Hedlines

Top 5 Storylines of Cardinals First Half

The Cardinals dismissed the first half half of 2011 with a 4-2 win over the Arizona Snakes on Sunday. They stand 6 games over .500 and in a tie for first place in the NL Central. Play will resume Friday for the club, so until then, let’s fill this site with HuffPo caliber posts like this one and watch the page view soar.

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5- Ryan Franklin’s Demise: From opening day closer to off the roster by the All-Star Game – Ryan Franklin’s 2011 was a bit of bitters after two years of surprising effectiveness.

Franklin was given a long leash to get back on track after a brutal start… but he wasn’t effective in any role, including road mop-up man and was a huge drain on the 25 man roster. Since his exit a few weeks ago, the bullpen has been somewhat righted and roles are started to be more defined.

However, he Tweeted a picture of Pujols in his underwear. So the season wasn’t a complete loss.

4- Pujols’ Injury: June 19th was about to go down as a day that would live in infamy.

El Hombre was down. June 20th brought news of a fracture. June 21st had estimates ranging from 4-8 weeks of DL time as being conservative. The first real serious injury of Pujols’ career had happened and those that don’t normally have a sunny disposition were wont to write off everything from the season to his career.

19 days later, Pujols was in the line-up like nothing happened. Story dead. Crisis averted.

3- Injuries: From appendicitis (Holliday) to fractured hand bones (Freese) and everything in between, the Cardinals have employed many people that they didn’t expect to in 2011 to, overall, pretty good success – Fernando ‘Tossed’ Salas as a closer that you feel pretty good with anyone?

Now that Holliday has been back, Freese is coming around, Pujols is starting to heat up and Punto can spell the infield when needed, it appears that the Cardinals have somehow weathered the storm of bad luck following them the first 4 months of the season.

Hopefully.

2- Lance Berkman’s Power Surge: The Berkman signing was an 8 million dollar double down. He was either going to return to a reasonable clone of himself from a stellar career as an Astro. Or he was going to come to town as Yankee Berkman and a colossal flop.

1 All-Star appearance later and if asked, we could make a compelling case that he’s the NL MVP.

Even if Berkman wears down in the second half, he’s already blown up all expectations of what we thought we were getting. And if anything, makes us realize that what a special player he was in his prime, that just happened to be mired on a team that couldn’t get to the playoffs.

Speaking of…

1- Pujols Contract: The big, dark cloud that hangs over everything still is the biggest story of 2011.

Camp Pujols didn’t use his downtime to re-open talks. So even though we’ve said it a million times, anything that the Cardinals accomplish in 2011 isn’t going to be the story locally or nationally. It’s going to be Pujols.

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