If I had to describe the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals using only one word, that word would have to be destiny. It’s funny considering I’m not entirely sure what destiny is or whether I believe in it, but it’s hard to argue with the notion that this team winning the World Series this year was just meant to be.
Destiny has always been a shady concept for me, so for this reason, I went searching for an exact definition.
The predetermined, usually inevitable or irresistible, course of events (usually involving fortune).
It’s tough to say that the outcome of the Cardinals’ season was predetermined unless you take your belief of destiny to the extreme. I tend to think that this team’s perseverance and never-give-up attitude was what got it past every challenge throw its way. There’s no way that resilience and character could ever be predetermined or measured if you ask me. Also, this definition mentions fortune. If anything, the Cards suffered heavy misfortune over the course of the year.
However, there are more than a few things that happened over the last eight months that only this team would have been able to overcome.
It all started back in February when Adam Wainwright was lost for the season after having Tommy John Surgery in spring training. The loss of a 20-game winner and one of the very best starting pitchers in baseball was a major blow to this club before the season had even started.
Then, Albert Pujols went into the only “slump” of his 11-year career. Pujols hit under .300 with just 9 home runs and 31 RBIs in the first two months of the season. Just when Albert was starting to heat up, he missed 14 games with a fractured wrist. Here’s what Tony La Russa had to say at the time of the injury:
I’m going to go find a place to cry.
Subsequent injuries to David Freese, Allen Craig, Nick Punto, Kyle McClellan, Matt Holliday, Lance Lynn, and Eduardo Sanchez were all difficult challenges for St. Louis to overcome. Consistency is key in the game of baseball, and the Cards were shuffling guys in and out of the lineup on a regular basis.
Obviously, we can’t forget about the whole closer situation. I know Jason Motte has washed away many sour memories, but believe it or not Ryan Franklin was actually our closer in the beginning of the season. Franklin blew four saves while collecting just one in 21 games for the Redbirds this season. He was awful, and his replacements weren’t especially great until Motte came along.
The Cardinals’ mid-summer slump left them in terrible position for the stretch run. At one point they even trailed the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL Central, and on August 31st, they were 10.5 games out of first place. A few deadline moves by John Mozeliak to get rid of Colby Rasmus and pick up Rafael Furcal, Octavio Dotel, Marc Rzepczynski, and Edwin Jackson provided the spark that this team needed to overcome the deficit and reach the postseason on the final day of the regular season. It took a collapse by the Braves and a lot of winning by St. Louis for the Cards to lock up that Wild Card spot, and both things happened.
Finally, everything seemed to fall into place in the postseason. The Cards got some incredible starts from ace Chris Carpenter, shining defense by Rafael Furcal and Yadier Molina, a historic three-homer performance by Albert Pujols, two MVP series’ from rising star David Freese, some brilliant managing by Tony La Russa, and some workhorse innings from the bullpen. Not to mention, a Wednesday rainout allowed Chris Carpenter to pitch for a third time in the World Series.
Destiny or not, 2011 was one hell of a season for the St. Louis Cardinals.