Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em: Think of the 2011 Redbirds as your emphysemic, three-pack-a-day uncle

Youth has been served at Busch Stadium in recent years. Players like Colby Rasmus, Jaime Garcia and Kyle McClellan have provided the club rock-steady performance at rock-bottom pricing (sounds a bit like a late-night used-car ad, doesn't it?) and offered vindication to the club's direction in farm-system development. Sure, on-field management has been a bit slow to come around at times, with feuds and sniping and sneak attacks through the media coming more often than one would like to see from an ostensibly professional organization, but what transition is ever without its bumps?

You might think, given how successful the club has been in developing in-house youngsters to fill out the roster, that the trend would continue unabated as the club prepares to move into the last season of what is commonly known as the P.D.E. (Pujols Dominance Era). After all, the main reason the Cardinals overhauled their player-development system in the middle of the past decade was to deal with the economic realities of living life as a Dogtown team with Frontenac tastes. (Like the local spin on the metaphor? That's the kind of quality you pay for with RFT, baby.) So you would think that, faced with life after Albert or life with Albert being paid the annual GDP of most Third World nations, that the Cards would push even harder for young (read: cheap) players to fill out the roster.

You might think that, but you would be wrong.

Lance Berkman: Looking to recapture the magic before he rides off into the sunset.
Romeo Guzman/Cal Sport Media
Lance Berkman: Looking to recapture the magic before he rides off into the sunset.
Ryan Theriot and Matt Carpenter during a spring-training game against the Astros.
Quinten Stevens/AiWire/Newscom
Ryan Theriot and Matt Carpenter during a spring-training game against the Astros.

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For better or for worse, when the story of the 2011 Cardinals is written, it will be the story of the old men brought in for one last stumbling, shambling, hip-replacement, limping run at a title. The future is uncertain, so the Cards have decided to live in the past.

Baseball by Dickens
Imagine waking up one morning and heading to the kitchen for some breakfast and the morning paper. First off, the fact you're going for the morning paper rather than pulling up said morning paper's poorly designed and money-losing website should tell you something is a bit off. But never mind all that for now. So anyway, you pick up the morning paper, turn to the sports section and see the Cardinals have acquired Jim Edmonds, Lance Berkman and Miguel Batista in preparation for the upcoming baseball season.

Now imagine your reaction to this news. In all likelihood, you would immediately jump up from the table, run to the window, throw it open and shout out to a passing newsie, "You there! Boy! What year is it?"

To which he would reply, "Year, sir? Why, it's 2011, sir!" All in a ridiculous Cockney accent, of course, which is a little weird, since you live on Loughborough, which isn't even in the Cockney section of St. Louis.

Upon hearing this, you slump back into your kitchen, clutching at your nightshirt, trying to make sense of what you've just heard. Conflicting emotions arise. Relief first, because if the passing newsie's information is correct, it means you haven't somehow fallen into a time warp and been mysteriously transported back to 2004 just when you finally got your Facebook page the way you wanted it, with that photo of you where you kind of look like Justin Bieber front and center. But then confusion follows relief, because if you haven't been magically spirited away to 2004, then signing Jim Edmonds, Lance Berkman and Miguel Batista makes way less sense than it did a moment ago. Then annoyance, because someone apparently broke in during the night and replaced your iPad with a newspaper. Oh, and you really need to go give that kid some money to buy a goose. Newsie work isn't all that profitable anymore, you know.

So why would the Cardinals' front office go to such lengths to assemble an all-2000s team when it is no longer the 2000s? Because the times, they are a-changin', and they may not be a-changin' for the better in Cardinaltown. The 2011 season represents the end of an era one way or another, and the plans made were deliberately of the short-term variety. When you think that sound you hear might be Nero tuning up his fiddle, you tend to quit worrying about your 401(k) and focus on more immediate concerns.

The End of Several Eras?
We all know Albert Pujols will be a free agent after the season. It's kind of been sort of a big story. Kind of. But Chris Carpenter could be departing as well. He has an option for the 2012 season, but there's a big price tag on that option season, Carp hasn't exactly been an iron man during his career, and he's entering his late thirties. That may not be a gamble the Cards want to take.

Adam Wainwright, owing to his elbow deciding it'd had enough, will likely not be under contract beyond 2011. Wainwright has a pair of option years for 2012 and 2013 that would have vested, but only if he didn't end the 2011 season on the disabled list. Barring a miraculous visit from the ulnar collateral ligament fairy, it looks like Adam will, in fact, be on the shelf when 2011 comes to a close. The Cardinals could still assume those options, but there's no guarantee they will. If Wainwright is to be a Redbird beyond 2011, it will probably require new contract negotiations.

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