2014 Season Preview: St. Louis Cardinals
Part 2 of my National League Central preview focuses on the Best Fans in Baseball According to Baseball Fans That Live Within a 10 Mile Radius of St. Louis, and their favorite team, the St. Louis Cardinals. Daniel at C70 At the Bat was nice enough to put down his Neck Tats of Yadier Molina: 2014 Edition coloring book to answer some of my questions. You can follow them on Twitter at @C70.
CSG: 2013 was a big season for the Cardinals. They won the division. Again. And went to the World Series. Again. The window for success surely has to be closing soon, right? Please tell me the window for success is closing soon.
C70: I know, you really want to believe that the window is on its way down. However, I don’t know if you noticed, but most of those players that were so instrumental in last year’s World Series run? Rookies. Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha, Matt Adams, Allen Craig, Matt Carpenter all would seem to have good years left in front of them and even the veterans in Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina aren’t on the downhill slide just yet. Plus that’s not including some of the talent that is still in the minors. I’m not saying that they are going to win it every year, but the window for their success should be at least five years, if not longer.
CSG: The Cardinals recently signed Cuban infielder Aledmys Diaz to a four-year deal. Some have compared him to Derek Jeter. Assuming they’re not referring to Jeter’s penchant for supermodels, it seems that the Cardinals would want Diaz on the field ASAP. How do they plan on getting him playing time in an already-crowded infield?
C70: The comparison of Diaz to Jeter seemed to be more in mannerisms, not necessarily in ability. Diaz still needs some seasoning, especially since he didn’t play baseball last year. I would expect that he’d spend almost all season in either AA (where he’ll likely start out) or AAA and the Cards won’t have to make room for him until 2015.
When that happens, it could be an interesting day. Jhonny Peralta’s contract is front-loaded, so Diaz might make the team as a utility guy next year and then Peralta could be traded. It’s possible Matt Carpenter could move and Peralta slide into 3B, but if Kolten Wong emerges like expected, his logical return to second is blocked. There are a number of pieces there and John Mozeliak will have to be creative when Diaz is ready.
CSG: What are your thoughts on the newly instituted instant replay rule in MLB?
C70: I don’t know. On the one hand, I’m not one of those that feels like the overriding function of the game is to get every single thing right. At the end of the day, no matter how much is at stake, it’s still a game and going through tons of hoops to decide something that may not be a big deal seems overkill. That said, the early returns on this method seem to be positive and being able to overturn egregious missed calls is probably a very good thing. I’m more in favor of it than I was before after seeing it in practice this spring.
CSG: The Cardinals play the Reds 6 times in the first 9 games. Pick a date between March 31 and April 9 when (1) Cardinals fans will declare they’ve won the NL Central, and (2) Reds fans will believe that their team’s season is over.
C70: Let’s see. I’ll say April 7 for both. After the Cards win their home opener, both sides might be caught up in the moment.
CSG: When Jhonny Peralta and Ryan Braun take the field in the first Cardinals/Brewers matchup this season, do you think they’ll bro-hug and say, “Remember when we cheated?”
C70: Probably not. Peralta doesn’t strike me as the bro-hug kinda guy.
Peralta’s been pretty clean about his suspension and does seem to be honestly sorry about it. There was some speculation (how credible it was, I don’t know) that his involvement with Biogenesis dealt with diuretics and things like that which, while still against the rules of MLB, have a different feel and spin than HGH or other steroid use. Whether that’s the case or not, I don’t know. I was asked in another Q&A whether Cards fans would boo Braun and cheer Peralta and I think that’s probably the case, though Braun was high up on the boo list well before any of this stuff came out.
CSG: Your prediction for the 2014 St. Louis Cardinals?
C70: I think I’ve predicted 96-66 before and, while I hate to put that many wins on paper, it seems about right.
Barring some catastrophic injury(s), I think the Cards should be able to take the division without a terrible fuss, though the Reds and the Pirates both will probably hang around longer than I’d like. Obviously after that it’s tough to predict, but this team does have all the pieces to return to the World Series again this year. Sorry, I know it’s not what you want to hear.