Without so much as a single player who hit 20 home runs or won more than 10 games, St. Louis had the third-best record in the major leagues last season. "That Whitey Herzog," said baseball men of the Cardinals' manager and general manager. "He does it with mirrors."
Not really. "People forget about our park and team," Herzog says. "In Busch Stadium you win with speed and defense, not homers. And we had such great relief pitching we didn't need 20-game winners." Players like First Baseman Keith Hernandez, Second Baseman Tommy Herr, Third Baseman Ken Oberkfell and Rightfielder George Hendrick don't just reach base, they take extra ones. "If you played the Cardinals, you were always shook up," says Leftfielder Lonnie Smith, late of the Phillies. Smith will shake 'em up even more with his sprinter's speed and .321 lifetime average.
The new shortstop, former Padre Ozzie Smith, can't hit like the departed Garry Templeton, but he's a less disruptive influence and a better fielder. Rookie David Green won the centerfield job in spring training. But at 21 and with just three years in pro ball, that's what he is—green.
St. Louis could use a power boost. Hendrick, with 18 homers, was the only deep threat last year, which is why the Cards will sometimes play 35-year-old Gene Tenace at first against lefthanded pitchers. "He's a great clutch hitter who can also walk 100 times a year, so you've got to play him," says Hernandez, who will move to left on those occasions. Some power should come also from Catcher Darrell Porter, who was knocked out of the lineup last May by a torn rotator cuff.
The pitching rotation still lacks a stopper. Bob Forsch and Joaquin Andujar are the only starters who have won 10 games in a season. John Martin has 10 wins and five complete games in his major league career. Steve Mura (5-14 with San Diego) is getting an optimistic buildup. "He'll be better with a good team," says Hernandez. Adds Herzog, "You have to be a good pitcher to go out there often enough to lose 14 times." Well, Mura did have a good year in 1980 (8-7, 109 strikeouts in 169 innings). The key to the staff is Andy Rincon, who had a 3-1 record and a 1.75 ERA before breaking his pitching arm last year. Rincon returned too soon and finished the season doing miserably (1-5, 6.60) in the minors. Herzog says he could win 18 to 20 games. "If I pitch every week I'll help the club a great deal," says Rincon.
Not necessarily. In a single spring training inning Rincon balked, threw a pickoff into the bullpen and missed a relay. Some other bad signs: Lonnie Smith plays the outfield like a Navy recruit ("It's not a job, it's an adventure"), and reliever Bruce Sutter wasn't at his best last year.
The Cardinals have alternated winning and losing seasons since 1975, so guess what they're due for in 1982.
In 1980 St. Louis led the National League in team batting, but still lost 88 games and finished fourth. It had 27 defeats in which it outhit the opposition, more than any other NL team. In '81 the Cardinals had only four defeats in which they outhit their opponents, less than any other major league team. They had the best overall record in the NL East and their hitters ranked third in the league.