ST. LOUIS (BaseballStL) -- Last October was all about #23. David Freese captured the hearts of not only everyone in St. Louis but also sports fans around the country. He came through in the most critical of moments. And that's something no one will ever forget.
The fans know how much the St. Louis native means to this club.
Unfortunately, there was someone else who had nearly as much of an impact on that World Series run as Freese but didn't get as much recognition. He hit 4 home runs, had a .391 on-base percentage and a 1.013 OPS in the playoffs.
Know who I'm talking about? Probably not.
It's Allen Craig.
And Thursday night's 5-3 victory over the White Sox was eerily similar to last October. Craig has a monster game (2-3 with 2 doubles and 3 runs scored). Freese just does a little bit more (2-4 with a HR and 3 RBI). He'll be the one to have his home run showed on highlights all across the country. He'll be in the key stat line on box scores.
But, folks, if there is one thing we have all learned since he came up to the big leagues...it's that you cannot underestimate how good of a hitter Allen Craig is. That man has done nothing but rake ever since coming into the Cardinals system out of Cal.
I'll never forget when Tony La Russa was talking about Craig's chances of making the big league club for the first time in Spring Training 2010. TLR said "he can swing his way onto this thing". And that's just what Craig did.
Well 2-plus years later and we're seeing a guy who very well could be the next cornerstone of the franchise for years to come. Craig's done it all offensively. Despite battling injuries he's still putting up ridiculous numbers (.354/.418/.667 through 96 at-bats).
After having knee surgery in the offseason and seeing him move gingerly since coming back I'd want to take absolutely no chance risking him further harm. None. It's not too different from when the Cards forced Albert Pujols out of the outfield and planted him at 1st base early in his career. They didn't want him running around hurting his legs or his tender elbow.
The Cards should do the same thing with Craig. Put him at 1st base and leave him there until the economics of baseball take him out of town.
He has gotten better and better and better and better every single season he's been here. He's a budding superstar. It would not surprise me in the slightest if GM John Mozeliak approaches Allen Craig's representatives about a long term extension this offseason.
You might pay a little bit more money in the short term to make that happen. But you're going to guarantee yourself that you have the rights to him for a lot longer than you normally would. It would delay his free agency by a couple years at least.
Hitters that have power to all fields, hit for a high average, have a good sense for the strike zone, rarely go into slumps and are great teammates don't come around very often. Freese might have gotten the headlines for his heroics in October. But Craig should be right there with him.
Contact Brian Feldman