Keeping It All In Check

The day has finally arrived. Pitchers and Catchers are required to report to Spring Training Saturday with the first official workouts of the preseason scheduled for Sunday. Anticipation is high, and so are expectations. The St. Louis Cardinals’ 2012 season and the defense of their World Series Championship begin now. But don’t forget some of the lessons that 2011 team taught us.

Just a few days into the 2011 Spring Training campaign, the Cards lost Adam Wainwright for the season. Wainwright was the team’s de facto ace. He looked like a lock for better than 200 IP, better than 200 K, and another sub-3.00 ERA but it vanished just like that. With him, the Cardinals were a team that looked to be in the mix atop a crowded NL Central. Without him, well…how does a team replace that kind of production and become a winner?

By the end of October 2011, it was a distant memory.

Just a few games into the 2011 regular season, Ryan Franklin looked to be finished. The Cards’ closer looked like anything but; he was as ineffective as ineffective could be. It wasn’t long—though many would probably argue it was still too long—before he was benched, and then sent packing before the season had reached the All Star Break. So not only had the Cards ventured into the season without their ace, but they then were going through a revolving door in the ninth inning too.

But by the end of October 2011, that also seemed like eons ago.

Just before the trade deadline, GM John Mozeliak moved the enigmatic Colby Rasmus, two lefty relievers in Brian Tallet and Trever Miller, and the perennially underperforming PJ Walters to the Toronto Blue Jays for Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel, Mark Rzepczynski, and Corey Patterson. Over the next couple of weeks, Mozeliak would also sign journeyman lefty Arthur Rhodes and trade minor leaguer Alex Castellanos to the LA Dodgers for Rafael Furcal. In all, the Cards turned over six players on their roster and, at the time, only one (Rzepczynski) was under team control beyond the end of the season. Talk of “win-now mode” ran in parallel with suggestions of not getting enough for Rasmus and betting on aging, short-term talent.

Does anyone want do-overs on any of those moves now?

On August 25, 2011 the Cardinals were 10.5 games out of the playoffs. On October 28, 2011 they became World Series Champions.

The lessons here are plenty. Injuries happen, but they are not the end of the world. Don’t give up on the team because of one loss, whether on the field or off it. Also, don’t give up on a team until they are truly, completely, 100% eliminated. Trust that the people getting paid to make big, difficult decisions about the team actually know what they are doing. Sometimes players work out, sometimes they don’t…but they all deserve a chance to make it happen. Baseball has no clock—so until they make their 27th out, any team has a chance…even down to their last strike (twice). Unless your house is on fire or a family member is dying, never ever EVER leave (or turn off) the game early. Because it ain’t over until it’s over, and anything is possible, and as long as they mathematically have a chance, the St. Louis Cardinals can repeat as World Champions in 2012. After what we all witnessed last year, no argument to the contrary holds water.

It begins now.

Chris Reed also writes for InsideSTL Mondays and Bird Brained whenever he feels like it. Follow him on Twitter at @birdbrained.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: