The Commish Online www.thecommishonline.com
Cards Earn the Improbable
October 31, 2011
The best team in baseball did not win the World Series this year. In fact, the team that won, when looking at the season as a whole, at best can be described as one of the better teams. Too far behind in August, too far behind in September, too lacking in talent to compete with Philadelphia in the NLDS, and too far behind in Game 6 of the World Series, the St. Louis Cardinals overcame the odds time and again and the end result is a deserved 2011 World Series Championship that was earned on the field. As the cliche goes, that's why they play the games. This year, talent was beaten by attitude, hard work, a little luck, and maybe a hint of destiny.
Thanks to a St. Louis victory in Game 7, the epic Game 6 will now become one of great remembrance. It was a month earlier, however, when the Cardinals truly had their collective backs against the wall. Reshaping the bullpen and going with a couple younger players in the lineup (Jay, Craig, etc.) helped St. Louis get back into contention, but they still needed some intervention from the likes of Philadelphia (by sweeping the Braves to end the season) just to get into the playoffs. The Redbirds promptly thanked the Phillies by ousting them in the NLDS in five games. The rest is cinematic history, although much of the drama was ugly enough with poor pitching and errors to require a professional editor. Nevertheless, the Cardinals won the only way they could. It wasn't always pretty, it wasn't always efficient, but it was successful in the end.
Texas should have been the comfortable team heading into the Series, but never did it look like the Rangers had just been in the same situation the year before. Players looked tight, pitchers struggled with control, and the game just wasn't coming as effortlessly as it had all season long. The sloppiness helped even the playing field a bit, and that's when St. Louis took advantage.
Still, credit must be given to the Cardinals, and not just to Tony LaRussa as so many like to do when a team wins with less than the best. Lance Berkman proved himself to the world and showed that last year's injury plagued season was an anomaly. The "Big Puma" is one of the better hitters in baseball and never seems to be overmatched regardless of the situation. Pujols single handedly won a World Series game with his record setting bat, and the other stars who raised their games when it mattered most deserve mention, such as local "kid" David Freese, who didn't seem to feel the same tension as the thousands in the stands did, and Allen Craig, another hitter who gave a professional at bat every time up. There were others (Molina always seemed to be in the right place at the right time), but with Texas' pitchers already struggling, the biggest asset St. Louis had going for it was that "big four" never gave up an at bat. It showed a tenacity that spread throughout the team and ultimately won a World Series.
Lastly, Chris Carpenter should be commended for his outing in Game 7. Intended as a compliment, Carpenter had absolutely nothing going him, but managed to keep Texas in check. His stuff was garbage, his control was iffy, and he certainly wasn't bringing back any memories of John Smoltz or Jack Morris from 1991. BUT, after a rocky first inning, Carpenter managed to buckle down and figure out a way to use the little that he had and make it work into the 7th inning with his team leading. The rest, as they say, is history.