2015 St. Louis Cardinals
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2015 St. Louis Cardinals / Franchise: St. Louis Cardinals / BR Team Page
Clinched Division: September 30, 2015, At Pittsburgh Pirates
Managed by Mike Matheny
History, Comments, Contributions
The 2015 St. Louis Cardinals made a few moves after reaching the National League Championship Series in 2014. The most important was to trade young starting pitcher Shelby Miller to the Atlanta Braves, in return for RF Jason Heyward and P Jordan Walden. The Cardinals saw Heyward a candidate for a break-out season. The move was made necessary by the tragic death of OF Oscar Taveras in a car accident just after the end of the NLCS. Taveras was the team's top prospect and had been slated to start in right field after showing a lot of promise as a rookie. Miller was expendable because the Cardinals were certain that young Michael Wacha, the hero of their run to the 2013 World Series, would be back in full health after an injury-plagued season, and that another gifted youngster, Carlos Martinez, was ready to step into the starting rotation after two seasons as a reliever. The rest of the line-up had few changes, with Yadier Molina returning to catch, Matt Adams at 1B, Kolten Wong at 2B, Jhonny Peralta at SS, Matt Carpenter at 3B, Matt Holliday in LF and Jon Jay in CF. On the mound, Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn remained the top two starters, with Trevor Rosenthal back at closer.
When the Cardinals played their home opener on April 13th, they dedicated their season to Taveras, paying tribute to him before the game. They also wore a patch reading "OT 18", based on his initials and uniform number, on the left sleeves of their uniforms all season. They started off the year very well, going 11-4 over their first 15 games. However, the date of their 11th win, April 24th, was also the date they lost ace starter Wainwright to a serious ankle injury. With the prospect of his missing the remainder of the season, the Cardinals were suddenly short of dependable starting pitchers and needed to decide whether to go for broke and trade for an established starter before the season got away from them, or hope that a patched-up rotation made up largely of youngsters would be enough to carry them to the postseason. Indeed, tests conducted two days later revealed a completely torn left Achilles tendon, requiring season-ending surgery. They lost another big piece in 1B Matt Adams, who went down with a season-ending quadriceps injury on May 26th, soon followed by a similar injury that put Matt Holliday on the disabled list. Most teams would have reeled after losing three starters in such a short spell, but the Cards kept on winning. They had the best record in the major leagues on June 15th, at 42-21, having forged a six-game lead on the second-place Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL Central.
The Cardinals were hit by another serious blow on June 16th, when they announced that at least one member of their front office was being investigated by the FBI for hacking into the proprietary player files of the Houston Astros. The incident stemmed from current Astros GM Jeff Luhnow having once been a member of the Cardinals front office, where he had put together a state-of-the-art player information system called "Redbird". He had done the same after joining the Astros in 2014, but that system had been hacked, with the FBI tracing the intrusion to a computer in a home used by Cardinals employees. Such a case of industrial espionage was unprecedented in professional sports, but it was clear that should the allegations be proven, the Cardinals would face significant penalties. On July 2nd, the Cards announced the firing of scouting director Chris Correa over his involvement in the scandal. On January 8, 2016, Correa would plead guilty to five charges of hacking following an investigation by the FBI.
On June 27th, the Cardinals became the first team in the majors to 50 wins. Even better, by needing only 74 games to reach the total, they were the first team since the 2005 Chicago White Sox to do so in fewer than 75 games. The next day, they beat the Chicago Cubs at home, 4-1, to improve their home record to 29-7. It was the best home start in franchise history since the 1885 St. Louis Browns had begun the year 31-4. The last team to win 28 of its first 35 home games had been the 1979 Montréal Expos.
The Cardinals continued to play well in the second half, keeping the best record in the majors and holding off the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs, who both got very hot after the All-Star break. On September 19th, they became the first team to clinch a postseason slot when their record was 92-56 with 14 games left to play. The next day, however, they suffered another injury blow when C Yadier Molina injured a ligament in his left thumb, putting him out for the rest of the regular season and placing in doubt his participation in the postseason. Cardinals pitchers had an ERA of 2.79 with Molina behind the dish that year, the lowest by any regular catcher in the majors since Alan Ashby with the 1981 Houston Astros, a figure that compensated for a drop in offensive numbers by the team's long-time backstop and on-field leader. More bad news came on September 25th, when Carlos Martinez had to leave a start against the Milwaukee Brewers after making only 7 pitches; the Cards announced the next day that he was done for the year because of a shoulder strain and would miss the postseason as well. On September 28th, it was the turn of rookie OF Stephen Piscotty, who was hitting .310 since having been called up in late July, to suffer a scary injury as he collided violently with CF Peter Bourjos when both were going after a ball hit by the Pirates' Josh Harrison. He had to be carted off the field but escaped with only minor damage, although a week away from the start of the postseason, the infirmary was beginning to get worryingly crowded.
The Cardinals clinched a third straight NL Central title on September 30th - and secured a 100-win season in the process, their first since 2005 - when they split a doubleheader with the Pirates. The loss in the opener was overshadowed by a very encouraging development, the return to the mound of pitcher Adam Wainwright, four months ahead of schedule. Another injured player had returned a couple of weeks earlier, also ahead of schedule: 1B Matt Adams had made ihis return on September 10th although he was being used mainly as a pinch-hitter during the final weeks of the season.
Awards and Honors
- All-Stars: Matt Holliday, Carlos Martinez, Yadier Molina, Jhonny Peralta, Trevor Rosenthal and Michael Wacha
- NL Gold Glove: Jason Heyward (RF) and Yadier Molina (C)
- 2015 Topps All-Star Rookie Team: Randal Grichuk (OF)
- Mike Bauman: "Extraordinary pitching carrying Cardinals: Hurlers outpacing rest of Majors by wide margin, helping ease offensive woes", mlb.com, August 19, 2015. 
- Ted Berg: "Let's all just suck it up and admit the Cardinals are awesome", For the Win, USA Today, September 2, 2015. 
- Ted Berg: "17 awesome things about the St. Louis Cardinals", For The Win, USA Today Sports, September 30, 2015. 
- Adam Berry: "15 for '15: NL Central trio displayed dominance: Cards, Bucs, Cubs put together top three records in bigs", mlb.com, December 29, 2015. 
- Jenifer Langosch: "Cards become 1st team to clinch postseason spot", mlb.com, September 19, 2015. 
- Joe Lemire: "Cardinals, already with 100 wins, can finish as stingiest team since 1969", USA Today Sports, October 2, 2015. 
- Jake Lourim: "Any Cardinals discipline would put MLB, Manfred in new territory", USA Today Sports, June 16, 2015. 
- Bob Nightengale: "Cardinals on 2015: 'We can do this for Oscar (Taveras)'", USA Today Sports, April 13, 2015. 
- Bob Nightengale: "FBI investigating Cardinals' alleged hacking of Astros' computer system", USA Today Sports, June 16, 2015. 
- Phil Rogers: "Cards need to prepare for life without Wainwright: Onus on Mozeliak to find a way to replace ace's productivity", mlb.com, April 26, 2015. 
- Washington Post: "Cards clinch third straight NL Central title with 11-1 victory over the Pirates", historic-newspapers.com, October 1, 2015