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St. Louis Cardinals Preview 2010: October in April

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CINCINNATI, OH - APRIL 5: Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a home run in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds at the Great American Ball Park on March 5, 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - APRIL 5: Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a home run in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds at the Great American Ball Park on March 5, 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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After one game there's not a lot to say that hasn't been said all February, although different people—and fewer—are now in the best shapes of their respective lives. On Opening Day we got a chance to see magnified versions of the team's strengths and weaknesses, with the offense proving to be unstoppable and the bullpen proving to be unenjoyable. It's one day, and one win, but nine hours into the Cardinals' 2010 season I think I'd be happy with trading a shaky year from Ryan Franklin for the version of Colby Rasmus that hits long home runs and robs home runs without bothering to climb the wall. 

The team the Cardinals have built in this past offseason—from the moment the shine went off Matt Holliday to the Julio Lugo trade last week—is as good as any other in the National League. Mozeliak and the front office's heavy lifting is over, and it's safe to say now, whatever the result, that they had a good 2009-2010 season. Over the course of the 2010 season it leaves the Cardinals with a very distinct "shape", a style and plan that changes the course their season will take, compared to their fuzzy, malleable 2007-2009 counterparts. 

It's a team with multiple focal points—Albert Pujols is joined by long-term by Matt Holliday as well as Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter, who in 2007 and 2008 was $19 million worth of big-budget sadness. It has players at every position who are potential multi-year solutions—among other things it finally has a second baseman who is not a recent free agent acquisition, or a guy coming off a terrible year, or any other incumbent who will end up losing playing time to Aaron Miles

More than any Cardinals team since 2005 this is a team that looks like it will win, is supposed to win, and—as much as Tony La Russa wishes it weren't so—will not trade on the idea of surprising some group of hypothetical doubters. It's a third iteration of the respectable 2008 Cardinals, and as any self-respecting tech blog will tell you the 3.0 version is the one to buy; all the bugs are out of the first version, and some nice new features have been added in the offseason. 

The 2009 team was good, but flawed, and before the season started we could diagnose those flaws and wonder how they might play out over the course of the season. Maybe it's not difficult to forecast this team because we're in April, and not October—it's difficult to forecast them because we know that they're a team that's been built to win from Opening Day, and all that's left to see is how well it actually works, how 161 more games can alter what we've followed so closely.