I can't believe how fast this season slipped away.
Maybe it's what they say about time slipping by faster the older you get. Or maybe the 2009 season seemed to go by so fast because the 2008 campaign seemed to drag on so long... Either way, watching Albert Pujols bash his way toward another MVP award, Chris Carpenter battle back from two injury lost seasons to battle for the Cy Young honors with teammate Adam Wainwright as a chief competitor and seeing the emergence of Colby Rasmus, Brendan Ryan and Blake Hawksworth was a treat.
It sure didn't seem like things were going to go this way. The Cardinals made a half-hearted attempt to sign closer Brian Fuentes and then traded for Khalil Greene who struggled to hit .200 last season with the Padres. Then management called off any more off-season acquisitions with a payroll sliced by about $15 million from the year before...
Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols gets one of his three hits Sept. 9 in a 5-1 win over Jeff Suppan and the Brewers. AP photo.
But Pujols carried the load virtually by himself if the first half of the season -- which is the main reason he deserves the MVP trophy -- while Ryan Ludwick and Rick Ankiel struggled with injuries. And, while it will be easy to forget, Troy Glaus was supposed to be a force in the middle of the order. Instead, he announced the day after the Winter Warm-up ended that he needed shoulder surgery and might miss the first couple of weeks of the season. Instead, he missed all but the last few. Carpenter gave us all a scare when he pulled a rib cage muscle swinging the bat and missed nearly a month...
Instead of being surrounded by big guns, Pujols had to rely on early contibutions from minor league journeyman Joe Thurston and longtime Cardinals farmhand Tyler Greene. Newly re-signed hurler Kyle Lohse was a frequent visitor to the disabled list, but not to the win column, racking up only six victories in 16 decisions. But Joel Pineiro, who suffered through (and made us suffer through) an awful 2008, was steady as a rock.
Of Course, it really got exciting when the Redbirds front office got off of its collective wallet at the trade deadline and picked up Mark DeRosa from the Indians to play third base and then Matt Holliday from the Athletics.
The Birds stormed to a 10-game lead in the National League Central race after being pegged to finish as low as fourth place by some pre-season predictions. I hope we haven't seen the last of the team in this configuration. While it hit a flat spot toward the end of the regular season, the offesive core of Pujols, Ludwick, Holliday and DeRosa is a solid core that could be even better when DeRosa gets his damaged wrist repaired over the off-season.
It certainly seems like the season has gone by too fast. But, hopefully, we'll have a nice, long run in the play-offs to make it stretch out a little longer.