It’s the singularly most important thing to a man.

Get the job done. Finish. End it now.

You close and you get coffee and adulation, you don’t and you get what you deserve - nothing. You fade away and descend into obscurity. You get heaped on the massive pile of manhood that also couldn’t close. We won’t remember you. We won’t celebrate you. We’ll forget everything about you.

You’re the new ‘Situation’.

The St. Louis Cardinals have completed 3 series in 2010 and have won all three. They have also lost all 3 ‘get-away’ games before moving to the next opponent. Including a loss yesterday to the Houston Astros who had not previously won since 2009.

Pundits and fans alike seem to be having a similar reaction to this, now, trend: “I’ll take 2 out of 3 every series”. Valid point, when taken literally or mathematically. Complete horseshit when you dig deeper.

Yes. Winning 2 out of every 3 games will put the season win total somewhere between 106 and 107 wins. Making this incarnation of the Cardinals a sure bet to enter the playoffs and one of the winningest teams in Cardinals teams to ever compete. I’m not sure that this team being good to great is even mildly surprising to the nominal baseball fan. Everyone expected this team to be really good or great with opinion not varied.

But what we didn’t know about this team is how it could close. What it did when you had a chance to rip out your opponents heart and show it to them. How they handled being on the precipice of domination with only that last little bit to go.

So far? They’ve failed.

Playoff baseball is a miniature season all rolled up into 5 or 7 games. Every at bat would equal 4 weeks worth in the regular season. It’s pressure personified and the one thing that we know about the Cardinals main competition, the Philadelphia Phillies, is that they have a proclivity to play their best baseball when the chips are shoved to the middle of the table. So more than wins in 2010, I think we all should be looking for what this team does when it has the chance to finish.

And as a team, they’re zero for three.

That’s not to say they won’t develop this mentality somewhere along the line. And it’s also not to say they will. It’s simply the truth. And the truth is telling us that for whatever reason the Cardinals are coming up short when they should be going for the kill. It’s also the reason that right now, 9 games into the season, we can’t have a ton of faith in this particular unit’s ability to get to the World Series and win it in 2010.

So, yes- let’s take 2 out of every 3 games and have the Cardinals end the season historically good. But let’s also realize that the killer instinct that separates the champions from the chumps in October is formed now… not in the fall.

It’s a long season. Trends beget trends.

Can the Cardinals learn how to close?

Aaron Hooks writes for CardsDiaspora.com and BleacherReport.com with Friday appearances on InsideSTL. You can follow him on Twitter.

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