Everyone’s a little on edge. Professional athletes (even the seasoned ones) get jitters. Fans are barely holding onto their sanity. Winners, losers, adrenaline, infield fly primers…. all part of the drama. And from what I can tell, there are two ways to dwell in this unique era (not “error”, mind you… that’s something entirely different despite what the TBS broadcast sounds like during a Cards/Nats game.)
This 2012 Cardinals Postseason Era rallies Cardinal Nation under a set of unique circumstances that, while touched on here, run far deeper if you bleed Cardinal red:
#1 The Cardinals are the reigning 2011 World Series Champions (hard-fought, comeback Cardinals defying all odds – remember?? Of course you do.)
#2 The Cardinals are the first postseason team in history to have won entry as a 2nd wildcard team. (Of course they did.)
#3 The first-ever Wildcard playoff game was a doozy, temporarily played under a big ol’ P (for protest) and the Cardinals won (of course they did.)
And lest we forget some of the other less-than-lovely 2012 defining sidenotes: Tony La Russa and Albert La Pujols have left the building. You may have heard it mentioned that new manager Mike Matheny has zero previous managerial experience. Lance Berkman, the 2011 National League Comeback Player of the Year, spent much of 2012 injured and most likely has already taken his last career at bat, with rumors of retirement sounding increasingly likely. Defensively, at shortstop we’ve lost Rafael Furcal (strained elbow ligament) in exchange for Pete Kozma. (love him or hate him, he’s made it interesting already.) The Cards squeaked into the postseason with only 88 regular season wins, again rallying juusssst enough to beat the clock as the door slammed shut on the 2012 regular season.
So, with a lead-in like this, why would anyone expect the Cardinals to win in the postseason? I would. And let me tell you why.
#1 These are the St. Louis Cardinals.
Okay then, back to the reason that got me writing this morning-
From the sounds and smells of the internets yesterday, there are two predominant camps in Cardinal Nation and things started to get ugly (a few notches below bottle-throwing, temper tantrum, Atlanta Wildcard crowd-type ugly, but still…) when their rights to free speech bumped up against the others’ rights to look on the Brightside.
(Quick note for those of you under the rocks: Despite an other-worldly performance by Adam Wainwright in which he struck out TEN batters in under 6 innings, the Cardinals lost Game 1 of the NLDS to the Nationals even though their rockstar pitcher, Gio Gonzalez, walked – or hit – so many redbirds that we could potentially have won the game by a landslide while Gio still had a no-hitter. Plus there were pesky SHADOWS on the field, and our boys couldn’t get a hit to save Torty. In all truthfulness, Allen Craig summed it up best saying “We just didn’t get it done.”)
The flood of postgame accusations and criticisms of Matheny’s 8th inning pitching choices spread like wildfire. Yes, Cardinal Nation was bitterly disappointed in the loss, but why the landslide of gloom and doom and the crazy amount of time spent slinging blame at all the easy targets? Why would you want to spend your postseason angry? This is October baseball and it is a-maaaaaaazing. The fact that a game can turn on the smallest nuance (Kozma, for instance) means that even those pesky Cardinals have a shot.
Some of us (guilty as charged) are choosing to look at this postseason as a gift. Yes, our Cardinals snuck in the backdoor (again). Yes, we started out by losing game 1 of the NLDS (again). Yes, our offense is schizophrenic (again). But my postseason glass will be half full until we’re down to the last strike (….again). Because these are our comeback Cardinals and we’ve felt the magic before.
Sure, on the flipside, even the grumpiest, angriest and down right hostile-est (grammar be darned, it sounds better that way) of baseball fans have a right to their opinions and comments. And after a tough loss it can even be highly therapeutic (and informative) to read/hear impassioned pleas for why certain armchair management decisions would have saved the planet (hindsight and all.) Truth be told, I follow a whole slew of intelligent, but grumpy Cardinal fans on twitter because most of them throw out some valid points and after unwrapping their anger, I can, at times, discover an interesting nugget and learn a thing or two… and sometimes not, but still… ;)
So, if I had one postseason wish, it would be for our Cardinals to repeat. (Of course it would!) Okay, but if I had TWO postseason wishes, I might consider spending the other wish that the glass-half-empty-ers would be more tolerant of us glass-half-full-ers because IMHO the postseason is a heckuva lot more fun when you think when you KNOW there’s a chance.