These things have to go right for the 2009 Cardinals if the team expects to quiet the critics and make a run at the post season:
1) The bullpen can't possibly be as bad as it was in 2008... or could it?
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The Cardinals set a new standard for bullpen futility last season with 31 blown saves. As has been said here, there and everywhere, if just a handful of those games don't get coughed up, the Birds could have been right in the middle of the playoff picture.
But why do we expect it to be diffferent? The Cardinals didn't do anything to improve their closer situation. Unless you count jettisoning Jason Isringhausen, who is starting this season on the Tampa Bay disabled list, as an improvement.
The same three guys who couldn't stop the bleeding after Izzy's 2008 meltdown -- Ryan Franklin, Jason Motte and Chris Perez -- will be counted on in 2009. And Perez, the favorite to win the closer job, didn't even make the club out of spring training.
Kyle McClellan, who was excellent the first three quarters of the 2998 season and shaky the last quarter, was terrible in spring training. Will he be able to get things together quikcly?
On the bright side, Trever Miller and Dennys Reyes will be working from the left side of the bullpen instead of Randy Flores and Ron Villone.
The bullpen simply must be better than in 2008 -- a lot better -- if St. Louis has any playoff hopes.
2) Adam Kennedy as his pouting routine, pop gun bat and complete lack of speed have been shipped off to the Rays.
That somehow added up to a career outfielder -- at least at the professional level -- being moved to second base. Skip Schumaker overcame a rough start with the glove to look competent by the end of the Grapefruit League. But how will he handle the pressure when the games start to count.
Often players carry defensive struggles to the plate. But the Cardinals are counting on him to be the lead off guy, getting on base on a reglar basis, in addition to making all the routine plays up the middle.
3) Injury issues have killed the Cardinals the last couple of years. That has to be different this year if that is going to change.
Troy Glaus must come back sooner rather than later to give Albert Pujols some protection in the lineup.
Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright have to stay healthy because the team's off season tightfistedness left it with no depth in the rotation. Kyle McClellan was the sixth starter at the beginning of the spring, and as previously mentioned, he was terrible in Florida. There is simply no margin for error from a fragile starting five.