As a St. Louis Cardinals fan since the days of Ozzie Smith, there are few things in the time of my fandom that have hurt worse than the postseason collapse recently wrapped up by a game 7 shutout at the hands of the San Francisco Giants.
The Mark McGwire steroid debate added a tinge of sourness to things for a while, but this one will probably sting for much longer. After a phenomenal game to knock out the Atlanta Braves in single-elimination, the Redbirds got past the Washington Nationals in epic fashion with a tremendous comeback. Leading 3-1 seemed like a death sentence for the Giants, but that was not to be.
The one thing that cures the hurt is the fact that I was on the beautiful beach of Oranjestad, Aruba with my wife after our recent wedding. If not for the joy that comes with that, I would be bemoaning this far more than I am right now. The championship season of last year clams the hurt a little bit too, I guess.
Plenty has been said about the miserable hitting in the last 3 games of the series by the hometown Redbirds, but little has been said of how unlikely it was for them to get as far as they did this season. With a new manager in Mike Matheny, the St. Louis Cardinals had a rather up and down regular season and turned it on when October baseball came calling. Though falling short definitely gets the most play, you have to remember that the Cardinals were down to their last strike at one point against the Washington Nationals before sending them away for the offseason. Let’s not forget that they were a team that nearly reached 100 wins.
Oh, and the hero of St. Louis for the last 10+ years prior, Albert Pujols, was not on the roster this season. Lest we forget the fact that Carlos Beltran stepped in and had a huge year, the importance and magnitude of signing of him by Cardinals brass can’t be overstated. Matt Holliday did his part, Lance Lynn showed he can be a star, and Kyle Lohse continued to be a stalwart.
Fans, true fans, will look back on this season with much fondness. There were so many memories made and stories written that the postseason faltering should not be what is at the forefront. I’m not saying that our Cardinals shouldn’t learn from their mistakes, but I am saying that not enough credit is given to the Giants if one reflects back and thinks that this is all the Cardinals choking. A choke of some real measure, yes – but don’t forget that the Giants won the World Series not so long ago.
Looking ahead, I’m hopeful for many years to come knowing that you can never count this team out. The St. Louis Cardinals may not have a chance to go back-to-back, but they certainly are going to be a postseason fixture for a long time. I’d take that over an upstart any day of the week. When inches and a timely placed hit or strikeout often determines a season, I will look back on this season and remember the good times.