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Christmas came early for Cardinals fans

Posted Saturday, December 24, 2011, at 7:57 AM


If Cardinals fans wake up Christmas morning and don't find presents under their tree, they shouldn't be disappointed. Fans need to remember that their family got together a little early this year for a gift exchange.

While I know some fans will feel like all they got was a $254 million lump of coal, there is a lot to be thankful for this year.

Here are ten reasons.

1. The 2011 World Series - OK, hopefully you haven't forgotten this one yet. For those of you who forgot, the Cardinals won the last game they played in 2011. In the postseason that only happens to one team.

2. Wainwright pt. 1- When pitchers and catchers report in February, a familiar and very welcome face will be present: Adam Wainwright. The presence that he is capable of bringing, in addition to wins, will be one of several things that will help the Cardinals survive in the post-AP era. Remember how bad we thought it would be without Wain-o? Well, imagine what could happen with him.

3. Beltran - While not the agile fielder that he once was, the addition of Carlos Beltran to the Cardinals roster is huge. The additional offense he will bring as well as the added threat to the lineup will help to protect guys like Holliday and Berkman. Beltran is coming off of a good season and I don't see any reason not to expect another from him. I question his CF production, but two years off of surgery I hope we're presently surprised at his mobility.

4. Berkman - The Cardinals re-upped the Big Puma. This guy came to the Cardinals with a lot of fans and media personnel doubting his worth, but he wasted absolutely no time whatsoever smashing a baseball right through their expectations. Berkman's stance as a clubhouse leader, which really happened as soon as he walked in the door, is good for the team. He's a positive role-model for the younger players and a skilled veteran with lots of knowledge to share.

5. Wainwright pt. 2 - Following AP's departure, the Cardinals should have money available to make a stronger push at re-signing ace starter Adam Wainwright. There's not a lot to say about this, but it is definitely something to be thankful for.

6. Squirrels - Whether you believe in the mystical role played by squirrels in the Cardinals postseason run or not, you at least have to appreciate the humor they brought to the game. Watching that squirrel bolt past Schumaker sent me to tears I laughed so hard. Whether it's a good luck omen or not, the fact is, I still had to spend $48 on four squirrels, without so much as a Cardinals logo, for my kids at the World Series. If nothing else, squirrel-gate gave us a fun memory.

7. Distractions - While we do have to be concerned with Yadier Molina's pending free agency, it won't be near the distraction that we had from Albert. I'm glad to see the biggest non-distraction in history finally over with.

8. Shorter offseason - Thanks to playing so deep in October, our "waiting for baseball" season will be much shorter. This means we won't have to spend quite as long pretending we care about other sports.

9. Home opener against the Cubs - When the Cardinals play their home opener in 2012, it will be against the Chicago Cubs - as if opening day tickets weren't already expensive enough. The only thing better than that first Philly cheese steak of the year would be to pound the baby bears into oblivion. I might even celebrate that with a second Philly. I'm always fishing for an excuse to have a second Philly.

10. Fookie's return - The return of Rafael Furcal at shortstop marks the first time in what feels like an eternity since the team started the season with a highly-rated defensive shortstop. He's no slouch with the bat either as we learned last season. While I think they certainly overpaid for him, I don't think there was a choice. I certainly didn't want Tyler Greene as our everyday starting shortstop. His day may well come, but not yet.

I'd like to thank everyone who has faithfully read my column. I wish each and every one of you a wonderful Christmas season. Thanks for reading - Corey.

Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

I might be in the minority, but losing Molina to free agency for a better hitting catcher wouldn't be a bad thing in my opinion.

I've been waiting on this for years.

-- Posted by Dustin Ward on Fri, Dec 23, 2011, at 10:34 PM

Should the Cards trade Molina at the deadline if they are certain he is headed to the Angels in the offseason?

-- Posted by Dustin Ward on Fri, Dec 23, 2011, at 10:36 PM
Corey Noles
Interesting point, Dustin. The key here would be if they are certain. If he is clearly upset about the Albert deal, etc., then that's a possibility. My guess us that they are already talking now in an effort to either re-up him or figure out his intentions. If his intentions are to leave and he makes that clear, they wouldn't have a choice but to trade. However, if they think they have a hope at keeping him, they'll hang on. Any trade would mean that he was upset enough there was no doubt as to his plans.

Personally, I would hate to see him go because defensively, he almost irreplaceable. Offensively, he led the team in average this year, but I'm not convinced that will be a trend yet. At 29, he likely has a few good years left in him, but catchers don't play til they're 40 like some pitchers, etc. I would try to lock him up for about four seasons, but I wouldn't be comfortable going any longer. Make him a good deal, if that doesn't work, shop him around a little and see what you come up with. Of course, I haven't done any research so I have no idea which catchers may or may not be available. I'll look into that. Might make an interesting column next week.

I think we still need a "true" lead-off man, as well.

Losing Molina would be a disaster. None better and he's starting to come into his own offensively.

-- Posted by deadred on Fri, Dec 23, 2011, at 11:41 PM

interesting point deadred

Glad you spoke out!

-- Posted by Dustin Ward on Sat, Dec 24, 2011, at 12:40 AM

Molina is increasing his production offensively each season and he is the Cardinals rock behind the plate. He is the best catcher in the game. He is whats going to make the team click and come together next season. If the Cardinals lose him, it doesnt matter how many star hitters they have in the lineup. Without Molina the Cardinals are pretenders and not contenders.

-- Posted by baseballfan2010 on Sat, Dec 24, 2011, at 9:05 AM
Corey Noles
I'm not in any way arguing his value, but I won't go so far as to call them "pretenders" without Yadi. Defensively, he's irreplaceable.That speaks for itself. Offensively, he had a great year. In looking at his statistics over the course of his career, I'm anxious to see what this year has in store for him. Out of 8 seasons he has had 3 very impressive offensive years, but the others have been so so. I agree that Yadi is the rock, but his consistency is most vital behind the plate. The stuff not measured in statistics is his biggest value. The knowledge of the game and the way he knows how to "baby" a pitcher are invaluable traits that don't come from picking up just anyone off the market. Personally, I hope he stays, but my gut tells me not to be too attached. I think he'll be a Cardinal all season, because we would never trade him if we are in the running for a pennant, but as we know all too well, anything can happen in the free agent market and Yadi will draw a LOT of interest. Bernie Miklasz did a fantastic column on this situation that really laid it all out there. Everyone should give it a read. Bernie really lays it all out there. Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas!

Better hitting catcher? Molina hit .305 with 14 homers and 65 RBI...I'm really not sure how much better you can get as a catcher. Maybe more power numbers but what you're going to get in power you're not going to get in defense.

-- Posted by 7plus1 on Mon, Dec 26, 2011, at 12:21 PM

I just read Corey's post and maybe you're right. He is getting pretty old so who knows how many years he has left, much less quality years like this one. Maybe I should have read everything before I said something!

-- Posted by 7plus1 on Mon, Dec 26, 2011, at 12:24 PM
Corey Noles
I really didn't mean to come across like I was knocking Molina's production in my earlier post, but I do feel like sometimes in baseball you have to be realistic. Thanks for reading!

I think one of the Cardinals ownership stances on free agent and potential free agents applies here. John Mozeliak had stated in the past that they will not pay players for production in the past, they are going to pay for what they think the player will do in the future. I think that this applied to Albert as well as it will to Molina. At 30 years old this season, if he becomes a free agent, there will be a market for Molina. However, I do believe that some one out there will drastically overpay for him. I think that the Cards should extend his contract, but only for 3-4 years. He has already had knee issues in the past few seasons and those will only get worse the next few seasons.

-- Posted by redbirdfan74 on Mon, Dec 26, 2011, at 7:49 PM
Corey Noles
Yeah and knee issues with catchers usually signal the beginning of the end. They'll play through it for awhile, but eventually it gets the best of them. Physically speaking, it's likely the most taxing position on the field. Knees, hips, back, ankles...all of those things, once they start causing problems for a catcher, almost never get dramatically better in the long term.

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Corey Noles, staff writer for The Daily Statesman and Editor of The North Stoddard Countian, is the author of a regular baseball/St. Louis Cardinals column and also uses his blog to sound off on various happenings in sports. He also operates a weekly baseball mailbag column.

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