Last year, when the Cardinals had the late season swoon and attempted to fritter away a respectable chance at making the playoffs, I disengaged from the frustration. The team was playing like garbage and their chances at making the playoffs was absurdly low -- as far as I was concerned the season was over for all practical purposes. That same team then went to convert miniscule odds of making the playoffs into a spectacular postseason run that culminated in winning the World Series. That didn't mean I had to like the way they went about it though.
As it becomes a more distant memory, it's easy to let the awesomeness of 2004 and 2005 fade into nostalgia without appreciating just how awesome it is to win 100+ games in a season. It's a completely unrealistic expectation to have as a fan but it is an amazing bit of fun when it happens. Those teams always feel like they have great chemistry -- winning does that, you know -- and the sense of inevitability that surrounds them is interesting. There is no sense of that in 2012.
It's not just that last night was another blown save. It's the way this club goes about losing. The visceral response of to a blown save is always outsized relative to its objective importance. It is, after all, just one game.
That doesn't make me want to punch a wall any less after it happens. And the way 2012 feels is awfully reminiscent of 2011 in the disengagement that approaches. This club is so very work-a-day at its core and while I detest anything resembling blue collar metaphors in a profession whose base salary is hundreds of thousands of dollars, the 2012 club seems without personification. It lacks the larger than life player to rise above the ranks and inspire.
That could be the departure of the team's superstar, Albert Pujols, in the offseason. It could be the injuries to key big name players like Chris Carpenter, Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran or Lance Berkman preventing them from really standing out on a team. If teams like the 2004-2005 squad, or World Series winners like 2011, feel larger than life, 2012 feels awfully life-sized.
One of the nice things about this is, of course, that it doesn't matter one damn iota. As a fan, I can bemoan my perception of the team's collective personality. I can bemoan the way they win or lose games as if there were a "right" way to do either. While I armchair quarterback and re-evaluate good and bad decisions, good and bad pitches, good and bad hair styles of the various players, they keep on playing.
This isn't a sabermetric learning. This isn't some profound life lesson. It's just the way things are. Sometimes, it all feels like a drag. Then you wake up and do it all over again.
Or you get hit by a bus. Whichever.
Congrats to the Springfield Cardinals who won the AA championship last night 2-1 over the Frisco Rough Riders. Unlikely heros, Jermaine Curtis and Mike O'Neill scored the only two runs driven in by Greg Garcia's 2-for-4 night. O'Neill was 1-for-2 with a pair of walks, as is typical for his box line.
Scott Gorgon was tremendous for the Cardinals pitching 6 shutout innings. He struck out 7 and allowed 4 hits while walking 2. Gorgon missed all of 2011 and most of 2010 due to arm injury so this was (probably) especially meaningful for him.
After Gorgon, the S-Cards turned to their three most reliable bullpen arms in 2012 draftee Michael Wacha, starter-turned-reliever Eric Fornataro and closer Keith Butler. Wacha allowed a hit but struck out the side in the 7th. Eric Fornataro allowed a solo home run in the 8th along with 2 other hits before escaping the inning. Keith Butler shut the door with a 1 hit 9th.
Fun Fact: Oscar Taveras has won a championship for three consecutive seasons now.
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Excuse the brevity this morning. I'm off to run in the Cardinals Care 6K charity race. Thank you all again very much for your generous donations. (For me personally, thank you to the reader who donated an absurdly generous $500 in my name. That was unexpected and exceptionally kind.) Our team was the top fundraiser and remember, we're doing for the children.