Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Cardinal Numbers

I haven't said much about the St. Louis Cardinals this year, feeling that silence was the only appropriate response after the national embarassment of last October.

But with the regular season nearing its end, I'd be remiss if I didn't take a moment to hail the remarkable accomplishment of the Cards this season. Last year, the Redbirds won an MLB-best 105 games during the regular season. As I write this, they've won 95 games already this season, and with nine games remaining they have a solid chance of cracking 100 again.

What makes this remarkable to me is the fact that they are about to lock down the best record in baseball for the second year in a row while playing with exactly one player from last year's infield. As a result of free agency and injuries, only returning first baseman (and ought-to-be-MVP) Albert Pujols remains in the daily lineup, with an entirely new cast at second, shortstop, third base, and behind the plate.

Just as remarkably, Jim Edmonds has been the only steady presence in the outfield from last year's team. Both Reggie Sanders and Larry Walker, the other two starting 2004 outfielders, have been sidelined for months with injuries this year.

To boil it down: the Cardinals are going to have the best record in baseball for the second year in a row with only two regular starters from last year's team consistently being in the lineup.

Everyone will want to give manager Tony LaRussa credit for this, and I suppose he deserves some. But what it really proves is that Walt Jocketty is the best general manager in baseball.

Nobody knows what will happen in the post-season, and after 2004 I'm certainly not going to venture any guesses. But what the St. Louis Cardinals have accomplished in the regular season is impressive indeed.

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