Last week we made our way through the pitching staff of the 2006 World Series to see what the members have accomplished since entering the MLB playoffs and emerging as world champions. This week we are going to look at the position players that aided in the journey. The 2006 Cardinals roster is actually interesting to look at much in the same way the 2011 roster will be. With the much talked about MV3 of Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds, and Scott Rolen being broken up in the seasons after the World Series run, this season was actually their last shot at a title. Looking back 2006 really marks the end of that era for the Cardinals, much like 2011 marks the end of the Pujols era. They were starters, though. Today we are going to focus on the bench to save the starting roster as the main attraction the way it had been in the 2000s for St Louis.
The bench for the Cardinals in 2006 was not that noteworthy on paper. As we have seen in the 16 years of the LaRussa era, Tony is known for carrying players that were more useful for their versatility than their actual skill. Whereas some teams might have benches filled with role players like the powerful pinch hit ability of Matt Stairs, the speed of Juan Pierre, or the fielding of Dewayne Wise, Tony liked to have guys that could play all over the field and get a hit or draw a walk in the right situation. This tinkering has frustrated fans at times, but has also led Tony to be one of the most successful managers of all-time. This flexibility was visible on the 2006 Cardinals.
The backup catcher for 2006 Cardinals was Gary Bennett. Bennett was another in a line of prototype backup catchers for the Cardinals. Bennett saw no time in the World Series and only appeared in three games total, but in his time as a Cardinal, he was a capable backup to Yadier. He backed up Yadi again in 2007, but the Cardinals exercised the buy-out option in his contract instead of bringing him back for 2008. Bennett was named in the Mitchell Report as a suspected PED user, which greatly affected his value. He eventually signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers and appeared in ten games for the major league team in 2008, but hasn’t been offered a contract since.
Infielder Scott Spiezio was very valuable for the Cardinals in the 2006 season as he gave the Cardinals a backup to an injury-plagued Scott Rolen. Rolen was battling shoulder issues and Spiezio’s presence gave Rolen time to rest. Spiezio was looked at as an ace in the hole by LaRussa as he has postseason success during his run with the Los Angeles Angels in 2002. He played a key role in game 2 of the NLCS, as he hit a two-run triple in the seventh inning to tie the game. He returned to the Cardinals on a two-year deal, but was placed on the restricted list in August due to suspicions of a substance abuse issue. He returned in September to finish out the season, but was arrested in February 2008 for being part of a car crash in California. He was subsequently released from his contract. He signed a minor league deal with the Braves, but was released in April for being unprepared to play in a game.
Outfielder Chris Duncan emerged as a power hitting threat in the 2006 season. He mashed 22 home runs only 314 plate appearances. He did not perform well in the playoffs, but returned to the Cardinals in 2007 as the starting left fielder. He continued to show an impressive power stroke, hitting 21 homers in 432 plate appearances before hitting the DL with a sports hernia. After a slow start in 2008, he was sent down to Memphis but was recalled in June to fill in at first base for an injured Albert Pujols. At the end of July, though, he hit the disabled list again and had season-ending surgery to repair what the team diagnosed as a pinched nerve. He returned in 2009, but was sent down to Memphis after another slow start. He was controversially traded to the Red Sox in a move that almost cost the Cardinals their pitching coach. Chris’s father, Dave Duncan, was not happy about the move. Duncan saw no time on the Red Sox major league team and spent 2010 on the Nationals AAA team. He started to host a radio show on the St Louis affiliate of ESPN radio, but was replaced in January. No word yet on whether Chris is pursuing a return to baseball, but the Redbird Rants extend condolences for his mother, who is battling cancer.
So Taguchi, the Cardinals fifth outfielder, was the first Japanese-born player in Cardinals history. He actually had an interesting start to his Cardinals career as getting a number became a bit of a hassle for him. He wore the number 6 in Japan, but obviously could not wear that number with the Cardinals. He opted to wear a 9, as it is an upside-down 6. That number was also retired, however, as was the number 1 that he wore in the Olympics. He wanted to double the 6 to wear number 66, but that number was in use by Rick Ankiel. He finally settled on number 99. His playing career was not nearly as interesting, however, as he appeared in about 600 games for the Cardinals across multiple seasons, but never put up starter-quality numbers. He did, however, hit a dramatic go-ahead home run in game 2 of the NLCS. So spent time with the Phillies and Cubs in the years after his time with the Cardinals ended, but has since returned to Japan.
Rounding out the bench for the Cardinals was Aaron Miles. Miles didn’t see a lot of playing time for the Cardinals in the playoffs, but served as a superutility player in 2007 and 2008. He’s so versatile that he actually has five innings of relief pitching under his belt with the Cardinals with only two runs given up. He is also the man responsible for ending Juan Encarnacion‘s playing his career, as he hit a foul ball that struck Encarnacion in his eye. Miles has played for the Cubs and Dodgers in the years since winning a World Series and also returned to the Cardinals in 2010. He is a free agent entering 2012.
Much like the bullpen, the Cardinals bench players have not seen a lot of success in the years since winning a World Series. Only Aaron Miles remains in the league and even he isn’t guaranteed a contract for the forthcoming season.