Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Win the Official MLB 2011 World Series DVD set

Before the launch of CTTF, things were set in motion on our sister blog, Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Goodnight to review the A&E official MLB 2011 World Series DVD.  I was sent a copy of the DVD, and asked to write a review, and give a few copies away.  Rather than duplicate the entire post from over there, I'll just link to it...and encourage you to enter the contest to win your free copy!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Happy 91st, Stan! 11.21.11

The greatest Cardinal of them all?  Of them ALL?  It's not even close.

I can't even count how many times I've debated with friends, work colleagues and even strangers about the true historical significance of what we're fortunate enough to be seeing right now, in the daily play of Albert Pujols.  At local establishments, in line at the store, via social media, or over work e-mail threads, the debate continues: Is Albert Pujols the best player in Cardinals history?  I've never hesitated to take a hard, objective look at numbers when making comparisons, and as far as stacking the deck?  No chance.  I'll put Albert's numbers up against those of Gehrig, Ruth, Williams...etc. You name the Hall of Fame player, and I've probably stacked Albert's numbers up against theirs in some way, shape or form at one time or another.

The most common issue with doing these comparisons is one simple thing: Albert is still playing, and most of the folks with whom he's being compared have long since retired--some only from baseball, some from this earthly life also.  Albert stacks up favorably with all of these HOF guys, and there aren't too many people, even in the national media, who wouldn't agree:  If Albert Pujols never plays another game in his life, he is a no-doubt first-ballot Hall of Famer.

But, yet, a very small quiet (and I imagine, under-educated or uninformed) group of people are starting to ask themselves: Is Albert Pujols the greatest Cardinal of all time?

Stan "The Man" Musial (left) with Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols  (2009)

Believe you me, if any of these people are living in the St. Louis area, they're probably not wondering this aloud.  At least not in front of anyone.

If you have any question in your mind as to whether Albert Pujols is the greatest Cardinal of them all, or if as most people believe (including 99.9% of Cardinals fans & Albert himself), it’s Stan “the man” Musial, consider the following career numbers:

Avg Slg OPS Hits HR RBI All-Star     MVPs      Top-10 MVP votes    WS
Pujols    .328       .617     1.037      2,073       445        1,329     9 times     3           10      2
Musial    .331       .559       .976      3,630       475        1,951     24 times      3                   14                         3

I’m not so drunk on the Cardinal Kool-Aid that I’m blind to obvious things.  But, looking at those stats, it’s important to remember the ways that the game has changed.  This isn’t the same baseball game that was being played in the 1940’s & 1950’s.

If you weren’t aware, Stan didn’t play in the 1945 season during the prime of his career.  Why?  Not for reasons like today’s players, such asTommy John surgery.  No, Stan Musial stepped away from the game he dominated in order to serve in the United States Navy, and protect you & I.  Instead of defending the right field line, he was defending our country’s freedom in World War II.  (You may recall last off-season Stan was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor a United States President can bestow upon a civilian.)  Then after a year away from the game, all he did was come back in 1946 to hit .365, collect 228 hits, including 50 doubles, had an OPS over 1.000, and had 103 RBI on his way to winning the NL MVP and the World Series. Talk about being “The man”!

Mind? Blown.

I’ll grant you that Albert has played just 11 full seasons, and Stan played for 22, so basic projections & assumptions would have Pujols surpassing Musial’s statistical numbers (some of them, anyway. Others, not so much) with relative ease.  IF he remains a Cardinal.  Which, I believe he will, but as of the time this was written, the uniform Pujols wears in 2012 and beyond has yet to be officially decided, or at least formally announced.

There are countless things about Stan Musial that can be (and have been) written that go well beyond any blog post on the internet.  So, today, on Stan’s 91st birthday, I honor him once more, and encourage you to do the same.  For me?  Today?  Stan Musial is still far & away the greatest Cardinal of them all.  And it’s not even close.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

UCB Awards 11.17.11

Each year, members of the United Cardinals Bloggers cast their votes for various awards.  This year, there's a new twist: the readers can also vote!  My votes, however, are listed below--bloggers must make their votes publicly known by posting them on their blog.  Here are mine.

Cardinal Player of the Year:
It's really difficult not to choose Lance Berkman for this award.  At the All-Star break, all he had done was hit .290, slug over .600, and have an OBP north of .400 (OPS was 1.006).  Berkman's 162 total bases, and 54 runs were nice compliments to his 12 doubles, 24 bombs, and 63 RBI.  He walked more than he struck out, and was a very minimal contributor to the GIDP machine that defined the Cardinals for most of the 2011 season, hitting into only 5 before the break.  I don't think there's anyone in Cardinal nation who would've been disappointed with these numbers, had the Big Puma finished the year with them.  All he did after the break was improve on those numbers, by hitting .315, raise his OBP, hit 11 more doubles (in 19 fewer games than the first "half"), draw more IBB (9 after the break, compared to 8 before), and hit into only 2 more double-plays.  NOBODY saw this performance coming, and without it, the Cards don't get into the playoffs, they probably don't re-sign him (certainly not for 1 year, $12MM), which changes the Pujols negotiations...etc, etc.  Player of the Year?  Gotta be Berkman.

Cardinal Pitcher of the Year:
Hard not to choose Carpenter.  More than once during the 2011 season, I made comments about how he wasn't the same Carp we'd grown accustomed to seeing, how he seemed to have lost a lot of his "stuff".  At one point, I even suggested that if the Cardinals weren't in contention around the deadline, they should consider trying to move Carpenter, primarily for salary purposes.  Sure feels good to be wrong sometimes!  If you watched Chris Carpenter pitch from about June on, I don't need to explain the reason I'm casting my vote for him as Cards pitcher of the year...especially given his October outings, except for the one.

Regular Season Game of the Year:
It's unfortunate that I didn't do a better job of tracking great games this year, throughout the regular season.  There are surely numerous games (I'd guess no fewer than 15 to 20) that I could easily describe here, and cast my vote for, along with several paragraphs as to why that particular one garnered my vote.  However, I think I will have to vote for the June 5th game against the cubs.

Click here for the last 30 seconds of that game.

Back-to-back days, Pujols walks off on, of all opponents, the north siders.  Oh, and that's how the Cards put an exclamation point on the word "Sweep!" for that weekend series.  This happens against any other team, and it probably makes my short list, but beating up on the cubbies propels it to the top.  Lots of wonderful regular season moments in 2011, but this one gets my vote.

Postseason Game of the Year:
To say that a perfect game is rare doesn't quite fully capture just how uncommon one is.  No hitters are rare.  Only 229 no-nos have been thrown since 1900, but there have been far fewer perfect games by more than a ten-to-one margin: a paltry 20 perfect games over that same span. So, for your team to win the World Series by winning game 7, doing so at home, and that not be what you consider the "Postseason game of the year" isn't even in the same universe as "rare".  But, kept in perspective of the overall 2011 Cardinals season, would you really expect anything less?  (for a great piece on "perspective", read this piece, written the morning of the day game 6 of the World Series was played)  Game six of the 2011 World Series gets my vote for Postseason Game of the Year.  Without even thinking about it.  It certainly gets my vote for best postseason game played in my lifetime, and I'm not alone--many national media writers, journalists, & broadcasters agree: Game six of the 2011 World Series may very well have been the greatest World Series game ever played in the history of baseball.  '75 was great, but the Reds came back in Game 7 to beat the Red Sox.  '86 was exciting, and yes it propelled the Mets to their franchise's 2nd World Championship.  '56 will forever be remembered for the unthinkable performance of Don Larsen.  But this game made fans out of people who "aren't even all that into baseball".  On the morning of Friday, October 28th, the whole country (not just St. Louis) was talking about David Freese and Game 6.

Surprise Player of the Year:
I have to give this award to Berkman as well, for all the reasons listed above.  I don't think any other player performed at a level so far outside of 2011 expectations as did Lance Berkman.

Disappointing Player of the Year:
Ryan Franklin gets my vote here.  Most fans felt that his primary weakness was the seeming inability to finish seasons, not necessarily games.  August & September hadn't been kind to Franklin in recent years, and that made many Cardinals fans nervous about the prospects of him being able to finish 2011.  As it turned out, Franklin wouldn't even finish June with the Cardinals, and for many, even that was too long to wait.  An All-Star in 2009, Franklin had closed the door for the Cards with reasonable effectiveness for a few years now.  But, 2011 was bad from the word 'go'.  On Opening Day, Franklin came into the game against San Diego, and in front of the home crowd blew a save in the 9th inning by surrendering a bomb to Maybin to tie the game at 3.  Then he hit the next batter (Hundley) with a pitch, and it was clearly not a retaliatory move.  The Cards went on to lose the opener 5-3 in 11 innings.  The first couple weeks of his 2011 season included these results in 5 of his first 6 appearances:

  • 3.31 vs SDP: 1IP, 5 BF (Batters faced), 1HBP, 0K, 1ER (HR) on 14 pitches-blown save, team loss
  • 4.08 @ SFG: 1IP, 6BF, 1BB, 2H, 0K, 1ER on 20 pitches-blown save, team loss
  • 4.09 @ SFG: 1IP, 5BF, 1BB, 2H, 0K, 2ER on 20 pitches-blown save, loss
  • 4.14 @ LAD: 1IP, 4BF, 0BB, 1H, 0K, 1ER (HR) on 12 pitches-team win (entered w/ 5-run lead)
  • 4.17 @ LAD: 0IP, 1BF, 0BB, 1H, 0K, 1ER (HR) on 5 pitches-blown save, loss
To recap: 4IP, 21BF, 3BB, 7H, 3HR, 0K, 6ER on 71 pitches. 4BS, 2L, 1ND, 4 Cardinals Losses

That was our "closer".  If that isn't disappointing, I don't know what is.

Cardinals Rookie of the Year:
There are several players who could've gotten this nod.  I'm going to go with Allen Craig for my vote here.  He brough poise & pop to the plate, even when coming off the bench cold in a pinch-hit situation.  He played some 2nd base in Chicago (remember, Albert played 3B to get Craig's bat into the lineup?), and showed he could do ok there...or at least do well enough to get by for a few days.  He was solid when needed, and always answered the bell when called upon.  Even robbed a homerun in game 7 of the World Series, among other accomplishments.  I'm not saying others weren't deserving or couldn't gotten my vote, just saying Allen Craig is the guy who did.

Preseason Acquisition of the Year:
Berkman (see earlier comments)

Midseason Acquisition of the Year:
This was a little tougher for me to narrow in some aspects.  You could make the case the the MVP down the stretch was the Cardinals bullpen, lending potential votes to Dotel, Rhodes, and/or Rzepczynski.  Even Edwin Jackson could be a strong consideration for this award.  But, my choice is Rafael Furcal.  I don't need to cite statistics about fielding percentage or UZR at shortstop for comparisons.  All you need to know is that you & I probably had the same feeling in our stomachs when we saw a ground ball hit to the left side of the Cards infield when it was Theriot playing 6.  When Furcal stepped in, the frequency at which we were regularly seeing high amounts of Maalox, Pepto-Bismol, Alka-Seltzer and fielding errors at short all subsided.

Most Anticipated Cardinal:
I am assuming this question speaks to which player I'm most anxious to see in a Cardinals uniform in 2012.  I would also assume the implication is that it has to be an individual who will come up from AAA, so I'll resist the urge to be somewhat of a smartass, and vote for Albert Pujols.  (c:  I think Shelby Miller is the clear favorite here, and for good reason.  We've been hearing his name for a few years now, and he's getting closer to making his major league debut--it may even happen in 2012.  The kid has electric stuff, and while Cox, Wong, Martinez, Adams & others are certainly reasons to perk up, Miller is the new Rasmus in terms of highly anticipated players to see playing for the major league club.  Let's hope that's where the similarities stop.

Best Individual Cardinals Blog:
"Best", huh?  "Best" as in, 'the one I agree with what I read the most', or maybe as in, 'always a place I can find truly thought-provoking pieces to read'?  Perhaps it's more of a "Best" in terms of 'funniest humorous take on all things Cardinals', or could even be 'best because I know I have a hard time finding time to devote to writing, and this person seems to always have fresh content on their site' type of best.  Let me start by saying, I don't get the chance to read nearly as many of the blogs nearly as frequently as I wish I could.  I almost feel like I've not done enough reading to qualify to have a vote on this topic, but alas, here I am.  Needless to say, many of the other UCB members are friends of mine--some on more personal levels than others--but, for the most part, I know these people, and they are good people.  Not an easy call, for sure, but I'm going to vote for Cards 'N Stuff.  Primarily because on two distinct occasions this year, I remember reading Kevin's post, and thinking to myself, "That is EXACTLY what I thought/felt, but the way he put it into words was pretty much perfect."  Read other members' answer to this question, and I'm sure you'll find a lot of qualifying verbage--I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings by not voting for them...we're all friends, I wish I could vote for everyone...etc, and I get that.  This is another award vote that could've gone a number of different ways for me.

Best Team Cardinals Blog:
I can only speak to what I've seen at i70baseball.com, and openly admit that I do write for Bill over there.  But, I really do feel like the group of writers, specifically on the Cardinals side of the house, have such diversity.  From Bob to Chris to Greg, there are so many different styles at i70 that I like.  Believe me, AMF, PH8 & others certainly get traffic from my browser, and I enjoy the reads other teams put out there.  Perhaps it's simply a function of more exposure to i70, and the fact that human nature tends to make us gravitate towards things with which we're familiar, but I'm punching my ticket for i70.

Best Professional Cardinals Blog:
Fewer to choose from than the previous question, no doubt.  But if you think the level of difficulty is proportionate, you're wrong.  For me, this really came down to Goold's Bird Land, and Leach's Obviously, You're Not A Golfer.  I'm a big fan of both of these, and have reasons why I like each of these individuals as people, things that may or may not really be reflected in their blog.  My nod goes to Matthew Leach's OYNAG.

Best Rookie Cardinals Blog:
This one was a little easier to choose, and I hope all the blogs that I'm not voting for in the category don't take that the wrong way.  But Aaron Miles' Fastball runs away with this award, in my mind.  This 100% estrogen zone has been very solid since the debut nearly a year ago.  Many blogs start strong, but often fade quickly.  Some take a little longer to fade, but many of those eventually sit and collect cyberdust.  Not AMF.  Fresh content, a good staff, and nearly a year's worth of solid content...Chris & the girls have my vote locked up.

Post of the Year:
I literally went back and read or re-read each nominee before casting my vote for Post of the Year.  It's one of the bigger awards on the ballot, in my opinion, and I didn't want to take that lightly.  There are eleven posts nominated, and after the first round of reading them all, I narrowed it down to eight.  Then I read them all again.  Then again, and got down to six.  Then four, then two.  This was MUCH more difficult than I thought, (and I knew it wouldn't be easy) possibly the hardest vote to cast out of all on this year's ballot.  I'm literally thinking about simply not voting for this category, and instead simply telling you that, after nearly an hour of debating with myself, I couldn't choose between C70's "Happily Ever After" and Bill Ivie's "Backyard Dreams", and they're my two finalists.  At the risk of drawing similar comments made about the 2002 All-Star Game, I'm gonna say I can't narrow it any further.  Maybe each are officially awarded a half point, and that ends up breaking a tie when the votes are tallied.  Maybe my vote is DQ'ed, and won't matter at all, since I'm not following the rules.  Perhaps the fact that both stories had a foundation based on a child's perspective was what did it for me.  Who knows?

Best UCB Project:
The progressive game blog was a pretty cool idea, it just so happened that it came while the Cardinals bats were M.I.A., and they were being no-hit into the 8th after being not collecting a base knock for the last several innings of the game before.  For me, the best, and the one that gets my vote is the Get to Know a UCBer project.

Most Optimistic Cardinals Blog:
This HAS to go to the ladies at Diamond Diaries.  I dare say that, outside of the Cardinals' clubhouse, these ladies are among the very few who truly, and in all complete honesty, NEVER gave up on this team.  All of us were hopeful, and obviously the team was never quite mathematically eliminated.  But if we're being honest with ourselves, most of us have to admit that at least once, we figured the Cardinals weren't going to get into the playoffs, let alone win it all.  That is, except for the Diamond Diaries writers--good for you, ladies!

Best UCB Podcast:
I'm going with the UCB Radio hour for this one.  It's been a consistent staple of Wednesday nights in Cardinal nation.  With a variety of hosts, co-hosts & guests, the UCB radio hour podcast gets my vote.

Best UCB Twitterer:
Going with Leach on this one too.  Informative, often with information that's not easy to come by for those of us who aren't at a 'travel with the team' level.  His commitment to integrity is strong, and though it's easy to for people to sometimes forget, Matthew is "not a fan, he covers the team".  Add to that the fact that he's good about tweeting back & interacting with folks, and that's enough to garner my vote.

Best Fake Cardinals Twitter Account:
I got a chuckle or two out of Torty, but that's about the extent of it for me.  For me, the funniest follow for a fake Cards account (and let's be honest, that's why we follow fake ones) isn't @FakeMikeShannon (heh heh heh), or even @FakeDanMcLaughl (#OfCarse), though both are worth following.  For me, it's @TrollStrauss.  The actual Strauss, as most of you may be aware, seems to loathe bloggers, and has a teeny bit of an arrogance aura about him.  He hasn't earned the nickname 'El Diablo' for nothing, which is why @TrollStrauss is such a good one in my book--whoever it is, absolutely nails it.  The fake account uses the same avatar (with slight text modification), and is so spot on that I literally catch myself often doing double-takes to see if Strauss himself actually said that, or if it's the fake account.  Great follow, if you don't, you should.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

11.11.11 UCB Roundtable

The United Cardinals Bloggers (of which I am a proud member) are currently conducting a roundtable discussion about various St. Louis Cardinals-related topics. For this particular project, each day, one member poses a question to the group for all to answer. My turn in the rotation was yesterday, and I posed the following question to the group:

"What is it going to take for the Cardinals to make a postseason appearance in 2012?"

I'd classify engagement as "good", as participation levels were decent, and most were answers that you could tell had some thought, reasoning, and sometimes "guts" behind a member's response. The collection of answers for Friday's roundtable question are below. For the comprehensive collection of UCB Roundtable answers, check out the United Cardinals Bloggers website. We'll start with my own answer to my question:

I believe that with the pitching we do/will/should have in place for 2012, the absence of Prince Fielder in MIL, and Dusty Baker still at the helm in CIN, the Cardinals could reasonably expect to contend, and possibly win the division. I don't think we'll see nearly as many GIDPs in '12 (or at least, would certainly hope not), and I think it's reasonable to assume Holliday will be healthier. So, even considering the possibility of Pujols not returning, having a lineup that consists of Berkman, Holliday, Freese, Craig, & others lends itself to a respectable offense, certainly one that can compete in the NL Central. The defense up the middle will be key--just think about the difference in the way your stomach felt when you saw a ground ball hit to the left side before & after Furcal came over. If the same pitching rotation (+Waino, -KMac) comes back for 2012, and Dave Duncan is back in 2012, I think we can, once again, expect enough ground balls that infield defense needs to be solid in order to compete. As near impossible as it is to predict much of anything in baseball, attempting to do so with a bullpen is even more difficult. Suffice it to say that will be another area to keep an eye on, and may require upgrades mid-season.

Bill Ivie: I-70 baseball

I will say this:

The Cardinals should compete next year and, with or without number five, should be considered the favorites to, at the very least, win the Central Division. However...

Should Pujols walk, the Cardinals need to upgrade at another position. The drop off from Pujols to Craig is a large one. However, if the upgrade from Jon Jay to <insert center fielder here> is substantial without sacrificing defense, then it can be absorbed.

The Cards have the potential to upgrade at second, short and center without having to make a major splash (or spend a ton of money) and still sustain a solid defense. It all hinges on what our first base situation looks like so they know what they can afford elsewhere.

Should Pujols come back and Mo finds a way to upgrade one of the other three pieces, this team has to be a favorite to go a long way into October next year.

Tom Knuppel: Cardinals GM

To win more games than anyone else in the National League Central.... there I am done.

On a serious note I believe we must have solid pitching throughout the entire year from the bullpen and starters. Let's face it, they almost waited too long to make some necessary changes. To catch lightning with Salas and Sanchez was a great break and then when that started turning a bit, Motte rescued the pen. A new manager may/will handle this staff differently and may get some players a bit out of sorts from what they are used to doing.

Prepare Rzcep as a long reliever starter from Spring Training and have that second lefthander ready to start.

Jon Doble: Redbird Dugout

I expect the Cardinals to be postseason favorites next year, if not World Series favorites. That said, they'll probably finish third in the NL Central behind the Cubs and the Pirates or something crazy like that.
With or without Pujols, the return of Wainwright is a huge boost for this club. As good as Carpenter is, he isn't that ace pitcher anymore, but that's not to say he isn't a really, really good #2. The Cardinals should easily be capable of winning 10 more games next year with a solidified closer situation (or at least, better candidates for closer) and Wainwright back. 
I don't even feel like the Cardinals need to upgrade that heavily next year. I would strengthen the defense up the middle and call it a day. There are ultimately two ways to win baseball games, score runs or keep the other team from scoring. With the rotation and bullpen this team could have next year, we are in a position to be one of the best pitching staffs in the league and a secure middle infield would just make it all that more likely.
Even without Pujols, the Cardinals offense is still in shape to be one of the top-3 in the National League. Combine that with a top-3 pitching staff and you have a recipe for a team that is capable of going far.

I’m beginning to worry less and less about personnel with every season. Mozeliak and his staff have earned my respect and expectation that they will put a team on the field with an opportunity to succeed.
So my answer is health.
The Cardinals must stay healthy. They’re not going to always be able to overcome losing an Albert Pujols for any stretch of time. They were lucky to have Craig and Freese step up when Holliday struggled with injuries late in the season. Sure, it’s a great story that they accomplished what they did in 2011 without Adam Wainwright, but let’s not do that again, eh?
If the Cards can keep their Opening Day lineup on the field for 140 games or more, they’ll win a bunch of those.

Ray DeRousse: STL Cardinal Baseball 

First of all, forget the Pujols situation. While he hits his share of home runs and hits for average and RBI's, his current numbers are replaceable by others like Craig. I'm more concerned with having clutch hitters on this team than I am about gaudy home run numbers, and the fact is that Pujols is not nearly the clutch hitter he once was. If he walks, this team will be just fine.
Now, the rest: we have a championship-caliber bullpen now, a brilliant catcher, and a very solid third baseman, right fielder, and left fielder. 
The starting pitching scares me, but there isn't much that can be done. Big questions remain about Waino, Westbrook (can he ever get below a 4.00 ERA for $8 million a year?), Lohse (consistency), and Garcia (again, consistency as well as mental issues). And Carp threw 3,000 innings this year at 36 years old. Who knows what to expect, but we won the whole thing with mostly awful starting pitching.
I cannot imagine going through a season relying on Furcal at short. If he's healthy all year (good luck), you're still stuck with a very nice guy hitting .200 and committing 25 errors (his pace with us in 2011). 
I'd also like to see the team finally address the second base problem. I see other teams with big production and defense from second base, while we have Ryan Theriot and Skip there.
Overall, we are in decent shape, though.

Aaron Hooks: Cards Diaspora

What's it going to take for the Cardinals to make a post-season
appearance in 2012?

The players wanting to make a post-season appearance in 2012.


Daniel Solzman: Redbirds Fun

The will to get back in the postseason.

Chris Mallonee: Birds On The Bat 82

I look at this question as, what is it going to take for another team to knock the Cardinals off the division crown in 2012...They are the clear favorites in the weakest division in baseball.

If El Hombre bolts, Mo will bring in a good player whether through trade or free agent acquisition. With a key left hand addition, the bullpen should be even better than '11, plus everyone is expecting Waino back at 100%. As others have mentioned, the Redbirds not making 2012 playoffs would have to come down to losing key players to injury for an extended stretch and Waino not returning to form. But if 2011 taught us anything, even those 2 factors might not be enough to keep them out.

Kevin Reynolds: Cards 'n Stuff

Innings from the rotation. If Pujols is here, we are well positioned to absorb a lineup injury or two. If he's not, Mo will upgrade somewhere else...even if its just the bench to replace Craig's versatile presence.

The big question and need - w Carp's load in 2011/2010 and Waino's recovery - is quality innings from the rotation. With Westbrook's struggles and Garcia's Jekyll and Hyde routine, this rotation needs to keep pressure off the 'pen as much as possible.

Miranda Miraklus: Aaron Miles' Fastball

The addition of Adam Wainwright back in the rotation. Consistency from Holliday and Jaime Garcia. A continuation of awesome from Freese, Craig, Jay, Descalso, Yadi, Berkman, Lynn, Zepper and Motte. Maybe even the addition of another pitcher ... like Roy Oswalt or Mark Buehrle. Maybe if Roy played with the Cardinals, he wouldn't mind Rally Squirrels so much! Maybe get Furcal and Pujols back as well. I think this combined with how things are in the NL Central make the Cardinals chances pretty good!

I’m with Nick, health. If you go to the Cardinals website right now and look at the depth chart it’s in pretty good shape even without # 5. Minus Tyler Greene at short I’d feel pretty good running that lineup out on a consistent basis. Plus having Waino back in the rotation isn’t so bad either. Of course like most things this off-season the Pujols situation will probably factor in some personnel moves but as a fan I’m not losing sleep over it.
An addition or two in the bullpen, a shortstop not named Greene or Theriot and a couple bench guys and bring on Opening Day.

Mark Tomaskis: Retro Simba

The key to a postseason return for the Cardinals in 2012 will be whether the Cardinals’ starting pitching staff is effective and healthy.

Bob Netherton: On the Outside Corner

Nick said it perfectly, health. The Cardinals were very fortunate this year, which might seem like an odd thing to say when your staff ace goes down for the entire season. But consider that the remainder of the rotation were amazingly durable. Jake Westbrook made every single start. Kyle Lohse and Jaime Garcia were skipped a few times due to fatigue, not injury, and Chris Carpenter was a regular iron horse. The bullpen had its share of outages, but were retooled into a healthy squad at the very end.

Lance Berkman also stayed healthy, which was the real question going into 2011. It will be again in 2012.

The big difference between the two seasons will be how effective Memphis will be in backfilling injured players. Most of those players used in 2011 will be with the big club in 2012 (Eduardo Sanchez, Lance Lynn) and the bench players like Daniel Descalso and Allen may find a larger role, perhaps even as a starter. In 2011, there was ample MLB-ready (or near-MLB-ready) talent, ready to step in - Matt Carpenter, Andrew Brown, Mark Hamilton, Tyler Greene, Nick Stavinoha (sort of), Adron Chambers. That same list for 2012 will be Adron Chambers, Matt Carpenter and maybe Mark Hamilton. Aaron Luna, Tommy Pham and Darryl Jones are exciting young players, but none of them are ready to step into the shoes of the MLB players.

2012 will be far more about the health of the pitchers, veterans and David Freese than about individual performances.

J.E. Powell: STL Fear the Red

I would like to see a more consistent, slightly younger short stop or
2nd baseman. Maybe a 20 HR-80 RBI-.280 hitter, but of course that
would almost have to be done via trade, the Free Agent market is too
thin this year. If that doesn't work out, I think the Cards need an
everyday center fielder. With all due respect to Jon Jay, his numbers
just haven't been as good when he plays everyday.

Overall, as long as the Cards can stay relatively healthy (no season
ending injuries or several injuries at once) I think they will compete
in the division and will make the playoffs.

My closing thoughts:

First of all, let me just say that I was totally going to throw in a clause about how 'your answer should be something other than injury-related.  They're a part of the game, and no respecter of person.

But I didn't.

I can see where many of the thoughts and ideas from above are coming from, and the perspective of the writer, and can agree with many of them. Some of the comments I don't agree with, which is just one reason why these projects are so enjoyable, and why interacting with other members of the UCB is so much fun for me--I love a good, intelligent baseball discussion.

For more, bookmark the UCB website, as the roundtable project is set to continue for a couple more weeks, with new questions daily.