The St. Louis Cardinals represented the National League in the World Series in 2013. They put together the best regular season record in the National League to get there. Since the close of the season, they have improved their roster by making moves by both trade and in free agency.
Along the way, there have been some headlines worth noting. Combined, they form a subscript of the calendar year and help to define the current state of the franchise.
What follows is the top five stories from the St. Louis Cardinals in 2013.
Statistics in the following article are sourced from Baseball-Reference.com.
Transaction information can be found on the Cardinals' official transaction page.
The 2011 World Series produced many memorable moments. None of those moments may be more memorable than David Freese's heroics in Game 6.
After fending off elimination for the team with a game-tying triple, Freese would please the hometown crowd with a game-winning home run. A St. Louis native, Freese found himself an instant celebrity and many fans looked to him to become a part of the team's core.
His season in 2012 carried the momentum from the 2011 postseason forward. He played well enough to excite the Cardinals' fans and lead to high expectations. The World Series and hometown hero was in place to become the foundation at third base.
An injury near the end of spring training in 2013 slowed Freese. Worse yet, he never seemed to find his groove again. He finished the year in disappointing fashion and found himself sharing time with Matt Carpenter at third base so that the team could evaluate Kolten Wong at second.
Shortly after the close of the 2013 season, it appeared the team was shopping Freese in an effort to improve the roster without dealing from its young pitching. On November 22, the Cardinals traded Freese and Fernando Salas to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in exchange for Peter Bourjos and prospect Randal Grichuk.
Just over two years had passed since David Freese hit one of the most memorable home runs in World Series history. The start of the 2014 season will find the one-time hero of the St. Louis Cardinals in a new uniform.
If trading a former World Series hero starts the countdown of top stories, the production of a young player during the season that helped make that hero expendable deserves the next spot.
Going into the 2013 season there were a lot of questions surrounding the Cardinals. Very few people predicted the arrival of Matt Adams to be the solution to so many of them.
Fans wondered what the Cardinals would do when Carlos Beltran needed time off. There were questions as to what would happen if Allen Craig got hurt. Many pondered if the Cardinals would have any power off their bench.
Matt Adams emerged as the solution the Cardinals needed repeatedly in 2013. His power was a much-needed injection into the lineup and the bench. His performance allowed the team to rest Craig and Beltran throughout various points of the season while providing a power bat to the middle of the order.
Adams provides even more answers going forward into 2014 as his performance has allowed the team to allow the departure of Beltran. Craig's ability to play right field gives the Cardinals confidence that, even if top prospect Oscar Taveras is not ready, Adams and Craig can anchor the lineup.
Matt Adams was a big bat in the Cardinals' farm system entering 2013. He became a big part of the big-league club before the season was over.
Matt Adams was impressive and gave the Cardinals the security to trade David Freese. Matt Carpenter's rise to stardom allowed the team to know their answer at third base was already on the roster. Adams' production was impressive, but it was nothing compared to the season Carpenter produced.
Entering 2013, Carpenter was simply supposed to be a serviceable second baseman until the team was comfortable turning over the keystone position to Kolten Wong. A converted third baseman, Carpenter was asked to come to spring training with an eye on competing for the second base job.
Throughout 2013, Carpenter became one of the most reliable hitters in the Cardinals' organization. He found himself hitting leadoff and becoming the spark the lineup needed. He would play adequate defense at his new position as well, making him a valuable part of the team going forward.
Not only was he a valuable player to the team, the league recognized just how valuable he was. He would be recognized as an All Star selection at midseason, awarded a Silver Slugger after the season concluded and finished an astonishing fourth in voting for the league's MVP award.
Carpenter's emergence allowed the team to trade David Freese this offseason and shift Carpenter back to his natural position at third base. He was one of the unexpected bright young stars of the 2013 season.
Matt Adams had the power and Matt Carpenter surprised everyone as a candidate for the MVP award but even more impressive was the historic season of Allen Craig. With runners in scoring position, a stat often abbreviated as RiSP, Craig was near automatic.
According to Baseball-Reference, Allen Craig's batting average was .454 when he hit with RiSP. His slugging percentage was .638 and he drove in 83 runs in 152 plate appearances. Craig's production often drew commentary that he was setting a pace he would not be able to sustain.
The only thing that could slow Craig down in 2013 was an injury. Even that only slowed him temporarily as he returned in the postseason to help the team. Obviously not playing at full potential, Craig provided a jolt to the team simply by being in the lineup.
The Cardinals had many impressive stories in 2013 but the production of Craig was certainly one of the top. In fact, there was only one story more impressive...
The top of the list puts the offensive heroics to the side and acknowledges the guys on the mound. Specifically, the top story of the 2013 season belongs to the young hurlers of the St. Louis Cardinals' pitching staff.
Michael Wacha was the poster child of the youth movement by the time he was awarded the NLCS MVP award for his performance. Wacha was the last of the youth to arrive, even if he was one of the most dominant.
Shelby Miller started the season strong and was seemingly setting a pace that could have led to a Rookie of the Year award. Trevor Rosenthal established himself as an imposing threat at the end of a ballgame, allowing the team to quickly recover when Edward Mujica stumbled. Seth Maness had arrived and seemed to produce a double play ball anytime he pitched. Carlos Martinez impressed and combined with Rosenthal to shut down the eighth and ninth innings of games.
Throughout 2013, it seemed the Cardinals had a young pitcher ready for any and all situations. From the bullpen to the rotation, the young hurlers were the top story of 2013 and should continue to be for many years from now.
The 2013 St. Louis Cardinals were successful despite losing the World Series to the Boston Red Sox. Going forward into 2014, the five stories that led this year's season will continue to impact the franchise.
The young pitchers, run-producing hitters and roster adjustment will keep the Cardinals winning for many years to come. Manager Mike Matheny will know more about what to expect while the team continues to evolve.
The future continues to look bright for the National League's most successful franchise.
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