Thearon W. Henderson
Our Thanksgiving gimmickry continues with this look back on every infielder on the Cardinals' 40-man roster. We looked at the catchers here.
The St. Louis Cardinals' 40-man roster has seven-or-eight players on it who are primarily infielders, and all of them got major league playing time in 2012, which will make this easier, thankfulness-wise, than the pitching section. (Previously: we thanked some catchers.) Moving alphabetically, we start with Matt Adams, the Cardinals' backstop for what seemed an unlikely depletion of depth back in March.
Thanks you, Matt Adams, for being around when the Cardinals broke glass in case of emergency. The Cardinals' gameplan going into the 2012 season attempted to mitigate injury risk, at the corners, entirely on the 25-man roster. Lance Berkman was injury prone, and Allen Craig might be a little injury prone, but both of them were wedged tightly onto a roster filled with corner bats. Matt Carpenter, even, made the roster to stand behind both of them, along with David Freese.
But Lance Berkman thinned out the Cardinals' rotation by moving from "injury prone" to "injured," and before getting hurt himself Matt Adams found himself briefly atop the depth chart at first base. He wasn't great in his first big league stint, but I'm thankful for Matt Adams because he offered (and offers) the possibility that he might be great. At 24 he isn't just a AAAA fill-in--he's an enormous power hitter who strikes out not quite as much as you'd expect and has a career minor league line, after a successful start in Memphis, of .318/.365/.565.
Thank you, Matt Carpenter, for being The Understudy. Matt Carpenter did a strikingly accurate David Freese impression last year--for a while their OPS lines were practically identical--even though he wasn't called in to imitate Freese as often as you might expect.
But despite coming into the major leagues with a very particular reputation of his own--lots of walks, not a lot of everything else--Carpenter spent his rookie season doing an exceptional job of imitating the Cardinals' various injured hitter-types. Lance Berkman? Check. Carlos Beltran? Aside from the preternatural outfield grace, check, including some ultimately unsuccessful NLCS heroics.
So thanks, Matt Carpenter, for putting your own nature aside in the service of acting like even better hitters than you are. We appreciated it.
Thank you, Daniel Descalso, for Game 5 of the NLDS. Pete Kozma's game-winner will get most of the credit, but your eighth-inning homer against Tyler Clippard was the moment in which I really felt at peace in that game. Whatever happened, in the end, the Cardinals' ragged persistence had won me over.
Thanks, also, for being an unwilling time-traveler and World War II veteran.
Having earned yourself permanent hometown fame already, I'd like to thank you, David Freese, for putting together your best regular season the year after.
I have spent most of the offseason worrying about the Cardinals' middle infield, and Rafael Furcal's health is chief among the reasons to worry. But here's what I'm thankful about, re: Furcal's presence on the team: He's been competent.
Rafael Furcal has been a great shortstop, a great baserunner, a pretty good hitter, and he's shown us all those things recently, if not recently enough for my tastes. When you look at Daniel Descalso, a few months in AA aside, or Ryan Jackson, you have to imagine some new configuration of skills coming together at the right moment to turn him into an impact player. With Rafael Furcal, you just have to remember Rafael Furcal.
It wasn't very likely for Mike Trout to act like Mike Trout, and he's Mike Trout. But Pete Kozma's apparent 10-WAR pace in September has become a VEB talking point in the offseason, and for good reason: It was incredible that it happened at all. Our skepticism about his ability to repeat it is an awkward way of paying tribute.
1.4 fWAR in 80 plate appearances? Kozma won't do that again. Cal Ripken probably wouldn't do it, either. Thanks, Pete Kozma, for those plate appearances.