A few in between the 1996 National League Central Champs and the 2000 National League Central Champs, with a whole lot of McGwire home runs keeping everyone entertained, and a few years in between the 2006 and 2011 World Series teams. During the second stretch Cardinals fans got to watch the best player in the game at the time, Albert Pujols, while they were finishing behind the Cubs and Brewers.
Welp, there is a chance that 2016 is going to end without a playoff berth. It will be the first time since 2010 that the team has missed the Postseason. How bleak is the future in St. Louis?
- Adam Wainwright is pitching like a bottom of the rotation starter
- Matt Holliday is likely done in town after an injury plagued year
- Jaime Garcia, Michael Wacha, and Mike Leake are all having the worst years of their careers
- Mike Matheny is employed as the team's manager
While that all seems really bad the team also has:
- Aledmys Diaz, 25, finishing his first season with an OPS+ of 136 with a slash line of .309/.375/.518. He's hit 15 home runs, 23 doubles, and chased home 59 RBIs.
- Randal Grichuk, 24, has hit 7 home runs, 7 doubles, and a .576 slugging percentage during the past month after he was sent to Memphis to straighten out the wires that Matheny crossed in his head. For the season Grichuk has 22 home runs and 25 doubles.
- Stephen Piscotty, 25, has 21 home runs, 33 doubles, and 81 RBIs in his first full season
- Carlos Martinez, 24, is one of the better starting pitchers in the National League this year. He's in the top 10 across most of the major pitching statistics in the National League
- Luke Weaver, 22, has made 7 starts during the second half of the year and is averaging more than 11 strikeouts per 9 innings.
- Alex Reyes, 21, has made a few starts and also appeared out of the bullpen. He throws 100, will be starting next year, and is averaging 10.5 strikeouts per 9.
Let's take a depth breath.
A lot of the worry and panic about the state of the Cardinals can be whisked away with just a few baseball cards. Back in the mid 1990s, when the current ownership of the Cardinals took over, the franchise was in rebuild mode after years of low budget teams and indifference from one of Auggie Busch's kids. I scanned through my mid 1990s Cardinals cards checking out the prospects that the team's rebuild centered around.
There were some real duds in the stack like Luis Ordaz, Mike Busby, and others who went on to be decent players like Matt Morris and Braden Looper.
Not many collectors were ever busting down the door for cards of players like Luis Ordaz. I am pretty sure that his cards can be found in the dollar bin and I am pretty sure that they have been there for a long time.....
The crown jewel of the Cardinals system was infielder/outfielder Dmitri Young who was taken fourth overall by the team in the 1991 amateur draft. The Meat Hook arrived in St. Louis at the end of the 1996 season after posting a .333/.378/.534 slash line with the Louisville Redbirds along with 15 home runs, 8 triples, and 31 doubles. Dmitri had a huge triple that helped the Cardinals win a game in the 1996 NLCS.
Many Cardinals fans were pretty excited that The Meat Hook was going to be a key cog of the franchise for year's to come. As a Cardinals collector one of my favorite cards around this time was the 1997 Bowman Autograph of Dmitri Young.....
This Bowman autograph was sort of a hidden gem. Cardinals fans were excited about Dmitri, but I think that there were more highly touted prospects in this Bowman product around this time like Miguel Tejada, Lance Berkman, and Aramis Ramirez. Beyond the Bowman autograph there were all sorts of cool cards out there featuring Dmitri.....
In the end Dmitri struggled during the 1997 season, the Cardinals traded for Mark McGwire, and The Meat Hook for shipped off to the Reds at the end of the season for Jeff Brantley. While I love Dmitri, and he was a solid player throughout his career, he was never the franchise player that many Cardinals fans envisioned he would be during the mid 1990s. His best season came with the 2003 Tigers, who lost 119 games, when he hit 29 home runs, 34 doubles, 7 triples, 85 RBIs, and a slash line of .297/.372/.537.