The Cardinal Nation blog

Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Reviewing the predictions: TCN Blog’s top five Cardinals stories of 2010

A look back at the top projected stories across the Cardinal Nation in 2010 from one year ago.

Just under a year ago, last January 31, I published my predictions of what I thought would evolve into the top five stories across the Cardinal Nation in 2010. With the benefit of full hindsight, including the top 20 stories of 2010 countdown now in the books, this is a look back at my initial forecast.

The original top five projections follow, along with where the stories actually ended up, including links to the before and after articles. I won’t be repeating my 2010 summaries here, so click on the links if you’d like to read the detailed stories.

I didn’t do all that well with my predictive powers, with one story that ended up missed the top 20 completely, another that fizzled out and yet another that remains huge, but unfinished.

I should receive a little bit of slack, though, for having passed on two gimmes – the conclusion of the 2010 season and the Matt Holliday signing. The latter was already known when I made my predictions and the former is going to be a top story just about any year.

2010 prediction story Prediction rank Actual rank 2010 actual story
Pujols’ pending payday 1 4 The Pujols decade
The McGwire reaction 2 18 Big Mac’s return
La Russa’s future plans 3 5 La Russa and Duncan return
Will Freese ice down 3B? 4 14 An even worse year at third
Continued closer concern 5 NR Not applicable

1. Pujols’ pending payday

Ok, I will fall on my sword right off the bat. While an Albert Pujols-related story did end up making my 2010 top 4, it wasn’t about money. Instead, it was oriented toward his accomplishments on the field as his first decade as a major leaguer came to a close.

The big story regarding the franchise first baseman, his next contract, still remains open. That has to be considered not a great sign overall, since most would agree that having gotten the deal done in 2010 would have been better than in 2011 (or not at all).

In fact, this could very easily remain my top projected story for 2011. This time, I think it will come through, one way or another. It almost has to.

2. The McGwire reaction

I was wrong about this one, too. The return of the former steroid-using slugger was big news 12 months ago. Once Big Mac said what he said and again decided to say no more about the past, the novelty quickly wore off, however.

A bigger question this year may be in whether or not McGwire’s Cardinals hitters will collectively improve in terms of their results on the field.

The next story below would seem to suggest that McGwire could be expected back for a third season in 2012.

3. La Russa’s future plans

Good news and bad. The good news is that I pegged this story as a top-five item and it came through. Further, it is also great that Dave Duncan will be back to lead the pitchers for at least two more years and perhaps three.

The bad news is that Tony La Russa appears primed to once again subject us to annual fall guessing games about his plans for the next year before deciding to return. Coming to a big screen near you this coming October!

In reality, something very bad would have to happen before La Russa would walk away before securing those 126 managerial wins needed to take second place on the all-time list. We all know it, so why didn’t he just sign a two-year deal?

4. Will Freese ice down third base?

In addition to being benched for the deployment of a bad pun above, I will make matters worse by observing that David Freese spent far more time in 2010 icing down his ankles than icing down his job playing third base.

With still no proven backup plans behind Freese, the holder of two more ankle surgeries in the last year, the Cardinals appear to going all-in on Freese once again.

Paging Mr. Cox, Zack Cox…. You have a call on line one…

In hindsight, making this story only number 14 in the 2010 year end countdown probably underestimated its impact.

5. Continued closer concern

I whiffed on this one, or should I say, I was probably a year too early. As folks may recall, one year ago, Ryan Franklin was on shaky ground with many fans after he put the cherry on top of Holliday’s error with a ninth inning meltdown in game two of the 2009 LDS.

The closer didn’t seem to let it bother him in 2010. It wasn’t Franklin’s fault that he was presented with so few save opportunities, but he almost always delivered when given the chance. His conversion rate of 93.1 percent (27 of 29) was second in the National League, trailing only San Diego’s Heath Bell (94%).

Not considered a strikeout pitcher by any stretch, Franklin still fanned over four batters for every free pass issued. That mark stands head and shoulders above the other Cardinals relievers. As such, Franklin also had the lowest WHIP, walks and hits per innings pitched, on the staff.

With Franklin heading into the final year of his current contract and hinting about retirement afterward, it is important to note that understudies Jason Motte and Mitchell Boggs each gained a valuable year of experience setting up Franklin. The identity of the 2012 closer is a good candidate for the coming year’s top story list.

Speaking of which…

Next up: In my final article of this series, I will outline my predictions for the top five Cardinals stories of 2011.

Link to The Cardinal Nation Blog’s top 20 stories of the year countdown

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