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A new year for the Cardinals

The start of a new calendar year is often a metaphor for a new beginning. Often we hope that the change of the year we write on our checks is going to bring a more tangible change in our lives even though the world around us is largely the same as it was the day before.

That's largely the logic the Cardinals front office is using.

Lance Berkman has replaced Ryan Ludwick and Brendan Ryan has departed in favor of Ryan Theriot. But, for the most part, the Cardinals are unchanged from the disappointing 2010 version of the club. Ownership is counting on purging the "bad luck" of last year, relying on the same group of guys basically to do better in 2011.

I can understand on some levels.

It's hard to imagine that the Birds could possibly suffer as many injury setbacks in 2011 as they did the year before. They spent the bulk of last season down either one or two starting pitchers and third baseman David Freese missed most of the season.

But the Cardinals have a fragile rotation set for 2011. Chris Carpenter, Jake Westbrook, Jamie Garcia and Kyle Lohse all have a history of significant injuries. And Freese's 2010 was no fluke. He also missed almost all of 2009 with foot and leg injuries. He's still rehabbing from his 2020 injuries right now -- and he may or may not be 100 percent by the start of spring training.

The thing that worries me more is that the Cardinals' defensive woes didn't have anything to do with bad luck. Skip Schumaker, who had a bad year at the plate by his standards, had pretty much the defensive performance we expected him to have -- an awful one. Do with think he's magically going to be that much better? Matt Holliday had a better than expected season in left field. It's not logical to expect him to play even better defensively in 2011, especially if he gets switched from left field to right to make room for Berkman. And Berkman is the REAL defensive wild card.

I think the plan to count on the same group of guys to just play better this year than they did last is questionable at best. In reality, the Cardinals may be hoping Cincinnati's unexpected season proves to be a fluke and that they win the National League Central division by default.

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