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St. Louis Cardinals
Team Page | Roster | Spring Training Schedule | Regular Season Schedule
On this page: Arrivals | Departures | Spring Cleaning | Team Breakdown | Prospects | Predictions


   Mark McGwire enters the season just 46 homers shy of 600. AP

By Ryan Hunt, CNNSI.com

It's a simple theme for the St. Louis Cardinals this season: The chase for 600.

If Mark McGwire is healthy, the 37-year-old slugger likely will become the fourth player in baseball history to reach the 600-homer plateau. More important for the Cardinals, a healthy McGwire means they have a chance to play .600 ball for the first time since their 1985 pennant-winning team.

That's how high expectations are in St. Louis. And that's how much McGwire means to meeting those expectations.

Even still, the Cardinals proved they were more than just Big Mac last season, with help from Will Clark, sweeping the Braves in the Division Series before getting knocked out by the Mets in the NLCS.

But don't think for a minute Redbirds fans weren't wondering what could have been with a healthy McGwire. In 2001, they could find out.

With the offseason trade of power-hitting third baseman Fernando Tatis to Montreal, however, the brunt of the Cardinals' offense falls even heavier to McGwire -- who still hit 32 homers last season despite playing in only 89 games because of a knee injury -- and Jim Edmonds.

 
Top Guns
Cardinals 2000 team leaders
Avg.  Fernando Vina  .300 
HR  Jim Edmonds  42 
RBIs  Jim Edmonds  108 
SB  Edgar Renteria  21 
Wins  Darryl Kile  20 
ERA  Rick Ankiel  3.50 
Ks  Rick Ankiel  194 
Saves  Dave Veres  29 
 
Go Figure

45-33

The Cardinals' record after July 6, when McGwire went down with a knee injury; they were 50-34 before his injury.
 
 

It's a somewhat scary proposition considering when McGwire was hurt last season, the load was too much for Edmonds. The center fielder hit .238 after the All-Star break with McGwire out. Before the break -- and with McGwire's protection -- Edmonds hit .341.

Still, with Edmonds and McGwire clicking, as well as 25-homer potential from outfielders Ray Lankford and J.D. Drew, the Cardinals have plenty of offense to account for the loss of Tatis -- even if his replacements are Placido Polanco, Shane Andrews and Craig Paquette.

As for pitching, while the starting staff is solid one through five, it's not without its question marks. Darryl Kile won 20 games last season and pitched as well as any NL pitcher in the second half. Dustin Hermanson, acquired in the Tatis deal, gives the Cardinals a solid No. 2 starter.

The rest of the staff, however, will determine whether the Cardinals are serious World Series threats or not.

Rick Ankiel's postseason control problems overshadowed an impressive rookie season (194 strikeouts in 175 IP and a 3.51 ERA). Garrett Stephenson won 16 games last season after winning a combined 14 in his first 57 major league games. Andy Benes won 12 games, but had an ERA of 5.65 after the All-Star break

The wild card is Matt Morris, who has the tools of a future 20-game winner, but has pitched only 53 innings since arm surgery in 1999.

Remember: The Cardinals won 95 games last season, a winning percentage of .586. Getting to .600 is a very real possibility in 2001.

Arrivals
Pos.  Player  From  Via 
RHP  Dustin Hermanson  Expos  Trade 
LHP  Steve Kline  Expos  Trade 
3B  Shane Andrews  Cubs  Free Agency 
OF  Bobby Bonilla  Braves  Free Agency 
OF  Bernard Gilkey  Diamondbacks  Free Agency 
OF  John Mabry  Padres  Free Agency 
OF  Quinton McCracken  Cardinals  Free Agency 
RHP  Heathcliff Slocumb  Padres  Free Agency 

Departures
Pos.  Player  To  Via 
3B  Fernando Tatis  Expos  Trade 
RHP  Britt Reames  Expos  Trade 
1B  Will Clark  N/A  Retired 
OF  Eric Davis  Giants  Free Agency 
OF  Shawon Dunston  Giants  Free Agency 
RHP  Pat Hengten  Orioles  Free Agency 
OF  Thomas Howard  Pirates  Free Agency 
LHP  Jesse Orosco  Dodgers  Free Agency 
1B  Eduardo Perez  Japan  Sold 
RHP  Scott Radinsky  Indians  Free Agency 
Rick Wilkins  Padres  Free Agency 

Spring Cleaning
 
J.D. Drew
  • Is this the year Tony La Russa finally lets J.D. Drew play everyday? Drew has averaged only 387 at-bats in his two full major league seasons. At 25, this could be the year Drew lives up to the hype that has followed him for his entire pro career.

  • The corners could turn out to be a big problem if McGwire is unable to stay healthy. At third, the trio of Polanco, Paquette and Andrews won't be able to match the Tatis' offensive production. And if McGwire goes down again, the Cardinals will be forced to replace nearly 50 percent of their power supply.

  • Experience never hurts. The Cardinals revamped their bench in the offseason, brining in veteran outfielders Bobby Bonilla, Bernard Gilkey, John Mabry and Quinton McCracken, while signing oft-inured Dave Kingman impersonator Andrews. But how big of a role will they play?

  • The bullpen should be much improved. Veres is a solid closer. Late-season acquisitions Mike Timlin and Jason Christensen pitched well down the stretch. Left-hander Steve Kline was added from Montreal in the offseason. And if Morris is unable to break into the rotation, he'll stabilize a pen which could become among the best in the NL.


  • Team Breakdown
    Projected Lineup  Projected Rotation 
    2B  Fernando Vina  RHP  Darryl Kile 
    SS  Edgar Renteria  RHP  Dustin Hermanson 
    CF  Jim Edmonds  LHP  Rick Ankiel 
    1B  Mark McGwire  RHP  Andy Benes 
    RF  J.D. Drew  RHP  G. Stephenson/Matt Morris 
    CF  Ray Lankford  Bullpen  
    3B  Polanco/Paquette/Andrews  RHP  Dave Veres (closer) 
    Mike Matheny  LHP  Jason Christensen 
    Key Reserves   RHP  Mike Timlin 
    Carlos Hernandez  RHP  Mike James 
    OF  Bobby Bonilla  RHP  Heathcliff Slocumb 
    OF  Quinton McCracken  RHP  Alan Benes 
    1B  Larry Sutton  RHP  Mark Thompson 
    OF  Bernard Gilkey  RHP  Gene Stechschulte 

    Prospects to Watch
  • LHP Bud Smith -- Smith was downight dominant in 2000, putting him on the brink of advancing to the majors. After posting a combined 17-2 record --ncluding two no-hitters -- in stops in Class AA (Arkansas) and Class AAA (Memphis), the southpaw likely will start this season in Memphis. He should be a fixture in the Cardinals' rotation soon after.

  • 3B Albert Pujols -- By dealing Tatis, the Cardinals showed a trememdous amount of faith in the future promise of Pujols. The 21-year-old hit .324 with 17 homers in Class A, although he struggled in a short stint in Memphis. While not ready in 2001, Pujols is the heir apparent for the third-base job while the Cardinals keep the seat warm for one year.

  • RHP Chad Hutchinson -- There is perhaps no more puzzling propsect than Hutchinson. While scouts drool over his stuff, Hutchinson had elbow trouble, then struggled mightily last season in Memphis with a 25.92 ERA in four starts. But their current staff, the Cardinals can afford to wait on him to mature into the dominant pitcher they think he can eventually become.

  • OF Esix Snead -- Snead set a Carolina League record with 109 stolen bases last season. Just imagine how many he could have swiped if he hadn't hit .235.

  • Best-Case Scenario
    Game 6 of the World Series. Cardinals lead the Yankees 1-0. Three outs away from a World Series title. Yankees pinch-hitter Luis Sojo hit a slow grounder wide of the bag. McGwire makes an off-balance stab, turns and fires to Veres. Don Denkinger calls Sojo out -- correctly. Veres retires the next two in order. St. Louis celebrates its first championship in 19 years.

    Worst-Case Scenario
    With McGwire playing fewer than 50 games because of another back injury, the Cardinals are forced to play Andrews and Larry Sutton at first base. They don't come close to matching the Will Clark spark. Meanwhile, the Cards' young but fragile pitching staff takes a big step backward -- Morris and Alan Benesstruggle with arm problems, Ankiel reverts to the pre-spectacled Rick Vaughn and Kile thinks he's back in Coors Field.

    Bottom Line
    Even as the defending NL Central champions, the Cardinals have a lot of questions to answer. They answered a lot of them down the stretch last season, getting to the NLCS. If they answer them again in 2001 -- McGwire's health, Ankiel's control, the third base job -- a World Series trip could be (pardon the pun) in the cards.



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