Is it really the end of January ? It seems that just a few days ago, we were rushing around trying to finish up our Christmas shopping, and all of a sudden, another United Cardinal Bloggers project is due. I guess the bright side is that we’re that much closer to when pitchers and catchers report to spring training.
So the project this month is predicting the top 5 headlines of 2011.
#1 Albert Pujols signs record breaking contract
Is there anybody out there that doesn’t think this (a) this is the biggest news item in baseball and (b) that it’s really going to happen ? Rest assured, it will happen, and when it does, it will make news for a few milliseconds and then the national media can turn their attention back to the Peyton Place that is the American League East.
At the risk of turning this into a long editorial, just consider
- Albert Pujols *IS* the face of the franchise. Not John Mozeliak, Bill De Witt Jr or III, or Tony La Russa. It’s Albert. He is this generation’s Stan Musial.
- Players like Albert Pujols come along maybe once in a generation. The last in St. Louis was Bob Gibson.
- Albert’s trade value was the highest last July. If he was to be dumped, it would have been then, when the Cardinals were in free fall.
- It’s not like this is a surprise, ownership has known this day would come. They have a plan (see above) and it’s just a matter of working out the details.
- You don’t become a multi-billion business by being stupid and throwing your customers under the bus
- Some highly paid players will be coming off their contracts (Carpenter, Lohse, Westbrook) in the next year or two, and that creates all sorts of financial options
- While the experts might not value the Cardinals farm system, there is existing talent that can help fill out a competitive team
I’m satisfied. Albert will be a Cardinal through the end of the decade.
#2 Adam Wainwright joins Joaquin Andujar and Bob Gibson with his second consecutive 20 win season
And he still may not win the Cy Young Award, which would be a shame. If Adam Wainwright stays healthy, and there is little reason to think he wouldn’t, he will win 20 games. If you consider that Bob Gibson didn’t really hit his stride until age 28, and that’s how old Wainwright was when he won 20 for the first time, there is a lot to be excited about.
#3 Jason Motte becomes the Cardinals closer
I don’t know if it will be a slider, a change-up or mixing seams on his fastball, but Jason Motte will develop a second go-to pitch before the start of the regular season, and he will be the next closer. It won’t take much because of the giddy-up on that heater, but a second pitch will transform him into the next Todd Worrell.
#4 Kyle Lohse wins 15th game
Yes, I said it. And I may be in the minority here, but I think Kyle Lohse will make a comeback in 2011. He will go 15-10, and that 5 win differential will be the difference at the end of the season, propelling the Cardinals into post-season.
#5 Jaime Garcia throws a no-hitter
What can I say, I’m a fan of pitching. I’m also a big Jaime Garcia fan. I watched or listened to Larry Jaster, Steve Carlton and Al Jackson come close, and at this point in his career, Garcia’s pitches are better than all three. The first time I saw Garcia throw a baseball in 2010, my first thought was “he is going to throw one – not if, but when”.
There were a few more that are worth mentioning, but didn’t make the top 5.
- David Freese chokes on an olive and is out for 2 months because of broken ribs suffered when teammate performance Heimlich maneuver
- The return of Aaron Miles
- Albert Pujols actually stops at third when base Jose Oquendo gives him a stop sign
- Colby Rasmus hits for the cycle (this started as a satirical comment about Yadier Molina, but heck, Rasmus could actually do it)
- After hitting for the cycle, Colby Rasmus traded to the Kansas City Royals (they do have the farm system to support this kind of trade).
So those are my top 5 headlines for 2011. You can find the complete list over at the United Cardinal Bloggers web site. Now, what are some of yours ???