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Christmas came early for Cardinals fansPosted Saturday, December 24, 2011, at 7:57 AM
By COREY NOLES
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.
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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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