Back in the winter of 2011, the St. Louis Cardinals’ front office was tasked with making an impossible decision. They could either commit a massive amount of money to one player, who had in all fairness been the best player in baseball for about a solid decade, or they could opt to spend the money elsewhere, allow him to leave via free agency and try to make up for his loss in other ways. The Cardinals eventually decided to let the player in question go, and it’s a decision that is looking better and better as the days go by. The player in question is Albert Pujols, former Cardinal great who during his time with the team, put up stats that could genuinely warrant enshrinement in Cooperstown purely on their own. He was regarded as an icon and one that the franchise could not do without, but they let him go, saying that the money he wanted was too much for them. The divorce was amicable and Albert took his talents to Southern California soon after, where he has been a disaster. Pujols has shown his age since he’s put on the Angel red and though they have been mum throughout, the Cardinals are most likely doing backflips over their decision to just let him walk altogether. As franchise altering as that decision was and how fortuitous it has proven so far for the Cardinals, what can’t be lost in all this is the fact that St. Louis has actually lived up to their end of the bargain, producing the hitters that have been more than capable of making up for the lost production.
Allen Craig, the current Cardinal first baseman is the one who directly followed Pujols in the first base hierarchy in St. Louis and although lacking the same prodigious power that made Albert such a joy to watch on a daily basis, Craig still possesses innate hitting ability and gap power that makes him more than just a capable heir to the position. The one direct recipient of the money that Pujols left on the table when he moved to a different team was outfielder Carlos Beltran, and he too has done more than his fair share to make the Cardinal fans forget their former first baseman. Beltran himself is a hall-worthy slugger with a career’s worth of impressive achievements, but a World Series ring still eludes him, and he aims to remedy that this season as he along with his teammates make a run at the championship.
The one player however who most people point to as the direct recipient of the leadership role that Pujols vacated when he left is catcher Yadier Molina. Molina, once known only for his superior defense, has become a force at the plate, hitting like an MVP candidate. The award may in fact even be in his future. These men were tasked with trying to directly replace the void left by a superstar, and yet none of them have faltered, and now they are fueling another Cardinal run to a possible world title.
Catch the St. Louis Cardinals as they go against Chicago Cubs on the 16th. You can get your St. Louis Cardinals tickets online at Ticket Broker.