As fans of the St Louis Cardinals still celebrate the victory in this past season’s World Series, it is important to look back at teams that have accomplished this feat before. With the way sports are set up, it’s rare to see a player stay with a team for an extended period of time even if there is a track record of success. With the departure of Octavio Dotel, Edwin Jackson, Arthur Rhodes, Gerald Laird, Nick Punto, Ryan Theriot, and of course Albert Pujols, the defending World Series champions will already see a lot of turnover just heading into the next season. What became of those men that last brought the World Series trophy to St Louis?
We will focus on the pitching staff today. The best place to start this discussion is in the rotation. In the playoffs, the difference between a solid rotation and a decent one is the difference between winning a championship and taking an early vacation. The Cardinals pitching staff heading into the playoffs in 2006 was looked at as being very weak, but ended up being a strength in the World Series as every starter, except for game 4 starter Jeff Suppan, threw a quality start. What has become of these four men?
Game 1 starter Anthony Reyes was a pitcher who appeared to have a ton of potential when he was named to the roster in 2006 after four solid outing in 2005. Baseball America named him the Cardinals’ top prospect in 2005 and 2006. He was very inconsistent throughout the 2006 season, ending with a 5.06 ERA and a K/9 ratio of 7.6, down considerably from his high minor league numbers. None of that mattered in game 1, though, as he pitched a two-hitter through eight innings and retiring 20 batters in a row. Unfortunately that start remains the lone bright spot in his career. He pitched to a 6.04 ERA in 2007 and saw his K/9 fall to 6.2. After ten relief appearances in 2008 and another decline in strikeout numbers, Reyes was traded to the Cleveland Indians for Luis Perdomo. He pitched very well in six starts for the Indians, but saw his K/9 fall to 3.1. After eight miserable starts in 2009, Anthony was shut down with an elbow injury. Through seven starts spread between 2010 and 2011, Reyes has not performed well and it appears his major league days may be over.
Games 2 and 5 were started by Jeff Weaver. Game 2 was the Cardinals only loss as Weaver was touched up for three runs in five innings against a remarkable performance by Kenny Rogers. The clinching game 5, however, memorably saw Weaver last 8 innings while allowing only one run and striking out nine. Jeff parlayed his playoff heroics into a one year eight million dollar deal with the Mariners. The years that followed saw Jeff Weaver continue to be Jeff Weaver. He pitched miserably for Seattle in 2007, spent time in the minors with Milwaukee and Cleveland in 2008, and pitched somewhat effectively for the Dodgers in 2009, mostly out of the bullpen. He spent 2010 exclusively as a relief pitcher with Los Angeles to poor results. Currently, he is a free agent but there hasn’t been news of much interest.
Game 3 was started by defending Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter. Chris pitched a masterful eight innings of shutout baseball. He allowed three hits and struck out six. He was shut down after one start in 2007 and underwent Tommy John surgery. He made three starts in 2008 and showed signs of full recovery. In 2009 he finished second in Cy Young voting and put up the lowest ERA in his Cardinals career. Chris was also very effective in 2010 and 2011. In September, he signed a two-year contract that will keep him on the Cardinals through the 2013 season, after which he will presumably retire as a Cy Young winner and two-time World Series champion.
The last starter for the Cardinals was Jeff Suppan. As stated, he was the only starter to not pitch a quality start in the 2006 World Series, but was dominant through two starts in the NLCS. Like Weaver, Jeff Suppan used his success in the playoffs to earn a deal with another ballclub. He signed a four year, 42 million dollar contract with the Milwaukee Brewers. The results were horrid in 2007, 2008, and 2009 as Suppan’s ERA floated around the 5 range. He was released mid-season in 2010 and returned to the St Louis Cardinals. He made 13 decent starts, but spent all of 2011 on the Royals’ AAA roster. He is also a free agent heading in 2012 but, like Weaver, interest has been minimal.
So the Cardinals rotation that looked awful on paper heading into the playoffs turned out to be…pretty awful in the long run, actually. Carpenter is the lone success story, as the others have achieved nothing since winning the big one in 2006.
On Saturday, I’ll look at the bullpen for the Cardinals 2006 World Series roster. Without giving anything away, the closer from that year turned out all right.