they would have to move him to that deluxe apartment in the sky, right next to Alex Rodriguez.
Still, there were no other clubs who clearly needed his services leading everyone to assume his new Cardinals contract was a simple formality.
Fast forward to the present.
Pujols heard the voice of God—and Art Moreno—and took his aging bat to California. We suppose when Cardinals die, they become angels anyway, so the move made sense theologically.
In the end, both Cardinals fans and management breathed a huge sigh of relief as Pujols did not accept an irresponsible, 11th-hour offer from the Cardinals to stay in St. Louis.
Struggling mightily in April and May, Pujols finally warmed up and had a June more in keeping with his career numbers (.326/.409/.568/.977). The Cards forged ahead without El Hombre and haven't missed a beat, at least at first base.
Cardinals' first basemen have the fifth-best OPS in baseball at .907 and the second-highest RBI total (58). Most of the credit go to the quasi-platoon of lefty Matt Carpenter and righty Allen Craig who is hotter than I-70 pavement.
The Angels are doing fine at first as well with the seventh-best OPS (.833)—admittedly at a slightly higher price tag than the Cards are doling out.
Everyone and their cousin knew Albert's bat would come around eventually and he will give the Angels plenty of production through at least the first half of his new contract. Cardinal fans can appreciate his greatness from afar. He will be in Cooperstown someday and he will be a Cardinal there, whether he likes it or not.
The ghost of Colby Rasmus, on the other hand, along with the specter of his ever-present father Tony, may haunt the Cardinals and their fans for years.
The trade of Rasmus by general manager John Mozeliak at last year's trade deadline had a far less "all's-well-that-ends-well" feel to it. It smacked of desperation and the entire organization—from Mozeliak to Tony La Russa to Fredbird—was summarily panned by fans and media alike.
Why trade the struggling Rasmus in 2011 when his value could not have been lower?
How could the team let its aging manager "run off" such a talent?
And why accept a trade for a blue-chip player that included no long-term, quality talent coming back to the Cardinals?
When Rasmus had a dreadful second half in Toronto last season and another slow start this year, there was hope the Cards and John Mozeliak dodged a bullet and didn't really give up on a possible franchise cornerstone.
It was clear that Rasmus was a head-case, a tangled enigma that even Dr. Phil would give up on after ten minutes.
As with Pujols, we figured Rasmus would figure things out eventually, but we were hoping it would take closer to five years rather than five months. With a more open stance at the plate, Rasmus has untangled himself and is now opening up on American League pitching.
Blue Jay fans are giddy about the potential Rasmus displayed in June with a .291 batting average, eight home runs and 25 RBI in 30 games. The lefty already has 16 homers on the year and has cracked the 50 RBI plateau before the All-Star break.
Rasmus has a WAR rating of 2.3 which is just behind the Cards' own Carlos Beltran (2.5) which is a total accumulated without the benefit of a league-leading RBI total or high batting average as Beltran has done.
This indicates Rasmus' glove is progressing as quickly as his bat which recent video highlights will confirm.
Regular Cardinal center fielder Jon Jay has been far more valuable than Rasmus over both player's careers showing consistency at the plate and in the field. When Jay went down for five weeks with a shoulder injury, the Cardinals were noticeably weakened on both sides of the diamond.
But Jay doesn't have limitless talent and certainly not the power to hit fifth-deck moon shots.
Luckily for John Mozeliak the Cardinals did win an 11th World Series in the wake of Colby's departure. It's a good thing the club gave so many World Series ring replicas to Cardinal fans.
As Rasmus blossoms into a perennial All-Star for the next five years or so, fans will be able to gaze at those rings and remember, "At least we won a World Series".
In fact, Cardinal fans should repeat this mantra every time Rasmus launches another ICBM into the right-field stands.
"At least we won a World Series."
"At least we won a World Series."
You can say it, too, Mr. Mozeliak.
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