This off-season The Nats Blog will be holding weekly interviews with blogs from all thirty teams. One site a week leading up to the start of the 2011 season. This week I spoke with Aaron Hooks from Cardinals Diaspora, one of the top St. Louis Cardinals blogs on the net, to talk about the future of Albert Pujols and Tony LaRussa, as well as their suddenly crippled starting rotation.
TNB: Do you expect all the buzz surrounding Albert Pujols and his contract to be a distraction?
Cardinals Diaspora: It's not only a distraction. It's THE distraction. Probably the BIGGEST distraction that a team can have.
Imagine it's Game 7 of the World Series, the Cardinals have just won on a walk-off home run by Albert Pujols in the bottom of the 9th inning and Chris Meyers grabs Pujols for the post-game on-field interview. After the first softball about how he feels, I GUARANTEE you those a******* at FOX would be in his ear seeing if he'd say anything about the contract.
It's a 'Yeah But' situation that Cardinal fans can't get away from. Cardinals on a 5 game winning streak? Yeah but... Cardinals clinch a division title? Yeah but...
Pujols is the best player in baseball. He deserves probably twice the $300 million he wants. But by installing this artificial deadline on the contract negotiations, he's also pretty much sucked the life out of any enjoyment fans can have in 2011.
TNB: Will Tony LaRussa be the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals after 2011?
Cardinals Diaspora: Yes.
With the caveat that the Cardinals don't completely implode in 2011. LaRussa loves challenges and actually doesn't manage well as the favorite. So unless the Cardinals are just absolutely piss poor this season and win like (no offense National fans) like 70-75 games, then he's coming back.
Even if Pujols leaves, he can use that to motivate the 2012 squad.
TNB: Jaime Garcia enjoyed a breakthrough season last year going 13-8 with a 2.70 ERA, what are the expectations for him heading into 2011?
Cardinals Diaspora: Big.
Jamie went from a long shot to make the Cardinals in 2010 to the second starter in 2011. He's got to pitch more innings and get stronger in the back half of the year. He's got to carry the team in stretches and become a stopper when the Cards are on a skid. He's got to be a team leader and someone that the rest of the team and the city have supreme confidence in when he takes the pill.
You know, easy s***. Jamie really never showed many weaknesses in 2010, but this is the bigs and he's going to be better scouted and prepared for than he was in 2011. So his success is going to be integral to the Cardinals success.
TNB: Within the first two weeks of Spring Training the Cardinals have lost Adam Wainwright to injury and now Chris Carpenter is reported to have hamstring problems. How will the team accommodate these issues?
Cardinals Diaspora: Neither of those guys are replaceable. But it looks like Carpenter will be back next week and the team was just being cautious.
Wainwright was in the top three of voting for the Cy Young the past two seasons and is probably the most underrated starter in the NL, so you don't replace that guy. You just hope to kind of get by.
With Chris Carpenter and Garcia at the top of the rotation and Jake Westbrook moving up to be a solid number three guy, the Cardinals season really comes down to...UH OH - Kyle Lohse.
Cue Keyboard Cat.
The guy has been dreadful the past two years while making over $22 million dollars, so he HAS to provide some ROI for his $11 million in 2011. Yes, Kyle Lohse is making $11 million dollars per year. If he gets to 15-16 wins, then the Cardinals are fine filling in that fifth spot with Lance Lynn (Rookie 6'5" 250 flamethrower), Ian Snell, or Mitchell Boggs.
TNB: What can Lance Berkman bring to the Cardinals lineup? Does he have anything left in the tank?
Cardinals Diaspora: Berkman better have something left in the tank.
Listen, the dude was the most forgettable player of 2010. He went to the Yankees and every time I saw him on TV wearing the pinstripes I kind of was like, whoa, forgot about Berkman.
But he had a monster training off-season, is coming to a place that he absolutely killed it in for his whole career and is already one of the fans favorites. His defense will be sketch, but he'll get on base and with Matt Holiday and Pujols in your lineup all you really need from a guy is to get on base.
I think Berkman will surprise some people in 2011.
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