If….are there too many “ifs” facing the 2012 Cardinals? Every pre-season is full of “ifs”. There are always the debates before the season starts. However it seems this season has a plethora of them. Possibly there is more than the usual amount; especially coming off of a World Series championship and the loss of certain players and the additions of others.
The 2012 Cardinals are arguably the greatest comeback team in the history of the sport. Statistically they did something and overcame a greater late season deficit than any other team in baseball. I find the talk of a repeat kind of strange since there was no way they were supposed to do what they did, so repeating in that fashion I find very improbable. That is not saying I don’t think the Cardinals are not going to be in the thick of the race. I think they will. I think they are the favorites to go deep into the post season. However, this is where the “ifs” come in full force.
Adam Wainwright: IF he is ready to go after Tommy John surgery, he will be a force to be reckoned with and could be the ace of the staff. The probability of this is great and most players return as strong or even stronger after the surgery. It is not a guarantee. All of the reports that have been made since his surgery and during his recovery have assured us he will be ready.
Chris Carpenter: IF he stays healthy, we know what he will bring to the mix. There is no question of the drive and desire that Carp brings to each and every game he is involved in. There is no reason to think this year will be any different. However, he has had arm issues all through his career. He has been surgically repaired on numerous occasions and came back as the machine we know and love. But, he is literally one of those pitchers that he could make one pitch and be done. I think all of the Cardinal faithful crosses their fingers every time he grimaces or flinches.
Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook: IF they can give their share of quality starts, they can be an asset to the team. However, their reliability has not given Cardinal fans the warm fuzzy they like to have when it comes to later in the rotation. They have the ability, but will they produce what they are capable of?
David Freese: IF he can play a full season and stay healthy, will he live up to the hype? The post season that Freese produced propelled him into superstar status in the hearts of St. Louis loyalists. Does he have what it takes to shoulder the new role and can he stay healthy enough to see it through. His dream like performances in the post season would be tough to repeat. I think he will be solid, but time will tell if he can do it day in and day out.
Allen Craig: IF he can come back strong from knee surgery he should be a major player. I think this is one of the bigger questions out there. The latest reports say that Craig is hopeful to be ready by opening day. That would be great, but it is another case of time will tell. Will the knee hold up to the everyday stress of the season? Craig stands in line to be a big time player for the Cardinals. However, how bad was the knee really and will he be ready to play and at full strength?
Lance Berkman: IF he can have another season like last season we are in good shape. The move to first base I think most definitely leans toward helping Berkman. The Cardinals rolled the dice when they signed the Big Puma and it worked out fantastic. However, was it a late career surge or was it showing that he still had some left in the tanks. Depending on the fuel level, we all know what Berkman can do. He killed the Cardinals for years as an Astro. If there is anyone that I am pulling for to rise to the top again, it is Berkman.
Matt Holliday: IF the departure of a superstar will relax him a bit and let him ease into the role of the team workhorse, he is destined for a big year. I honestly think that since his arrival he has played in the shadow of Albert Pujols. That is nothing to be ashamed of; all of baseball has played in his shadow for many years. But, I think Holliday was used to being the man. He is going to get his chance this year. Upon accepting this role he may finally get the chance to show what he is truly capable of. I am not saying he hasn’t been a major factor since his arrival, but I think he will even shine brighter this year.
Carlos Beltran: IF he can stay healthy, he is one of the best. I am not saying that I wouldn’t have rather had him a few years ago, I would have. But, that is neither here nor there. We have him now. Many look to him to fill the void that was created by that other guy that left for California. I don’t think that is a wise mindset. Those spikes are of such a great size, it is unlikely that anyone soon will be able to fit into them. However, I think, he will without doubt ease the pain. This is all depending on his health. A healthy Beltran is a force to be dealt with. When he is on, he is a major impact player. I think he will be a good fit in St. Louis.
Mike Matheny: IF he can take the control that is needed. It has been said you never want to be the guy that follows one of the greats. It is not a spot you want to be in. There will be an uncountable number of comparisons and questioning of moves that he makes. I think Matheny is a strong character and will be able to handle it. However, this is the first time ever being a coach on this big of a stage. He is faced with many questions and decisions that will need to be made. I do not envy him.
Overall, the Cardinals are in great shape. I think we could possibly be a stronger team entering the 2012 season than we were last year. That is IF everything falls into place. We will know soon enough.