COVID, Cardinals and their comeback


Morgan Hooker

The St. Louis Cardinals, like the rest of the world, felt the numerous impacts of COVID-19 in their 2020 season.

Another year and another short Red October for the city of St. Louis. The Cardinals’ 2020 season came to a rather disappointing end, losing to the San Diego Padres in the third game of the Wild Card Series. Although fans may argue this shortened season is not legitimate and should be marked with an asterisk, there are a few points to consider from this unprecedented season before the next one begins.

COVID-19 rocked the entire MLB, and saying it had no effect on the game would completely ignore what happened in the Cardinals organization. The first effects of the virus began with the guys on the mound. Prior to the start of the 60 game season, closer Jordan Hicks made it known that he would be opting out of this season due to his Type 1 Diabetes placing him in the high-risk category. In addition, Miles Mikolas, a key part of the starting rotation in 2019, underwent season-ending forearm surgery. Without Hicks’ 105 mph fastball and Mikolas’ command over the plate, major questions were left for the staff on who should fill their places.

While missing main components of the pitching staff from last year, manager Mike Shildt needed players to step up and find a way to win games. With the emergence of rookie Kwang Hyun Kim and a stellar effort from veteran Adam Wainwright, the starters went into the game each night able to put their team in a position to win. In the end, scoring runs when it mattered most was where the Cardinals seemed to struggle.

One week after the start of the season on July 31, the Cardinals were forced to halt all baseball operations as a result of two player’s COVID-19 tests coming back positive. During the shutdown, 13 members of the Cardinals organization would test positive and be sidelined. Among those were key players on both sides of the ball, including catcher Yadier Molina and shortstop Paul DeJong. Without knowing the time of their return and 53 games left to play, the Cardinals called minor league players up to the big leagues. Many decisions were made about which players would be penciled in on the lineup card each night.

When looking at the names on the starting lineup, many nights it seemed as if it were a spring training game. With open positions in the lineup, many developing minor league players were able to get their first taste of the big leagues. Top prospect Dylan Carlson and veteran acquisition Brad Miller quickly became household names and made substantial impacts on the season. With the help of the young prospects, the bat of Paul Goldschmidt, and fielding by Gold Glove finalists Kolton Wong and Tyler O’Neil, the Cardinals were able to make the final push they needed at the end of the season.

The fact the Cardinals made it to the 16 team postseason alone is commendable. 53 games in 43 days, including 10 doubleheaders, is not the ideal way to finish the regular season. Even against numerous heavy-hitting lineups, including the rival Chicago Cubs, and plenty of long back-to-back days, the Cardinals were able to prevail and edge their way into a postseason spot. 

Now that the season is over, general manager John Mozeliak has many important decisions to make the Cardinals a team that can go deep into the postseason next year. Before adding big bats, first Mozeliak needs to address the expiring contracts of World Series champions Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina. After others began questioning the time of his retirement, 39-year-old Adam Wainwright made it clear that he has plenty of baseball left in him. Putting up the most innings pitched by a Cardinal this season (65.2 IP) and two complete games, he was lights out this year. The other half of the duo is the always reliable Yadier Molina. Despite suffering from COVID-19, Molina continued to be a force to reckon with behind the plate, totalling the least amount of stolen bases against in the MLB. Wainwright and Molina’s work ethics and knowledge of the game have been extremely beneficial to the team as a whole, especially the developing players. It is unimaginable to not see them on the roster and finishing their careers in St. Louis as Cardinals. Until they get re-signed, fans will be on the edges of their seats hoping to see one of the best duos in baseball back for their sixteenth year together.  

Although no one wants to lose in the Wild Card Series, there are numerous takeaways from the 2020 season. The virus helped prove the depth of the Cardinals’ organization. With the young players stepping up and potential addition of players in the offseason, Cardinals fans can continue to stay optimistic for next season in hopes of bringing another World Series victory back to St. Louis.