The scariest thing I heard last night was Al Hrabosky yelling “Craig is hurt! Craig is hurt!” as I watched Carlos Beltran score. It was truly terrifying. Watching the replay, it looked bad. He twisted his ankle so that his cleats were facing away from him, and it looked like his season could have been over.
Today, after a little time to recuperate and steady my thoughts, I want to look at the good things (yes, there are good things!) and the bad things about this injury.
Quite simply, Craig is hurt. There is no way that the Cardinals are a better team without Allen Craig. He is an absolute beast with runners in scoring position, he’s third in the NL RBI rankings, and he always seems to come through when you need him most. Down the stretch and into October, the Cardinals have to have him in their lineup.
In addition, what is now being called a foot sprain looked really bad. His foot was ninety degrees off to the side, and it wasn’t pretty. Based purely on the look of the play, seasons (and perhaps even promising careers) were called into question.
The very best thing about this injury is that Craig walked off the field of his own volition. Yeah, it looked bad, but he was able to stand up and walk on it. Did it hurt? I have no doubt. Could it still be serious? Certainly. But I would guess that, even if he doesn’t play again this season, we can expect to see him back next year. And that’s a very good thing. (Side note: I know that it’s often very easy to look at the immediate present and become dismayed, but we’re talking about a player’s career, livelihood, and the future of the team. Sometimes it takes a little bit of foresight and compassion to remember that this season is not the be-all-and-end-all of the world, or of the St. Louis Cardinals.)
In addition, the Cardinals are not doomed. Matt Adams is a very competent first baseman, both offensively and defensively, and he certainly looked pretty clutch last night with two extra-inning home runs. He won’t be Allen Craig, but he will be a solid substitute for a week or two.
But what of Carlos Beltran? Who will play right field when he needs a night off? Or left when Holliday needs a break? Or who fills in if Adams needs a day? The Cardinals have a couple of options. The best one is a guy named Matt Carpenter. He has played the corner outfield positions and first base when asked to, and with Wong able to adequately fill in at second, Carp can move around as needed.
Brock Peterson provides another option for the corner outfield spots and first base. No, he isn’t as good offensively, but he does offer some pop (he lead the Pacific Coast League with 25 home runs this season) and at least offers an alternative to moving Carpenter all over the place.
Finally, the Cardinals offense hasn’t been the greatest of late and needs a bit of a kick start. Maybe changing things up is just what the lineup needs to get going again. I’m not saying that this is the most ideal way to go about it, but it could actually help the offense in the short term.
The long and the short of it is that losing Allen Craig is bad. It puts a struggling offense down another bat. No matter how you look at it, the Cardinals lose a solid hitter off the bench. That said, the situation could be far worse, and there’s no reason to panic just yet.
And Allen, we all wish you well in your recovery. You’ll be in our thoughts and prayers. Rest up, get better, and get ready for October.