Wednesday, April 4, 2012
The Cardinals are opening their season tonight in a nationally-televised game in the Miami Marlins' new stadium. I can't remember being this excited about a new season. Will Mike Matheny be able to replace Tony LaRussa? Can the Cardinals possibly replace the production of first baseman Albert Pujols? Can David Freese replicate his World Series heroics over the course of a full season? Will Matheny find time for two high-upside youngsters, Allen Craig and Tyler Greene? Will the old men of the team, Carlos Beltran and Lance Berkman, hold together to give the Cards some of what Pujols leaving took away? Will Adam Wainwright be, well, Adam Wainwright after his arm surgery? Will Matt Holliday step out of Pujols' shadow to become the new "Man" in St. Louis? Will the young bullpen arms -- Motte and Salas -- solidify the 8th and 9th innings for the Redbirds?
Bold prediction: the Cardinals won 90 games last year. I think they have a chance to be better than that this year, particularly with Wainwright's return and full years from Freese, Craig, Greene and shortstop Rafael Furcal. I say the Cards go 94-68, and win the Central by six games over the Brewers and/or Reds. Freese and Craig both hit 20-25 HRs, Wainwright wins the Cy Young, and Mike Matheny wins Manager of the Year.