It's About Time

From the World According to Joe Mammy.


Chris Carpenter got the nod he deserved last week for his consistency and outright domination for 2005 and Albert Pujols finally was recognized for the honor he has arguably deserved at once before.  For the first time since '68 the NL MVP and Cy Young trophies are both resting comfortably in St. Louis.


It's been a few weeks and the sting of the NLCS loss is starting to lessen.  As the World Series closed I remembered a conversation I had with an Astros fan at the end of the '04 campaign when he mocked the Cardinals saying "we could've at least won one game in the Series."  I just thought to myself "not as easy as all that is it?" but somehow comeuppance hardly seems like a rewarding end to the season.  But this season really hasn't been like other recent seasons.


Consider this: more people seem to be interested in Wayne Hagin leaving the Cardinals than Einar Diaz hitting the doors.  Or Larry Walker's retirement that was written in stone until the season actually ended.  Or that Roger Cedeno was on the team at all?


So the off-season drama has begun.  The Cardinals need outfield help, have two malcontents to deal with or move and a number of free agents to either sign or replace.  This year however we have the luxury of an MVP and a Cy Young winner returning to anchor a lineup.  To me it seems that this is the year that the Cardinals don't go through a significant rebuilding phase as much as they reload.  The Cardinals are on pace to be the most dominant NL team since the Cincinnati Big Red Machine teams from the 70's—which is elite company to say the least.  The only thing they're missing is a World Championship.


That's not to say that everything is set.  I'm dreading the process of finding a second baseman this year.  Last two years second baseman searches frankly scared me with players like Roberto Alomar, Hector Luna, Bo Hart, Wilton Guerrero and Marlon Anderson—nice people all, but not great options for starters.  In fact it seems more like little acts of providence that have gifted the Cardinals with great years from Tony Womack and Mark Grudzielanek (and if we're being honest, the aforementioned Mr. Hart for half of the '03 campaign) but how many times can lightning strike at the same position?  And, as much as I like Tony La Russa and Walt Jocketty, pursuing free agents like Alomar and Barry Larkin seemed like a bad idea then and even scarier in retrospect.


I'm not too enthused about the outside contenders floating through the rumor mill right now.  Bret Boone is no spring chicken coming off an ugly '05 campaign and Alfonso Soriano, well, he's got pop in his bat, but is infamously impatient at the plate and one of the worst fielders in the league at his position.  Considering the Cardinals are built around wearing opposing pitchers down and solid defense up the middle, Soriano would seem to be a poor fit.


And while I'm talking about "poor fits", it's time to let Matt Morris go.  Matt's had great numbers in St Louis and I wish him the best of luck, but as long as Tony La Russa keeps treating Morris like a go-to guy when other pitchers in the rotation have been more consistent and more successful in key situations (Jeff Suppan, anyone?) he's going to be a liability.  I've given Morris a hard time in the past, but on this count, the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of La Russa and Dave Duncan.  Their loyalty is refreshing and a positive quality, but they seem to see an upside that just isn't there anymore.  If they're worried about disrespecting a player who has given many years of great service to the Cardinals, then I think the best compliment is to wish him well and send him on his way to succeed somewhere else.


Let the games begin.


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