United Cardinal Bloggers—Top 5 Headlines for 2011

  1.  Albert Pujols doesn’t get signed before spring training

I think I’m in the minority on this one.  Bill Ivie over at I-70 baseball and I discussed this last night on blog talk radio.  The reason I don’t think the Cardinals will get Albert Pujols signed is because I think he is looking for more than A-Rod money, and I hope the Cardinals don’t take the bait.  This has to be the number one headline for 2011, as rumors of where Pujols could end up will last all year.  It will be interesting.  I think the Cards have a great chance with the current team to play deep into October, and winning the 2011 World Series could give them more incentive to let Pujols go.  So while I would love to see the Cards unload Pujols now and get back as much as possible, there’s also a part of me that would be ok with Pujols leaving via free agency if they win it all this year.  I think the Cardinals know that if they win it all in 2011, that would give them some breathing room for the next couple of years.

If the Cards stiffest competition (the Brewers in my opinion), pull far away from them by the All-Star break, I think you have to trade him at that time.  I look for the Angels, Dodgers or Mets to make serious offers.  I would like to see Pujols go to the Angels if he leaves where the Cardinals receive Kendry Morales and a prospect or two.  Ike Davis and prospects from the Mets, or Andre Either and prospects from the Dodgers would also be intriguing.  Basically, I just don’t see how the Cardinals sign Pujols unless it makes sense unless it can be done for around $200 million over 7-8 years, and even then I think it’s putting too many eggs in one basket.

 2.  David Freese gets a flat tire

If David Freese could manage to stay healthy all year and produce in 2011 at the rate he started in 2010, the Cardinals lineup is as deep as any in the NL.  I’d love to see Colby Rasmus, Pujols, Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman and Freese hitting 2-6 all year.  However, it seems like more of a dream than a reality.  Ankle injuries are not injuries players bounce back from easily.  It’s very possible that Nick Punto gets over 400 AB’s, most of them coming from 3B. 

 3.  Kyle Lohse wins comeback player of the year

Again, my heart is taking over, but Dave Duncan’s words are in my head.  We may never see the 2008 Kyle Lohse again.  One thing that gives me hope with this situation though is Duncan.  Duncan is a man of few words, but back in an interview with Bernie Miklasz in December, Duncan raved about the mental toughness of Kyle Lohse.  I just don’t think that Duncan would talk that way if he wasn’t 100% sure on the mentality of one of his pitchers.   Lohse is going to be pitching as the 5th starter, and most matchups should favor him.  Hopefully the Cardinals offense gives him some early confidence.  The injury to Lohse was an unusual one for pitchers, described as extreme compartment syndrome, as the surgery is normally performed on distance runners and motocross riders. I think the Cardinals have a fine back up plan in Ian Snell, but hopefully he won’t be needed.  It also appears that Lance Lynn made tremendous strides at the end of 2010, so the depth appears to be there now if needed.

 4.  The Brewers come on hard

While most of the attention is focused on Cincinnati, I feel the Brewers will be the biggest threat to the Cardinals in 2011.  The Brewers found their closer last year in John Axford.  He appears to be the real deal, posting a SO/9 of 10.57, and was 24 of 27 in save opportunities.  The offense is a potent one, featuring a core of Rickie Weeks, Casey McGehee, Prince Fielder, Corey Hart and Ryan Braun.  They were 2nd in HR’s in the NL last year with 182, 4th in OBP and 3rd in OPS.

All the Brewers needed was pitching, and they got it.  Adding Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum were huge deals.  A deal that flew under the radar was for set-up man Takashi Saito.  It appears the rotation will be Greinke, Yovani Gallardo, Marcum, Randy Wolf and Chris Narveson.  The Brewers had a team ERA of 4.58, and the only NL teams behind them were the Pirates and Diamondbacks.  The Cardinals were a full run better at 3.57, and while I still like the Cardinals pitching staff better on paper, the Brewers have closed the gap considerably.  Maybe they return to untucking their shirts, hopefully not more than about 90 times though.

5.  The Cardinals will play the Red Sox in the 2011 World Series

Yeah, I like to think big.  The Cardinals have the potential for a great 2011.  You have to love the starting pitching staff in so many ways.  Again, if Lohse doesn’t bounce back to his 2008 form, hopefully Dave Duncan can bring Ian Snell back to his 2007 form.  Lance Lynn appears to be ready to step in at the 5th starting spot if needed.  I think most of our biggest fears are about the health of the team, but if the Cardinals can still be playing in October with the team that is penciled in to start the year, it’s hard to imagine the Cardinals not being in a position to win it all.

I don’t see another team stopping the Boston Red Sox in the AL, as they have a great balance of power, speed and pitching.  If the Cardinals do make it to this point, you have to like how they matchup against anyone as long as Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter keep doing their thing.  Even with the slight regression expected out of Jaime Garcia, the pitching staff is rock solid 1-4 with these 3 and Jake Westbrook.  A lot has been made about chemistry and how much it means, and it’s just a matter of time before we find out.  I like the moves made this offseason, and again, if Colby continues to get better and Berkman has another run in him, 2011 could be special.

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