As much as I applaud and admire Tony La Russa for his constant lineup changes and adjustments, I really wonder what the Cardinals could do if they gave some of their younger or more talented players a consistent shot to play.
Players like Skip Schumaker, Brendan Ryan, and Ryan Ludwick are emerging this season in their mid-late 20s, and I wonder if they have had the potential to be starters before this season began.
But nobody really knows. Yadier Molina and Albert Pujols are the only true mainstays in the Cardinals' lineup, but not because of a lack of talent. As mentioned, Tony La Russa's micro managing is useful, but leaves much to speculation.
This is my take on what the Cardinals starting lineup should be more often than not, if the desire is to field the most talented team.
Catcher—Yadier Molina: This is obviously a no-brainer. Yadi might be the best defensive catcher in the game right now. When his pitchers give him a chance to nail a runner on the bases, he usually takes advantage, and he also has an incredible ability to pick runners off.
Yadi has improved by miles at the plate since the beginning of his career. His average is hovering around .300, and he has three HRs.
First Base—Albert Pujols: The best player in the game when healthy. Period.
Second Base—Brendan Ryan: Yeah, Ryan sometimes annoys fans and management with lackadaisical play, but he's talented as well. He's got a plus arm, along with good size and speed at the 2B spot. He needs to make normal plays more routinely, but definitely has the ability to make some flashy gems as well.
Third Base—Troy Glaus: Some people thought Glaus for Scott Rolen was a bad move, but I couldn't disagree more. Glaus has played respectable defense at the hot corner, and his power numbers have come alive recently. He'll still probably get over 20 HRs and 90 RBIs.
Shortstop—Caesar Izturis: I wasn't thrilled with the move to sign Izturis in the offseason, and I still think his defense is good, yet overrated. He's almost non-existent at the dish, hitting less than .250 with one HR. Pete Kozma cannot come soon enough. Until then, Izturis gets the nod, for defense and the occasional base-knock.
Left Field—Ryan Ludwick: Ludwick has proved that he can hit MLB pitching consistently. Although he's less hot as of late, he's still hitting over .300 and putting up great power numbers. He should get better as he spends more time on the field. His defense has been fine, sprinkling in an occasional diving play.
Center Field—Rick Ankiel: "The Chosen One" has had his ups and downs, but he's still one of the more talented position players on the team. He's also going to continue to improve. Ankiel has been spectacular in the field, and has raw potential at the plate.
Right Field—Skip Schumaker: I like Skip because he provides what few others on the roster do. He's a contact hitter on a team that strikes out a lot, and he's fast. His defense has been good, and he's a solid leadoff hitter. I think he's another player that will get better as they continue to adjust to everyday playing time.
1) Skip Schumaker, RF
2) Brendan Ryan, 2B
3) Albert Pujols, 1B
4) Rick Ankiel, CF
5) Troy Glaus, 3B
6) Ryan Ludwick, LF
7) Yadier Molina, C
9) Caesar Izturis, SS
I wrote this because I've heard different Cardinals fans campaigning for Aaron Miles, Brian Barton, Joe Mather, even Chris Duncan, to receive more playing time in hopes of unlocking potential or best utilizing guys' talents. I think this lineup has already proven itself this season, and they would give the Cardinals the best chance to win daily.
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