And so we come to the final page of the Year 2008, which, by the Gregorian Calendar, marked the 2008th year since the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. And you thought this was just a baseball blog.
As we prepare to ring in the New Year, let us look back at the year that was from a Cardinal perspective.
Well, that's a lot of ground to cover. How about we limit ourselves to the Top 5 Cardinal stories? Yes, I think that would be better. Less writing for me. Less reading for you. And, the United Cardinal Bloggers recommended capping the list at 5 as well.
So, here are my most important stories from the past year, ranked from 5 to 1:
#5 - Mark Mulder's arm falls off, released by Cardinals.
This is a big story in my mind, although a tragic one (mildly funny byline notwithstanding). Obviously Mark's arm didn't actually fall off. However, after fighting for 3 years to restore the strength in his pitching shoulder so he could return to the throwing arm position that marked his successful years in Oakland, his return to the Majors was a 16 pitch effort against Philadelphia where he didn't get out of the first inning. Mark's tenacity was commendable and is admirable, however, the Cardinals got nothing for the 2 year deal they signed him to following the 2006 season.
We thought he would again become a mainstay of the rotation for 2007-2009. He didn't. Recognizing the mistake, and moving on, was a big story. Cutting him loose for $1.5 million allowed them to use the option year money on his contract more wisely, in this case, to fund Kyle Lohse's $41M contract.
Which, in light of the ridiculous money the Yankees threw at Sabathia and Burnett, now looks like a bargain signing. I'm not above saying I may have been wrong in my panning that signing earlier this off-season.
#4 - Khalil Greene traded to the Cardinals, to play short stop for 2/3 of the year.
Cardinals have had a dearth of power hitting from the middle infield positions since Renteria left the club after 2004. Although they will continue to employ a banjo hitter at second base, whoever that turns out to be, Greene represents a significant upgrade at the plate from Izturis, Miles, and the band of merry men used in 2008.
Now if he can only figure out how to not break a finger during the season....
#3 - George Kissell Dies.
This Baseball Reference article is succinct and says it all. Employed by one Major League Baseball club longer than anyone in recorded history. Widely credited with protecting, and passing on, the 'Cardinal Way' of playing baseball.
When someone who teaches the young players how to play the game right passes away, that's big news to me. He will be missed by the organization.
#2 - Albert Pujols wins Second NL MVP award.
BBWAA members belied their not paying attention, 'what have you done for me lately' reputation, looked past their infatuation with Ryan Howard's lone good offensive month and voted the award to the best player in the NL. I was fully prepared for Albert to not win the award, and was pleasantly surprised when he did.
#1 - Cardinals finish 86-76, stay in playoff hunt until last 2 weeks of the season.
Let's face it, we all predicted this would be a sub-500 season. In fact, I'm pretty sure I prognosticated the team winning only 74 games this season. But look at all the positive story lines from this year:
- Ryan Ludwick's career year
- Isringhausen stepping aside for Perez at the back of games
- Ankiel's great first half (including two of the most ridiculous outfield throws to cut down runners you'll ever see)
- Kyle Lohse pitching like an All-Star
- McClellan a right handed anchor in the seventh/eighth innings (until he was exhausted)
- Molina's bat
- VASTLY improved team defense
- Troy Glaus being better than expected all around (robbed of a Gold Glove, by the way)
This team fought, scratched, had one of the best offensives in the NL, and far, FAR exceeded expectations. That's the biggest story of 2008 - a spring of resignation turned into a summer of hope, and a fall of satisfaction, that the team played competitive baseball all season.
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