SportsPickle is previewing each MLB team as the 2010 season opens. Today:St. Louis Cardinals (2009: 91-71, NL Central champion).
STARTING PITCHING Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright are as good as any two starters in baseball. But the rest of the rotation Kyle Lohse, Brad Penny and Jaime Garcia give the Cardinals a rotation that looks like it's built more for winning the NL Central than the World Series. You know what the Cardinals should do? Get five really good starting pitchers. It's simple. There's no reason to over-think it.
LINEUP Signing Matt Holliday gives the Cardinals protection in the lineup for Albert Pujols, while taking the pressure off of Colby Rasmus, who will now have more time to develop. The question is can Holliday truly protect Pujols? If anyone throws inside on the Cardinals superstar, Holliday needs to nut up, storm off the bench and beat that fking pitcher to death with his bat. And I mean really go all out. There should be pieces of skull and chunks of brain scattered all over the mound by the time he's done. (I hope Holliday didn't think at 30 he was going to get a 7-year, $120 million contract from a mid-market team without having to do a few murders.)
BULLPEN St. Louis has a good bullpen with Trever Miller, Jason Motte and Kyle McClellan. Closer Ryan Franklin is solid. He's also a former 'roider and may have the douchiest facial hair of any closer in baseball (which is really quite an accomplishment), so screw that guy. But if you're looking for the biggest cheater in the Cardinals' bullpen, go withDennys Reyes. With how fat he is, there are clearly two people inside his uniform. And the DennyS name gives it a way. Think you could pull that over on us, boys? Having two guys fill one roster spot is cheating and the Cardinals should be punished.
BENCH Felipe Lopez, Julio Lugo, and Jason LaRue provide depth off the bench. But the really intriguing person on the bench is new hitting coach Mark McGwire. Tony LaRussa said during the offseason that he would be open to McGwire getting time as a pinch hitter. I think we can all support that. Steroids or not, McGwire was a talented hitter. And America is a forgiving nation. Also, I would like to see someone hit him in the face with a fastball. "What's that Mark? That pitch just broke your orbital bone? How about we not focus on the past?"
OVERALL The Cardinals are the clear favorite to win the NL Central. But they don't seem to have enough pieces to win the World Series. Even always-supportive Cardinals fans have to be getting sick of these near-misses, and if the team doesn't add more top-tier talent before the trade deadline, you have to wonder if they'll turn away from the team and stop attending games. Nah, just kidding. What else are they going to do watch the Rams and Blues instead? No. Not happening.