St. Louis Cardinals: Are They Back?

Paul CopelandCorrespondent IApril 7, 2008

After winning the World Series in 2006, the St. Louis Cardinals failed to even make the playoffs in 2007. Battling injuries, the Cardinals struggled to even finish .500 last season. But after some restructuring in the off-season have the Cardinals returned their days of glory?

The Cardinals made some big moves by dropping Edmonds, Rolen and Eckstein, names that had become widely associated with the Cardinals. Many could understand getting rid of Rolen who seemed to have some issues with manager LaRussa or Edmonds whose health was questionable, but many fans like myself were hurt to see Eckstein go for Cezar Izturis.

The Cardinals also had several problems with their rotation last year. They were constantly struggling to find starters with Mark Mulder and Chris Carpenter out for the season. Young guns were always being called up and sent down. Pitchers were pitching in the minors and majors in the same week. Trades were being made as the staff desperately searched for anyone who could get the ball across the plate.

The merry-go-round never seemed to end, and going into the new season, many wondered if this year was to be the same.

With week one behind us, can Cardinals fans finally look to the future with hope? Can we dream of national titles was again? Have the Cardinals emerged from the ashes with a renewed passion for the game?

I did not know what to expect from the Cardinals as spring training ended. When the Cardinals lost their first game I thought for sure we were doomed to have a long, hard season ahead of us. I could never have predicted that at the end of the first week we would be 5-1. Now I find myself wondering how far can we go.

Is this our year to win the title?

A lot of speculation has been going around about the Cardinals strength with Albert Pujols' shoulder being an issue, but former pitcher Rick Ankiel led the Cardinals in the first week with three home runs. Is Pujols really a necessity for victory?

Pujols could still be a great force for the Cardinals this season, but he is not as big of a piece of the puzzle this year with guys like Chris Duncan and Ryan Ludwick also in the lineup. People need to stop fearing the 'immortal' power hitter that is Pujols and realize that he is no longer the lone star of the Cardinals.

With the Cardinals' bats looking like they have returned to their former glory, some people might overlook the rotation this year. Towards the end of last season Wainwright established himself as the Cardinals' go-to-guy. Many fans entered this season hopeful for the young ace's future, and he had a good first week allowing only two earned runs in eight innings.

However, he was the worst as far as ERA is concerned in the redbirds' starting rotations.

The team allowed a combined total of only four earned runs this past week, and new face Kyle Lohse as well as Brad Thompson, who bounced around in the Cardinals' farm  system last year, have yet to allow a single run. This is after facing the NL champions of last season, and with four of their starting pitchers on the DL.

Now, with the Cardinals on a five-game winning streak, can we look to the future with hope, or is this just the high point in another roller coaster season for the former champions?

They certainly looked like the team to beat in their first week, but what can we expect in the months to come?