Believe it or not, in St. Louis they're already worrying about next year.
Yes, just a week removed from very nearly winning yet another World Series, they're worrying about what went wrong, or what might go wrong, than what just went so very, very right.
Hey, we'd all do the same thing. The fans can bask in the glow of yet another National League pennant all winter long. The front office had to wake up the morning after Game 6 and get to work. Because there is work to be done, despite all those young pitchers and all those talented young position players.
Earlier this week, Bernie Miklasz enumerated the Cardinals' primary off-season concerns; fortunately, there are only three:
1. Lack of power
2. Defense, athleticism
Taking those in order ...
The Cardinals led the National League in scoring while finishing 13th in home runs. Usually, we don't overworry about where the runs are coming from, as long as they're coming. But as Bernie cannily observes, the Cardinals masked their power outage with a .330 batting average with runners in scoring position, which just isn't going to happen again. Won't come close to happening again.
The good news is that the Cardinals, even without the homers, finished second in the league in OPS, thanks to a high team batting average and more doubles than anybody else in the league. Don't be surprised if some of those doubles magically become home runs next season. Still, Bernie's right: Power's an area where they can do better.
Bernie's prescription: Re-sign Carlos Beltran, get No. 1 prospect Oscar Taveras to the big club in good order, and find more at-bats for Matt Adams. Hey, makes sense to me. But what if Beltran goes elsewhere for the money and Taveras doesn't quickly recover from the injury that cost him so much time this year?
That was a rhetorical question. I think I'm back to hoping some of those doubles make it over the fence.
The defense was pretty lousy because all three outfielders were minus-defenders and David Freese had a rough year at third base. I'm guessing this won't get much better, considering that Beltran might be back in right field and if he's not, Allen Craig will see a lot of time out there. Yes, Taveras might help. But the same caveat from above still applies; we don't yet know when he'll be ready to help, if at all.
Miklasz does suggest that Kolten Wong take over at second base, with Matt Carpenter displacing Freese at third base. Makes sense to me. Freese is a really talented player, but he'll turn 31 next spring and he's got exactly as many home runs in his whole career as Miguel Cabrera hit in 2013. With the exception of 2012, Freese has just never been able to stay healthy for long; that, along with the related questions about his defense, makes him expendable. Even if he's probably got some good baseball left in him.
Now, about the shortstop ... I carped on this all season, and the Cardinals never listened. Imagine that. It does seem highly unlikely that they'll put up with the Kozma/Descalso tandem again. Miklasz advises trading a young pitcher for a shortstop. Makes sense to me. They could also trade Wong, if they're not going to move Carpenter.
Oh, and I'll just throw this out there. Carpenter's described as "a natural third baseman" ... but he took to second base quite well this year. Is it completely out of bounds to think he might take reasonably well to shortstop, too? I mean, if he has the arm to play third and the range to play second, why not the last remaining frontier?
I'm not saying it's a good idea. But after this season, I'm starting to wonder if there's anything he can't do.