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Former Cardinals in the Postseason: Have a Holliday Martini, and Freese It.

You can’t turn on the MLB Network or another sports channel these days without seeing a former Cardinal galavanting in the 2018 MLB postseason. By my count there are 13 ex-Cards in the tournament field, and that doesn’t even include a former Memphis Redbird who never played in a big-league game for St. Louis.

And let’s not even get into former STL front-office executives, including Astros GM Jeff Luhnow and assistant A’s GM Dan Kantrovitz. And ex-Birds players or staff have coaching jobs for playoff participants: Mike Aldrete (bench coach, A’s), Darnell Coles (Brewers hitting coach), and Lee Tunnell (Brewers bullpen coach.)

Since the Cardinals are no longer a playoff-worthy team — having missed taking the October stage for three consecutive seasons — I suppose we can root for at least  some  former Cardinals.

And what a collection it is.

Since I like to turn just about everything into a list, here are my ranking of the ex-Cardinals based on likability, contributions to St. Louis baseball,  story-line charm, and a reason NOT to warm up to him.

And I’m going to go back a ways, because five members of the 2011 Cardinals World Series champions can be found on the field, or the playoff rosters, of 2018 postseason contenders. Seven years later, that’s a lot. What, we’re supposed to forget about them because the fellows didn’t play for 2016-17-18 Cardinals? Please.

PRESENTING : THE  “A-LIST.”  

1. David Freese, Los Angeles Dodgers, 3B and 1B. 

Likability factor: on a scale of 1-10, he’s a 10.

Contributions to STL baseball: Are you kidding me? Do you need me to explain? Here’s your explanation: October 2011. Game 6. Joe Buck: “We’ll see you tomorrow night.”

Storyline charm: Strong. In 19 games with the Dodgers, Freese has been mashing: .385 average, .489 OBP, .641 slugging percentage. Big-game player. Can he take the 2011 Red October magic and make it Dodger Blue?

Reason not to like him: None that I can think of.

2. Matt Holliday, Colorado Rockies, LF and pinch-hitting. 

Likability factor: 10/10.

Contributions to STL baseball: One of the finest and most productive Cardinals of the last 20 years. A consistent hitting machine, good leader, good teammate. Seven-plus years with the Cardinals. Started in left field for six STL postseason teams including the 2011 and 2013 NL champions and the 2011 World Series winners. In 982 games as a Cardinal Holliday had 155 homers, 237 doubles, 616 RBIs, batted .293, had a .380 OBP, slugged .494, and was selected to four NL All-Star teams.

Storyline charm: Very strong. After spending the 2017 season with the Yankees, and performing well until being sidetracked by an illness, Holliday, 38, didn’t draw much interest as teams headed to 2018 spring training. But he kept in shape, did some MLB Network radio commentary, and answered the call when the Rockies offered him a deal late in the season. In 65 plate appearances “Holly” has a .415 OBP, .434 slug, two homers, two doubles. And this is a sweet way to end his career — if in fact this is the end — because the Rockies drafted Holliday in 1998 and he was one of their top players through 2008.

Reason not to like him: Zilch. Especially if he does damage to  the Cubs in the NL wild card contest.

3. Stephen Piscotty, Oakland A’s, LF. 

Likability factor: 10/10.

Contributions to STL baseball: Touted prospect, respected by all, had a positive career start, messed with his swing, lost power, battled a crisis of confidence. Piscotty slammed a two-run homer in Game 1 of the 2015 NLDS to propel the Cardinals to a 4-0 victory over the Cubs. The Cardinals haven’t won a playoff game since that day. Not that you are counting … but I am. The Cardinals’ most recent postseason victory occurred 1,089 days ago.

Storyline charm: “Charm” isn’t the right word. Definitely not. But before Piscotty’s mom, Gretchen, passed away after a tragic, terribly unfair struggle against ALS, he had a chance to spend valuable time with her at the family home near Oakland. And that was made possible by a STL-OAK trade that gave Piscotty a fresh baseball start in his hometown. He had a really swell year for the A’s, slugging .491 with 41 doubles, 27 homers and 88 RBIs.

Reason not to like him: Not one negative thought. Classy guy, loving son, dedicated professional.

4. Lance Lynn, New York Yankees, reliever and starter. 

Likability factor:  8 out of 10. Why only nine? Because he’d get ticked off if I gave him 10/10. He would consider that a failure given his gruff demeanor (which is mostly for fun.)

Contributions to STL baseball: As a rookie in 2011, he was part of the postseason push by working out of the bullpen. From 2012 through 2017 (he missed 2016 after elbow surgery) Lynn started 159 games, went 71-46, had a 3.39 ERA and pitched at least 175 innings a season four times.

Storyline charm:  It’s a good one. Lynn didn’t get the longterm free-agent deal he coveted after last season. He settled for a one-year contract with the Minnesota Twins, had terrible control issues after missing most of spring training and was acquired by the Yankees later in the season. He’s done solid work for them with 1.8 WAR in less than a full half of season.

Reason not to like him: None …. The big lug keeps it real. Not a phony molecule in his being.

5. Luke Voit: New York Yankees, 1B and DH and slugger. 

Likability factor: 10/10.

Contributions to STL baseball: Never got a chance to play regularly, but always showed pure power  Makes you wonder “What if.”

Storyline charm: Fantastic … the Cardinals basically donated Voit — a STL native — to the Yankees for relievers Chasen Shreve (disappointing) and Giovanny Gallegos (non-factor late in the season.) And Voit is making Yankee fans crazy … and probably making the Cards’ front office crazy too. But for different reasons of course. Yanks fans are nutso for Voit because in 39 games and 148 plate appearances he’s done a slambino routine with 14 homers and 33 RBIs. The Cardinals’ front office is probably going nutso because the big man has homered 14 times in 39 games for the Yankees –despite not even getting a chance to play every day at Class AAA Memphis.

Reason not to like him: Nothing but fist bumps for the hometown hercules.

THE MOST HONORABLE OF MENTION:  

Edwin Jackson, starting pitcher, Oakland A’s. 

Why we should like him: Underrated contributor to the pitching-needy 2011 Cardinals. Acquired in the three-team transaction that sent Colby Rasmus to Toronto, Jackson did a solid job of filling a void in the rotation. In 12 starts Jackson went 5-2 and had a 3.58 ERA. Jackson also made five postseason starts … and though many tend to forget this, Jackson played a significant role in saving the season. With the Cardinals down 2 games to 1 and facing elimination by the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 4, Jackson outperformed Roy Oswalt by allowing two runs in six innings. and pitched well in the NLDS against Philadelphia going 6 IP and allowing two earned runs. The Cardinals won 5-3. It was the “Rally Squirrel” game. I prefer to remember it as the Extremely Important Edwin Jackson Start That No One Remembers Because Of The Damned Squirrel” game. Jackson got the Cardinals to Philadelphia for Game 5 … and then Chris Carpenter vs. Roy Halladay happened.

THE NEXT LEVEL …

+ Jaime Garcia, LH pitcher, Cubs. Comment: Jaime did some good things for the Cardinals. Jaime did some weird things as a Cardinal. Jaime did a lot of time on the DL list as a Cardinal. Made 147 starts, had a 3.57 ERA and win 62 games for STL between 2008 through 2016.  Garcia could be very good, when his head was right — and Jupiter was aligned with Mars. He’s a Cub now.

+ Seunghwan Oh, RH reliever, Colorado: He was great for the Cardinals in 2016 … but the wood chipper got him … because the wood chipper ripped apart about two overworked relievers per year. And a worn-out Oh couldn’t get his slider to sizzle in 2017. After signing with Toronto and showing signs of post-wood chipper recovery, Oh was acquired by the Rockies this past summer has a 2.53 ERA in 21.1 innings. Good dude. Liked him a lot.

+ Joe Kelly, RH reliever, Boston Red Sox:  He was a fine, funny fellow … and a fine pitcher for the Cardinals from 2012 through July 2014, when he was traded to Boston along with the Allen Craig salary offload in the John Lackey deal. Kelly pitched 266 innings as a Cardinal, making 38 starts and 30 relief appearances (ERA of 3.25.) Kelly also pitched in 11 postseason games; four were starts. He’s had some ups and downs in Boston but remains a fixture in the Red Sox bullpen.

+ Sam Freeman, LH reliever, Atlanta Braves: Between 2012-2014, Freeman made 81 relief appearances, had a 3.33 ERA. He walked too many, and probably didn’t bag enough strikeouts. But I always thought he should have gotten more of a chance. He’s 31 now.

+ Adam Ottavino, RH reliever, Colorado:  Ottavino was the Cards’ first-round draft pick in 2006. He made it to the big leagues, briefly, for the 2010 Cardinals and had an 8.64 ERA in five games. The Rockies claimed him off waivers in April of 2012. Ottavino has found his calling as a sturdy reliever for the Rockies, his employer for the last seven years. He’s emerged as one of the better relievers in the majors, having averaged 12 strikeouts per 9 IP over the last four seasons. Had a 37% strikeout rate this year.

+ Jason Heyward, right fielder, Cubs. Was very good for the 2015 Cardinals but left to join the Cubs to have more fun or something like that. But $186 million is a lot for the Cubs to be paying for first-rate defense, below-average offense, and one overhyped, false-narrative, pep talk during the rain delay in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. Whatever. The Cardinals — who have made too many payroll mistakes — are fortunate that Heyward wanted to have fun with the Cubs.

+ Dean Kiekhefer, LH reliever, Oakland: Remember him? In 2016, he appeared in 26 games for the Cardinals as he shuttled between Memphis and St. Louis. His ERA was 5.32. I don’t have anything for you. He hasn’t done much pitching for the A’s.

+ John Axford was a RH reliever for the Cardinals late in the 2013 season. Brief stay, but he did help during the stretch run, and he worked in six postseason games including two in the World Series vs. the Red Sox. He’s with the Dodgers, but is injured, and done for the year. So I didn’t really count him. But I did want to mention him.

+ Nick Martini, outfielder, Oakland: I dig this story. There are so many ex-Cardinals on the rosters of 2018 postseason teams, there was room for a Memphis Redbird. Martini was drafted by the Cardinals in the 7th round of the 2011 draft. He spent seven years in their farm system, eventually making it to Double A Springfield (164 games) and Triple A Memphis. Martni doesn’t have much power, but he’s an on-base connoisseur and the A’s love those guys. So when Martini earned his minor-league free agency after last season, Oakland signed him to a Triple A contract to play for Nashville. (The Dan Kantrovitz connection.) Martini posted a .410 OBP at Nashville, and Oakland GM Billy Beane brought him to the big leagues to draw walks and set up runs. In 55 games and 179 plate appearances for the A’s, Martini has a .397 OBP and has performed 26 points above league average offensively in park-adjusted runs created. He’s a Cardinal who never actually played for the Cardinals.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie

More: Wheeler – How to Make the ’19 Cardinals a Playoff Team in an Ultra-Competitive NL