1. Jamie Garcia and Chris Carpenter pick up right where they left off last season. While many people are all caught up with who will replace ace Adam Wainwright in the starting rotation, I’m focused on the two guys who have proven that they can get the job done. Yes it would be nice to see a surprise pitcher come out of nowhere to impress us all much like Jamie Garcia did last year, but it won’t matter at all if Carpenter and Garcia can’t rack up the wins at the top of the rotation.
2. Colby Rasmus finally starts developing into the potential superstar that he can be. This 24-year-old has all the potential in the world, and if he can put all of his talent together this season, the Cardinals will be in much better shape. He has seen some ups and downs in his brief two year career, but I think it’s only a matter of time before he becomes a consistent and reliable contributor.
3. David Freese bounces back from injury and puts up some quality numbers. As of right now, third base is one of the major question marks heading into the 2011 season. Freese is certainly capable of performing well at the hot corner, but he just needs to find a way to stay on the field. He has only played 87 games for the Cardinals over the last two years, but he has averages of .299/.360/.413 during that time. He plays great defense, something that the Cards gave up a lot of this offseason, and any type of spark he can provide in any phase of the game would be huge.
4. Tony La Russa gets over himself and isn’t afraid to experiment with a depleted roster. When a team is faced with some tough injuries, much of the responsibility to overcome these injuries falls on the managers shoulders (That would be you TLR). To say the least, La Russa has made some very questionable decisions in recent history. Perhaps this year more than ever, the Cardinals needs him to do whatever it takes over the course of the season to win at all costs. It will probably require some mixing and matching here and there, so La Russa cannot cling to his veteran guys and have a narrow mindset as far as how to go about achieving success.
5. They beat the teams that they are supposed to beat. You had to know this one was coming. Imagine how differently things would have turned out last year had St. Louis been able to beat teams with poor records. It really didn’t make any sense, but the team can’t afford to let it happen again. The Cards are up against the odds as it is, so the first step to taking back the division title will be winning the “must-win” games.