Tag Archive | "Homeruns"

Maybe St. Louis Cardinals discount rate suggests Aledmys Diaz isn’t worth the hype

St. Louis Cardinals officials said they wanted to make a “big splash” in the market for Cuban baseball players when they signed infielder Aledmys Diaz on Sunday, but their first signing might turn out to simply be a drop in the proverbial bucket.

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The Cardinals signed Diaz, 23, to a four-year, $8-million contract and will likely send him to the Double-A Springfield Cardinals to begin his American baseball career.

However, the excitement Diaz generated when the Cardinals brought him to their spring training headquarters in Jupiter, Fla., nearly three weeks ago suggested they were about to sign a player more similar to Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder sensation Yasiel Puig rather than someone who would have to labor to take a spot away from utility players such as Pete Kozma or Daniel Descalso.

The organization’s interest and subsequent offer are not unfounded, to be sure. The $8 million it will pay Diaz in the next four years is substantially less than the $15-20 million many people thought it would take to sign Diaz with teams in play such as the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, San Franscisco Giants and Toronto Blue Jays.

Those teams ultimately steered clear of Diaz and the Cardinals might have gotten him at a discount, which could be important if he never develops beyond the Kozma-Descalso level and yet another incredible Cardinals bargain if he becomes a starter in Major League Baseball.

But he has plenty of work to do to get there. Although he hit .315 and had 12 homeruns in 2012 in the Cuban professional league, he has not played since because he falsified his age when he defected after that season and Major League Baseball suspended him for a year before he could sign with an American team.

So the projected start in the minor leagues is well-founded, and the Cardinals have little reason to rush Diaz up to St. Louis after they signed Jhonny Peralta to a four-year, $53-million contract in November to be the starting shortstop.

Yet the fact Diaz is now in spring training camp with the Cardinals does not mean fans should expect him, rookie second baseman Kolten Wong and outfield prospect Oscar Taveras to be the next Albert Pujols-Jim Edmonds-Scott Rolen trio that will carry the team to World Series championships.

That’s a possibility, but it’s a small one at this point.

While some reports say Diaz will be an impact righthanded hitter at the major-league level, others suggest he will be merely a utility infielder.

Of course, projections about former Cuban players are always difficult because the information on them is so scarce.

The Oakland Athletics lucked out in 2012 when they signed outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a four-year, $36-million contract. He has hit more than 20 homers and had 80 or more runs batted in, in each of his first two years although many people around baseball thought the A’s made a misguided move to sign an unknown player to such a large contract.

Other Cuban players such as Puig and Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman have also made big splashes in the big leagues within the past three years, but those three players signed contracts worth a combined $105.25 million.

Maybe the Cardinals have gotten away with one of the greatest steals in the history of the Cuban-American baseball, but any further hype about Diaz should probably wait until he at least gets to the top level of the minor leagues, much less the majors.

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St. Louis Cardinals have MVP candidates, probably not MVP winner

The St. Louis Cardinals have had several players jump toward the front of the National League Most Valuable Player discussion throughout the season, but none of them are likely to win the award once the season is complete.

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Catcher Yadier Molina started the season on an incredible tear. He led the National League in batting average for much of the first half, peaking at .367 on June 18. He also has played his typically fantastic brand of defense and will likely win his sixth consecutive Gold Glove Award.

However, Molina’s right knee started to give him trouble at the end of July while the Cardinals were in the middle of their season-worst seven-game losing streak. Molina sat on the disabled list for the minimum 15 days and has continued to be a very valuable player for the Cardinals, but his batting average is now back down to .316, just one point better than his 2012 batting average when he finished fourth in the MVP voting.

Because defense is nearly always undervalued in the MVP vote, Molina probably will not win his first MVP award this season.

First baseman Allen Craig has his batting average at .315 and was near the league lead with 97 runs batted in through the beginning of September. He also has a league-leading .454 batting average with runners in scoring position, but he has hit just 13 homeruns and has not played since he hurt his right foot Sept. 4.

No player has hit fewer than 15 homeruns and won the National League MVP award since former Cardinals outfielder Willie McGee received the honor in 1985 with just 10 homers.

That precedent could also hurt the Cardinals third MVP candidate, Matt Carpenter, who has been incredibly consistent throughout the season and has started to draw attention as a possible recipient of postseason awards, but he has just 10 homeruns.

Of course, homeruns are not an important part of Carpenter’s game.

Carpenter leads the National League in runs scored (121), hits (193) and doubles (53). He is also third in the league in extra base hits, third in batting average, tied for fourth in singles and eighth in Wins Above Replacement (WAR), a sabremetric that incorporates data to spit out a number that says how many more wins a player adds to his team than an average major leaguer.

Unfortunately for Carpenter and the rest of the Cardinals MVP candidates, the man who will most likely win the award is first in WAR and has numbers across the board jus slightly better than the Cardinals players. Plus, he has a potentially wonderful storyline that will almost certainly help his chances.

The Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen will probably be the National League MVP if the Pirates don’t lose nearly all of their remaining games and fall from a playoff spot.

McCutchen has a better batting average (.323), more homeruns (20), more RBIs (82) and more stolen bases (27) than any of the Cardinals’ candidates.

And McCutchen is the leader of a team that has clinched its first winning season in 20 years and is on the verge of its first postseason appearance in that same time frame. Like it or not, some of the MVP voters will take that into consideration.

The Cardinals players can’t beat McCutchen with their numbers, and they cannot beat the story of his season in Pittsburgh.

But that’s how the MVP vote has gone for Cardinals players for a generation now. Chicago Cubs right fielder Sammy Sosa won the 1998 MVP even though Cardinals first baseman Mark McGwire set the single-season homerun record at 70 because the Cubs made the playoffs while the Cardinals finished third in the NL Central.

San Francisco Giants left fielder Barry Bonds’ assault on the Major League Baseball record books overshadowed the great seasons Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen had in 2004, and Bonds kept Pujols from winning the MVP in 2002 and 2003, as well.

The Cardinals have been blessed with players who have had seasons that rival the best in the game for much of the past 15 years, but sometimes a perennially good team with multiple players who have great seasons can keep any one of them from winning the ultimate individual award.

Of course, not many Cardinals fans or players would probably care if they get the chance to celebrate their third World Series championship in seven years in about six weeks.

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St. Louis Cardinals can survive without Allen Craig until playoffs

After a season filled with injuries to the pitching staff, now the St. Louis Cardinals will have to deal with an injury to one of their starting fielders, who also happened to be one of their most important hitters.

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First baseman and occasional right fielder Allen Craig suffered a sprained left foot Wednesday in Cincinnati during a game against the Reds that the Cardinals eventually won 5-4 in 16 innings.

Craig went back to St. Louis for further examination Thursday and at least found out he did not have any broken bones in his foot. That probably gives him a chance to return before the end of the season, which is significant.

The Cardinals can likely survive through the rest of September without Craig even though he leads the team with 97 runs batted in and is tied with second baseman Matt Carpenter for the second-best batting average on the team at .315, behind catcher Yadier Molina’s .322 average.

In the worst case scenario, the Cardinals offense would fall flat without Craig’s contributions, specifically his incredible .454 batting average with runners in scoring position, and the team would lose the division title to the Reds or Pittsburgh Pirates and have to play in the one-game Wild Card round for the second consecutive year.

However, the Cardinals do have a solid backup for Craig. Matt Adams has been the Cardinals best hitter off of the bench this season, he has a .269 average with 11 homeruns and 38 RBIs in just 212 at-bats, which is about half of an everyday player. Plus, fans have clamored for Adams to get more playing time through much of the season.

Well, here’s his chance.

He certainly made an impressive first impression Wednesday with homers in the 14th and 16th innings to help the Cardinals win, but becoming a consistent hitter in the middle of the lineup will be vital for Adams now that he will be the starting first baseman for the foreseeable future while Craig’s foot heals.

The Cardinals also have 13 consecutive games against teams with losing records after they finish a three-game series with the Pirates during this upcoming weekend, so they will likely face less-than-dominant pitching that could allow the Cardinals to win even when the offense is not clicking on all cylinders.

But the Cardinals will be in an entirely different scenario come the playoffs in October. Those games are often dominated by good pitchers, and timely hits determine the outcome.

Craig is perhaps the best timely hitter in Major League Baseball, and the Cardinals would sorely miss his bat in the lineup during the playoffs.

The team got good news Thursday when Craig’s X-Rays and MRI came back negative, but it should not push its luck and force him back onto the field during the regular season unless he truly is fully healed.

If Craig can’t play the rest of the regular season, fine. It would certainly be nice to have his production in the lineup during the final weeks of the race for the National League Central Division title, but that will not determine whether or not the Cardinals are considered champions at the end of the year.

The most important title is settled in late October, and that is when Craig will be the most valuable

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St. Louis Cardinals got 5 all-stars, but Edward Mujica also deserves honor

St. Louis Cardinals fans haven’t had much to gripe about so far in the 2013 season and should be thankful five of the team’s players made the National League all-star roster, but they can also make a strong case the Cardinals should have one more representative.

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Catcher Yadier Molina, rightfielder Carlos Beltran, right-handed starting pitcher Adam Wainwright, second baseman Matt Carpenter and first baseman Allen Craig were named to the National League all-star team Saturday, but closer Edward Mujica deserved to join them for the Midsummer Classic on Tuesday at Citi Field in Flushing, N.Y.

At least his omission wasn’t the fans fault.

Fans throughout the game had their say in which position players start the game, and they deemed two Cardinals players worthy of a spot in the lineup. Molina received the most votes of any National League player and will start behind the plate, and Beltran will start the game in right field.

Wainwright’s 11-5 record and 2.36 earned-run average heading into play Tuesday might have been good enough for him to start the game, except Cardinals manager Mike Matheny recently shuffled his rotation around so Wainwright will start the final game of the first half Sunday against the Chicago Cubs.

Wainwright will still have the honor of being on the roster, as will second baseman Matt Carpenter and first baseman Allen Craig.

Carpenter was a lock to make the team. He has been arguably the best leadoff hitter in baseball this season with a .316 batting average to go along with 25 doubles and 37 runs batted in. His 106 hits are also tied for the ninth-most in baseball.

Craig, on the other hand, has one of the more unique resumes of any all-star. A first baseman with 10 homeruns usually doesn’t make an all-star roster, but Craig has a .325 batting average and his 69 RBIs are second in the National League. Plus, he leads all of baseball with a .476 average when he comes to bat with runners in scoring position.

Those three Cardinals hitters certainly deserve their spots on the all-star roster, but they are the only three. Traditional powers such as leftfielder Matt Holliday and David Freese are hitting .270 or below and don’t have more than 12 homeruns or 43 RBIs heading into play Tuesday. Matt Adams is hitting .319 and has seven homeruns in 49 games, but his limited playing time has him qualified as nothing more than a bench player, yet. His time will come.

On the pitching side, right-handed starters Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller each had an outside shot of making the all-star team, but they have both had too many rough outings in the last month.

Lynn is tied with Wainwright with 11 wins, which is fifth-best in baseball, but he also has the highest ERA among National League pitchers who have 10 or more wins. Plus, he gave up four or more runs in four of his last six starts.

Miller started the season as well as any pitcher in the game. He had five wins by Mother’s Day and carried an ERA under 2.00 into mid-June, but he never made it past the sixth in any of his next five starts while his ERA rose to 2.80. That’s still a good number, but similar to Lynn, Miller has given up four or more runs in three of his last five starts.

The only Cardinals player who could legitimately earn the “all-star snub” tag is Mujica.

Mujica has been as good as any closer in baseball aside from Oakland A’s closer Grant Balfour, who has yet to blow a save in 23 opportunities. Mujica has converted 23 of 24 save opportunities and posted a 2.41 ERA. He’s allowed at least one run in just eight of 37 appearances.

It is difficult to make an all-star roster as a closer partly because starters receive so much more attention. The National League will have 10 compared to three closers.

Jason Grilli, of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and Craig Kimbrel, of the Atlanta Braves, and Aroldis Chapman, of the Cincinnati Reds are the National League’s only relievers, while starters such as Miami Marlins right-hander Jose Fernandez and Chicago Cubs lefty Travis Wood made the team largely because their teams didn’t have another worthy representative.

So Mujica unfortunately won’t be rewarded for his terrific first half with an all-star selection, but maybe he’ll receive the ultimate team reward, the Commissioner’s Trophy, after closing out the 2013 World Series.

That would ease any lingering disappointment.

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How to be an Educated All Star Voter and a Loyal Hometown Fan (Part 2)

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In part one, I analyzed First Base and Second Base to figure out how egregious it would be to vote for the Cardinal or Royal player at that position over the current leader in votes. This time I analyze Shortstop and Third Base. It breaks my heart that Moustakas is so far out of contention, both by votes and statistically. I didn’t expect him to be Miggy, but it’s becoming sad how hard the adjustments to the big leagues are coming for him. Saying all that, I still have some faith in him.

Freese is also struggling at third. His slugging is so low and is slowly going from a St Louis hero to the player they groan about when the fans see him in the lineup.

Shortstop

Royals: Alcides Escobar .247/.273/.333. WAR: 0.7

Escobar is great on the bases and of course on defense. So his paltry offensive numbers are masked some in his overall performance. I also think his offense isn’t quite as bad as is being indicated this year. Last year his obs was .333 (though his wOBA was a less impressive .265). Regardless, he is better than his numbers show so far.

AL Leader: JJ Hardy – .267/.307/.461. WAR: 2.0

Hardy’s offensive numbers are kind of pathetic to be in the lead. His defense is saving him. But I still don’t understand why he is in the lead, as I don’t imagine the average voter to be overly savvy about defensive stats. His 13 homeruns are, I guess, what makes the Sportscenter highlights (they must forget to mention he only has 14 doubles and zero triples), but it still seems weird he’s in the lead. Peralta is probably the player who deserves it the most.

If you vote for Escobar: MILDLY UNACCEPTABLE. With Hardy in the lead, everything seems out of whack. I don’t get it. So since the leader is a player with an obs barely over .300, I don’t think it’s the end of the world if Royals fans want to vote for Escobar instead.

Cardinals: Pete Kozma – .253/.302/.320. WAR: 0.9

Kozma’s pretty bad. And I can’t mention him without mentioning that I don’t understand why The Cardinals won’t just start Jackson instead. But, regardless, he is our horse in this race. And since there is another player named Tulowitzki in this conversation, everything I’m about to type seems so futile.

NL Leader: Troy Tulowitzki – .347/.413/.635 (!) WAR: 3.9

This guy is good.

If you vote for Kozma: IT MAKES THE ROYALS FANS WHO VOTE FOR GETZ LOOK LIKE SCHOLARS.

Yet he is in 4th place somehow. Good for him.

THIRD BASE

Royals: Mike Moustakas – .183/.246/.279. WAR: -0.4

I’m not going to shock anyone by telling them that Moustakas has been underachieving badly this year. It’s almost unfair to compare him to other AL third basemen as he’s fighting for the job just on the Royals alone. I don’t know if he will ever be what was expected of him, but he will definitely be better than this someday.

AL Leader – Miguel Cabrera – .358/.451/.638. WAR: 4.3

Remember how I said you can defend voting for Perez by voting saying you didn’t vote for Getz? Well if for some unknown reason you did vote for Getz, you can try to defend that by saying “At least I didn’t vote for Moustakas!” It’s impossible to analyze this, as Cabrera is infinitely better this year than Moustakas and all of the rest of the league.

If you vote for Moustakas? IT’s TOO INCONCIEVABLE TO IMAGINE ANYONE WOULD DO THIS IS SO IT’S TOO HYPOTHETICAL TO ANSWER.

Look, if for some reason you did decide to vote for Moustakas, you could try to defend it by saying he’s just struggling but has a bright future in front of him and he needs to be in the spotlight. You can maybe say Cabrera is getting luckier with a high BABIP of .381, while Moustakas is getting extremely unlucky with a BABIP of .194.

Cardinals: David Freese – .290/.362/.403. WAR: 0.5

Freese is struggling, even though his OBP is pretty high. His fielding has been detrimental. But he still has name recognition for doing what he did on the national scene 2 years ago. That will help him, but shouldn’t be a real reason you should vote for him.

NL Leader – David Wright – .300/.384/.502. WAR: 3.6

Mix Freese’s sub par season with Wright’s consistently stellar season, and you have your answer. I just hope Wright can win this over whatever is going on in San Francisco that allows them to get so many votes for Panda. Last year Sandoval undeservingly beat Wright (and then ironically had the biggest hit in the game). But this year, with the game being played in Queens, it just has to be Wright.

If you vote for Freese? DON’T DO IT, JUST VOTE FOR WRIGHT. IF YOU CARE ABOUT BASEBALL, HE DESERVES TO REPRESENT THE NL. Seriously, remember being a kid and watching the All Star game? Remember how excited you were to see your favorite player play? Now imagine the kids of NYC going to see Sandoval start. Undeservingly. Just tell yourself Freese is having an off year. Because he is. Vote for Wright

Next up: Catcher and Outfield.

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Patience pays off for Jon Jay, David Freese

Although short-sighted analysis would have suggested otherwise, St. Louis Cardinals centerfielder Jon Jay and third baseman David Freese weren’t going to struggle at the plate forever.

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Cardinals fans quickly became anxious about both players in April as Jay struggled to a .213 batting average, and Freese was even worse at .163 as he returned from an oblique injury he suffered in spring training.

But Jay is now hitting .273, including four homeruns while playing very solid defense, and Freese has bumped his average up to .211 heading into play Saturday, including a grand slam for his first homerun of the season in the first inning Friday against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Plus, each is likely to improve from here.

Jay is a career .298 hitter, and Freese has a career average of .289 and averages 16 homeruns per season.

Sometimes players simply get off to bad starts. That’s no reason to wish for centerfield prospect Oscar Taveras to take Jay’s job or for the Cardinals to trade Freese.

Sure, neither Jay nor Freese are likely going to be All-Stars this season and neither figures to have the much potential to be a Most Valuable Player candidate in their careers, but they are vital pieces of the Cardinals’ team.

For example, the Cardinals had a 15-11 record in April while Jay and Freese struggled. That’s good, and bullpen problems played a large role in at least four of those losses, but the Cardinals also got minimal production from their centerfield and third base positions, which are traditionally two of the most important offensive positions on the team.

Once the calendar turned to May, the Cardinals went on an 11-3 surge as Jay and Freese started to hit the ball better.

Jay’s improvement came from adjustments in his swing. He has always been a singles hitter, but his approach at the plate included a lot of movement in his hands. That allows ample opportunity for his timing to get messed up and creates a lot of unnecessary movement.

But Jay made the required adjustments. He now holds the bat up straighter in his stance and has a more direct approach to the ball. And now he looks like a hitter who could bat .300, which is the type of batter Cardinals fans remember from Jay’s first three seasons with the team.

Freese’s development has been a little slower. He did have a five-game hitting streak last week but had only one hit in each of those games. However, he’s been recovering from the oblique injury, and those types of injuries tend to linger, not to mention the twisting motion required to hit puts stress directly on the injury part of his body.

In any case, the signs of progress from both players are welcome for the Cardinals, and they could help power the team through an extended stretch of winning baseball.

The Cardinals entered play Saturday with a 27-14 record, the best in Major League Baseball, and that could get even better because of the team’s upcoming schedule.

The Cardinals beat up on non-divisional opponents in the current home stand by winning five of seven games against the Colorado Rockies and New York Mets. Now they’ll head to the West Coast to play the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers, who had a combined record of 35-46 heading into play Saturday and were the bottom two teams in the National League West Division.

The Cardinals already had a strong team with consistently great performances by their starting rotation and sections of their lineup hitting well, but they could continue to contend for the best team in baseball title throughout the summer if players such as Jay and Freese join the run-production party as the weather warms up.

All it took was smart, steady work, and a little bit of patience.

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Matt Adams turns potential into reality for St. Louis Cardinals

When the St. Louis Cardinals waged their annual war with injuries last season as Allen Craig and Lance Berkman went on the disabled list within weeks of each other in May, the Cardinals needed a replacement, and their first choice was minor leaguer Matt Adams.

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Adams looked the part. He’s 6-foot-3-inches tall, weighs 260 pounds and hit 82 homeruns in his four years in the minor leagues while compiling a .318 batting average. But that wasn’t the player who showed up in the Cardinals lineup in 2012. Adams hit .244 with two homeruns and 13 RBIs in his 27-game stay with the big-league club.

So where was this power potential that made him the Cardinals first choice to fill-in while two players with power bats sat on the disabled list? Apparently it had left Adams’ right elbow.

Adams and the Cardinals didn’t know it at the time, but he had been hampered by a bone spur in his elbow and eventually had surgery to repair it last season after the Cardinals sent him back to the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds.

And it turns out that injury made a huge difference because the 2013 version of Adams is much more in line with the stories of his powerful approach to hitting and why the Cardinals considered him a top prospect..

Adams crushed the ball throughout spring training. He hit three homeruns and led the team with 17 RBIs in 28 games. He has carried that success into the regular season so far, and at times carried the team.

He got the Cardinals their first extra-base hit of the three-game series last weekend against the San Francisco Giants when he hit a two-run, ground-rule double into right-centerfield in the fourth inning Sunday against Giants ace Matt Cain. He also carried his hot bat into the Cardinals first home series of the season, a three-game set with the division-rival Cincinnati Reds.

The Cardinals trailed the Reds 1-0 in the sixth inning Tuesday against Reds starter Bronson Arroyo, who to that point in the game had not allowed a hitter to reach base. But Adams, who entered the game as a pinch hitter, waited on one of Arroyo’s trademark slow breaking balls and crushed it into the rightfield seats for a two-run homer.

Then he did the same thing in the sixth inning Wednesday against Reds pitcher Homer Bailey as the Cardinals cruised to a 10-0 win behind a stellar complete-game performance by starter Jake Westbrook.

Adams is in such a groove right now he has the look of a hitter who could hit almost any pitch out of the ballpark. He is getting healthy cuts on pitches he misses, and most of his foul balls have been smashed into the seats down the rightfield line.

That’s the type of hitter the Cardinals management saw in the minor leagues, and it’s the type of hitter who will likely play a very important role for the team throughout the season.

Craig is still the starting first baseman, and he is in no danger of losing that job. But Craig will also have to play rightfield on a fairly regular basis to give 35-year-old Carlos Beltran enough days off to make it through the season, and that could give Adams enough opportunities to be a large part of the Cardinals offense this season.

Even if he is primarily used in a bench role, it’s always nice to have a player who’s hitting over .600 ready to take an important at-bat late in a ballgame.

Sure, Adams won’t continue to hit .600 or better throughout the season, but the Cardinals now have a power hitter who can change the tone of a game immediately.

The Cardinals thought Adams could provide that aspect of the game when he came up in 2012. Now they know he can in 2013.

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Stan Musial was perhaps as close to perfect as sports can get

Stan “The Man” Musial was unquestionably the greatest player to ever wear a St. Louis Cardinals uniform, but he was also one of the greatest people to wear any kind of sports uniform.

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Musial died Saturday at age 92, and for the next several days many tributes will highlight his work on and off the field. He deserves every single one of them.

Musial was a great baseball player, no doubt, but he was also a unique person in the world of sports.

Sometimes that word is used to describe interesting personalities who do things that aren’t normal. For example, Mark “The Bird” Fidrych would talk to the baseball while pitching for the Detroit Tigers in the late 1970s.

Fidrych, and the many characters who speckle the sports landscape are unique in that sense, but Musial was unique because he was just good — at everything.

Musial had a career .331 batting average, he hit a franchise-record 475 homeruns, he was named to 24 All-Star teams, he won three Most Valuable Player awards and three world championships, and he set the National League record for hits at the time with 3,630. Remarkably, he got exactly 1,315 of those hits during home games and 1,315 on the road.

That symmetry is fitting for Musial because he never seemed to do anything wrong on or off the field.

He did, of course. He’s only human. But he was never involved in a scandal, he served his country as a member of the Navy during World War II, he was unquestionably loyal to his team and family, and he didn’t get caught in the trappings of fame that entangle so many athletes. That’s partly why he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011, the highest honor for an American civilian.

It would be easy to use examples of Musial’s life as an opportunity to take shots at current athletes who have over-inflated egos and get into all sorts of trouble, but Musial’s greatness stands above celebrity athletes past and present.

Nobody has ever talked about how Musial was a tough son-of-a-gun who would run someone over regardless of circumstances, as Ty Cobb or Pete Rose might. People also don’t talk about Musial as someone who had a need to say something outrageous to the media just so his name would be in the newspaper the next day.

No one ever said those things about Musial because he simply didn’t do them, and that largely explains why Cardinals fans adored him so much. He combined greatness on the field with greatness off of it.

It’s been a rough year in sports heroes. JoePaterno, who had a reputation nearly as clean as Musial, died in January 2012, but not before his reputation was destroyed when reports said he didn’t pursue allegations of sexual misconduct by his defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky.

Cardinals fans know how it feels to have a revered sports figure’s reputation go from nearly perfect to uncaring, at best. Albert Pujols,perhaps the best Cardinals player since Musial, left the franchise last year after 11 seasons to sign a megadeal with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Musial’s life stands in stark contrast to all of those other famous figures. He had the chance to leave the Cardinals after the 1946 season. At that point in his career, Musial had spent five seasons with the Cardinals and had already been named to three All-Star teams and won two MVP awards.

A Mexican professional baseball league offered him $125,000 for five years, but Musial didn’t leave to take the money. He was only making $13,500 with the Cardinals, but he stayed and played the remainder of his 22-year career in St. Louis.

The inscription on Musial’s statue outside Busch Stadium says, in the words of former commissioner Ford C. Frick, “Here stands baseball’s perfect warrior. Here stands baseball’s perfect knight.”

No human is actually perfect, much less baseball players, but Musial might be have been as close as anyone who ever put on a baseball uniform.

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David Freese crash almost ruined St. Louis Cardinals’ holidays

A deer, supposedly without a red nose, nearly ruined Christmas for David Freese, the St. Louis Cardinals and their fans.

Freese crashed into a tree Friday afternoon near St. Louis after he swerved to avoid a deer on the road. Folks in the St. Louis area know how prevalent deer are in the area, especially during this time of the year, and many probably know someone who has hit a deer or have hit one themselves.

Freese was uninjured in the crash, which gives the Cardinals another blessing to be thankful for in the days following Thanksgiving. Freese has been one of the stars of the Cardinals lineup the past two seasons, particularly in the playoffs.

Freese hit .297 with 10 homeruns and 55 RBIs in 97 games during the 2011 season as he battled back from a broken hand he suffered by a hit-by-pitch in May against the Atlanta Braves. He came back strong and was the Cardinals hero in the postseason, where he hit .390 with five homers and 21 RBIs, the last number being a postseason record.

In 2012, Freese hit .293 with 20 homeruns and 79 RBIs, and he played in 144 games, the first season he hadn’t been hampered by injuries.

Those numbers would figure to only increase as he grows into his role as the Cardinals’ everyday third baseman, but that all could’ve been quickly dismissed if the results of his car wreck hadn’t been so positive. Thankfully, the only thing hurt in the crash was his black 2011 Range Rover. Maybe that could give hime reason to ask for a few more dollars in his arbitration hearings this offseason. (Don’t overreact folks, it’s a joke.)

While Freese’s health is certainly the most important element of this situation, the crash could’ve had a significant impact on the Cardinals offseason and 2013 plans if Freese had been hurt. All of a sudden Matt Carpenter would’ve likely been in line to be the starting third baseman instead of trying out for the second base job in spring training.

That would’ve left the Cardinals extremely thing in the middle infield positions, which have been the primary concern so far this offseason. Rafael Furcal would have to be healthy, or Pete Kozma would have to continue his amazing play from late in the 2012 season. Skip Schumaker and Daniel Descalso would have to platoon for another season at second base.

That’s essentially the lineup the Cardinals used to get within one win of the World Series, but many people would like to see the Cardinals bring in a free agent or trade for a player who would be considered an upgrade over the team’s current middle infielders.

Regardless of how all that would’ve worked out, Freese is OK, and that’s the most important aspect of the entire situation. He has had previous car-related incidents, including a crash in January 2009 when he injured his feet as he slid off of a ice-covered road. He’s also had three alcohol-related incidents, the most recent in 2009, but alcohol had nothing to do with Friday’s crash, just a wandering deer.

Hopefully the next time Freese sees a deer it’s attached to a sleigh on top of his house.

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Age, injuries catching up to St. Louis Cardinals in September

The St. Louis Cardinals knew they had an old team heading into the 2012 season, and injuries or players wearing down in the course of the regular season were the team’s most likely downfall. The Cardinals have sustained injuries throughout the season, but now fatigue is doing its best to take down the team

Shortstop Rafeal Furcal tore a ligament in his right elbow Aug. 30 in Washington after dealing with back problems for weeks, outfielder Matt Holliday was sidelined much of the last week with a sore back and outfielder Carlos Beltran has flat out stopped hitting.

Beltran had been among the league leaders in homeruns and RBIs for much of the season, but he has hit .165 in the last month with two homeruns and eight RBIs. He is now fifth in the National League with 28 homeruns, 10 behind leader Ryan Braun, and eighth in RBIs with 86.

Maybe Beltran’s knee is causing him more serious issues than he lets on, but either way the Cardinals have lost a very important bat in the middle of their lineup. With Beltran’s slump, Holliday’s back problems and Berkman trying to come back from a stay on the disabled list, the Cardinals no longer have a scary heart of the order.

Unfortunately, these issues couldn’t have come at a worse time. The Cardinals were able to survive early season injuries to Berkman, Allen Craig, Skip Schumaker and Matt Carpenter without losing too much ground in the standings.

That likely won’t be possible now. The Cincinnati Reds are running away with the National League Central Division and could be headed to 100 wins. The Cardinals still hold the second wild-card spot, but the Los Angeles Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates remain well within striking distance. Both teams were 1.5 games behind the Cardinals heading into play Saturday.

Manager Mike Matheny could be an easy target for a team that is wearing out near the end of the season, but there isn’t much he could do about these issues. He made sure starters got days off often at the beginning of the season, and he actually received criticism for not playing his best lineup often enough. The problem is the team just wasn’t built with much room for injuries and fatigue.

The Cardinals Opening Day lineup featured six players who are now 30 years or older. A team that old has to receive a fair amount of luck to make it through an entire season without dealing with many injury problems.

The Cardinals certainly haven’t received much luck in that department, but it also shouldn’t surprise everyone when the offense struggles. Sure, a team that leads the league in hitting shouldn’t go four straight games without scoring an earned run, as the Cardinals did Aug. 28-31 against the Pirates and Nationals, but it would also be unrealistic to think the offense would continue to churn out five or more runs a game nearly every night.

Despite the recent struggles, life is still pretty good for the Cardinals. They entered play Saturday in the second wild-card spot and 4.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves for the top wild-card position.

Plus, the upcoming schedule is favorable. The Cardinals have just four of their next 18 games against teams with a winning record, although all but five of those games are on the road. Still, this upcoming stretch might give the Cardinals a chance to get well for a final push toward the playoffs. They are going to need it.

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