The 2014 season marks the fiftieth anniversary of the improbable 1964 World Championship Cardinals team that made a miracle run to overtake the Philadelphia Phillies on the last day of the regular season, before dispatching the vaunted New York Yankees in a classic Seven Game World Series. It was the seventh title in franchise history.
Since then, St Louis has made nine trips to the Fall Classic, winning four times, to bring their championship tally up to eleven. Last year, the Redbirds fell two games short of capturing number twelve; falling to the Boston Red Sox in Six Games. Heading into the 2014 season, the team could very well be even better than last year, after signing free agent shortstop Jhonny Peralta to add much needed offensive clout to that position; acquiring defensive whiz Peter Bourjos to patrol centerfield (parting with fan-favorite David Freese after a lackluster 2013 season); which frees up Matt Carpenter to take over third base, as rookie Kolten Wong is slated to be the starting second baseman for the Redbirds this season.
While it's unlikely the Cardinals will be able to hit an unfathomable .330 with RISP again this year, they are still a very good offensive team, and with much better defensive metrics this time around, they should still post a very favorable run differential; and that translates to a lot more wins than losses once again.
What I suspect will be the biggest improvement over last year is the quality of the entire pitching staff, which ranked fifth best in the NL last year (not bad), and could well be in the top two or three in the league in 2014. The blown saves which plagued the Cardinals last year should not be such a problem this year, with a bevy of young power arms coming out of the bullpen to close games out with more reliability. Closer Trevor Rosenthal will have a full season to rack up the saves, and if all goes as expected, should be at or near the top of the NL saves leader board in 2014.
Yes, this should be another great season of Cardinals baseball. To commemorate all the great moments over the past 50 years, I'm going to highlight a noteworthy game from the last half century for each calendar day of the season. We'll relive some of the extraordinary moments in Cardinals baseball, compliments of all-time greats like Gibson, Brock, Simmons, Hernandez, Smith, Lankford, McGee, McGwire, and of course, Pujols.
This trip down memory lane will be a fun-filled ride, from the end of March, well into October. I hope you enjoy reading about it as much as I'm going to enjoy writing about it!