Now that the World Series is over and the Cardinals are finally done, I guess I can get back to writing about baseball. And what better way to get back into the swing of things than writing about the Series that just ended?
On one hand, this is a particularly rough way for my team go down. I had been particularly hoping the Cardinals won this one on behalf of Carlos Beltran. He’s been, by all accounts, an incredible and underrated star with a history of great postseason performances and disappointing endings. And by all accounts, he’s been a great guy, too; it’s hard not to feel miserable for him. I’m sorry we couldn’t get him a ring the way we did with Lance Berkman.
There are other reasons to feel frustrated about this series, too. Mike Matheny looked overmatched at times. The Cardinals were utterly deserted by the luck they had experienced with runners in scoring position during the regular season-St. Louis actually outhit the Red Sox 45 to 41 over the six games, despite being outscored 27 to 14. It’s not hard to imagine a title with only two or three more lucky breaks.
But, at the same time, there’s a lot to be excited for in the future. This team won 97 games this season, but there’s still reason to hope for improvement. First and foremost is the pitching; Adam Wainwright may or may not replicate his stellar year as the team’s ace, but there’s still plenty of depth around him. Shelby Miller, just 22 this season, burst out the gates, making a case for Rookie of the Year. Michael Wacha, who turned 22 in July, made a name for himself in September and October.
And then there’s Carlos Martinez (turned 22 in September) and set-up man-turned-closer Trevor Rosenthal (23), who will both hopefully get to show their stuff in the rotation (Jason Motte will be returning from surgery next year, meaning they should have enough depth to shift them). And that’s not even getting into Lance Lynn, Jaime Garcia, and Joe Kelly, all of whom will still be around.
There’s good things on offense, too. Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina, and Allen Craig will all be returning. Matt Carpenter had a breakout year at the top of the lineup, and can either stay at second or move to third if prospect Kolten Wong forces his way into the lineup. Matt Adams may become a regular force in the lineup, and the team also has top prospect Oscar Taveras in the wings.
There’s even more to be excited about for 2014. The team could always make a move from outside the organization. Beltran will be hard to replace, but the only other players who are free agents are Jake Westbrook (who looks to be the eighth or so starter on the depth chart), Edward Mujica (who was admittedly a good reliever for most of the season, but those are rather replaceable), Chris Carpenter, and Rafael Furcal (both of whom were injured the entirety of 2013).
All in all, those five represent over $40 million coming off the books, with only one part looking hard to replace. Granted, there will be player raises through arbitration and such, but that still leaves them with something in the neighborhood of $30 million to use as needed for whatever holes they can’t fill internally. It’s a lot of flexibility, especially for a team with as much of a long-term core in place.
It’s always tough to take a loss like this, when you were so close to the top. But it makes me feel better that there are so many reasons for Cardinals fans to be optimistic about 2014 and beyond.