Putting the Pujols drama aside for the moment, I'd like to take a peek into life without the St. Louis free agent superstar.
A lot of people seem to think that if Pujols goes bye-bye that the Cardinals won't miss a beat because they can plug Allen Craig into right field and move Lance Berkman back to first base. While I'm sure that they can physically man those positions, do we really think that pair will produce as well as Berkman and Pujols did in 2011.
It seems like a lot of people simply assume that, since Craig played so well in a small sample in 2011, he'll do the same all season long in 2012.
The fact of the matter is that craig only has 312 at-bats spread out over two seasons. That's about half a year of full-time play. He's certainly shown he's worthy of consideration for more playing time. But I'm not sure if you turn over the third spot in the batting order to a guy who has half a season worth of experience under his belt.
On the other hand, Berkman has tons of experience. He also has tons of miles on his legs and back. And 2011 is the only season in the last three that it didn't look like he was in serious decline. Maybe we can point a finger to Berkman's weight loss as the reason for his resurgence. But is he going to be as motivated to go all out for 2013 when he's already got a contract -- and a World Series ring. I know he's a fierce competitor and a great team player. But he had to get out of shape before 2011 somehow. And, even if the heart and mind are there, he's a year older... Even if Berkman plays great, don't forget that he's getting very close to the end of his career. So he's only a short term solution at best.
That brings me to the point of David Freese. He looked like a world beater in the playoffs and he sprayed homers all over the place in the NLCS and World Series. But he's never been able to stay healthy and he's never shown consistent power over the course of the regular season. I'd like to believe, with the way Mark McGwire gushes about him, that Freese has turned the corner and that this is the real deal as far as what we can expect from him in the future. But it doesn't matter how well he is capable of hitting -- if he's parked on the disabled list.
I'm not saying that these guys can't be solid contributors. But I think the Cardinals are in denial if they don't believe they need the foundation of the offense that is Albert Pujols. If Pujols is in the middle and you surround him with Craig, Berkman, Freese and Matt Holliiday, the sum of those parts is twice as good than it would be without Pujols.