(Hindsight) Power Rankings: Cardinals You Don’t Want To See Get Hurt in 2011


Sure emotion is playing a role in this ranking but I’ve at least convinced myself that, had I done this topic Monday morning, it would have shaken out the same way. That is, of course, before word of Adam Wainwright’s injured elbow barrelled through St. Louis this morning like a big rig on 44.

So let’s pretend Waino is still in Florida prepping to claim that Cy Young he’s been stalking for the past two years and take a look at the power rankings of Cardinals we don’t want to see get injured in 2011.

5.) Yadier Molina
Offensively he’s not a superstar, but his defense is stellar, his arm is sort like a shoulder mounted grenade launcher and the way he has handled the pitching staff has resulted in Dave Duncan having a man crush on him. 

Yadi also remains the player that often has the most frightening full time backup each year. If he goes down in 2011, we’d just get tons of Gerald Laird. And no one really needs that.

4.) Matt Holliday
The two-headed beast of Pujols-Holliday was as dynamic last season as everyone expected, so it would be a healthy punch in the gut if one of those two went down. If Holliday was lost, the team would have a lot riding on Lance Berkman recapturing his old form and sliding in as an effective #4 hitter. Not a guarantee by any stretch. And if Berkman is moved to the #4 slot, it means someone else is moved, then someone else, and suddenly the lineups become even more fluid for LaRussa, which would likely cause a trickle down effect that results in key at bats for Randy Winn.

Okay, I just made that up, but still, losing a run producer in the lineup would be one of about 300 excuses that Tony would use to pull a scrubby veteran off the shelf.

3.) Chris Carpenter
His loss may have a similar impact on the stat sheet as losing Wainwright, since they are heads 1A and 1B on the monster known as the Cardinals starting rotation. But we’ve been here before. We’ve seen Carpenter make dramatic exits after Game 1 in ’07 and down the stretch in ’04. Most Cardinals fans have learned to view Carpenter’s dominance as occuring on borrowed time because he’s been no stranger to the DL throughout his career. Carp is a horse, but one that you’re worried might break down at any moment and be of no use in the breeding shed.

And with that, I believe I just won the office pool to see who could be the first to produce an analogy comparing an equine breeding shed to the MLB postseason.

2.) Albert Pujols
Sure it probably would have had a significant impact on the 2011 season since he has been the pillar of our offense for the past decade, is headed straight to Cooperstown when he retires, has never had a bad season and established himself as arguably the second best player in franchise history, etc. But at least we could figure out a way to squeeze some deranged side benefits out of it if he went down for the season before it starts.

Example 1: Albert suffering a significant injury may have dried up his market a bit and makes it even more likely that he will end his career with the Cardinals. No one wants to spend $30 mill a year on a free agent who is just overcoming a significant injury, right? So 2011 is shot, but the next 5-6 years will be bright.

Example 2: Even if he does leave after the season, at least we’ve had a few months trial run at life without watching Pujols crush bombs at a freakish pace.  We’re totally ready. 

See, we can justify anything if we try hard enough.

1.) Adam Wainwright
Admittedly, Waino might have leapfrogged Albert in this rankings based solely on the angst experienced in the past 24 hours, but when the news broke about Wainwright’s elbow, you could almost feel the collective disappointment sweep across the fanbase like an elaborate domino setup. A few minutes after word had been released that he suffered a season-ending injury, you could see heads popping up from office cubes with confused faces on them, people shaking their heads in the car, smoke coming from fingers of panicked fans cranking out roughly 300 words per minute via text.

Emotionally, it was like Trent Green blowing out his knee for the Rams in a 1999 preseason game, only I’m confident Lance Lynn or PJ Walters isn’t going to pull a Kurt Warner.

Wainwright had been rightfully elevated to the status of staff ace over the past two seasons and the combo of him, Carpenter and Garcia at the top of the rotation meant that, even with some potential holes in the lineup, pitching alone would keep the Cardinals flirting with the NL Central title.

With him likely done for the year, the rotation now leans heavily on Carpenter, Garcia and a back-end populated with mediocrity. Arguably the biggest strength on the team now subtracts its most valuable asset and adds a giant question mark.

Regardless, I’m blaming the guy we traded to get Wainwright. Somehow this is JD Drew’s fault.

E-mail: josh@joesportsfan.com
Twitter: @jbacott


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