UCB: Top 5 Cardinal Stories for 2009

The United Cardinal Bloggers are back, this time doing the Top 5 Carinal Stories of the Year.

Honorable Mentions – Drafting Shelby Miller and Robert Stock (The team takes some high upside players rather than safe ones); Skip Schumaker Converts to 2B (And does a good job no less); The Team Won’t Trade Prospects for Vets (which I’ll mention later); When Will Troy Glaus Play (the season-long affair); The Dave Duncan Drama (from the Organization disrespecting Chris to not consulting him on organization philosophy).

5. David Freese – While some of the HMs were one and done stories, the David Freese saga has not been. Freese started the year as the heir to Troy Glaus and the fill in while he recovered from surgery.

Instead, Freese came into spring training with an injury that he didn’t disclose to the team (He was in a car accident and hurt an ankle. He thought it was nothing serious). Freese missed time during the spring, but thanks to a strong showing at the end and a bad spring by Joe Mather, Freese made the opening day roster. He made his MLB debut on opening day, but didn’t see much playing time before being sent down to Memphis in Mid-April. His injury lingered until he had surgery and missed some time. He came back after the AAA All Star Break and lit the league on fire. As a result, he received a September call up. He played well enough that he was being considered for one of the final roster spots on the post-season roster.

Freese again was going into the season as the incumbent to play third; now that is in question as Freese was arrested for a DWI earlier this month. Freese was 3 times the legal limit and it was released that this wasn’t his first legal incident involving alcohol. Originally, it was leaked that Freese was arrested for a non-driving alcohol offense; it was later released that he had a previous DWI that was removed from his record in a plea deal.

No real word from the organization has been released regarding Freese, but you’d have to expect the team is concerned with the situation. Here’s the quick recap of the Cardinals and Alcohol:
– Spring Training 2007: Tony LaRussa is arrested for DWI.
– May 2007: Josh Hancock is killed in a car accident; Hancock was drinking prior to the accident. The Cardinals institute a no alcohol in the club house policy.
– July 2007: Scott Spiezio leaves the team to attend rehab; while it wasn’t acknowledged as to what the rehab was for, Spiezio was known for his drinking.
– December 2007: Spiezio flees the scene of an accident and gets into a fight with a neighbor; he was drunk at the time.
– Spring Training 2008: Spiezio shows up to Spring Training with a warrant out for his arrest; he is released a few days later.

This story won’t be over until the season starts; Will this effect Freese’s status with the team?

4. 2009 Awards – Going into September, the Cardinals had the small possibility to sweep the post-season awards. Pujols was a lock to win the MVP. Rasmus had a small chance to win Rookie of the Year. LaRussa was the favorite for manager of the year until Jim Tracy completed the unlikely comeback of the Rockies. Carp was a lock for Comeback Player of the Year. And everyone thought the Cy Young was a lock between Wainwright and Carp.

But Tim Lincecum came in and stole the award. Well, not really; everyone in St. Louis acted like he did.

Lincecum was first in strikeouts and second in ERA. Carpenter was first in ERA. Wainwright was first in wins. To me, a pitcher has more control over ERA and Strikeouts; wins have too many variables (runs support, bullpen, etc). I think wins should consider some merit in the award, but they shouldn’t be the basis (I’m sure Johan Santana agrees with me). Lincecum’s resume is more impressive than that of Wainwright and Carpenter.

Lincecum, Wainwright, and Carpenter should have been the only 3 pitchers considered. Somehow Dan Haren and Javier Vazquez received votes. So, Wainwright received the most first place votes but came in third; Carp was second.

3. Mark McGwire – The Cardinals started the off-season by firing Hitting Coach and announcing the hiring of Mark McGwire as his replacement.

The number one question now: Will McGwire address the media about the steroid allegations? Months after him being announced as the coach, and still not a peep out of him. The team will probably wait until Spring Training.

The move is actually a good one for the team. He’s worked with players in the past to various degrees of success; Skip Schumaker has been helped greatly, but Matt Holliday abandoned what McGwire taught him and Chris Duncan is still a marginal hitter.

Tony LaRussa has a hidden agenda with the hiring: to get McGwire’s name cleard and get him into the Hall of Fame. McGwire deserves to be in the Hall, but the media didn’t like how he handled the steroid situation. Now they are punishing him by not giving him the support he needs to be voted in. If he’s successful and speaks to the media, it’ll get him in.

2. Matt Holliday – Remember the HM about the team not trading prospects for veterans; well that didn’t last long. After sending 2 pitching prospects for Mark DeRosa, the Cardinals gave up system jewel Brett Wallace, along with 2 other prospects, for Matt Holliday. Holliday played brilliantly for the Cardinals, which increased his value as he walked into his free agent season. Of course he did drop a crucial catch in the playoffs that essentially ended their season.

Holliday’s agent, Scott Boras, now has the Cardinals in a holding pattern; the agent is sticking to his contract demands in a market that hasn’t developed for the slugger. MLB Trade Rumors recently looked at the Holliday offers and concluded that the best offer he received was the one the Rockies offered him during Spring Training 2008. Whoops.

The Cardinals aren’t out of it, but I think they’ll be turning their attention elsewhere soon. They’ve been rumored to have interest in Miguel Tejada and Adrian Beltre at third; there are still a few names for left field bouncing around too. Either way, the team is looking to add a veteran slugger.

1. The All Star Game in St. Louis – All the hoopla this summer for the All Star Game was the biggest news story of the year. I chronicled my All Star Week earlier in the season. Between the former players, parades, marathons, games, home runs, fan fests, and celebrities, St. Louis was a buzz with news, sports, and gossip.

The Home Run Derby was an event with Pujols entering it this year. He didn’t disappoint, as he made it into the second round. St. Louisian Ryan Howard also put on a good showing. In the end, Prince Fielder put on a clinic (something that St. Louis fans don’t like seeing).

The Game itself was a pitching showcase. It was nice to see the crowd react to the Cardinals and St. Louis born players (Howard, Mark Buehrle).

Overall, it was a memorable experience and hopefully something that doesn’t take another 30+ years to come back.

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