The end came abruptly for the 2009 Cardinals:
The uncertainty didn't last long. In late October, La Russa and Duncan signed extensions, and two months later the club handed Holliday, who was acquired from Oakland in July, the largest deal in club history, $120 million for seven years. The signing kept together Holliday,
"No disrespect to other teams in the past," Pujols, the first baseman and three-time NL MVP, said in March as he gazed around the clubhouse in Jupiter, Fla., "but this is probably one of the best we've had."
Yet this team is far from perfect. The bullpen lacks depth and cannot count on another All-Star season from streaky closer
The Cardinals didn't add any significant pieces in the off-season, but they didn't have to. The winter passed with Chicago and Milwaukee, St. Louis's closest challengers, making no notable upgrades -- unless you believe Chicago's jettisoning of malcontent
The clock is ticking for St. Louis's rivals. Chicago's
The Cardinals have a big concern of their own: Pujols's future in St. Louis. Unless he signs an extension before the end of the 2011 season, he'll be be a free agent at age 31. For now, though, Prince Albert is still in St. Louis, and his team is still royalty in the division.