Semper Cardinalis roughly means "always cardinal," or so I assume. Let's just say it does. This feature will chronicle one fan's perspective of the St. Louis Cardinals. We'll try to keep it light around here. Semper Cardinalis will try to entertain. Semper Cardinalis will not drive you to the airport. Semper Cardinalis will educate. Semper Cardinalis will not drink the milk to test its freshness. Everyone clear. Okay, let's get started.While in general, the 2009 St. Louis Cardinals team looks a lot like last year's model, there are a few new features that make that "New and Improved" graphic on the box nice and legal.The biggest offseason move made by general manager John Mozeliak was the acquisition of shortstop Khalil Greene. Greene is coming off a brutal season with San Diego. In fact, he had a worse season offensively than the guy he is replacing, Cesar Izturis. It's likely that the Cards will get a performance out of Greene that will be closer to his career numbers, which include a 95 OPS+ (Izturis' career OPS+ is 67). Greene is a riddle, wrapped in an enigma, coated with a Spicoli. As long as LaRussa doesn't put him in a situation where he feels like he has to be a power source, Greene will be a definite upgrade for the lineup. Defensively, he's a step down, which may end up being a concern considering the new second basemen.Welcome to the infield dirt, Skip Schumaker. Watch your step. Seriously, don't trip. The deceison to move Schumaker to second base seems to us more a solution to an outfield glut than a significant hole at the position. There are a couple of kids in the minors that could have ably taken over the position. Or they could have kept Adam Kennedy or Aaron Miles or Felipe Lopez. But instead they moved a career outfielder to the position. This frees up an outfield position for top prospect Colby Rasmus and keeps Schumaker's bat in the lineup everyday. Reports from spring training say that Schumaker is improving under the guidance of Secret Weapon José Oquendo. Schumaker set the reasonable goal of "average second baseman" (shoot for the stars, why don't ya). Given that the reason the Cards are in this position is because of LaRussa (Kennedy wasn't one of "his guys"), we suspect that Skip will have a long leash. Also, it's unlikely that he will ever fall out of LaRussa's favor because Schumaker is a loyalty machine that never smiles. He was created in LaRussa's image.Another significant change is in the exciting, yet slightly overrated, position of closer. You see, God finally checked his e-mail, and he found thousands of pleas of mercy from Cardinals fans who have been suffering under the harsh play of despot Jason Isringhausen. God decided to be merciful (finally) and banished Izzy to Hell (Hell looks a lot like Tampa Bay) and He delivered the Howitzer arms of Chris Perez and Jason Motte. In the off season, both pitchers have been working on being more consistent (throw some change into the FJM jar) and adding pitches to go with to their formidable fastballs. Perez is a career closer, but has had a slight setback in camp after he experienced soreness in his elbow. Motte is a former catcher and visiting broadcasters and reporters will never ever let you forget that fact ("Did you know Motte used to be a catcher? He's like the Bizzaro Ankiel!").A few other noteworthy roster changes have been made. A few lefthanded pitching specialists were acquired. Troy Glaus will likely miss the first month as he recovers from surgery. Albert Pujols may or may not have harnessed the power of the atom to make himself a Dr. Manhattan-type demi-god.The cumulative affect of these changes likely makes this team better than last year. Will it be enough to overtake the Cubs and Brewers? Only time (or a Pujols mindmeld) can tell.Semper Cardinalis.
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