(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 29th of 30 team reports by GT sports editor Mark Mayer on major league baseball projections for the start of the 2013 season. Today: St. Louis Cardinals. On deck: Toronto.)
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (2012: NL Central 88-74, second 9 back)
Despite the unimaginable – losing Albert Pujols – the Cardinals put together a very respectable season in 2012. This year comes another setback far sadder, the passing of Stan “The Man” Musial.
In the days prior to ESPN and Superstation TBS that carried Atlanta Braves games all through the South and Midwest, Cardinals baseball was followed in the nation’s heartland on KMOX radio with the legendary voices of Jack Buck and Harry Caray. Boston had Ted Williams, the Yankees had Joe DiMaggio and St. Louis had Musial.
Pujols was the second coming, but Musial played his entire career with the Cardinals and considered one of baseball’s greatest players. The team will dedicate this season to him and that alone makes them a threat again in the NL Central.
It also didn’t hurt to give staff ace and past World Series hero Adam Wainwright a five-year, $97 million extension to his contract through 2018. With Chris Carpenter’s stellar career likely over, Wainwright’s importance is essential. The Big Four of Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Jake Westbrook and Lance Lynn are intact.
Closer Jason Motte opens on the DL, but the Cardinals are used to closers by committee. Of more importance is keeping Wainwright, Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran healthy. World Series hero of two years ago David Freese also opens the season on the DL, but is expected back in a week or two.
Allen Craig was given a big raise as he takes over the first base job fulltime. The Cards were famous under Tony LaRussa for manufacturing runs and Mike Matheny has continued the practice. Jon Jay, Daniel Descalso and Pete Kosma are slap hitter with speed, who should set the table nicely for Beltran, Holliday and Craig.
Catcher Yadier Molina is the best in the business defensively and is solid with the bat. But the loss of Pujols and Lance Berkman will be felt.
The Cards are projected by LVH for 88 wins, the same mark they achieved a year ago in finishing nine games behind division winner Cincinnati. St. Louis did get a Wild Card and will be in the hunt again. With basically the same team, it figures that 88 wins is right where the Cards should wind up.
Projected wins (88)
Infield: C: Yadier Molina; 1B: Allen Craig; 2B: Daniel Descalso; 3B: David Freese; SS: Pete Kosma.
Outfield: LF: Matt Holliday; CF: Jon Jay; RF: Carlos Beltran.
Pitching: Adam Wainwright; Jaime Garcia; Jake Westbrook; Lance Lynn; Shelby Miller.
Closer: Jason Motte.
Top reserves: RP: Mitchell Boggs; 3B: Matt Carpenter; INF: Ty Wigginton.
Mark Mayer has over 35 years covering sports events and is the sports editor at GT. Reach him at [email protected].