Monday, December 31, 2007

Top 5 Cardinal Stories of 2007 (and 5 things to watch for 2008)

Dan over at C70 at the bat came up with the good idea for some of us Cardinals bloggers to list what we thought were the biggest stories of 2007. The idea was to post the list today and he'd link to all the lists in his blog.

Well, with perfect intentions, this post should have appeared this morning. However, Indy/Tennessee was a bit too enthralling (I wanted to know who the Chargers would be playing this weekend), and then the Sound of Music came on (can't miss in my book)... well what do you know it's New Year's Eve.

As a west-coast blogger, well, I get to post on Monday nights after most of the world has gone to bed - or in the case of today, gone to the Champagne bottle. So I missed the boat. But, since I gave my word I'd do a post on my thoughts regarding the top 5 Cardinal stories of 2007, here's my short list.

5. Josh Hancock dies. Really only memorable because a professional athlete died in the middle of the season. It did mentally affect the team's performance for a time, and it did serve as something of a marshalling point; however it didn't galvanize the team like Darryl Kile's death in 2002 did (or the way Sean Taylor's death has for the Washington Redskins)

For me, this was memorable because ol' Josh's father decided to sue the world over his death - the restaurant, the bartender, the tow truck driver, yada yada yada - which led to this post. It wasn't something I enjoyed writing, but it needed to be said.

4. Walt Jocketty, Cardinals part ways. After 14 years, a World Series Championship, and the contract extension he had signed through 2009, you'd think this event would be higher on the list. Fact was, rumors of discord in the Cardinal front office had circulated all year, including the widely reported "story" that Walt was considering taking over the GM job with Cincinnati. His ultimate departure from the organization wasn't that big of a surprise; it was, frankly, one of the worst-kept secrets of the year.

3. AP left on bench; NL loses All-Star game. A big story because of the magnitude of Pujols' star power, the fact that his manager was the one running the NL side (and the one who decided to stay with Aaron Rowland against K-Rod), and the fact that the NL had the bases loaded with 2 out and down by 1. A hit would have won the game. Why would you leave the NL's most feared hitter on the bench in that spot? The story quickly diffused into explanations from LaRussa and Pujols about why and that it wasn't that big a deal, but it once again IMHO displayed why playing the All-Star game for home field advantage in the World Series is a terrible idea.

2. Edmonds traded to Padres for Minor Leaguer. Signifying the end of the Edmonds era in St Louis and the start of the MV3 break-up. Most had expected Rolen to be the first to go given his ongoing friction with LaRussa (which has been true for 3 years, so doesn't make the top 5 this year). It also formally and blatantly signalled a change of course for the franchise; a conscious decision to dump payroll in the form of stars no longer producing; a significant effort to upgrade the team's farm system and build a winner from within (in the fine tradition of Branch Rickey). Lots of us greeted this news with shock and dismay, me among them.

1. Carpenter has surgery, done for the year. The biggest story of the year. Chris was the lynchpin of our hopes for a title defense; everyone knew with Mulder on the shelf until after the All-Star break, a reclamation project (Wells), a cross-your-fingers-project (Looper), a head case (Reyes), and the 'rookie' starter (Wainwright), Carpenter had to produce. He went down in early April, and we all hoped he could come back. He tried and couldn't. Cardinal playoff hopes went down the tubes the day the club reported he was having surgery and was done for the year. What a huge pyschological blow for the team and their fan base!

So that's it. As I search my 'wine cellar' (read: second fridge) for any bubbly to ring in the new year, here's 5 stories to keep your eyes on for 2008:

- Will the Cardinals sign a free agent pitcher (God help me if it's Kyle Lohse)?
- How many votes will McGwire get for the HOF this time around?
- Will Mulder and Carpenter regain some semblance of their old command when they return?
- Will Colby Rasmus be as good as he's projected to be?
- Will Rolen stay a Cardinal for all of 2008?

Cheers, Happy New Year, and please - if you're partying on the town, don't drive.

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