COMMENTARY | If you had the chance to go back in time, snatch one player from the St. Louis Cardinals in their prime and place that player on today's roster, which player do you feel would make the most impact?
That is quite the question when looking through the storied history of the St. Louis Cardinals. There are many options from over 100 years of history to choose from. Examining today's roster suggests that there are two positions that could be drastically improved, second base and shortstop. The current team's needs make the decision very easy. The 1987 version of Ozzie Smith would be a welcome addition to this club.
The obvious need is consistent offensive production from the middle infield. It is this version of Ozzie Smith that produced a .303/.392/.383 slashline while driving in 75 runs and hitting 40 doubles. "The Wizard" found himself on base quite often and would score 104 runs in an offense that was not overly potent.
But offense is not the only need at shortstop these days for the Cardinals. The defense has been less than stellar the last few years and this team is built on ground-ball and pitch-to-contact pitching. Ozzie won his seventh of 12 straight Gold Glove awards in 1987, putting together a fielding percentage of .987, 22 points higher than the league average for shortstops that season.
The ultimate product of an era known as "Whiteyball", Ozzie walked 89 times in 1987 while only posting 36 strikeouts. He was consistent in putting the ball in play, moving the runner over, and finding his own way on base. Over the course of the season he would attempt to steal 52 bases, only being caught nine times.
That season would put the one and only Silver Slugger award of Ozzie's career in his trophy case. It would be the best offensive season of his career, posting career highs in the following categories: hits (182), doubles (40), runs batted in (75), walks (89), batting average (.303), on base percentage (.392), slugging percentage (.383), and total bases (230). He would ultimately finish second in the National League Most Valuable Player award voting to Andre Dawson of the Cubs.
His production on the field would allow the Cardinals to have a consistent threat near the top of the lineup in front of hitters like Matt Holliday and Allen Craig, while also allowing the team to hit a slower Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina behind those bats.
His production on the field, his leadership off the field, and his impact on the makeup of the roster and lineup would make Ozzie Smith the perfect choice to add to today's lineup and round out an already impressive 2013 roster.
Besides, who would not like to see a back-flip on opening day?
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