The San Diego Padres announced on April 12th, the former St. Louis Cardinal and All Star Allen Craig would be joining their baseball operations office, thus ending a career that has Cardinal fans asking ‘What happened?'
Allen Craig was an impactful player for the Cardinals who went from hitting over .300 three years in a row to being unable to hit much over .150 after he was traded in 2014. The Cal-Berkeley Alum also had over 90 RBI in each 2012 and 2013, along with a .917 OPS in 2011. But after he was traded, only played in 65 major league games.
The trade in 2014 that sent Allen Craig and Joe Kelly to the Boston Red Sox for pitchers John Lackey and Corey Littrell, would not have even been contemplated in 2013 after Craig hit .315 with 13 HR and 97 RBI. Additionally, the Cardinals had just signed the 6-2, 215lb California native in March 2013, to a 5 year/$31 million deal that bought out his future arbitration eligible years and first year of free-agency. Since the deal included a team option for 2018, the Cardinals didn't have a trade in mind for the foreseeable future.
So what motivated the St. Louis Cardinals to trade Allen Craig after slumping in 2014? Likely, it was the injury he suffered in September, 2013. Consequently, it's this injury that answers the question of “What happened to Allen Craig?”
Allen Craig and September 2013
By September of 2013, the extension the Cardinals signed Craig to was beginning to look like a good deal for the club. After leading all players in baseball with a .400 with runners in scoring position in 2012, Craig was doing it again in 2013 with a even better .452. He was also third in the NL with 97 RBI and eighth in batting average(.315).
With a month to go in the regular season, the 2013 All Star Craig was looking like the next NL MVP. Then on September 4th, the injury occurred that likely changed his future. Craig suffered on a infield hit against the Reds, a Lisfranc Injury that ended his regular season.
Also known as a Lisfranc fracture, is an injury of the foot in which one or more of the metatarsal bones in the foot are displaced from the tarsus. It's basically an fracture or torn ligament of the midfoot area where the arch is located. Treatment can be rest and rehab, or could be surgery. If the injury is severe enough in an athlete, it could permanently prevent the athlete from a complete recovery with or without surgery.
With rest, Craig was able to play in the 2013 World Series vs the Red Sox. However, because of his injury he was used primarily as a DH and pinch hitter during the series. The right handed bat of Craig was used in all six games and hit .375 in 16 plate appearances. His most notable achievement in the series, was in Game 3, when Craig was tripped by Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks as he tried to score. Umpire Jim Joyce awarded Craig home due to being tripped, and the Cardinals won the game 5-4 in a walk-off victory, the first of that type in World Series history.
The 2014 Trade
So why trade the proven Allen Craig?
To start with, Allen Craig got off to a slow start in 2014, just hitting .220 in April, and was only hitting .237 by July 31st. Also, the Cardinals were in the middle of a race and needed help in the rotation. In Lackey, the Cardinals got an affordable top of the rotation pitcher who could help them in their playoff run. Additionally, Lackey would be playing for minimum salary in 2015, due to his unusual contract with the Red Sox.
I also believe, the Cardinals were concerned about Craig's injury in 2013 and likely saw his slump in 2014 as a bigger problem then they would admit. In other words, I believe the Cardinals felt, by July, Craig would not fully recover from his injury in September of 2013.
The trade ended up being a win for the Cardinals in getting John Lackey for minimum salary in 2015 and unloading Craig's contract. However, losing Joe Kelly was a cost to the Cardinals, as he turned out to be ultimately a good bullpen piece for the Red Sox.
Allen Craig's career continued to slide after the trade to the Red Sox. He spent the next two years going between the Red Sox and their minor league AAA affiliate in Pawtucket. In his two years with the Red Sox he hit a slash line of .139/.236/.197 with two home runs and five RBI in 65 games.
After 2015, Craig never saw the major league again, and in June, 2017 he was released by the Red Sox. He signed a minor league contract with the San Diego Padres in January, 2018, and was released by the Padres on March 19, 2019.
Allen Craig's major league career made a soft landing last week when he was hired by the Padres front office. Nevertheless, Cardinal fans should remember his contributions as a Cardinal from 2011 to 2013.
In the 2011 World Series, because of the game six performance of David Freeze,we forget other key performances that were important in securing the 11th World Championship. Allen Craig's three home runs, five RBI, along with making the last catch for the final out in game seven, should not be forgotten.
So to conclude. Thank you, Allan Craig, for the memories and good luck in your post major league career.
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