The 2008 St. Louis Cardinals team is headed in a new direction. Gone are Scott Rolen, David Eckstein, and Jim Edmonds. In are...Troy Glaus, Cesar Iztruis, and Rick Ankiel?
Yes folks, that's right, a new direction. You can talk to about 97 percent of Americans and they will tell you that these Cardinals will be lucky to win 60 games. They'll make the Tampa Bay Rays look like the New York Yankees. They play in the weakest division in baseball and they'll get stomped by their divisional opponents.
Now, the other 3 percent (us loyal Cardinals fans) will do a 180.
We might say they're rebuilding this year with homegrown talent. So what if we lose? We wrote off this year anyway.
Here are my thoughts on the issue (none of them are in the above paragraph ramble).
The cornerstones of the past seven seasons are gone, along with the 2006 World Series MVP. To tell you the truth, I couldn't be happier.
Edmonds was the only real player on the roster who played with Mark McGwire (sure some were up in 2001 when McGwire was on the DL for most of the year), signaling a changing of the guard. Rolen was a key figure every season...when he wasn't hurt (oh look at that, he's out until May now). He had a fight with Tony LaRussa and was sent out the door (you may also remember Rolen fighting with Larry Bowa while in Philly, signaling he's a punk with an attitude problem).
Eckstein was a good, stable shortstop, but the Cardinals didn't want to pay him the money he deserved with three young shortstops coming up through the system (Brendan Ryan, Tyler Greene, and Pete Kozma).
Will we miss these players? Oh yeah, more than you know. Will we need them? No.
Edmonds and Rolen started the 2008 season on the DL for their new teams (you'll see a lot of that San Diego and Toronto, so get used to it). Ankiel and Glaus did not. We're already starting to see dividends from these investments. (Active players are better than inactive, am I right?)
Sure, Izturis is a rampaging piece of garbage, but I'd rather have him on the team at a low cost for one season to bridge the gap to the youth than Eckstein making more money and for more years.
Let's recap: Ankiel, Glaus, and Izturis are greater than Edmonds, Rolen and Eckstein.
Cardinals 1, World 0
Why exactly do these companies that predict wins say the Cardinals won't win 70? I see this team winning 80.
Look at the facts.
Production from left, center, third, second, and catcher are sure to go up, and production from the bench will skyrocket. Right field and first base will produce the same as in past years (maybe a bit more from first). Short will be the only position that will go down in production, and the rest of the team can pick that up.
Defense is definitely down though. Third base will see a significant drop off, as well as center and right (though Ankiel will do a more-than-above-average job in center, he's no Edmonds). We may see an improvement at left, whereas catcher, second, and first will be the same as usual, maybe a little more.
Pitching is DEFINITELY better. For half a season, we saw Joel Piniero and Adam Wainwright dominate batters. We saw Mulder come back from unsuccessful surgery and we watched Chris Carpenter crash.
This year we get a full season from Wainy (the new ace on the team). Piniero will come back healthy in two weeks and give a full season as well. We're already up 2-0 on pitching.
Mulder will come back healthy in late May and will put up MUCH better numbers (3-0). Matt Clement will be better than Kip Wells, even if his velocity is down when he returns from surgery (4-0).
Brad Thompson and Todd Wellemeyer benefited from being in the rotation last year and should pitch the same or better. The same goes from Braden Looper. Now we're up 7-0 on last year's pitching.
And, of course, having Carp back healthy will be a huge boost (10-0). When everyone is back, our rotation will look like this:
Wainy, Carp, Mulder, Piniero, Celement, Looper. Thompson and Wellemeyer in the pen, along with a healthy Tyler Johnson and Mr. Unknown, Josh Kinney (everyone keeps forgetting we'll get him back before the All-Star break)
Not only will our rotation be MUCH better, our bullpen will improve as well.
Cardinals 2, World 0.
The Central Division is not weak. People have been saying this for several years now. In 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006, we had teams in the NL Championship series, three World Series teams, and one winner (2006 Cardinals baby!).
We have three teams that will duke it out for the top (Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs, and Cincinnati Reds), two very big surprise teams (Cardinals and Houston Astros), and the always-fun-to-make-fun-of, biggest-postseason-hopes-spoiler, the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Yes, this division is very weak (sarcasm everyone) and they will only produce one postseason team...WRONG!
Let's look at the rest of the NL.
The West, which many people say is the best division in the NL and second in the majors, holds two teams that could be bound for the playoffs: the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies. The LA Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants are jokes, though the San Diego Padres could surprise some.
The NL East has the big mouthed, no-game Philadelphia Phillies (sorry, but Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins shouldn't have won MVP awards, Chase Utley won't win this year and the Phillies won't win the NL East) who will take third. The Atlanta Braves won't compete for the division and will fend off the Phillies for second.
The Mets will run away with it and keep it this year after a mediocre season. In fact, mark my words as I am calling it this year: The NL East will house the fourth playoff team (as in the Wild Card team will have a better record than the NL East champs) and only two teams will have winning records in the East. I called it, mark it down. I'm a friggin Jimmy Rollins.
I rambled a lot there; I hope you kept up. Here's a brief recap: The NL West is good, the Central will be very good this year with four (yes, four) .500 or better teams, and the NL East is cruddy.
Cardinals 3, World 0.
I hope you enjoyed my ramblings and thoughts. I'm a diehard Cardinals fan, but I'm also a diehard baseball fan. My thoughts are never bias, but I will always stick up for the Cardinals, however I always stick up for the rest of the majors too when I feel it's right.
Before I end, let me a give shout out to the 2007 NL Rookie of the Year and 2007 NL MVP winners: Troy Tulowitzki and Matt Holliday. Yeah, they should have won. Can you say 14-1 to win the Wild Card?