It's pretty hard to watch the Cardinals postseason run and not build admiration for rookie shortstop Pete Kozma.
Here's a kid who didn't really offer much for fans and management to look forward to early on, he was just a Triple-A infielder who put up good numbers and deserved a call-up. We saw he was a moderate infielder, did his job and executed, but not really the greatest at the plate — the minor league numbers proved all that.
But here's something that minor league numbers don't prove, in fact there is no stat or amount of numerology to figure this one out, the fact that continuous play, openness to learning and determination can turn out to be three great tangibles in the great game of baseball.
Daniel Descalso just couldn't cut it at shortstop when Rafael Furcal got hurt. He wasn't terrible at it, but he just wasn't the right guy for the job. Matt Carpenter is more of a corner player, whether it be infield or outfield, and with Ryan Jackson just not displaying big league expectations and Skip Schumaker trained at second base outside of the outfield, Cards Manager Mike Matheny is left with Kozma.
Was there hope in the beginning?
Nah, not really. Just as long he got to the ball on defense and produced good at-bats, that's all the expectation really was for No. 38.
Yet something has happened over these last few weeks. Pete Kozma has gotten better.
Now he's a star contributor and the final piece to a consistent postseason lineup that has a lot of aggressive power to push to the team's twelfth world championship.
Kozma started out as average. Now he's a diving, bullet throwing, hard-hitting, base line-digging shortstop.
Just goes to show that baseball is a lot like life. You have to let nature take its course, too much nurturing can make a player tense-up and fall apart. Kozma wasn't getting better on the bench — no one does, which is why a couple days off and back at it to bust out of a slump is always the best route — he's proven and is continuously proving that if you just play ball, you'll learn and develop your skills quickly.
This guy isn't going to go anywhere, he's up in the big leagues to stay. Furcal is going to come back in some form, but Kozma isn't going to standing in the dark shadow of a veteran infielder, he will have some light on him. Keep in mind that Furcal's contract is up after the 2013 season and if he doesn't come back in the capacity he was in, shortstop just may be a platooned position.
It's too soon to talk about next season, but Kozma's play now just may interfere with Descalso's utility duties.