Five Reasons To Watch The St. Louis Cardinals, 10 Games Back Of The Brewers

1. How good are Albert Pujols's final numbers? His down season is, even after his post-All-Star-Break return to Pujolsness, serious enough that it might have a real impact on the price he's able to extract from the free agent market; at 31 it's possible to construct a narrative in which all his best days are behind him, even if that doesn't mean that he's going to have Frank Thomas's thirties.

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2. You might not see Chris Carpenter again. One of the most incredible feats of endurance I've ever seen as a Cardinals fan is Chris Carpenter returning from his second bout with shoulder and elbow problems--and two lost seasons--to justify the absurdly optimistic contract the Cardinals gave him despite having an additional year on his generous earlier contract.

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That last contract ends in 2012, with a $15 million club option. I'm not sure the Cardinals have that kind of money to throw at a thirtysomething pitcher.

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3. Gerald Laird might keep hitting home runs. Come on--don't you want to be able to tell your children that you were there when Gerald Laird hit a home run to put the Cardinals on his back and take them to within six runs of the Los Angeles Dodgers in a meaningless game in late August?

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4. September Call-Ups. You might get to see Tyler Greene pinch run for Ryan Theriot in the eighth inning! Or Mark Hamilton start a game at shortstop. The Cardinals might call up Maikel Cleto and give him a start, because really, why not? September call-ups are among my favorite things in baseball, and in a season like this the novelty can make the difference between boredom and enjoyment. Free Bryan Anderson!

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5. Free Bryan Anderson. Seriously--he's just sitting there, if you want him, moldering on the bench. He's a left-handed backup catcher who could hit .275--what's not to like? Besides his stupid face, if you're Tony La Russa.

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