As we compose this ode, September lies before us, and the road to the postseason seems lined with lovely fall colors. Will we indeed be able to look back on '09 as a glory year for the St. Louis Cardinals franchise, one in which all aspects of the team clicked into sync in late summer and drove relentlessly to the finish? If so, the honor of Best Cardinals Player could go to any of more than a half-dozen candidates: Colby Rasmus, the rookie whose moment has finally arrived. Chris Carpenter, who roared back from two injury-lost seasons. Adam Wainwright, who threatens to outshine Carp. Ryan Franklin, for his beard. Outfielder-turned-keystone-man Skip Schumaker, for achieving the improbable. Brendan Ryan, who unquestionably deserves a Gold Glove. Yadi, for being Yadi. The foursome of mid-season acquisitions one sportswriter recently pegged perfectly as Matthew (Holliday), Mark (DeRosa), (Julio) Lugo and John (Smoltz). Still, we're gonna buck our knee-jerk counterintuitiveness and go with...Albert Pujols. Though he's no longer flirting with the triple crown, barring a total collapse at the plate, 2009 will be the ninth straight year Pujols will have notched a .300-plus batting average, 30-plus home runs and 100-plus runs batted in. Nine years — that'd be, oh, each and every year he has played in the bigs. Pujols now has the most home runs in the first nine years of a career. He holds the record for most career grand slams by a Cardinal and will at the very least have tied the National League record for slams in a season (five). A two-time Most Valuable Player Award winner, he's almost a lock to notch MVP No. 3. Right now Albert Pujols is the best player in baseball. Period.
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