The Climb Back Up: What St Louis Needs To Do To Get Back To Being a Top NL Team

Alex IdleContributor IApril 6, 2009

JUPITER, FL - FEBRUARY 25:  Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals bats against the Florida Marlins during a spring training game at Roger Dean Stadium on February 25, 2009 in Jupiter, Florida. The Marlins and the Mets played to a 5-5 tie in 10 innings.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

The St. Louis Cardinals were simply disappointing last year. The only bright spot was probably Albert Pujols.

He was a force last year and he is a force this year. He represents baseball well because he is clean and he represents the St. Louis Cardinals well, my favorite Card since Bob Gibson. Still, Pujols alone cannot win a World Series.

This is a brand new season Cardinal fans. The old has gone and the new has come and this year the Cards will begin the season with 0-0 record, with no worries on their minds. As the season gets underway, the Cardinals have a few particular factors that need to produce.

Obviously, Pujols needs to get off to a fast start. The way he starts is the way the team will start because this team runs around him. Here a few players that fans need to be looking at to lead the team in the season's start.

  1. Rick Ankiel: Ankiel was arguably the best story in baseball last year other than his steroid issue. Every "true" sports fan wanted to see him succeed and he did. Ankiel will be HUGE this season. Not big, HUGE. He is the only legitimate left-handed power hitter in the Cardinal lineup. With Pujols behind him he will get some looks at the plate but a .264 average wont cut it. He needs to make something happen.
  2. Ryan Ludwick: Was Ludwick just a one-hit wonder? Let's hope not. Ludwick was a stud last season for the Cards and he was rewarded for it during the off-season. He needs to be consistent again this year. He cannot be a spurt hitter, he needs to be someone that pitchers fear to face. A two-three-four lineup of Ankiel, Pujols, and Ludwick should frighten NL pitchers, not excite them.
  3. Khalil Greene: Arguably the Cardinals biggest move this offseason was picking up Greene. Now, is it worth it? Greene cannot be just a slap hitter who plays solid defense. He needs to be .300 hitter who plays great defense. The Cardinals are not a power team and if they try to live by that then they will not succeed. That means Greene needs to step up.
  4. Chris Carpenter: I know he's been hurt, but for a guy who won a Cy Young just a few years ago, he hasn't been a factor since. The Cardinals don't need Carpenter to be Cy Young again this year, but they also don't need him to be Hideki Irabu. He needs to step up this year and in order to get off to a good start he needs to pitch well. He doesn't have a Cub-esque offense to back him up, so he needs to make his pitching speak for itself.

These are four players that I think Cardinal fans should watch for. These four are huge factors to this team. Cardinal fans don't need to be looking at Home Run totals and basing their judgment of the team by that, they need to look at hit totals and average.

The Cardinals are in a tough division. The Cubs are fantastic, the Brewers still have a great line up, and the Reds are an up and coming club who may make some noise this summer.

The Cardinals need to stop worrying about power, and start worrying about persistence. If they do that, then maybe some joy will come back to the "Show Me State."