St. Louis Cardinals Enter New Era: A Fan’s View

It was recently revealed that Dave Duncan, pitching coach extraordinaire for the St. Louis Cardinals, will take a leave of absence to tend to his ailing wife, who is recovering from surgery to remove a brain tumor.

Duncan, who has been inextricably linked to Tony La Russa for an amazing 33 years, the last 16 with the Cardinals, steps away at a time of great change for the franchise. La Russa retired after winning the World Series in October, and long-time Cardinal Albert Pujols, perhaps the best player in baseball over the last 20 years and beyond, was lured to California by an absurdly enormous contract to play for the Angels.

Virtually every franchise in sports would buckle at the knees after such upheaval. Here's a wager the Cardinals won't.

The St. Louis Cardinals are one of those organizations that manages to thrive through all manner of circumstances, including player movement, debilitating injury, and the surge of its competition. In that way, they mirror franchises like the New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Los Angeles Lakers. Put simply, are those teams ever bad? Stability of the organization certainly plays a significant role in continuous success, and that stability would seem to be in question now. But through it all, look for the Cardinals to challenge for a division title again when they roll out the balls in April.

Nobody knows anything about rookie manager Mike Matheny, except perhaps Cardinal management who had enough confidence to allow him to follow a legend on the top step of the dugout. Duncan will certainly be missed, but bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist has been successful within the organization. And then there's the roster. Nobody will replace Pujols' production, but everybody together might. Carlos Beltran, if he can stay on the field, joins a lineup in which he's not the only professional hitter. Lance Berkman moves to first base, and he demonstrated he can still hit. In addition, the Cardinals introduced a litany of new stars who blossomed during the postseason. Remember, their best pitcher, Adam Wainwright, missed the entirety of the 2011 season and they still won the World Series.

The Cardinals, as usual, will be just fine.

Glenn Vallach has been a New York Mets fan since foolishly abandoning the mighty Yankees in his youth after Mickey Mantle retired. Since the fond, fleeting memories of the Tom Seaver, Cleon Jones, Tommie Agee years, he sits quietly yearning for a fraction of the success enjoyed annually by the team that inhabits the borough in which I was born...waiting and hoping...waiting and hoping.

Sources:

  • · Yahoo! Sports St. Louis Cardinals page
  • · Yahoo! Sports Albert Pujols page
  • · Yahoo! Sports Adam Wainwright page
  • · Associated Press, Cardinals' Duncan taking leave of absence