Know Your Enemy: St. Louis Cardinals

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Spring training is here, so it's time to start learning about the Cubs' opponents for 2014.

The St. Louis Cardinals are really annoying.

No, not their fans -- I enjoy talking baseball with Cardinals fans.

It's the team. They just keep winning. Hall of Fame manager retires? Hire a guy with zero managerial experience and keep winning. Franchise icon leaves as a free agent? Replace him with guys from the farm system and keep winning. Starting shortstop gets hurt? Replace him with a guy who can't hit and... keep winning.

It's the kind of thing we'd like to see the Cubs become. That might be a few years away, but the Cardinals... just... keep... winning. It's annoying!

St. Louis had the best record in the National League last year and, despite making more changes due to free-agent departures, don't seem to be missing very much. Rafael Furcal, who missed all of last year with injuries and was replaced by Pete Kozma, is now gone. Jhonny Peralta was signed as a free agent to replace him. Peralta, of course, was suspended last year as part of the Biogenesis scandal, but he's already been accepted by his new teammates and manager Mike Matheny:

He does not plan to address his new team in whole to seek forgiveness (which Matheny says Peralta already has), but will answer questions if asked. He wants to seize the opportunity for a new first impression.

Let everyone see who he is. Then they let them judge accordingly.

"I am trying to let them know what kind of person I am and everything," Peralta said. "A lot of guys don't know me, but I'm going to try to be family to everybody. I'm going to try to work hard here. ... I came here early so that I could talk to everybody and let them know what kind of person I am, too."

The other major changes for St. Louis come at third base and center field, which was the subject of an offseason trade. David Freese was sent to the Angels for Peter Bourjos, who is expected to start in center field. Bourjos has had his last two years ruined by injury, and Jon Jay stands ready as an all-purpose outfield backup. Matt Carpenter, who played a lot of second base in 2013, will move to third, with rookie Kolten Wong taking over at second. Mark Ellis was signed to back up Wong.

The Cardinals' rotation returns intact, headed by Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha, who... well, have you had enough of what the Cardinals' system has produced yet? If not, their closer, Trevor Rosenthal, who occasionally hits 100 on the radar gun, is also a product of St. Louis' productive minor-league system.

It's enough to make you sick. Or want to emulate them. That's where we hope the Cubs will be in a few years, producing minor leaguers who become good major leaguers and are perennially in the postseason (the Cardinals haven't had a losing record since 1999 and have been in the playoffs 10 of the 14 seasons since).

The Cubs' first look at the Cardinals will be April 11-12-13 in St. Louis, and the Cards' first trip to Wrigley is a weekend series May 2-3-4. The May 4 game is ESPN's Sunday night selection, most probably the only Wrigley Sunday night game for the season.

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