It might be hard to believe after the dumpster fire that was 2023, but the St. Louis Cardinals used to be the class of the National League. Playoffs weren't a nice surprise every few years; they were an expected appendix to a Cardinals season.
The winners of 11 World Series titles, the Cardinals are among the most successful franchises in sports, and since 1996, when Tony La Russa took the reins as manager, the Cardinals have been on a nearly unprecedented run, making the postseason 17 times.
The Cardinals have had their fair share of heartbreak in the playoffs, perhaps none more than the 1985 World Series against the cross-state Kansas City Royals when first base umpire Don Denkinger called Royals batter Jorge Orta safe on a ground ball that had clearly beaten him to the bag. The 1968 World Series was another heartbreaker, as Tigers pitcher Mickey Lolich twirled three complete games en route to a seven-game Detroit victory.
Despite those bumps in the road, the Cardinals remained an enviable franchise for years. It can be argued that in today's game, the Cardinals are woefully behind the times in terms of player development and are no longer a marquee destination for free agents. The team has indeed fallen on hard times as of late, finishing 71-91 in 2023.
The fact that there are now teenagers who do not remember a Cardinals championship is sobering (and a reminder of how lucky we were as fans for so many years), but postseason heroics transcend time, whether you were alive to see and appreciate them or not.