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St. Louis Cardinals:

With five gold glove players returning (Rolen, Renteria, Vina, Matheny and Edmonds), the Cardinals should remain the strongest defensive team in the National League. That same group, along with MVP runner-up Albert Pujols, J.D. Drew and Tino Martinez make up arguably the most potent offensive attack in the NL. This line-up, which last year brought the Redbirds to the NL Championship Series, is poised to go all the way this year.

What has changed? The Cardinals will have All Star Rolen for a full season and he will be without all of the negative media hype he faced last year in Philadelphia. Albert Pujols should only get better in just his third major league season. Fernando Vina, the Cardinals scrappy leadoff hitter, had a sub-par season last year and is poised to return to his above .300 batting average of 2001. J.D. Drew should have his first injury free season and Tino Martinez is past his first-year Cardinals slump after trying to fill the mammoth shoes of legend Mark McGwire.

The pitching? It should be stronger than ever. Matt Morris is ready to return to his 22-win season form of 2001 and will be joined by Woody Williams and Bret Tomko, picked-up in a trade with San Diego. Jason Isringhausen will be in the bullpen to close the door. This combination of great pitching, solid defense and an unstoppable offense should lead the Cardinals to their first World Series in over 20 years.

March 31, 2003
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