I rooted hard for Peter Kozma. I really did.
The Cardinals’ first-round pick in 2007, Kozma escalated through the system based mostly on the merits of his glove, which I’ll admit was terrific last year. His bat, though, was never that great to begin with, and I think Cardinals fans were falsely given hope thanks to the small sample size of 2012 and his “what just happened” game-winning hit in the NLDS:
After putting on a post-season performance that’ll be remembered in St. Louis likely for the rest of its existence, David Freese had a terrific 2012 season, posting a .839 OPS and earning his first All-Star spot. He struggled heavily in 2013, though, posting an OPS+ barely above the league average, and he was downright abysmal in the post-season, recording more strikeouts (16) than hits (10). As a result, Cardinal management decided to give him a change of scenery, packaging him and Fernando Salas and shipping them to Anaheim for Peter Bourjos and Randal Grichuk.
St. Louis has had a bit of a revolving door when it comes to the middle of the infield. Second base has been the worst overall culprit. How bad? The last player to start more than two seasons in a row as the opening day second baseman was Fernando Vina, whose final season with the Cardinals was in 2003.
Since then, the Cardinals’ Opening Day starters at second base have been:
2004 – Tony Womack
2005 – Mark Grudzielanek
2006 – Aaron Miles
2007 – Adam Kennedy
2008 – Adam Kennedy
2009 – Brendan Ryan
2010 – Skip Schumaker
2011 – Skip Schumaker
2012 – Daniel Descalso
2013 – Daniel Descalso
Not exactly a beacon of awesome or consistency.
Cardinals fans were lucky enough to witness one of the greatest hitters in history manning first from 2004-2011. When he moved on, it wasn’t unreasonable to expect at least a bit of a drop in production, but thankfully, Allen Craig has stepped up huge the last two seasons, even earning an All-Star nod last season.
This year, though, it’s pretty easy to project yet another starter at first base, as the the departure of Carlos Beltran coupled with the season-ending injury suffered by super-prospect Oscar Taveras has left an opening in right field, where it’s likely Allen Craig will move.
Two more wins.
That’s all they needed. In a season where the Cardinals managed a total of 106 wins (regular and post-season), all they had to do was win two more, and the Commissioner’s Trophy would have found its way yet again to the Gateway to the West.
In 2011, they won a total of 101 and brought the trophy home. This team was five wins better, yet couldn’t get as far. What do the two have to do with each other? Nothing, really. I just thought it was interesting.
But that’s all in the past, right? The calendar’s turned, and we’re less than two weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting.
And so, in the midst of all this ridiculous winter weather, my editors have graciously budgeted enough money to send me
to Jupiter, FL for spring training nowhere for the next month, forcing me to remain here while mother nature shakes her cold dandruff all over us yet again. Dammit, editors. I’m not bitter at all. [Editors' note: Steve's pay has been docked so WE can go to Jupiter. See you all in a month.]
But hey. We’re in this together. So instead of being warm, let’s look ahead to the 2014 season and what may come.