Royals fans may not quite be giddy about their 71 wins, but they certainly are optimistic about the way their season ended, with their talented collection of youngsters rolling to 11 wins in their last 16 games.
And rightly they should be. They have had little to feel good about for years. And this young lineup certainly has potential.
But perspective is a funny thing.
You see, at the same time – August and September – that KC was celebrating the smallest of victories, St. Louis was muddling through what seemed like a disappointing season. Injuries and poor relief pitching had primarily undermined the perennial contenders, and at the end of August, the Cardinals trailed in both their division and in the Wild Card race by what seemed an insurmountable margin.
But miraculously, just when the season seemed lost, an Atlanta collapse suddenly became a possibility. Then it became a reality. And just like that, the Cardinals slipped into the playoffs, deservedly or not.
Now even though I lived in Missouri for years, surrounded by those annoying St. Louis fans, I never developed a full-blown case of Cardinal envy. In fact, I can honestly say I rarely paid enough attention to the National League even to develop a healthy appreciation for the Cardinals’ consistent success.
But this season provides a valuable lesson on the importance of perspective.
I hate to admit it, but this season proves more than just about any other that the Cardinals are where the Royals want to be.
Not because the Cardinals might win the World Series, even though they might.
No, the Cardinals are where the Royals want to be because even though they struggled and fumbled and limped their way through what was, for them, a sub-par season, they ended up in the playoffs anyway. The Royals meanwhile fielded an exciting collection of “prospects” (for the umpteenth time) and still ended up so far out of contention that we stopped paying attention to the standings mid-summer.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the difference. The Royals perennially field a few decent hitters, some horrible pitchers and some promising prospects. The Cardinals, meanwhile, have a few great hitters, and some excellent pitchers. Then they pull together a collection of solid role players that, in the hands of Hall-of-Fame caliber management, just win because that’s what you do when you are the St. Louis Cardinals.
It’s the getting there that seems to be the hard part.
Good luck in the playoffs, Redbirds. Win or lose, you are always winners. We in KC can only hope that someday we can have sub-par seasons like the one you’re having.