2014 Arch Awards: Best St. Louis Team Nominees

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Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

2014 St. Louis Cardinals: The 2014 Cardinals were by no means the crispest or most consistent team. They were behind (or tied with) the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central standings for 150 straight days, from April 4 to September 1. They often struggled with the absence of catcher Yadier Molina, who was out from July 9 to August 29 with a hand injury.

It seemed like nothing went to plan in 2014, starting with Kolten Wong’s cold start to the season, which necessitated a demotion to Triple-A. Opening day center fielder Peter Bourjos never got going and ended up turning into a back-of-the-bench player. Allen Craig, formerly a masterful clutch hitter, seemingly lost all of his ability at the plate and ended up being traded at the deadline. Oscar Taveras, the 22-year-old once described as the best Cardinals hitting prospect since Albert Pujols, failed to produce when thrust into Craig’s right field role and ended up being replaced himself by a lower-tier prospect, Randal Grichuk, in September. And Justin Masterson, one of the Cards’ deadline acquisitions, was absolutely brutal in St. Louis, accumulating a 7.04 ERA over nine games.

Luckily, plenty of things went right for the Cardinals, too. Starting pitchers Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn both had career years. Closer Trevor Rosenthal was fantastic once again, racking up 45 saves, and middle reliever Pat Neshek was an extremely pleasant surprise, pitching well enough to earn an All-Star berth.

Center fielder Jon Jay stepped up, leading the team with a .303 batting average and taking on the role that Bourjos was expected to fill. Shortstop Jhonny Peralta proved to be an all-around good signing, making positive impacts defensively and at the plate, where he hit a team-leading 21 homers. And while his performance tapered off in the second half, Matt Adams actually ended up being an upgrade over Allen Craig at first base, as he hit .288/.321/.457 with 15 homers and 68 RBI.

After accumulating a spectacular 17-9 record during September, the Cardinals faced the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS. In an improbable turn of events, they were able to dominate lefty Clayton Kershaw, who had shut down just about every opponent dating back to June, on two separate occasions, and they took the series in four games.

The Cardinals made a valiant effort in the NLCS against the San Francisco Giants, particularly in Game 2, where a clutch pinch-hit homer from Taveras and a walk off from Wong propelled them to victory. While the Cards ultimately went down in five games, they showed through their fourth straight NLCS appearance that they’re no easy team to be dealt with, regardless of the circumstances.