The world champions of 2011 are looking forward to the 2012 season and hope to repeat (I hope they don’t).  They have had a few major changes that may affect the outcome of the season.

The Return of Adam Wainwright and Pitching

The Cardinals starting pitching looks to be balanced out well.  They have all star pitcher, Adam Wainwright back and Cy Young award winning pitcher, Chris Carpenter.  Adam Wainwright was out for the season of 2011 due to “Tommy John” surgery and the Cardinals are thrilled to have him back.  However, the main problem is the bullpen, which last year was like a roller coaster.  Sometimes they had the worst bullpen in the league and sometimes they had the best.  For example, right before the playoffs the bullpen was a train wreck.  All of the baseball “specialists”  thought the Cardinals would just get crumbled into pieces in the post season, but they were wrong.  As soon as they entered the playoffs everything changed, and they were lights out, nearly perfect.  No one saw this coming, and even I was amazed.  Will the bullpen be consistent enough to have a winning season?

 Can Freese and the Rest of the Team Replace Albert???????

The worst possible thing happened to the Cardinals during the winter meetings.  They lost the  best hitter in the league and maybe ever, Albert Pujols.  He signed the second biggest contract ever, $254 million, for ten years with the Angels.  The Cards are hoping that David Freese can provide part of the production that Albert would.  I personally think that Freese will have a crazy breakout year, just like he did in the postseason.  Even with the loss of Albert Pujols they  have Matt Holiday, Yadier Molina, Lance Berkman, Rafael Furcal, Carlos Beltran, and Jon Jay.  It’s not looking too bad for the Cardinals.  It’ll be very interesting to see David Freese play this season.  Hopefully this year the Brew Crew can take them on.

 Under New Management

The Cards were very sad to see their manager, Tony LaRussa retire.  LaRussa has managed  5,097 games, and he has 2,728 wins, which makes him third on the all time win list.  Tony has won 3 championships, and will be known as one of the greatest managers. As a Brewer fan I’ve grown to dislike him, but I have to say he was a great manager.  Just to show how great of a manager he was here is an interview with Lance Painter talking about him and describing him as a person and manager.  Lance was pitcher for the Cardinals and he is my cousin’s uncle and he got a chance to interview him.

Source: Brewers Today, Painting a picture of LaRussa.

BK: How would you describe Tony LaRussa’s managerial style?

LP: LaRussa was an aggressive manager who wanted his players to go on the field and act like they were the best team no matter what opponent the Cardinals were facing.  He loved to match up hitters/pitchers, as you saw during the series against the Brewers as well as the Rangers.  He was also a very positive manager.  Never said a bad thing about one of his players publicly unless the player went to the media first.

BK: As a player, how did you react to and view that style?

LP: As a player, you knew you had to be ready to pitch everyday or play everyday.  I also learned to respect the game of baseball as well as understand how blessed I was to have an opportunity to play in the major leagues.

BK: How do you think Tony LaRussa impacted the 2011 Cardinals in their winning of the World Series?

LP: Tony knew how to keep his team motivated and he would never concede a game until the final out was made.  In game 6 of the World Series, the Cardinals were down to their last out and cameras showed LaRussa clapping in the dugout, rooting his team on.  He also knew matchups well.  Fielder had a tough time in the NLCS.  That was the player who Tony decided would not beat the Cardinals.  When I say that, I mean if Prince was ever in an at bat that could cost the Cardinals a win, he would not pitch to him.

BK: Did you take any lessons from LaRussa that you use in now in your current job as a pitching coach?

LP: Yes. I use things that I learned with the Cardinals now in my coaching young kids.  First of all, all I ask is you give me the best you have on that certain day.  Sometimes a player is going to struggle, but if you scream and yell at them you won’t get the best out of that individual.  People have to remember, a lot of Tony’s success was because he had a tremendous pitching coach in Dave Duncan.  One of the things I try to use with my pitchers is to simplify the game.  Understand the situations.  What is your best pitch for the day?  That’s the one to get hitters out with that day.  And even though the hitter is a fastball hitter, it doesn’t mean you don’t throw him a fastball, you just locate better.

BK: What do you think about LaRussa’s retirement?

LP: I have always respected the fact that LaRussa has always given credit to his players for his success.  He understood that he was not bigger than the game of baseball.  He loved the game and he also loved to think along with the game.  Major League Baseball has lost one of the best managers ever to retirement.  Don’t be surprised if you see him back at some point in the next 3-5 years.

Tony LaRussa just told ESPN Chicago yesterday that “I need to get back in baseball somewhere, but you don’t want to go into some place that already has it figured out.” So maybe we will see Tony back in baseball. But when exactly? Two years? Three years? Or even at the end of this month? We’ll just have to stay tuned. Before I go I’d like to thank Mr. Painter for his time and wonderful insight of Tony LaRussa. It was very generous of him to answer my questions. Thanks!
This interview shows how much respect the players have for him.  He seems to be a great leader and stands up for his players.  How will this affect the team???
I hate to say this, but I think the Cardinals will take first place in the NL Central.  David Freese will have a monster year and become an instant superstar.