One of the most interesting things about the 2013 St. Louis Cardinals, and there are plenty, is the fact that so many fans and analysts so badly misunderstand how they work. It’s especially true of their offense.

I’ve felt this way for a while, but it really crystallized for me on Wednesday night. during the open of the FOX broadcast of Game 1 of the World Series.

“Now, they have their top run producer back,” said Joe Buck. Tim McCarver agreed.


Allen Craig is not the Cardinals’ best run producer. He’s not their best anything. He’s their third- or fourth-best hitter. Some sensational (and aberrant) numbers with runners in scoring position let him accumulate high RBI numbers, but he doesn’t even hit that many home runs. It’s not merely wrong, but quite strange that people think he’s that valuable.

The same thing is happening now, on the other side of Game 1. Carlos Beltran crashed into the right-field wall robbing David Ortiz of a grand slam Wednesday night, and now has bruised ribs that seem sure to limit him, and likely to hold him out of at least one game of this Series. There’s been a fair amount of national-media hand-wringing. Woe to the Cardinals, they’re saying, for now neither of their star hitters is at full strength.

They are, though. Matt Holliday and Matt Carpenter, the Cardinals’ real superstars, the two guys who stand head-and-shoulders clear of a second tier of batters that includes not just Craig and Beltran but Yadier Molina, are fine. They even combined for three hits and the only St. Louis run on Wednesday night.

That’s the real story. The Cardinals are fighting to keep complementary pieces healthy, but their studs are still studs. Carpenter and Holliday may be poor men’s Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz, but so be it. They’re the ones who drive the team’s success and failure, and they’re perfectly healthy. The World Series will be decided by how well the two teams play, not by the health of secondary assets like Craig, Beltran or Clay Buchholz.

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