Last January, I published my predictions of the topics I thought could evolve into the top five stories across the Cardinals Nation for the then-coming year of 2014. Today, with the benefit of full hindsight, including the top 20 stories of 2014 countdown now on the books, it is time to take my annual look back at my initial forecast. After all, anyone can make predictions, but how many actually return after the fact to review how they fared?
The original top five projections follow, along with where the stories actually ended up, including links to the appropriate articles. I won’t be repeating my 2014 summaries here, so click on the links if you’d like to read those detailed stories.
My predictive powers were only so-so this year. Four of my top five guesses from one year ago made the top 20 with two being direct hits. Other connections required various levels of squinting. In one case, the outfield, there were three related, but separate top 20 stories.
As always, I did not predict how the season would end up. As the Cardinals played deep into the post-season, that turned out to provide the subject of the number three and four stories, along with the top one, the division-winning 2014 regular season.
|Pre-2014 prediction story||rank||rank||Post-2014 actual story|
|Progression of the young pitchers||1||11||Losing 2/5 of the Rotation|
|Peralta proves a point||2||6||Peralta’s Positives|
|The reconfigured outfield||3||5||Quick Move to Add Heyward|
|10||Right Field Rub|
|The only Carp in town||4||16||Carpenter’s Cardinals Commitment|
|Jason Motte’s present and future||5||NR||None|
Revisiting my predicted top five St. Louis Cardinals stories of 2014.
1. Progression of the young pitchers
As we saw in 2013, rookie pitchers were key contributors to the Cardinals. My worry 12 months ago was whether the likes of Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, Kevin Siegrist and Seth Maness would stumble as sophomores.
Each of the four had a down season, but accomplished in their own ways. Among the starters, Wacha was great until injured. Miller had an uneven season, but at least turned it on in September before being traded.
From the pen, Siegrist was hurt, then ineffective, sent to Memphis and did not even make the post-season roster. Maness got off to such a bad beginning to the season, it looked like he was going to be sent down. To his credit, he got his act together and perhaps as a result, fell the least distance from 2013.
2. Peralta proves a point
The Cardinals took heat from a number of corners of the baseball world for signing PED user Jhonny Peralta during last off-season. The main rub was that the shortstop was given a four-year, $53 million contract weeks after coming off a 50-game suspension.
As a result, all eyes were on the 32-year-old in 2014. Like fellow ex-Biogenesis customer Nelson Cruz, the Cardinals new shortstop was everything expected on offense but unlike Cruz, was steadier on defense than advertised.
Three years remain, but to this point, the Peralta deal looks like a winner.
3. The reconfigured outfield
There is no doubt that the Cardinals outfield was the source of much attention and frustration for many in 2014. On the positive side, incumbent centerfielder Jon Jay improved both offensively and defensively, though newcomer Peter Bourjos could never get any traction.
No one could have predicted the extent of Allen Craig’s flameout. The aftermath was also less than satisfying as Oscar Taveras’ use was uneven and when the rookie did play, the results were not great. That put more pressure on another rookie, Randal Grichuk, who needs more time to improve his game.
Clearly, Taveras’ death moved the Cardinals to take fast action to acquire Jason Heyward this fall.
4. The only Carp in town
In 2013, Matt Carpenter emerged on the national stage, making the National League All-Star team and finishing fourth in the NL Most Valuable Player Award voting while ranking first in MLB in hits, doubles and runs scored.
Before the season, the Cardinals rewarded Carpenter with a contract befitting a core member of the team – $52 million over six years.
While I did not expect the 28-year-old to maintain his 2013 pace in 2014, I did wonder if his return to third base would help him be more at ease at the plate. Perhaps it helped. Though Carpenter had a down season overall, it was still very good. He topped the NL in plate appearances and walks.
The “original” Carpenter, Chris, ended his loosely-defined special assistant job in the front office after just one season.
5. Jason Motte’s present and future
Coming off May 2013 Tommy John surgery, Jason Motte seemed poised to return to relevance as a late-inning reliever in 2014. It just didn’t happen.
I had figured that 2014 would be the 32-year-old’s final season with the team, either way. Either he would be so good, he would price himself out of the team’s plans as a free agent or if he struggled, he would be passed over by others. The latter occurred.
The Cardinals apparently did not ask Motte back for 2015, but the reliever landed on his feet with a two-year deal from the Cubs. Not only was Motte a very popular home-grown Cardinal, his work with cancer charities is a model for all professional athletes. For those reasons, he will be missed.
On the field, however, it shows how effectively the Cards were able to proceed with others in key relief roles that the Motte story did not even make my 2014 top 20.
Next up: In my final article of this annual series, I will outline my predictions for the top five Cardinals stories of 2015.
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