Schumaker back in St. Louis, still fond of days with Cards

News-DemocratAugust 5, 2013 

— Skip Schumaker was a valuable player of many winning teams in St. Louis, including World Championship squads in 2006 and 2011.

Schumaker considers his new team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, comparable or perhaps even better than those in St. Louis.

"From a talent standpoint, I'm not sure I've been on a team like this," Schumaker said Monday before the opener of a four-game series at Busch Stadium. "I can't think of a guy with more tools than (Yasiel) Puig. Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball. I'm not sure I've been on a team with this much talent in one room."

The Dodgers improved to 32-7 record in their last 39 games, including a franchise-record 15 consecutive road triumphs, with a 3-2 win Monday. Los Angeles' surge has brought it from nine games out of first place to six games in front in the NL West.

But Schumaker learned in 2010 that tremendous talent doesn't mean an automatic berth in the playoffs.

"In 2010, I thought that was the case in St. Louis," he said. "There was talent everywhere, and somehow, we didn't make the playoffs. What I'm saying is it doesn't always translate into a World Series, but we'll see what happens."

Schumaker, who is batting .256 with two home runs and 21 RBIs in 89 games, was traded to the Dodgers on Dec. 12 for minor-league shortstop Jake Lemmerman.

Schumaker sensed at the end of last season that his time was up in St. Louis, even though he had one year remaining on his contract. The Cardinals had options at second base with Daniel Descalso and Matt Carpenter, who seized the starting position.

"I had an idea. That's OK," Schumaker said of his departure from St. Louis. "Your time runs out eventually. I understood the direction they were going to go. There was never any hard feelings. As much as I loved it here, I understood.

"I'm happy that someone else wanted me and 'Mo' (Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak) gave me an opportunity to go somewhere they needed me. It was a good situation for me. ... I've had more playing time here than most likely I would have gotten over there just because their lineup is so heavy and deep."

Schumaker played seven-plus seasons in St. Louis and said there's part of him that always will be a Cardinal.

"I'm not sure that ever fully leaves you," he said. "I spent so many years here. What the community has done for not only myself, but my friends and their families ... I've had so many things that have happened over the course of my career and in my life through St. Louis, I don't think it's ever really going to leave me. You move on, but you don't really forget about all the great times."

Schumaker lauded Cardinals fans for their attentiveness at games.

"There's a lot of energy (in Los Angeles). They're very passionate, they're very loud," Schumaker said. "The difference is St. Louis really watches the game. They're not always the loudest fans, but they're the most in-tune, intelligent fans that really watch and know the game.

"That's why I'm always impressed with the St. Louis fans. They're not really into the hoopla as much as just watching the game and wanting their team to win."

The Dodgers were 30-42 on June 21. Injuries to shortstop Hanley Ramirez, center fielder Matt Kemp, left fielder Carl Crawford and pitcher Zack Greinke were among the reasons for the slow start that had some speculating manager Don Mattingly could be fired.

The turnaround began about three week after right fielder Puig joined the Dodgers from Class AA Chattanooga.

"Puig was obviously our biggest addition. We needed a jolt of energy with what was going on," Schumaker said. "We've had injury after injury, but (since) we had our full team going, it's been a nice run. This has been the kind of team we felt like we were supposed to be coming out of spring."

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 239-2665. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidMWilhelm.

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