Allen Craig Tries to Follow in Tradition of Some Legendary Cardinals
By: Warren Mayes
Following Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman, Allen Craig knows he has big shoes to fill as the St. Louis Cardinals’ starting first baseman.
With Pujols leaving for the Angels and Lance Berkman now in Texas, Craig, 28, knows he has to produce but he doesn’t feel any pressure.
“I like the challenge of it,” said Craig. “I spent some time in the big league camp with Albert and worked with him at first base. That was an awesome experience for me and I learned a lot. I got to play with him in the big league for a couple of years. It is a cool thing. I like the challenge I have.”
Now, Craig’s the man at first and he’s excited about it.
“It’s pretty cool that I’m going to have an opportunity to start and know I’m going to be in there every day,” Craig said. “But with that said, I don’t take that for granted. I’m still going to be working hard to prove to everyone what I can do. That never changes.”
The Cardinals believe they have their man. St. Louis reached an agreement with Craig on a five-year contract through the 2017 season with a club option for 2018.
“We are pleased to have reached an agreement with Allen on a new multiyear deal,” said Cardinals Senior Vice President/General Manager John Mozeliak. “He has been a productive middle-of-the-lineup hitter throughout his professional career and we look forward to Allen’s continued contributions.”
After returning May 1 from knee surgery, Craig battered pitchers last season, building on his breakthrough year of 2011. He was able to collect 22 home runs and 92 RBI with a .522 slugging percentage in 119 games.
Craig, who has been a key contributor to the middle of the Cardinals lineup, batted .307 last season, good for sixth place in the National League.
He led all Major Leaguers with a .400 batting mark with runners in scoring position in 2012 and over the past two seasons, his .374 (68-for-182) batting average with runners in scoring position ranks second only to Joey Votto (.379) of the Reds among all Major League players.
Craig enjoyed a stellar postseason during the Cardinals 2011 World Championship run, hitting four home runs, including three during the World Series. His three game-winning RBI during the 2011 Series tied an MLB record held by Kiki Cuyler (1925) and Hank Greenberg (1945).
He played first base, right field and left field, batting .307 with 35 doubles, 22 home runs and 92 RBIs in 119 games and 469 at-bats. Left-handed pitchers were at Craig’s mercy as he pounded them at a .354 clip with eight homers in 127 at-bats.
Selected by the Cardinals in the eighth round of the June 2006 draft out of the University of California-Berkeley, Craig has compiled a .300 batting mark with 37 homers and 150 RBI in 238 games since making his big league debut in 2010.
Just like last season, Craig could still see time in the outfield. Carlos Beltran figures to receive time off, which would give Matt Carpenter and newcomer Ty Wigginton the occasional start at first.
Craig is fine with bouncing around a bit.
“I don’t really care. I’ve learned to stay flexible,” he said. “I like playing first base; I like playing outfield. We’ve just got to see how the season plays out, who stays healthy. Things happen, so I could be moving around.
“I think Mike (Matheny) knows I’m comfortable at first and in the outfield, so whatever the team needs me to do, I’ll do.”
Craig isn’t one for setting individual goals. He wants the team to do well and he doesn’t expect a drop-off this year by the Cardinals.
“I don’t set too many goals. I just try to keep it simple and play the best I can one day at a time,” Craig said. “The No. 1 goal is just getting back to the World Series. If I play well, then that gives our team that much better a chance to get there. So I just focus on playing great every day.”