A former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher says the Pujols contract situation and lack of vocal leadership has affected the current team’s results.
In a speaking engagement with the Evansville (Ind.) Downtown Quarterback Club on Monday, former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Andy Benes offered his perspective on the 2011 team, currently holding onto slim hopes of reaching the playoffs.
As reported by the Evansville Courier and Press, Benes has an interesting perspective about the current Cardinals and why they have underachieved. He feels the Albert Pujols contract uncertainty is the elephant in the room, or in this case, the ballpark.
“From the beginning of the year you could see that something was missing,” said Benes. “The Pujols deal was hanging over everybody’s heads, which nobody will talk about.”
Benes believes the suspended contract discussions cast a shadow over the ballclub that has not lifted. His assessment is that the 2011 team has been doing just enough to win recent games and remain in the playoff hunt.
Further, Benes perceives the need for a vocal leader on the team, in the mold of retired Jim Edmonds. He believes it is not in the nature of the players who most logically would take that role, specifically mentioning Pujols, Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday. He also rules out hurlers such as Chris Carpenter or Adam Wainwright.
“It can’t be a starting pitcher,” Benes said. “It has to be somebody who plays every day.”
Still, when all is said and done, Benes is among those who believe Pujols will remain with St. Louis.
Benes, who won 155 games in his 14-year MLB career, pitched for the Cardinals from 1996-97 and again in 2000-02, all under manager Tony La Russa. The native of Evansville now lives in the St. Louis area.
One of his sons, Drew, was the Cardinals’ 35th-round draft pick in 2010 and is currently in the minor league system as a member of the Class A Quad Cities River Bandits bullpen. His brother Alan, also a former major league hurler, works in Cardinals baseball operations in the professional scouting department.