The heart beat of St. Louis is starting to ramp up a little. In just a few days, the Cardinals will open another baseball season. The anticipation, after coming off a most improbable and near miraculous World Championship, will be at a fever pitch again in this baseball crazy city.
While this may rankle those of you with blind loyalty, it’s also time for a dose of reality. This might not be a such a great year. While most prognostications are rarely remembered at the end of a season, Sports Illustrated (which stung Cards fans by putting Albert Pujols on the cover of their current baseball issue) picks the Cardinals to finish 2nd behind Cincinnati in the Central Division just 12 games over .500. And, they may be right. Remember, it’s unheard of for a team coming off a World Series win to open the next season without the best player in the game (Pujols), without the best manager in the game (Tony LaRussa), without the best pitching coach in the game (Dave Duncan), without the pitcher (Chris Carpenter) that virtually “willed” them into the Series with a memorable 3 hit shutout over Philadelphia in the deciding game of the NLDS…and pitched on three days rest in game 7 of the World Series. Also, the “ace” of the staff, Adam Wainwright, has not pitched in a game that counts in 17 months. Add to that a shortstop (Rafael Frucal) and a first baseman (Lance Berkman) who have legs issues and a right fielder (Carlos Beltran) who has had knee problems.
On top of it all, the manager (Mike Matheny) has never managed a game that counts. Until April 4th in Miami.
I know you are thinking I’m been very negative. No, I’m being realistic. The Cardinals have won 11 World Series titles, second only to the Yankees, but they have never won two back to back. Only two teams, the Yankees and Toronto have won back to back World Series since the 1975–76 season. No National League team has repeated since Cincinnati did it in the mid-70’s.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only five times has a team attempted a championship defense without its manager from the previous season and none of those clubs lost its home run or RBI leader.
So, here we go. The Cardinals will be good, but will they be good enough? Cards fans will fill Busch over 3 million strong again this year hoping to find out.
By the way… here’s the prediction from Sports Illustrated
“Powered by the High-Priced Free-Agent Acquisitions of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson the Los Angeles Angels Will Defeat the San Francisco Giants in the 2012 World Series”