Countdown To Opening Day …

It’s Friday, Carlos Martinez was perfect in his two innings during the Cardinals first spring game yesterday and we’re now one day closer to baseball that counts.

Yes, it’s now just Mark Mulder days until the Cards opener on April 5.

Mark Mulder

Yes, Mark Mulder — because I still have his No. 30 Cardinals jersey gathering dust in my closet. (Thanks again, Jim, for the gift!)

Way back in the early 2000s, I watched the Oakland A’s regularly in addition to watching the Cardinals. Then, as now, I loved watching great pitching and the A’s “big three” of Mulder, Tim Hudson and Barry Zito definitely fit that definition. (Why aren’t they mentioned as a big part of that “Moneyball” era A’s success?) And, being female, sure, it was more entertaining to watch Mulder. If you need more explanation on that, here you go. (Seriously, click and watch.) Having watched Mulder’s terrible second half of 2004, I was not thrilled when he was traded to the Cardinals that December. Ah, well. The past is past. Plus he did have one memorable (in a positive way) Cards start — the 10-inning shutout, five-hit shutout over the Astros on April 23, 2005.

Sure, there is a more recent Cardinal to wear No. 30 who would be a fitting and obvious tribute on this day, and he certainly had some terrific accomplishments. But, really, who would you rather look at this morning?

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Just 30 more days!

 

Catching Up With The Cardinals: Happy Retirement, Jake Westbrook

Quick, who was the winning pitcher for the Cardinals in Game Six of the 2011 World Series?

Jake-WestbrookYes, it was Jake Westbrook.

And just like the other sometimes forgotten hero of that game, Westbrook too has now retired. He leaves with a 105-103 career record and 4.32 ERA, with his numbers during his four seasons as a Cardinal pretty similar: 36-32 with a 4.27 ERA.

Yet he did have some highlights as a Card.

Happy retirement, Jake!

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Cardinals Throwback Thursday: Mark Mulder’s 10-Inning Shutout

In case you haven’t heard, Mark Mulder could be joining That Guy Who Used to Play First Base and David Freese in Anaheim this season. Mulder signed a minor league contract with the Angels as he attempts to return to the majors.

capt.989e77d27a48436d88daa5bbc7b3c83fNow, chances are when you think of Mark Mulder’s career with the Cardinals, you’re some combination of disappointed or angry since Walt Jocketty traded Danny Haren, Kiko Calero and Daric Barton to obtain him on Dec. 18, 2004. Mulder’s four-year career as a Cardinal only included 55 appearances due to shoulder injuries that forced him into retirement after the 2008 season. And you don’t even want to look up the numbers for his very limited 2007 and 2008 seasons — some things are best left in the past.

However, Mulder’s first season as a Card in 2005 was very good — he was 16-8 with a 3.64 ERA in 32 starts. The best of those was on April 23, just his fourth start as a Cardinal, when he threw a 10-inning, 101-pitch, five-hit shutout as St. Louis beat the Houston Astros 1-0.

Roger Clemens started for the Astros and lasted seven obviously scoreless innings. The winning run scored when Larry Walker drove in Reggie Sanders, who’d singled to start the inning and advanced to second on a groundout by (who else but) David Eckstein.

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Which Three Years Were Better: 2004-2006 or 2011-2013?

The past 10 seasons are an extraordinarily rich time in St. Louis Cardinals history, as we all know. Seven trips to the postseason, six times in the National League Championship Series, five National League Central titles,  four World Series appearances resulting in two World Championships — obviously a glorious time to be a Cardinals fan.

Yet also two very distinct ways to that success, with the Tony La Russa/Walt Jocketty era reaching its pinnacle in 2004 with its reliance more on veteran acquisitions to make an impact and now the John Mozeliak/Mike Matheny way that’s blossoming with talent developed from within. Which has me wondering: of these past seasons, which three-year stretch was better: 2004-2006 or 2011-2013?

Here’s a refresher on these two championship stretches.

2004-2006

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Record: 105-57 (best in MLB), finished first in NL Central.

Postseason: Won NLDS 3 games to 1 over Dodgers; won NLCS 4 games to 3 over Astros; lost World Series in sweep by Red Sox.

Top hitters: The MV3 — Albert Pujols .331/.415/.657 with 46 home runs and 123 RBI, WAR of 8.4; Scott Rolen .314/.409/.598 with 34 homers and 124 RBI, WAR of 9.1; Jim Edmonds .301/.418/.643 with 42 homers and 111, WAR of 7.1. Also, Tony Womack hit .307 and had 26 stolen bases. Edgar Renteria hit .287 with 72 RBI and 17 stolen bases.

Team batting average: .278, first in NL.

Team OPS: .804, also first in the NL.

Top starting pitchers: Chris Carpenter, 15-5, 3.46 ERA; Jason Marquis, 15-7, 3.71 ERA; Jeff Suppan, 16-9, 4.16 ERA.

Saves leader: Jason Isringhausen, 47.

Team ERA: 3.75, second in NL (Braves first at 3.74)

Postseason moment to remember: Jim Edmonds 12th inning walk-off home run in Game Six of the NLCS.

Award recognition: The MV3 finished third (Pujols), fourth (Rolen) and fifth (Edmonds) in NL MVP voting. Tony La Russa was second in the NL Manager of the Year race.

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