Which Cardinal best symbolizes a season that began with high hopes and ended with a crushing defeat?
Hey, everything was going really well until the Cardinals got outscored 20-1 in the last three games of the National League Championship Series. The Most Valuable Player voters don't get to think about such things. But when we're choosing the Cardinals' Player of the Year -- the guy who best symbolizes the whole season, including October -- we can think about anything we like...
Matt Holliday's a fine choice, especially considering that he was the best hitter on a club that finished second in the National League in scoring. And there was also Carlos Beltrán, who signed with the Cardinals as a free agent and turned in, at 35, a vintage Carlos Beltrán season, replete with big postseason hits.
I'm going with Allen Craig, though.
Before the season, Allen Craig was counted on for ... Well, not much of anything, actually. Craig's been known to play three positions: first base, left field, and right field. When the season opened, the Cardinals had Lance Berkman at first base, Matt Holliday in left field, and Carlos Beltrán in right field.
Yes, all three of those guys would occasionally need a day off, and perhaps more than occasionally. There was another problem, though: Allen Craig opened the season on the Disabled List.
If someone was going to make everybody forget about ... actually, I can't even remember the guy's name now, but he used to play first base for the Cardinals and he was really good. Anyway, if anybody was going to make everybody forget about that guy, it was going be Lance Berkman, who'd been an All-Star and garnered some MVP support in 2011, then signed a new one-year deal for $12 million.
Lance Berkman finished 2012 with seven (7) runs batted in. He collected exactly one (1) hit in August, September, and October combined. Essentially, the Cardinals received almost exactly nothing (zero) for their $12 million.
And yet somehow the Cardinals still finished second in the National League in scoring, and somehow they hardly missed that guy who used to play first base, and a lot of that somehow was Allen Craig, who entered the lineup on the 1st of May and never really left it. He finished the season having played in only 119 games, but still finished third on the club with 92 RBI, and on a per-game basis was almost exactly as productive as fellow stars Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday.
But wait, there's more. Unfortunately, there's more. The Cardinals grabbed the second Wild Card Game berth, beat the Braves in said Wild Card Game, beat the Nationals with a fantastic comeback in their Division Series ... and blew a three-games-to-one lead against the Giants in the Championship Series. And in said Championship Series, Craig started all seven games but collected only three hits, driving in two runs.
Without Allen Craig, the Cardinals probably wouldn't have reached the NLCS. But with almost anyone else in the NLCS, they might well be heading to Detroit right now for the World Series.
In case you missed any previous entries in this EXCITING SERIES, here's the archive.