Many people use New Year’s Eve to look ahead and make goals for the next year. I don’t want to write a Cardinals New Years’ resolution, though. There’s still plenty of offseason for a piece like that. Instead, with the year coming to a close, I want to look back at some of my favorite St. Louis Cardinals moments from the 2023 season.
This is my personal list so it will probably differ greatly from yours. That’s what the comments are for! Feel free to hit the comments and supply your list because I’m sure there are plenty of worthy moments that I’m not including.
The 2023 season may have been a rough one but there were still some shining moments that made it memorable.
#5 - Jordan Hicks’ Rebound
I love Jordan Hicks. I’ve written about him so many times on this site that you should all know that by now. In fact, he was the pitcher I chose as my breakout candidate in my season predictions article. And then he was downright terrible to start the year. And I mean like a 2.71 ERA and a 22.9% walk rate terrible. My prediction wasn’t looking so hot (that was actually a theme of the piece which I linked below).
But then all of a sudden he flipped a switch and was good Jordan Hicks again. Actually, that’s misleading. He wasn’t good Jordan Hicks, he was new and improved Jordan Hicks. He was a version of Jordan Hicks that we had never seen consistently.
He put up -0.4 fWAR in his first 5.2 innings in 2023. He then put up 1.3 fWAR and a 1.89 FIP in his next 36 innings prior to being traded to the Blue Jays. There was a lot of Jordan Hicks hate on the internet when he was struggling and I absolutely reveled in watching him turn things around and become flat out dominant.
I understood the concern with him at the time but I never bought into it because guys with his arm talent don’t just grow on trees. That’s why I’ve always been high on him and I always will be.
It was nice that my breakout prediction didn’t turn out to be nearly as bad as the rest of my predictions but it was even nicer to see Jordan Hicks become the dominant pitcher that he’s always shown flashes of being. If the Cardinals decide to bring him back then I will look forward to watching him in the birds on the bat again. If not, then I’ll look forward to watching him wherever he ends up.
But now, since I mentioned it, it’s time for some accountability. Here’s the rest of my season predictions if you want to read them and make fun of me. They’re pretty hit or miss. I hit on Hicks and Nolan Gorman but let’s just say I expected the Cardinals to be much better than they were and that obviously didn’t work out. Oh well. Maybe next year my predictions won’t be so terrible.
#4 - Jordan Walker’s Go-Ahead Home Run Against the Marlins
Everything about this was perfect. This was an absolute missile with the Cardinals down to their last strike. The fact that it came off Jordan Walker’s bat is just the cherry on top. Seeing the future anchor of the lineup come through in the clutch was one of the most exciting moments of the season for me.
If we want to choose a favorite Jordan Walker home run, we have a lot to choose from. 16 in fact. I was tempted to choose his first one because that was an awesome moment too but this was too exciting of a home run for me to pass up. In fact, this is the one that sticks in my memory the most. That’s why I chose it.
Now, the fact that the Cardinals lost this game in the bottom of the 9th does put a damper on things (and ironically it was Hicks that took the loss) but I didn’t know that would happen when Walker hit this home run. That’s why it doesn’t change anything for me.
It was an absolutely electric moment.
It felt like Walker had just pulled victory out of the jaws of defeat and even though it wasn’t meant to be, this was one of the best moments of the season for me.
#3 - The Cardinals Haul at the Deadline
Yes the Cardinals sold at the deadline. Is that the most exciting thing in the world? No it is not. But I am a minor league enthusiast after all and the Cardinals had me enthused. I mean where do I even begin. Tekoah Roby? Thomas Saggese? Sem Robberse? Zack Showalter? Adam Kloffenstein? Matt Svanson?
The Cardinals brought in so many prospects that I like and that provided a jolt of mid-season excitement. I had already accepted the futility of the season so seeing the Cardinals sell their expiring contracts so aggressively was great and the fact that they brought in so many good prospects had me ecstatic.
It was the kind of deadline that completely replenished the Cardinals upper level pitching depth and, honestly, replenished a system that was looking a bit weaker after a lot of prospect graduations.
There’s an argument to be made that Roby is the best pitching prospect in the system and Svanson is the best relief prospect in the system. Then we can argue that Saggese is the best position playing prospect in the system not named Masyn Winn. And then there’s Zack Showalter who could be a big riser in the next year or two.
The Cardinals did an amazing job of getting legitimate minor league talent for players who weren’t going to be on the team in 2024. Being sellers at the deadline was unfamiliar territory for the Cardinals but Mozeliak and Co. absolutely crushed it and it was exciting to watch the trades roll in and then have the chance to break them down.
With that said, while it was exciting, here’s hoping the Cardinals won’t be doing the same thing at the 2024 deadline.
#2 - Blogger Day
This one is going to be personal to my list. For those of you who don’t know what Blogger Day is, it’s a day when the Cardinals invite a selection of bloggers and podcasters and twitterers to a game with a suite consisting of food, drinks, and a Q&A session with John Mozeliak himself.
VEB has a presence every year and, as you can probably imagine, it’s an amazing experience. I love that the Cardinals are willing to host it.
Beyond what the Cardinals provide, it’s awesome to meet and talk with people who I only interact with online. I live in Columbus, Ohio so this is often my only chance of the year to see these people and have face-to-face interaction with them and it’s often my only chance to go to Busch Stadium. Blogger day is actually how I officially met some VEB writers for the first time and it’s awesome to be able to see the great people from Birds on the Black and many other internet hubs.
It wasn’t a great day for the Cardinals as they lost 8-4 but that didn’t change the experience in the slightest.
Blogger day also gives me the chance to explore different things in St. Louis (including Imo’s pizza which is apparently controversial amongst the VEB commentariat) and that’s another great thing about having the opportunity to attend the event.
In case you’re interested and missed my article, I wrote about my experience earlier this year, including my takeaways from the Q&A with Mo.
#1 - Adam Wainwright Gets Win #200
What else could I put at the top spot? Adam Wainwright first reached the majors right before I turned 6 years old and has been a staple of the team ever since then. For as long as I can remember being a Cardinals fan, Adam Wainwright has always been there.
For as sentimental as I can get about that, I won’t hesitate to say that he had a bad season. In fact, it was downright awful. But I don’t care. The Cardinals were bad anyways and I wanted to see Wainwright win 200 games even if I do think that pitcher wins are a dumb and meaningless stat. Baseball fandom isn’t always logical.
Watching him win his 200th game in the final start of his career in a season when he had nothing but mid-80s velocity left in the tank was magical. At the start of the season I had no doubts that he would reach the round number milestone; then when I watched him pitch during the season I became skeptical. So watching him hit win #200 while throwing 7 scoreless innings was special.
It was vintage Wainwright and it was something that I simply couldn’t miss. It may have been a terrible season but I’ll remember that moment far longer than I remember the Cardinals record in 2023.
I’ve listed my top 5 moments of the season and now I want to hear yours. What moments stuck out to you? By limiting myself to 5 moments, I’m sure I left out plenty of amazing things that happened this season. And because it’s now almost January, I’m sure I don’t even remember some of the great moments that happened.
So let me know what your top 5 are and happy a very happy New Year!
Thanks for reading!