Time Machine: Destination, December 2004

Some writers and Cardinals fans seem to be suffering from short-term memory disfunction and increasingly-frequent bouts of uncontrollable rage. Brian Walton offers a reminder that this condition is simply a relapse and it too, shall pass - if only you will let it.

I love our Message Board. I really, really do. There are so many interesting people and opinions expressed there. Just last night, I caught a gallows discussion about a Jayson Stark story from ESPN in which he called out the Cardinals as being among the Winter Meetings' losers.


In my book, that is like calling a team "May losers" when they play from April through October. So what? We're talking a small sample size. It's like clocking a sprint while running a marathon.


Joining in the pile-on, one particularly peeved poster banged out a list of the Cardinals players lost so far this fall – a number of big names – to illustrate his point. You already know them by heart. The poster then tapped out a list of the Cardinals' additions so far this off-season. It was littered with names that frankly, aren't all that impressive.


But, I shouldn't just call out message board posters and Stark. A piece I read from a link in our "Cards in the News" feature on Thursday includes a respected but semi-retired Cardinals blogger singing the same song of pain. One of the main Post-Dispatch columnists is calling out team ownership, and so on. More new complaints every day.


Like they say, the Cardinals are obviously rudderless. The owners are carpetbagging cheapskates. The GM is clueless. The manager is a puppet. The team's window of opportunity is closing. They are getting too old, too slow, too complacent.


Yeah, right. When have I heard all that before?


Oh yeah, I hear it every year at this same time. I just want to tune it out, but the incessant complaining is too loud; too pervasive to get out of my head.


So, as I have done so many times before, I started to type out a thoughtful reply on the message board. But, as its length grew and grew, I decided I wanted to share this with more people in hopes they would recognize themselves and accept an offer of help. So, here it is. Take it or leave it as you see fit.


Let's start by trying to establish just a bit of perspective here. Fortunately, we don't have to travel back to the ancient days of World Series Championships in St. Louis to ground ourselves.


Stepping into our time machine, we'll rewind the dial just 12 months back in time to December 2004, shortly after the team had last played for one of those elusive Championships. We'll check in on the state of our beloved Cardinals coming out of last year's Winter Meetings.


Subtractions since the end of the 2004 season:

Steve Kline – the top lefty in the pen the previous four seasons

Mike Matheny – three-time Gold Glover and manager of the staff

Edgar Renteria – "The Captain", four-time All-Star, three Silver Sluggers, two Gold Gloves

Woody Williams – heart and soul of the rotation, winner of 45 games in three-plus years

Tony Womack – coming off a career high .307 average and 26 of 31 in stolen bases

Ray Lankford – career Busch home run leader

Marlon Anderson – even played left field (sort of)


Star players who were hurt:

Chris Carpenter – had missed the playoffs with a mysterious biceps ailment

Albert Pujols – heel spurs in both feet so painful that surgery seemed likely

Jason Isringhausen – torn labrum in his hip led to surgery

Matt Morris - #2 starter underwent shoulder surgery.


Additions to date:


That's right. None. As of this date last year, General Manager Walt Jocketty had neither signed anybody new nor traded for anyone.


Now, you can imagine the hue and cry erupting from all corners of the Cardinal Nation. Perhaps you might even remember it if you really, really try hard.


Jocketty had exited the 2004 Winter Meetings with nothing but frustration to show for his efforts. Walt was so focused on his futile attempt to re-sign Renteria that he was paralyzed. Woe is me and woe are the Cardinals. The off-season was lost and so would be the upcoming 2005 season.


Get my point yet? See a bit of yourself in the mirror, perhaps? Now, can we please stop all the whining? Or, won't you at least wait until the 2006 team is fully assembled?


Despite all those losses from 2004 and more offseason injuries by key returning players than any time in recent history, the 2005 team ended up coming together quite nicely, in fact.


How did that happen, again? In case you have forgotten that part, too, here is the rest of the story. Four of these men played key roles in the 2005 Cardinals' 100-win season.


Additions in the next month following the 2004 Winter Meetings:

Einar Diaz – free agent signed December 15

Mark Mulder – trade on December 18

David Eckstein – non-tendered free agent signed December 23

Mike Myers – free agent signed December 24

Abraham Nunez – free agent signed to a minor league deal on December 30

Mark Grudzielanek – free agent signed January 6


I conclude our time travel with a final reminder to those Cardinals' fans and writers with high blood pressure and strained vocal cords due to short memories.


"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana


Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

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