The St. Louis Cardinals enter the 2011 season with a lot of uncertainty. They have lost one of their aces to injury, and the best player on the team is in a contract year. Here are some of the main questions facing the Cardinals as they begin their 2011 campaign.
Will Albert re-sign? Albert Pujols is the best player in baseball today and he is a guy that has become such a huge part of the St. Louis community. Now Albert’s future in St. Louis is cloudy, Albert and the team were not able to negotiate an extension before the start of Spring Training Albert has already said that he will not negotiate during the year because he does not want any distractions. Which means Albert will be a free agent come November. Let me just say while I'm on the subject that I believe no matter what happens , I do not think Albert would leave St. Louis. Matter of fact if he did leave St. Louis it would stun me completely. Albert Pujols is the most popular person in St. Louis he could run for mayor and he would probably win because the city loves him so much. He means too much to the city and too much to Cardinals Nation as a whole to leave St. Louis. I think the Cardinals will re-sign Albert Eventually and he will spend his entire Career in a Cardinals Jersey.
Can the Cards survive without Adam Wainwright? Losing Adam Wainwright was a huge blow to the Cardinals and it seriously hurt their chances at making the playoffs in 2011. The Cards have had to re-align their rotation because of this, putting a lot more pressure on people like Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia to succeed. Kyle Loshe also has a bit more pressure on him coming off an injury plagued 2010, and the big question out of all this is how well Kyle McClellan will be in making the switch from being a reliever to starting every 5 days.
How well will Lance Berkman perform in the outfield? The cardinals made a big move this year by signing Lance Berkman. If Lance can stay healthy and he can once again adjust to playing regularly in the outfield, He can be a huge force for the Cardinals both offensively and defensively. Also, if Berkman gets hurt and has to Miss Major Time whom will the Redbirds call on to take over that RF spot. Both Allen Craig and Jon Jay did fairly well in RF last year, and both are on the opening day roster, ready to be used if called upon.
How well will Kyle Loshe perform this year? In 2008, Kyle Loshe had the best season of his career in 33 starts that year he went 15-6 with 3.78 ERA. In 09 and 10, however Loshe has struggled heavily and has been injury plagued - only starting 18 games in 2010 due to an arm injury. In those 18 starts, he went 4-8 with a 6.55 ERA. Loshe reported to Spring Training early and said that his arm feels good and that he is ready to get back to work and prove that he can get back to being the type of pitcher he was in 2008. He had a very decent spring, but Time will tell if he can get back to being the pitcher, he was back in 2008.
Will Jaime Garcia suffer the dreaded sophomore slump? Last year Jaime Garcia went into Spring Training, as a person no one thought would compete for a starting job. He ended up getting the fifth spot in the Cards rotation in 2010 and did not disappoint. He went on to have a breakout season in which he was the best rookie starting pitcher in all of baseball (in my opinion at least) As he goes into his 2nd season, Garcia find himself near the top of the rotation due to Adam Wainright’s injury. Will he suffer that sophomore slump? I think he will actually get better, but time will tell.
Can the Cardinals stay healthy this year? Last year the Cardinals struggled heavily with injuries, Kyle Loshe missed 3/4 of the season, Colby Rasmus, Brad Penny, Felipe Lopez, Jason LaRue, David Freese all missed significant time due to injuries, The question is will the Cards stay healthy in 2011 and will David Freese and Kyle Loshe specifically come back strong after their injuries.
Will the Cardinals return to the top of the NL Central in 2011? The Cardinals failed to make the playoffs for the third time in 4 years in 2010 losing the division title to the upstart Reds. in 2011 Expect the NL Central to be a wild race between 3 teams (possibly 4 if the Cubs get hot). The Cardinals, Red, and Brewers are all primed to make a run at the division title in 2011 and it will be a 3 way race between those teams. The Cards are the veterans who have mostly dominated the Central over the past decade, the Reds who are young, talented, and ready to defend their division crown. And then there are the Brewers who have made huge upgrades this year, specifically with their pitching staff. Without their ace, the Cardinals are defiantly the underdogs in the Central. But what people forget is that even without Adam Wainwright, this is a good team. This club can put up some big offensive numbers while still having a solid pitching rotation. The Cards might not win the Central in 2011, but do not be surprised if they finish second or third and are in contention come September.