2015 was a bittersweet season for the St. Louis Cardinals but that doesn’t mean the stories were all bad. Let’s look at five big developments.
This isn’t easy. It stinks actually. Talking about the 2015 St. Louis Cardinals is like talking about that one party that you went to with great expectations that ended in chaos, ridicule and a lingering sadness.
The St. Louis Cardinals didn’t have it easy or make it easy for fans. Their team took more hits than the Millennium Falcon did in the latest Star Wars. Yet like Han Solo’s ship, the Cards stayed afloat enough to win 100 games, land a date with the upstart Chicago Cubs and viciously get knocked out of the first round.
However, forgetting about the many entertaining aspects and achievements would be an unfit act for a writer to partake in.
Here are the five top stories of the 2015 season.
1) The arrival of Carlos Martinez
He entered the season as a possible 5th starter and ended it as the most popular reason the Cards couldn’t stand up against the Cubs in the NLDS. With an array of nasty pitches and an ability to pitch under pressure, Martinez became a top of the rotation threat.
He used emotion like a truck uses diesel, mowing down hitters with ease. A shoulder injury cut his campaign short, but not before El Gallo made a statement.
2) Stephen Piscotty emerges
Piscotty is located at the intersection of hype and reality. After adjusting his swing, the Stanford engineer became a run producer for the team in multiple spots in the order, from the #2 hole to the 6th spot. He showed an ability to play first base as well as left and right field.
He is one of the reasons the Cards were able to survive the second half declines of Jhonny Peralta and Kolten Wong and the MIA Matt Holliday. 2016 should be interesting to see how Piscotty fares in a full season, but 2015’s appetizer was enough to lay down a fine tread of excitement. He was also one of the few bats to do anything against the Cubs in the postseason.
3) The Jason Heyward saga
He came, conquered, and left with a bitterness that swept Cardinal Nation. No letters. No calls. A Twitter profile change to the worst possible logo. Whether you dug his play completely or merely respected it, Heyward was a dazzling talent and a fun player to watch.
He hit consistently(if not for a ton of power) from May 1st on and saved runs in the field with his range, arm and overall ability to play the outfield. A 26 year old talent who cost the Cardinals Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins teased St. Louis with his mad hat talents and left for less overall money, more escape clauses and a younger team in Chicago.
It was messy, emotional and drawn out over weeks but looking back at Heyward’s one season in St. Louis, it’s hard to not think about the success story this 2015 offseason may have been if he picked the Cards over the Cubs.
4) The Great Pitching: A Double Edged Sword
Without Adam Wainwright for five months, the pitching carried a feeble offensive attack once again. A lineup that scored 647 runs(the lowest total for a 100 win team) needed all the help it could get.
The dominant pitching of Martinez, surprise performance from John Lackey, nastiness of Jaime Garcia, the gutsy efforts of Lance Lynn and the workman like abilities of Michael Wacha along with a bullpen that featured a unique set of nails in Kevin Siegrist and Trevor Rosenthal. It was marvelous until it was hanging on by a thread.
Eventually, human anatomy comes into play and wrecks a well meaning party. Wacha burnt out. Martinez got hurt. Lackey was forced to start two of the NLDS games. Garcia pitched sick and coughed up another terrible postseason performance.
Lynn pitched for a half season with an arm injury and couldn’t start a postseason game. Siegrist’s arm turned to Swiss cheese and got hammered by the Cubs sluggers. While the pitching was historically great in 2015, the wheels came off at the worst time.
5) The Hacking Scandal/Drug Suspensions reveal a black eye
In June, the FBI announced an investigation into the St. Louis Cardinals for hacking into the Houston Astros computer data system and stealing information. Or something weird. When the dust settled, the team fired scouting director Chris Correa(who was just promoted and helped organize the 2015 draft) and hired former pitcher Randy Flores to take over the spot.
The storm clouds haven’t departed yet, as the investigation is ongoing and apparently annoying some in its lack of coverage(talking to you Ben Maller). No matter how it plays out, the hacking scandal with the Cards revealed a black eye for the organization in a year where Cody Stanley was hit with a second PED suspension and prime pitching phenom Alex Reyes was hit with a 50 game suspension for a second positive marijuana test.
There’s something to be said for the way an organization conducts itself and hopefully 2016 doesn’t feature any unnecessary surprises for the Cardinals off the field.
Sure there were other things but this just about covers it. The 2015 season was bittersweet because it featured many miraculous moments and great stories, but ended in abrupt disappointment.
The offseason hasn’t improved the vibe either, with the failed pursuits of David Price and Heyward leaving a bad taste in the fans taste buds and leaving a lot to be desired on the table. As 2015 wraps up, a Cardinals fan can only hope 2016 doesn’t just present an exciting start but a more worthwhile and satisfying conclusion.