Okay, show of hands, everyone. Who here was surprised to see Ryan Franklin give up that homer? Anyone? No? Well, that's fine. I wasn't either. In fact, I honestly turned to my father (who I was watching the game with last night), and said, "Tie game" the second Franklin gave up the base hit. Sometimes the train sneaks up on you. Other times, it comes roaring out of the tunnel, lights blazing and whistle shrieking. It just so happened to be one of those second times last night.
With that blown save, the 2008 Cardinals tied the franchise record for blown saves at thirty one. Sadly, barring something truly bizarre happening, they won't get a chance to take a shot at the all time record, which is something like 37 for one of those mid 90s Colorado teams I think. Hey, a record's a record, damnit.
I'm just going to come right out and say it. I can't think of a thing to say about this team this morning that we haven't already been over. It's one of the occupational hazards this time of year. So I thought that we could maybe look at the 2008 Cardinals and give out the season awards. So, without further ado (or a patented Red Baron overblown intro), here are your 2008 St. Louis Cardinal season award winners.
Most Valuable Player- Albert Pujols
Honestly, can there be anyone else? I'll give an honourable mention to Ryan Ludwick, who did an outstanding job for the Cards this season, but Albert is the straw that stirs the Cardinals' drink.
It's been said before, and I'll say it again, Albert is underappreciated. And that's no small feat, really, considering the accolades that are consistently heaped on his shoulders. Still, though, no other player in baseball puts up the numbers that he does year after year, with the reliability of a metronome. If AP doesn't win the MVP in the National League this year, it will be a complete travesty. No such worries though about the Cards' award.
How about an 1.109 OPS? Is that good enough to finally get him another trophy? Or will his superior play be trumped by the home run totals and coastal advantage of Ryan Howard? I suppose we'll just have to wait and see.
Cy Young Award- Todd Wellemeyer
This was actually sort of a tough one, to be honest. I gave a lot of consideration to Kyle Lohse and Adam Wainwright for this award as well as the Colonel.
Lohse made two more starts than Wellemeyer and threw fifteen more innings, which very nearly tipped the scales in his favour. Welley, though, led the team in ERA and strikeouts. Both pitchers started out strong, then struggled in the second half of the season. Both also managed to rebound and finish out strong.
Wainwright got consideration because I still think he was probably the Cards' best pitcher this season. He lost only three times all year, and had an ERA that was lower than someone like, oh, I don't know, Brandon Webb, who will most likely win his second NL Cy Young award this year. Unfortunately for the Wagonmaker, those two and a half months he missed do count, and I just couldn't give the award to a guy who made only twenty starts, compared to over thirty for the other two candidates. Even more unfortunately for the Cardinals, if Wainer stays healthy, I'm pretty sure the team finds a way to get in to the postseason.
So the award goes to Wellemeyer, by the slimmest of margins. You could make an argument either way for the Colonel or Lohse, but I just think Welley was a bit more dominant at times this season. So congratulations, Todd. If you had told me back in March that I would be giving Todd Wellemeyer the Cards' CY award, well, honestly, I'm not sure what I would have said. However, I am absolutely certain that it wouldn't have been polite, nor reflected well on the state of your intelligence.
Rookie of the Year- Kyle McClellan
This one, as opposed to the Cy Young, was easy. Not as easy as it might have been in years past, when the Cards simply didn't have any rookies, but still not that tough of a call to make.
For the better part of the year, Kyle McClellan was not only the best rookie on the team, he was the single best pitcher in the bullpen, period. Sadly, his September swoon has severely damaged his overall statistical line for the year, as well as throwing a bit of doubt into some hats about his long term outlook.
At the end of August, McClellan's ERA stood at 3.16. Even at that point, it was on the way up, from just 2.91 on the fifteenth of the month. In September, McClellan has made only six appearances, and been unscored upon only once, in a contest against the Pirates on the 13th. His final ERA stands at 4.04, and his won/loss record at 2-7. Neither one, I think, truly represent just how well K-Mac has pitched this season. Early in the season, though, he often represented the only good choice in the bullpen, and racked up the appearances accordingly. Unfortunately, it looks like it may have taken a toll on Kyle.
While it would be outstanding if McClellan could transition back into the starting rotation, as Azru talked about yesterday, I have to admit that I worry about his ability to hold up over that many innings over the course of a season. Either way, K-Mac was outstanding this year, and deserves a ton of praise for his efforts.
Comeback Player of the Year- Troy Glaus
Remember what it was like when the Cardinals traded Scott Rolen for Troy Glaus? There were a lot of us wondering if the Cardinals got the short end of the stick in the deal. Personally, I was happy that Mozeliak was able to get such a good return for a player who clearly had no chance of sticking around here, but Glaus' medical history did give me pause nonetheless.
Or how about in the middle of April, when Glaus hadn't hit a home run yet? We all wondered where his vaunted power had gone. The spectre of PEDs was even raised a time or two.
Well, it's pretty clear now that the Cardinals came out on the better end of that deal, big time. Glaus had an excellent season for the Cards, by pretty much any measure you care to use. For one, his glove was far, far better than I was expecting, and I think he should probably win the Gold Glove in the NL this year. I don't think he will, but I think he should.
He'll end the season with 25+ home runs, a number that very well could have been higher if not for that odd early season outage, and close to 100 RBIs. I will say, he has to be the streakiest player I've seen since Jim Edmonds back in his glory days.
In the end, it was about as good a season as you could have hoped for from the Cards' new third baseman. Certainly a long way from where he was at the end of last season to the end of this one.
Reliever of the Year- Russ Springer
I considered Kyle McClellan for this one; I really did. Heck, I believe I said earlier that K-Mac was probably the best reliever the Cards had this year. Still, though, when you're looking for that one guy who, night after night, came in to put out the fires started by his bullpen brethren, you just have to acknowledge the year that Russ Springer has had.
For starters, how about a 2.37 ERA? I don't care what sort of measure you go by; that's awfully good. All season, Springer was the guy who came in to get the last out in an inning that was rapidly going bad. For the season, he allowed only eleven of forty five inherited runners to score, probably a more meaningful statistic, honestly. There's a very nice preview of the 2009 Bill James Handbook over at SI.com that shows Springer to be among the elite relievers in the game this season, in pretty much every category imaginable.
I will freely admit it; I was against the resigning of Russ Springer when it happened. It was too much money for a guy who was too old and just wasn't as good as his salary and the Cards just gave the guy the extra money because Russ wanted to play here, and blah blah blah. Well, can you imagine now where the Cardinal bullpen might be without Russ Springer? Personally, I don't even really want to consider it. Was his performance worth the $3.5 million that the Cards paid him this year for his services? Well, that's a much tougher question, and one that ends up having a lot to do with your philosophy on how to construct a successful relief corps.
What I do know is that the Cardinals should have an excess of righthanded relievers to choose from for next season. Of the three veterans in the 'pen, Izzy, Franklin, and Springer, Springer is the only one I want to see in a Cardinal uni next season. Trade Franklin and give Izzy a gold watch, but I would really like to see Springer again. Particularly in a 'pen that could be really, really young, the Cards could do a whole lot worse than to bring back Russ.
Okay, everybody. Those are my season awards. Probably not too very many of them are all that shocking, but I like taking the time to acknowledge the contributions of those players who helped to make this such a gratifying season in so many ways. It may not have turned out quite like we had hoped, but the players here did everything they could to make it better than most of us thought.