The 2010 St. Louis Cardinals had a tough year in the standings, but there were still some memorable moments in St. Louis and beyond. The Cards year in review from August to Zack Cox covers the good, the bad, and the ugly of the past year.
A is for August. Specifically August 9, the start of the Cardinals first big series with the Reds. St. Louis came to Cincinnati trailing the Reds by two games and left in first place after a sweep. The series featured some memorable scraps and many believed it would set the tone for the pennant race. The more experienced Cardinals would finally break away from the upstart Reds and take the division title. Rather than break away in the standings, the team broke apart. St. Louis lost five of their next six and seven of their final eight games in August. By Sept. 1 – after being swept by the hapless Houston Astros – the club was eight games behind Cincinnati and all hope was lost.
B is for Boog. Brendan Ryan had a forgettable 2010 campaign that ended with him being traded to Seattle after Ryan Theriot came to town. The Cards shortstop couldn’t catch a break in a year that started with wrist surgery, which limited his time in spring training. He never found a comfort zone at the plate during the season – finishing the year with a .223 batting average – and even struggled at times in the field. He was benched in May after committing two errors in two straight games. Ryan was also embarrassed on national TV when Chris Carpenter gave him an earful during that Reds series in August after he was late to his position in the first inning. Boog was popular and he played a brilliant shortstop, but maybe he needed a fresh start and a new home in 2011.
C is for Clark. Jack Clark was loud and harsh early in 2010 after Mark McGwire admitted that he used steroids for a decade during his career. Clark, who played in the era just before the steroids dominated the game, was a four-time All-Star with the Giants and Cardinals, hitting 340 home runs in his 18-year career. The man known as The Ripper during his playing days didn’t hold back anything when talking about steroid cheats. It may be worthy of the Redbird Rant of the Year:
“A lot of them should be banned from baseball, including Mark McGwire.”
“All those guys are cheaters — A-Rod [Alex Rodriguez]. Fake, phony. Rafael Palmeiro. Fake, a phony, [Roger] Clemens, [Barry] Bonds. [Sammy] Sosa. Fakes. Phonies. They don’t deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.
“They should all be in the Hall of Shame. They can afford to build it. They’ve all got so much money. And they could all go there and talk about the next way to rub something on your skin. The whole thing is creepy.
Steroid abusers and suspected users “are all lucky they didn’t end up in jail. It’s all comical to a certain point. It’s a three-ring circus. It really is. From [commissioner] Bud Selig to Tony [La Russa] to A-Rod to Manny Ramirez to Palmeiro … What a joke.”
“[McGwire is] a sad excuse for a player in the industry of baseball. Just seeing him in uniform makes me throw up.”
D is for Deadline Deal. The Cardinals sent Ryan Ludwick to San Diego in a three-team trade in exchange for right-hander Jake Westbrook from Cleveland. The deal wasn’t the most popular move at the time and many blamed the loss of Luddy on the team’s collapse. But a closer look proves that idea to be false. Ludwick was a solid No. 5 hitter during his time with the team, but he wasn’t untouchable. The chance to land a proven pitcher in Westbrook was an opportunity St. Louis couldn’t pass up despite the team’s offensive struggles. Westbrook, a sinker-ball pitcher, was a perfect fit for Dave Duncan’s philosophy and a nice addition to an already stacked rotation. Though he didn’t make a big enough difference to get the Cards to the playoffs in 2010, Westbrook re-signed with the club for two more years, giving them a legitimate front four in the rotation. The possible rewards in 2011 were worth the risk in hindsight as Ludwick hit .211 with just six home runs in 59 games with San Diego.
E is for Extra Innings. When the game started April 17, the sun was high in the St. Louis sky. By the time it ended, the moon had taken its place. The Cardinals and Mets battled for 20 innings at Busch Stadium for 6 hours and 53 minutes in the longest game in baseball in two years. The Mets came out on top, 2-1. It was also the longest scoreless game since Aug. 23, 1989, when the Dodgers and Expos remained knotted at zero through 21 innings. The old rivals used 19 pitchers who threw a total of 654 pitches. Position players Felipe Lopez and Joe Mather took a turn on the mound with Mather taking the loss despite allowing just two hits. Jose Reyes, who went 0-for-7 in the game, was the hero. Reyes drove in the game-winning run with a sacrifice fly off Mather in the 20th inning.
At that point in the young season, the Cardinals were comfortably in first place and confident 2010 would be a big year. The Mets were already floundering and Jerry Manuel’s seat on the bench was red-hot. Following the historic matchup, both sides hoped it was a good sign. The Cards were finally jelling and showed some toughness to hang in on a long night. New York now had reason to believe after the tough start. The “game for the ages” proved to be just another game, though, as neither team made the playoffs.
F is for Flip. Lopez pitched a scoreless 18th inning in the extra-inning thriller. The day before he helped St. Louis beat New York 4-3 with his grand slam in the seventh inning. Yes, Club Flip was rocking in April. The Cards utility man acquired via free agency during spring training was having a blast early in his second go-around with the club, hitting .284 through July 7. But soon the fun times were replaced with frustration and the party was over. Lopez’s season fell apart right with the rest of the club. When the team needed him most in dog days of August, Flip disappeared. He finished the year with a .231 batting average and an early ticket out of town. St. Louis released him Sept. 21 after he was late to the previous day’s game against Florida. It wasn’t the first time he had been late and the Cards sent him packing with just two weeks left.
G is for Glovework. No franchise has more Gold Gloves than the Cardinals. The Redbirds boast a history that includes Ozzie Smith, Jim Edmonds, and Scott Rolen. Over the last decade, St. Louis is the only team to have a Gold Glover at every position. The Gold Glove is special in St. Louis. The team prides itself on defense, but in 2010, it was less than spectacular. Though Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina were honored for their defensive excellence, the team was among the worst defensively. St. Louis allowed the most unearned runs, 64, of any team with a winning record. The infield was porous at times – a troubling fact considering the team’s pitching philosophy: keep the ball down and let them hit it. It’s a philosophy that only works if the defense, especially the infield can make plays.
H is for Holliday. Matt Holliday made headlines last January when he signed the biggest contract in Cardinals history – a deal worth $120 million over seven years. Despite being a star player, some questioned if he was worth the money. Holliday answered his critics by performing at an All-Star level all season. He tied Albert Pujols for the team lead in batting average with a .312 clip. Holliday also smashed 28 home runs, drove in 103 runs, and scored 95 times. That offensive production earned him a Silver Slugger award and proved he’s the real deal.
I is for Immortalized. As in former Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog being immortalized as a Hall of Famer in Cooperstown. Herzog managed in St. Louis for 10 years and led the Runnin’ Redbirds to the 1982 World Series title. The team relied on a style of play, known as Whiteyball, which depended on speed and defense. Herzog and the Cards reached the World Series again in 1985 and 1987, but came up short. The White Rat finished his career with 1,279 wins and a .532 winning percentage. Herzog was responsible for bringing Hall of Famers Ozzie Smith and Bruce Sutter to the club and created a family atmosphere in St. Louis. When he took his place among the game’s greats in July, he kept his speech short and sweet and ended it perfectly:
“And ever since December, every question that anybody asks me is this: ‘What’s it feel like to be a Hall of Famer?’
“Well, I didn’t know. I kept saying I won’t know until July 25th. Well, now I can tell you what it feels like. Being elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., is like going to heaven before you die.”
J is for Jaime. The Cardinals rookie left-hander took the National League by storm in 2010. Garcia went 13-8 with a 2.70 ERA, good for fourth in the league in a year dominated by pitching. He finished third in Rookie of the Year voting behind Buster Posey and Jason Heyward. The 23-year-old was praised throughout the season by pitching coach Dave Duncan for his presence on the mound. Garcia kept the Cards in nearly every game he pitched. He could battle through tough ones and showed the ability to blow away an opponent too. The young gun in the rotation gave St. Louis the best three-man punch in baseball.
K is for KMOX. The Cardinals organization announced KMOX will be the home of Cardinals radio broadcasts again in 2011 after five years with KTRS. The move was controversial at the time because the KTRS signal is not as far-reaching – it doesn’t cover the entire St. Louis area – or clear as KMOX. The move back to KMOX, which broadcast Redbirds baseball for 51 years before 2006, was made to benefit the fans, according to team President Bill DeWitt.
L is for Losing Teams. No, St. Louis didn’t have a losing record in 2010 even if it felt like they did by September. The Cardinals finished second in the division with an 86-76 record, partly in thanks to their struggles to beat bad teams. The team went 3-20 against losing teams during one part of the year, dropping them out of first place, according to beat writer Derrick Goold. The Cardinals may have had a winning record, but they weren’t a good team in 2010. Good teams take care of business against bad teams. And being good is the stepping stone to greatness. St. Louis will look to take its place as a good baseball team in 2011.
M is for McGwire. Mark McGwire stole the headlines just after New Year’s Day in 2010. The former Cardinals slugger finally came clean after years of silence. He hadn’t talked since the debacle on Capitol Hill and even then, he said little. The same could be said for his admission. McGwire admitted to using steroids, but he did it arrogantly. Instead of saying sorry and admitting that he messed up, he wanted to make sure everyone knew he didn’t need steroids to be great. He said he “wished he had never played in the steroid era” as if he was a victim. McGwire came off as a coward and loser in his apology – an apology that only came because he was going to be the Cardinals hitting coach in 2010. In the dugout, he was quiet and his story never resurfaced after spring training. His team also struggled to produce runs for the Cards stellar pitching staff. Too bad there’s not a pill to take that makes bad coaches into good ones.
N is for Number 2. St. Louis were always second-best in 2010. Just not good enough. The team was runner-up to the Cincinnati Reds in the division race. Albert Pujols was second in MVP voting behind the Reds superstar Joey Votto. And Adam Wainwright was the bridesmaid to Phillies ace Roy Halladay in Cy Young voting. The team struggles likely hurt the individual players’ chances, especially Pujols, who battled Votto and Carlos Gonzalez in a short-lived Triple Crown race in September.
O is for Offensive Ineptitude. Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday were as good as advertised in 2010. Both hit .312 and drove in 100 runs to power the Cards lineup. But no one else stepped up to help out after Ryan Ludwick was traded. Brendan Ryan and Skip Schumaker didn’t come close to their production as table-setters in 2009. Felipe Lopez was M.I.A. half the season, more interested in partying than playing ball. Like Ryan and Schumaker, Yadier Molina fell from his .300-level perch. David Freese played well when he did, but he missed the entire second half with foot injuries. Colby Rasmus was the closest thing to productive. He batted .276 with 23 home runs and 66 RBIs, but he also got in Tony La Russa’s doghouse down the stretch.
It was a two-man show in St. Louis when eight are expected to swing the bat. The pitching staff, made up of just five guys, had three headliners firing.
P is for Pujols. Isn’t it always? The best player in baseball lived up to his name again this season. Pujols led the league in home runs with 42, RBIs with 118, and runs with 115. Had the Cardinals been better, he would have won his fourth MVP award. Pujols also hit his 400th career home run and won his second Gold Glove. After 10 seasons, “his average year reads as .331, 44 doubles, 42 homers, 123 runs, 128 RBIs” – numbers only nine players have ever matched in one season, according to Joe Posnanski.
Q is for Queen City. Home to the Reds, Queen City had something to cheer about again this summer. The Cardinals were directly connected as the Reds beat them out for the division title and became their newest rival. Brandon Phillips taunted St. Louis before that August series that the Cards swept and then set off the bench-clearing brawl when he tried to greet Yadi at home plate. But Phillips and the Reds had the last laugh when they took the title. The Reds young nucleus plays exciting baseball and should keep them in the mix for first place for years to come. MVP Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Drew Stubbs, and Phillips pack a punch in support of Mike Leake, Johnny Cueto, Bronson Arroyo, and the rest of the staff. Aroldis Chapman came on with 105 mph heat to put an exclamation point on the season.
The Big Red Machine shook off the dust and revved its engine. Baseball was back in Cincinnati in 2010. And that and a new intense rivalry with St. Louis is good for baseball.
R is for Rasmus. Colby Rasmus showed flashes of brilliance. He proved he could be a superstar in baseball one day. But it wasn’t all smiles for Rasmus. He requested a trade at one point during the season, likely because of his lacking and deteriorating relationship with Tony La Russa. The two swear it’s behind them, but that remains to be seen. Albert Pujols voiced a strong opinion on Rasmus’ complaints, saying the team should find a way to move him if he didn’t want to be there. Pujols also added: “That’ll show you right there a young player that doesn’t respect what he’s got. He needs to find out the talent and ability that he has and pretty much keep his mouth shut and play the game. Let the organization make those decisions, not himself.” The two talked after that and smoothed things over with Rasmus saying he felt more comfortable in the clubhouse. Trade rumors have continued though. There’s always going to be a ton of interest for a young center fielder with all the potential in the world. After some tough love, will he take another step toward stardom?
S is for Stan the Man. Baseball’s perfect knight will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor for an American civilian. The medal is awarded to those who have had “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States or to world peace or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” Musial is larger than life in St. Louis, which was apparent when the city rallied around him in the “Stand for Stan” campaign organized by the Cardinals. The campaign aimed to gain support for Musial for the award and it paid off. He is an all-time great on the field and a class act off it.
T is for Tony La Russa. The skipper is always in the news in St. Louis. Every move is closely examined and picked apart. He has supporters and detractors alike. And at 66, La Russa is closer to the end of his Hall of Fame career as a manager. He is taking it one year at a time. After a disappointing season, his status in the dugout was as uncertain as ever. In October, the Cardinals announced La Russa will be back for his 16th season with the club. The franchise leader in wins will try to get the Cards back on track next season. With Brendan Ryan gone, it’s unclear if he will be batting the pitcher eighth for extended periods next season.
U is for Underachievement. The Cardinals were a lock to win the division before the season. Every season preview picked St. Louis to win and easily. No other team had the talent to compete. But games aren’t played on paper. Still, the stars that made the Cards pop during spring training predictions actually shined. Albert Pujols was worthy of another MVP. Matt Holliday earned all his money. Adam Wainwright was deserving of the Cy Young award. Chris Carpenter was rock solid. The rest of the team failed to live up to the hype though and St. Louis underachieved all the way to an empty second place finish and a $9,700 playoff bonus.
V is for Vesuvian Eruptions. In such a frustrating year, tempers were bound to flare. And they did. Albert Pujols and Tony La Russa went at it in May during Pujols’ first major slump in his career. The “heated exchange” came when Ryan Ludwick was thrown out at second to end an inning with Pujols at the plate. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Pujols threw his helmet and flipped his bat in disgust at the move and then knocked trays of gum from the bench. La Russa reprimanded Pujols, saying, “That’s enough.” Pujols responded and, according to eyewitnesses, the exchange escalated with La Russa telling Pujols at one point, “I (expletive) know how to manage.” The outburst was the second involving Pujols in as many days. Rasmus and La Russa didn’t see eye-to-eye as stated earlier. The Cardinals and Reds August showdown produced the biggest blow-ups of 2010. First, Chris Carpenter put Brendan Ryan in place twice during the Cards 7-1 opening win.
During Monday night’s game in Cincinnati, Carpenter showed up Cardinals shortstop Brendan Ryan. The St. Louis ace took Ryan aside in the dugout to scold him for delaying the game in the bottom of the first inning just as he was about to start pitching. Ryan was apparently late to the field and grabbed the wrong glove so he had the right one thrown out to him. Instead of brushing it off and using the extra minute to relax, Carpenter chose to stare down his shortstop. As if that wasn’t enough, he made sure to give Ryan an earful when the inning ended. ESPN caught it on one of its many cameras and Ryan looked like an idiot. Carpenter looked like a leader.
The confrontation at the start of the game wasn’t nearly as bad as the one to end Carpenter’s night. With the Cardinals up 7-1, Juan Francisco hit a ground ball in between short and third. Ryan was shading the middle and then stutter-stepped towards the ball but never had a chance to make a play. It was a base hit and a meaningless run scored. Carpenter screamed and shouted in frustration with Ryan as if he just lost a perfect game.
The next day, the Cardinals and Reds fought on the field after Brandon Phillips mixed things up in the media and followed it up with a friendly tap for Yadier Molina at the plate. Molina took offense and the benches cleared. It was just a big mess on the field, but Chris Carpenter threw gasoline on the fire with his loud mouth again and the teams soon ended up in a scrum against the backstop. Johnny Cueto started kicking to make space and hit backup catcher Jason LaRue in the head, causing a concussion and forcing him to retire.
W is for Wainwright. Waino solidified himself as the Cardinals ace and one of the best pitchers in the game. He reached the 20-game mark after missing it by one in 2009. In a year defined by great pitching performances, Wainwright shined and came in second in the Cy Young vote. Only the winner, Roy Halladay, was more impressive and arguably just because of his no-hitter and reputation. Wainwright’s statistics were nearly identical. Wainwright went 20-11 with a 2.42 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 213 strikeouts. Halladay compiled a 21-10 record with a 2.44 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 219 strikeouts. At 28, he is on the verge of taking Halladay’s place as the best pitcher in the game. Peter Gammons points out that since 2007, Wainwright leads National League starters in wins with 64 and ERA with 2.93.
X is for X-rays. Injuries riddled the Redbirds and contributed to the team’s struggles. David Freese was hitting .296 and playing good defense at third base before he sprained his ankle. While still on the DL, he dropped a weight on his foot and broke his toe. Freese never returned and had reconstructive surgery on his right ankle this offseason. Brad Penny was off to a good start before a right shoulder strain kept in May kept him out the rest of the season. Kyle Lohse was also on the DL most of the season with a forearm injury. The Cardinals survived with the back-end rotation troubles, but were forced to trade for Jake Westbrook. Freese was the biggest loss and after playing only 70 games, there are still questions surrounding his ability to play an entire season.
Y is for Year of the Pitcher. The Cardinals weren’t involved in any of the six no-hitters this season. But the Redbirds were a big part of the Year of the Pitcher in 2010, just as the team was in the first one in 1968. Then, Bob Gibson won the Cy Young with a 1.12 ERA and 268 strikeouts in one of the greatest individual seasons ever for a pitcher. A year later, Major League Baseball lowered the mound five inches. Wainwright played the modern-day Gibson in this version as the Cards dominant ace. He was arguably the best pitcher in baseball. Chris Carpenter went 16-9 with a 3.22 ERA, 16th best in the National League. Rookie Jaime Garcia was even more impressive with his 2.70 ERA. The three combined to form one of the best rotations in baseball.
Z is for Zack Cox. Cox was the Cards top draft choice. St. Louis took the Arkansas product with the 25th pick in the draft. He is a look into the future of the organization and its rededication to the farm system. He was called the best pure hitter in college baseball and even compared to Cards Hall of Famer Enos Slaughter. Cox has been described as a “baseball rat” and a throwback player. He headlined a strong draft class that included Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year Seth Blair of Arizona State, high school phenom Tyrell Jenkins, and ASU closer Jordan Swagerty.
Cox, though, is the most polished and the prized jewel. He took batting practice at Busch Stadium after signing and sent balls deep into the seats with ease. Cards fans look forward to the day he’s doing that in big games for the home team.
Tags: 1982 World Series 20 Innings Adam Wainwright Albert Pujols Bob Gibson Brad Penny Brandon Phillips Brawl Brendan Ryan Chris Carpenter Colby Rasmus Cy Young David Freese Extra Innings Felipe Lopez Gold Gloves History Jack Clark Jaime Garcia Jake Westbrook Joey Votto KMOX KTRS Kyle Lohse Mark McGwire MLB Draft MVP National Baseball Hall Of Fame NL Central Presidential Medal Of Freedom Rivalry Rookie Of The Year Roy Halladay Ryan Ludwick St Louis Cardinals Stan Musial Stand For Stan Steroids Tony La Russa Whitey Herzog Whiteyball Year Of The Pitcher Zack Cox