One Last Look Back: Top Five Cardinal Stories

Today, we will take one last look back at 2011.

The season was full of ups and downs, ins and outs, and highs and lows for the St. Louis Cardinals. A season that took a turn for the worse before a single pitch was thrown ended up at the pinnacle of the sport. Over the course of the season, there were some major stories, moments, and thoughts that captured the audience.

Today, as part of the United Cardinal Bloggers December project, take a look back and what were the top five stories from the 2011 calendar year in St. Louis.

Number Five: The Return Of The Puma
or The Death of Fat Elvis
The signing of Lance Berkman happened in 2010, but the arrival of a slimmer, healthier and more determined Puma showed up at Spring Training. The “Fat Elvis” nickname no longer seemed to apply and Berkman quickly set forth into erasing any thought that he was a broken down player that could not produce.

Berkman quickly made a difference in the clubhouse and on the field, establishing strange rituals for the rookies while on the road and tearing up opposing pitching between the chalk lines. Berkman would find himself in the All Star Game and in the Most Valuable Player discussion to the tune of a seventh place finish in the voting. When it came to discussions of Come Back Player awards, he walked away with the award hands-down.

Number Four: Colby Rasmus Sent North
or How The Cardinals Built A Winner In One Deal
As the non-waiver trade deadline approached, the Cardinals felt they needed to make a few improvements to make a run at the division or playoffs. In the midst of shopping for a rotation upgrade, an additional arm or two for the bullpen and some bench help, the relationship between Colby Rasmus and Tony LaRussa flared up as a problem once again. This time, action was taken, and in one fell swoop, John Mozeliak answered the Cardinals issues.

Colby Rasmus was shipped to Toronto along with Trever Miller, Brian Tallet, and P.J. Walters in exchange for Octavio Dotel, Edwin Jackson, Corey Patterson and Marc Rzepczynski. Jackson would shore up the rotation, adding Kyle McClellan to the bullpen along with veteran Dotel and young Rzepczynski. Patterson would add some depth to the bench, though he would be overshadowed by youngsters already in the Cardinals system.

The trade gave the Cardinals the pieces they needed to make the run down the stretch and a brighter future. Though they gave up some pieces, Jackson and Dotel will yield them draft picks in the upcoming amateur draft and Rzepczynski projects to be a part of the Cardinals’ future for a considerable amount of time.

Number Three: Adam Wainwright Goes Down
or The Team Loses An Ace Before A Single Pitch Is Thrown
2011 looked promising for the Cardinals as Spring Training came closer and then Adam Wainwright left the practice field with some discomfort. Early news came from all involved stating a fear of the worst. The worst was confirmed and the Cardinals found themselves minus the best pitcher on the staff.

Adam took to the internet, writing blogs about his progress and his faith during one of the toughest times in his life or career. His faith was inspiring, his presence with the team as a supporter was surprising, and his smile never seemed to fade. The Cardinals proved that the sum is greater than value of the parts and Wainwright proved that life is bigger than baseball.

Number Two: Albert Pujols Breaks St. Louis Fans’ Hearts
or Further Proof That Six Is Greater Than Five
The subject of our number five story was quoted during his own contract negotiations as saying “It is always about the money”. No one wanted to believe that Albert Pujols would feel the same way. But, at the end of the day, whether it was a desire to earn more money or if it was the feeling that more money was what respect was all about, Albert Pujols left the Cardinals.

Albert had been quoted as saying that he wanted to stay with the Cardinals, claiming he wanted to “be like Stan The Man”. His departure based on money reminded the city just how special Stan Musial truly is and reminded mathematics everywhere that six is greater than five.

Number One: What A Team, What A Ride
or Wow, Did That Just Happen
A 2011 season that was surrounded by contract concerns and injuries ended in a fashion that no one could predict. The team was far to behind in the standings to make the playoffs. Then they were matched up against far too good of an opponent to make it past the Division Series. Then the Brewers were too strong at home to lose the League Championship Series. Down to their last strike in the World Series. Unlikely heroes, unlikely stories, and a historic run reached the pinnacle as the team put their eleventh championship banner in the rafters.

The subplot was the delivery from the booth of Joe Buck. The use of his father’s call as David Freese sent a ball out of the park in walk off fashion at the end of game six, a slow and perfectly delivered “We will see you…tomorrow night” followed by the now instant classic “What a team, what a ride” at the conclusion of game seven, Joe Buck captured an audience of fans and delivered.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Follow him on Twitter here.

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