posted on October 29, 2012 09:00
It’s been almost a week since the St. Louis Cardinals were booted from the 2012 postseason by the San Francisco Giants. But it doesn’t seem any easier to deal with.
As I sit here writing this, I’m listening to the radio broadcast of Game 4 of the World Series and the Detroit Tigers have finally secured a lead for the first time in the series. But it’s a one run lead, and there’s a lot of game left—and a long road to hoe before the Tigers can even begin to think they’re back in this thing. The announcers just stated only a couple of teams have come back to force Game 5 after falling behind three games to none in the World Series, and none have forced Game 6. So this will either be a rather ho-hum World Series whose games seemed like a mere formality while the Giants marched on to the championship, or the greatest comeback in the history of sports if the Tigers get on a roll.
But this last hour or so of radio play-by-play is honestly the most attention I’ve paid to this series to this point. And that’s almost unheard of for me. I always watched at least a couple games of the World Series in years past, even when the Cardinals didn’t even make the playoffs. So far this year, however, I haven’t seen a single out or even a replay on TV. Maybe if the Tigers do put together a miracle run and push this thing to the limit, I’ll watch Game 7. Otherwise…meh.
I know what you’re thinking. “What a baby. Quit your pouting.” I thought that’s what it was, too, at first. But now I’m not so sure. Yes, the Cards completely shit the bed in Games 5 through 7 of the NLCS this year. Call it a choke, call it a collapse, call it whatever you want; it was a devastating end to what was a pretty surprising 2012 season. Maybe not so surprising when you looked at the team on paper last offseason and set an expectation based on that. But even if you saw Chris Carpenter go down in Spring Training and thought, “Well, they did it without Wainwright last year, so why not?” there had to be a little voice somewhere inside you saying, “Come on…be serious.” The revolving door that was the Cards’ disabled never quite knocked them out, but repeatedly knocked them down. Guys like Matt Carpenter and Joe Kelly and Pete Kozma and Trevor Rosenthal were getting big-time opportunities out of necessity as much as their talent. And, sure…you know if they can just get into the playoffs—which was even a little easier this year, with the second Wild Card—anything could happen. Well, they did get in, and then things started happening. It wasn’t just that they beat the Atlanta Braves; it’s how they beat them. It wasn’t just that they beat the Washington Nationals; it’s how they beat them. Could this really be happening again? If it’s true that anything is possible, then certainly the Cardinals being a team of dramatic, unbelievable destiny could happen a second year in a row, right?
Apparently not. Going up three games to one in the NLCS made it seem like the Cardinals had found some elevated status. They were in control of the series, and wrapping it up was all but assured. And then the real team of destiny stepped up. I say that because Buster Posey has just hit a home run to give the Giants the lead. Since the Cards beat them in Game 4 of the NLCS, the Giants have steamrolled two playoff teams—one the champion of the American League—in six straight games, and are about to tie a nice bow on their 2012 Championship run. That could have been the Cardinals. It could have been just like last year; a season full of the improbable, the impossible, and eventually the extraordinary. They certainly had the opportunity. But they blew it.
And no matter if this World Series is over when I wake up Monday morning or prolonged another day, my outlook will likely remain unchanged. As a baseball fan, I know “you can’t win ‘em all.” But as a Cardinals fan, I can’t believe they lost. I’m shocked. That’s not what they’re supposed to do; not in the postseason. It’s funny how a year for the ages can change your perspective. Maybe this is what we needed, who knows. The Cards saved their biggest surprise of all for the second half of the NLCS. “Surprise! There is no magic. There is no destiny. You play the game, and you win or lose.”
Maybe I’m not pissed because the Cardinals failed to win the World Series this year. Maybe I’m really pissed because I let myself think there was no way they’d fail to win the World Series this year. There’s being an eternal optimist, and then there’s being completely delusional. You can walk the line between the two, but crossing it is never a good idea.
Chris Reed is a freelance writer who also appears on I-70 Baseball Saturdays and Bird Brained whenever he feels like it. Follow him on Twitter @birdbrained.