Best Cardinals Player - 2005
Readers' Choice: Albert Pujols
On the balmy night of May 10, the collective world of Cardinal Nation stood still. Indeed, it seemed the sky had fallen when Scott Rolen sprinted out of the batter's box and plowed into Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Hee Seop Choi. A seriously injured shoulder put an end to Rolen's 2005 campaign. And to the rescue came Abraham Orlando Nuñez. Plucked last winter from the boneyard that is the Pittsburgh Pirates, the 29-year-old switch-hitting free agent had signed with the Cardinals on Christmas Day. What a gift he proved to be! When Cardinals manager Tony La Russa subbed Nuñez for Rolen at third base, it seemed akin to the Yankees replacing Babe Ruth with George "Twinkletoes" Selkirk. We're talking, after all, about a utility middle infielder with a lifetime batting average of .238 over eight seasons with the Bucs. Plus, in 630 career games, Nuñez had played the hot corner eight times. How did he respond to the challenge? Try career highs in games played, batting average, runs scored, RBI and homers, combined with stellar play at third. Come Christmas morning, let's hope a big fat World Series ring is twinkling under the Nuñezes' tree.