Call me a homer. Go ahead, I can take it. I think the Cardinals are ready to have a big season. Despite a Grapefruit League season in which they finished below .500, despite losing Adam Wainwright for the year, and despite not signing Albert Pujols I believe the Redbirds are primed for a great season.
If there is a silver lining to be found in the Wainwright injury it's the fact the Cards may have developed a quality starting pitcher in Kyle McClellan. He was the best pitcher on the staff this spring. He's highly motivated to prove he belongs in the rotation, and that this chance to be a starter was long overdue. Kyle Lohse also had a great spring. Lohse has had two rough seasons in the row, but that's because he's been hurt. He's healthy now and appears ready to regain his form of 2008 when he earned his fat contract. Jaime Garcia should be better in his second season as a starter. Chris Carpenter is still a legitimate ace. I think the starting rotation will be fine, and the bullpen should be solid.
Albert Pujols has never lacked for motivation, but you have to figure Albert will do everything in his power to produce huge offensive numbers. There are tens millions of dollars at stake for Pujols as he tries to prove to the Cardinals, and every other team in baseball, that's he's worthy of a new 30 million a year contract. Skip Schumaker had a sub-par year in 2010. His past would suggest he's likely to hit 30 points higher this season. Colby Rasmus should just be hitting his prime. Lance Berkman is a major upgrade as a number five hitter, and even if Berkman should struggled Allen Craig is waiting in the wings. Craig can flat out rake. If he ever gets a chance to be an everyday player I think he'll put up big numbers. It's going to be hard to keep him out of the line-up for much longer. The Cardinals' two thru six hitters could be the best in baseball in Rasmus.. Pujols.. Holliday.. Berkman.. and David Freese.
Maybe as a lifelong Cardinals fan I'm hopelessly optimistic. I think the Cardinals are going to win the World Series every year at this time. But this season it's going to happen. I really like their team, and I'd be very surprised if they didn't win the Central division.