Take this with a grain of salt. Please.
The lead-up to the 2017 season has been interesting so far. Some fans are very high on the Cardinals while others remain cautiously optimistic. There were more than a few that had already written them off before pitchers and catchers reported to camp. “They MIGHT contend for a Wild Card spot, MAYBE.” I paraphrase. Now, some of those opinions may have been swayed during a, thus far, promising spring. I liked the additions and subtractions made this winter, so I’ve been confident all along. But then, sometime in the first week of spring training, I got an even stronger feeling about this team. I can only describe it as tempered enthusiasm. I came to realize that this was the exact same feeling I had going into the 2004 season.
Here’s the deal, 2003 was not a good year for the Birds and neither was 2016. Although it was fair for many to be skeptical of the team, I was very optimistic back then just as I am now. As I took a closer look I noticed that there are many similarities between 2004 and 2017. So maybe it’s not all in my head? I started to dig a little deeper. With every scoop of the shovel, I would unearth another interesting nugget. Twenty-eight parallels, in fact, which lead me to believe that we’ve seen this movie before.
Now, I won’t pretend to be a fortune teller (though in 2013 I did correctly guess which song Luke Bryan would open his STL show with, a full 5 minutes before he took the stage. So…). Form your own opinions (feel free to fact check me) but you can’t tell me these aren’t uncanny. Saddle up.
(Note: To avoid using the word ‘criteria’ on every line, I’ll simply tell you my format for the rest of the article. First I will list the role/criteria for the parallel. Then I will list who or what filled/will fill that role for the 2004 and 2017 teams)
- Previous season’s Win-Loss Record (2003 & 2016)
2004: 85-77 2017: 86-76
- Previous season’s Central Division Champion (2003 & 2016)
2004: Chicago Cubs 2017: Chicago Cubs
- Opponent in most recent NLCS appearance (2002 & 2014)
2004: San Francisco Giants 2017: San Francisco Giants
- Former Ace coming off of a disappointing year in which he allowed 20+ HR’s for the first time in his career.
- Previous Season’s Wins leader, who also had 9 losses the previous year.
- Starting pitcher returning from injury that did not pitch in previous season.
2004: Chris Carpenter 2017: Lance Lynn
- Steady Eddy, veteran starting pitcher with ties to Arizona.
- Former 1st round pick entering his age 25 season.
- Starting pitcher leaned on heavily the previous year that was let go and the team is better off for it.
- Veteran closer who issued exactly 18 non-intentional walks the previous year.
- High strikeout setup man who sometimes has control issues.
2004: Julian Tavarez 2017: Trevor Rosenthal
- Late inning, left-handed reliever acquired in the off-season.
- Left-handed reliever that has previously pitched 81 games in a single season and will thrive with the presence of a 2nd lefty.
- Right-handed reliever that casual fans don’t really know about so he seemingly comes out of nowhere to be pivotal.
2004: Kiko Calero 2017: Miquel Socolovich
- Unassuming RH middle reliever.
2004: Mike Lincoln 2017: Matt Bowman
- Veteran righty that Al Hrabosky will refer to as a warrior/battler/bulldog with regularity. He probably gets used too much but manages to do more good than bad.
- Hot starting pitching prospect that joins the bullpen in the 2nd half of the season.
The Position Players
- Platoon situation at the outset of the season, being manned by 1) a former Padre, 2) a former team leader in HR, and 3) a 2B playing out of position.
2017: 3B: Jhonny Peralta (HR leader in ’14) and Jedd Gyorko (SD ’13-’15, 2B at 3B)
- Gold-glove catcher entering the twilight of his career.
- Backup catcher keeping the seat warm for a hot catching prospect.
- Hot catching prospect.
2004: Yadier Molina 2017: Carson Kelly
- Consensus best hitter on the team that entered the league as a 3B, entering his first season as the everyday 1B.
- 5’9” 2B with speed, who has made cameos in the OF, coming off of a season in which he hit .240 or below.
- Strong, all-around offensive SS who was an All-star the previous year.
2004: Edgar Renteria 2017: Aledmys Diaz
- Rock solid 20-25 HR cleanup hitter with a knack for clutch situations, exemplifies the “Cardinal Way” and whose name starts with the letter “S”.
- Big time power hitting OF that was acquired from the Angels and wears #15.
- Veteran OF with a championship pedigree that was signed in the off-season to fill a void in the lineup and provide a fresh personality in the clubhouse.
- Left-handed, pinch hitting Tour de Force (and 1B/OF??).
So there you have it. What does it mean? Well, to me it’s obvious. The 2016 Cubs were able to avoid a “Bartman incident” and reverse their fortunes from the 2003 season. So, it is logical to assume that the Cardinals also reverse their fortune from the 2004 season, thus winning the 2017 World Series.
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