By Rob Rains
For the 10th consecutive year, STLSportsPage.com has spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve counting down the top seven Cardinals stories from this year.
Our choice as the top story from 2021 was not a surprise – even though it was very much of a surprise on the day it happened.
Just eight days after the season ended with a loss to the Dodgers in the wild-card game, the Cardinals fired manager Mike Shildt, the result of an apparent difference of opinion with John Mozeliak, the team’s president of baseball operations.
STLSportsPage broke the story on Oct. 14, which came when most observers were predicting that Shildt not only would be back as the manager in 2022 but would receive a contract extension at some point during the winter.
To read our coverage of Shildt’s firing, CLICK HERE
Earlier this week we revealed the other six stories to make our list.
Number 2 – Cardinals win 17 consecutive games
The winning streak, all coming in September, became the longest streak in franchise history. The old mark of 14 wins in a row had stood since 1935.
With the final win, the Cardinals clinched a spot in the wild-card playoff game.
To read our coverage of that game, and its significance, CLICK HERE
Number 3: Cardinals trade for Nolan Arenado
It was one of the biggest trades the Cardinals have pulled off in years, acquiring All-Star and perennial Gold Glove winner Nolan Arenado in a trade from the Colorado Rockies.
The Cardinals had been interested in the third baseman for years, but the thought they could actually put together a trade from him was not expected – until the deal happened.
To read our coverage of the trade announcement CLICK HERE
Number 4: Season ends with walkoff loss in wild-card game
The story which ranked four on our list was the sudden end to the Cardinals’ season, falling to the Dodgers in the wild-card game on a walkoff home run by Chris Taylor.
The game was tied at 1 in the ninth inning before Taylor’s two-out, two-run homer off Alex Reyes. What really cost the Cardinals the game, however, was going hitless in 11 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
To read our coverage of the game, CLICK HERE
Number 5: Marmol named new manager
Usually when the Cardinals hire a new manager, it can be expected that the story will rank at the top or almost at the top of any year-in-review list. But this was not an ordinary year for the Cardinals.
The hiring of Oli Marmol as the Cardinals new manager ranked as the fifth story of 2021 on our list, primarily because the announcement was anticlimactic.
As soon as Mike Shildt was fired, it was a foregone conclusion that Marmol would be the choice to succeed him and indeed it took only 11 days for the Cardinals to make the formal announcement.
Earlier this week we revealed the stories which came in sixth and seventh on our list. On Tuesday we will post the story which ranked fourth.
Number 6 – Wainwright, Molina both to return in 2022
This story was actually two stories combined into one – the announcements that both Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina will return for another season in 2022.
The two iconic Cardinals have been teammates since 2005. Molina’s announcement said that he intends for 2022 to be the final season of his career. Wainwright stopped short of making that final decision but indicated that he also is likely going to retire at the end of the year.
Number 7 – Cardinals win five Gold Gloves
Since Rawlings first began awarding Gold Gloves in the 1950s, major-league team had ever won more than four in a season – until this year, when the Cardinals took home five.
Some of the winners were expected, such as third baseman Nolan Arenado and first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. The biggest surprise winner was second baseman Tommy Edman, who unseated former Cardinal and two-time winner Kolten Wong in his first season as the full-time second baseman.
The other first-time winner was centerfielder Harrison Bader, with Tyler O’Neill taking home the award for the second consecutive season.
To read our story when the awards were announced CLICK HERE
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains