For years, baseball historians, archaeologists, and anthropologists have belived that the Tony LaRussa era St. Louis Cardinals were successful because of an undocumented group of gritty role players who dwell in the bullpen and on the bench of the Stadiums Busch. Today, in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Cardinal athropoligst Tom Gordon has made startling revelations about this collection of individuals. The group? GUYS LIKE RUSS SPRINGER.
You, like me, are undoubtedly wondering who has membership in the exclusive League of GLRS ("Guys LIke Russ Springer")? Very little documentation exists. Up until today, no one even knew the name of this shadow group within the Cardinal Clubhouse, the lifeblood of a decade of winning. But, not only has Poster-Dispatcher Gordon exposed their collective name, but he has also provided the list of their membership, a list many thought lost to the sands of time. Here it is: So Taguchi, Scott Spiezio, Aaron Miles, Cal Eldred, Eduardo Perez, John Mabry, Craig Paquette, and Mike Matthews.
You, like me, are doubtlessly wondering how a list touting the secret to the success of the TLR era does not include Albert Pujols, or, as I like to call him, "The Greatest Baseball Player in the World."
Sure, Albert Pujols is the foundation that all this is built on. But reliable veterans -– mentally tough guys like Springer -– have given recent vintage Cards teams their heart and soul.
So Pujols is "the foundation," but "The success of the La Russa regime is built on guys like Springer." For those slightly confused, as I was, yes, a "foundation" is, in fact, "the natural or prepared ground or base on which some structure rests." Perhaps Pujols is the bedrock, under the soil, upon which the foundation of the League of GLRS stands stoutly foundationing the Cardinals to success...
While there is some confusion as to just what makes up the foundation of the St. Louis Cardinal Baseball Club--Pujols or the League of GLRS--there is but one entity that makes up the "heart and soul" of the ballclub and it is the "mentally tough" League of GLRS.
Heart and soul doesn't hit many home runs, get many RBIs, get on base very often, play many innings, throw many pitches, or retire many batters. This is why the League of GLRS have gone oft-unrecognized in the annals of Cardinal lore. However, Mr. Gordon continues to illuminate us as to this long-standing LaRussan League of GLRS. Aside from providing a heart and a soul to the collective club as a whole, they have done much more, as Mr. Gordon lays out...
Such players offer more than insurance, depth and fill-in capability. They help mold the team’s competitive personality and sustain the push through the 162-game marathon.
Insurance, kinda. Depth, yes. Fill-in capability, as in replacement player. That's what they are. Role players off of the bench.
These guys show up every day ready to give what they have whenever they are needed.
Isn't this the lowest possible bar one can set? Giving what they have whenever they are needed? This isn't the Justice League of America where what they have are super powers and when they are needed is an instance when the planet is in great peril. (As an aside, how does David Eckstein not get included in this League? Does a World Series MVP preclude you from being amongst the ranks of the League of GLRS? Or, does accounting for more than 10 win shares in a season (28 in '05, 12 in '06, 11 in '07) preclude inclusion in the League?)
They don’t require constant hand-holding from the staff or consistent usage to remain focused.
La Russa appreciates such players and makes them important. Such players are a huge part of the culture he has maintained through most of his time here.
How was that culture in 2007? 2008? When the Cards were floundering in fourth place. Don't get me wrong. As a Cardinal fan, I love the players listed above. But I don't allow myself to cry a river of nostalgia for gritty role players who are a dime a dozen. Without letting these guys go, we'd have never had their replacements. Paquette gave way to Mabry. Mabry gave way to Spezio. Role players by their very definition are not foundational in nature. They are complimentary parts, plugged into a nearly complete puzzle.
The key to success in the TLR era has been Mark McGwire, Matt Morris, Woody Williams, Chris Carpenter, Jason Isringhausen, Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds, Edgar Renteria, and Yadi Molina. Every playoff team has a core of All-Stars that produce offensively and defensively. This article is just silly and I don't at all understand how you can point to the depth of righty relievers who will fill the '09 'pen in one paragraph, cite the other holes yet to be filled, and then argue that Springer is in any way integral to the success of the 2009 Cardinals. Especially after him being a member of the 2007 and 2008 non-playoff teams.