Well, it's nice seeing the offense and the defense play decent baseball at the same time for once, even if it is against the pirates. Even Rolen had something to build off of last night--a 2/3 performance with an RBI.
But that doesn't matter, at least for a little bit. This team requires a different type of fandom than we've been used to during most of the Cardinals' run during the post-McGwire years. It requires a different sort of "rooting for the home team."
I was born in 1980. This means that I was seven for the Cardinals-Twins series. This also means that my earliest memories of the St. Louis Cardinals consist of a dimly remembered golden age followed by years of struggling. The thing to sustain my interest through those dark ages was more familiarity than it was an actual expectation of victory. It was seeing Bernard Gilkey, Ray Lankford, and Ozzie every day, and wanting them to succeed, even if the team wasn't quiiite built for them to contend with the big boys.
Baseball is truly built around being less fickle than the other major sports. There are over a hundred players on a NFL roster-you only stand out if you are a superstar, and if you are not, then then fans are begging to get you outta there for someone better. Hockey can be so dominated by goalies that a lot of the process of seeing the offensive players try to succeed is tucked away behind the goalie's struggles (I once had a hockey fan friend of mine ask me how many no hitters an excellent pitcher could expect to throw in a year). Both face the problem that the players face, and thus a lot of the emotion and struggles facing them, is hidden underneath a helmet. The NBA is so beset with troubles and a regular season that is almost completely irrelevant that I won't even bother to try to list them here. All three are beset with a tendency to try to make the game a "big event" or a "spectacular struggle" filled with testosterone and obnoxious theme music.
Baseball isn't like that. Baseball is a lazy party at your best friends house after work. You've done it quite a bit, but you realize that it's a lot more fun than the enormous bash at the frat house, or that 'exclusive' party downtown where you are going to be paying $10 for a martini that you don't even like that much.
Baseball is about familiarity with the roster--a recognition of a players' batting stance, route to the ball, pitching mechanics, etc. It's about cheering for the guys and enjoying the game as much as it's about wanting your team to win at all costs. I think this might be the origin of why the steroids scandal means so much more to baseball than it does to the NFL, where, after all, it is a lot more obvious how steroids could help you out. The culture of NFL fandom doesn't focus as much on tradition and continuity as MLB fandom does.
So, my suggestion for the rest of this season, at least until the team actually gets back into contention--enjoy the individual stories--Scott's struggles to get back to respectability, Reyes' and wagonmaker's efforts to become the solid #2 starters we know that they can be. And we can see what happens as Albert struggles to be the leader of a middle-of-the-pack team, rather than the MVP on one of the best teams in the league. These stories, for me, will probably have a lot more to do with what I remember about the team 30 years from now than the won-loss records of the individual teams, even from the La Russa years.
And if they find a way to win, it makes it all that much more exciting, in the end.