The infield is good. Bill White, a 25-year-old power hitter who lost his job with the Giants when he went into the service, is the new first baseman; he is also a fine gloveman. Don Blasingame is a good second baseman and an ideal lead-off hitter. Speedy and aggressive, Blazer was hurt a lot last year but still managed to hit .274. Silent, dark Ken Boyer is probably the best all-round third baseman in the majors. He can hit with real power, ranges all over the left side of the infield, throws with a shotgun arm and runs like a greyhound on the bases. Milwaukee likes Mathews, but everybody else will take Boyer. Blond Joe Cunningham, a first baseman by trade, hits with power and will be in right. The nonpareil Stan Musial will be back to play his 17th season with the Cardinals. There's no one else like him in the National League, and No. 6 at the plate will always be an imposing sight. Hal Smith is a good catcher but his hitting fell off last year, and Gene Green, a powerful hitter with an equally powerful arm, will probably do most of the catching. Vinegar Bend Mizell, the pretzel-twisting lefty, always seems on the verge of being a winner, and Larry Jackson has been a durable reliever and starter. The thinking man's pitcher, Jim Brosnan, is a spot starter and strong long-relief man who has had an outstanding spring.
The outfield could be the worst in the league. Musial, in left at the request of new Manager Solly Hemus, lacks range and has a poor arm. With all due respect to The Man, now in the winter of his content, it's a question of whether he will drive in as many runs as he'll let in. In center is Gino Cimoli, the lackadaisical Latin. Cimoli proved in 1957 with the Dodgers that he can play a good outfield. He has range, a nice arm, and that year he hit. Last year he didn't. If somebody can coax him, perhaps he'll hit again. If not, he'll lose his job to the promising Curt Flood. Bobby Gene Smith can field but needs more experience as a hitter, while 34-year-old Irv Noren has the experience but not the youth. The pitching, spotty to begin with, became highly dubious with the departure of Sam Jones. Mizell and Jackson had impressive ERAs between them but lost more than they won. Once past them, there are only fading oldsters and untried rookies. Such ancients as Marv Grissom and Alex Kellner are being counted on as short-relief men. They may be too short. Gene Green doesn't help the pitching situation any when he's catching. A converted outfielder, he is still awkward behind the plate. There is not enough speed and a sad lack of power.
ROOKIES AND NEW FACES
The Giants gave away Ernie Broglio, a strong right-handed rookie who throws extremely hard, and who has looked good enough this spring to be a likely St. Louis starter. But if the Giants made a poor deal here, they more than got their own back by securing the Cardinals' best pitcher, Sam Jones, in exchange for two men the Giants couldn't use, Bill White and Ray Jablonski. White was tried in right field but had to be moved to first base; he hit only .241 after returning from the Army last year, but three seasons ago had 22 homers with the Giants. Third baseman Jabbo will spend most of his time on the bench; he hits the long ball, but not frequently. Short on reliable relief men, the Cards picked up 41-year-old Marv Grissom and 34-year-old Alex Kellner, and for more power on the bench grabbed First Baseman George Crowe, who hit 31 homers for the Reds just two years ago. Gino Cimoli, who doesn't add power, and Chuck Essegian, who may, might help out. Alex Grammas will be better at short than any of his predecessors, but five home runs and a .254 batting average over the last five years tell the story of his hitting career. Nineteen-year-old infielder Julio Gotay is an exciting prospect who can hit with power; he's being tried at shortstop, but he has a scatter arm and needs experience. If any pitching help other than Broglio is to come the Cardinals' way, it will have to be from rookie right-handers Gary Blaylock and Bob Gibson or returning right-hander Lindy McDaniel.
THE BIG IFS
Stan Musial's excursions into left center in chase of fly balls might take precious points off his batting average, and then where would the Cardinals be? If Hemus can light a fire under Gino Cimoli or if Curtis Flood or Bobby Gene Smith can hit the way they field, the outfield might be less frightful to contemplate. And if Mizell would finally find himself this year, and if Ernie Broglio really comes through, the staff might be able to look the rest of the league in the eye.
The Cardinals, who used to be the symbol of speed, power, pitching and good young players, simply don't have it any more. A new manager is no substitute for new talent, which the Cards don't grow much of any more. It would be nice to say that St. Louis will be right back up there fighting for first place, but they'll have a tough time keeping out of last.
BOBBY GENE SMITH
PAST PERFORMANCE CHART
RUNS BATTED IN
9*, 10*, 11