There will be a time to analyze exactly what happened. To discuss specifically the coming out party that featured David Freese and Allen Craig. To question just how much of a legacy Chris Carpenter has built for himself. To wonder who TortyCraig really is.
But right now, I have no better advice than just savor it. Go to the parade. Go to the post parade party. Buy some swag. Watch David Freese on The Tonight Show. Seriously, wait for the in depth parsing of the victory and exactly how they won. Just enjoy that they won.
Below the jump you'll find a plethora of writers thoughts, player quotes and links. I even went to Grantland for you guys. That trophy makes people do strange things.
With a thoroughly underwhelming 6-2 victory in Game 7 -- at least against the backdrop of 32 pressure-packed days of the purest baseball drama a fan could hope to see -- the 2011 Cardinals cemented their place in history. Team of destiny? That shortchanges the extraordinary resolve of La Russa's gang. The Cardinals will go down as one of the great comeback teams in championship history. They proved they were more than just the "hot" tournament team, as can happen in this three-round playoff system. They were ferocious in rising to multiple challenges.
They should have been dead, buried, forgotten weeks ago. They should have spent October in a golf cart or a fishing boat, miles from the seats of Busch Stadium. They had no business still playing baseball. But the cool thing was no one was more aware of that than them.
"We're supposed to be home, watching the World Series," said a jubilant man by the name of Albert Pujols, on a Friday evening he'll never forget. "And now we're world champions."
"I called Dunc (Friday) morning, and said, 'let's lay out the options','' La Russa said. "And he said, "it's Carp', and he hung up on me."
Carpenter convinced Duncan that he was up to the task physically, and would make a pitch selection adjustment after learning from a failed start on three days' rest in NLDS Game 2 against Philadelphia (four earned runs in three innings).
"And the last part of it is what he means to our club,'' La Russa said. "I think our guys feel better about him starting than anybody else.''
"I peeked in the dugout and saw guys getting a foot up on the railing, getting excited,'' David Murphy said of Game 6. "I took a step back when I thought the next pitch was going to be the final out. I could almost visualize that trophy.''
They all could. But in a couple instants, it was all gone.
Allen Craig gave the Cards the lead they would never relinquish, blasting a solo homer to right in the third to make it 3-2. Then in the sixth, Nelson Cruz lofted a flyball deep to left, sending Craig back to the track, then to the wall. Craig leapt, reached over the fence … and made a fantastic catch, the first home run-saving grab in the playoffs since Endy Chavez's beauty in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS. Craig had started the series with two enormous, go-ahead pinch-hit singles (one of them an eventual game-winner), then a home run in his first series at-bat as a starter in Game 3, prompting predictions that Craig could end up series MVP if the Cards prevailed. In the end, Freese (.348/.464/.696) took home the hardware and the new Corvette, beating out Craig (.263/.417/.767), Lance Berkman (.423/.516/.577) and Game 7 pitching hero Chris Carpenter.
"Being in that game, I can’t look at it from the outside," said Jason Motte, the Cardinals’ closer, long after he was hammered for a two-run homer by Josh Hamilton on Thursday night, when life still seemed hopeful for the Rangers.
But the story of this 2011 title team may also be remembered as the grand debut of a new guard of young Cardinals, deftly mixed and matched by manager Tony La Russa.
"The list is long," said outfielder Allen Craig, who hit three home runs in the World Series, including an eighth-inning blast in Game 6 and a third-inning shot in Game 7 that proved to be the game-winning run. "To be in the outfield in the ninth inning with Daniel [Descalso] at third and [Jon] Jay in center and me in left -- Daniel made a play [for the first out], Jon caught the second out and I made the last out. I got to run in with Jon and celebrate. You couldn't have written anything better than that."
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But this year has been the best one. This is a team that simply could not be killed. I do not know why that is. Maybe it's the manager. Maybe it's some sort of clubhouse mojo. Maybe Lance Berkman is a cyborg. Maybe it's just random chance organizing in a way that maximized drama. I do not know, and I do not care. I just know that we have all just been the best two months Major League Baseball has seen in a long time, and at the end of it, the St. Louis Cardinals, a team everyone (including Cardinals fans, and even sorta including the Cardinals management themselves) wrote off, were the last team standing. To watch a team that has infuriated and teased and made their fans crazy all season, to watch that team suddenly become an unkillable force on the biggest stage ... it's better than the other years. This is the one I'll remember the most. This was the best one.
Oddly, the Cardinals won Friday's game with a minimum of hold-your-breath moments and with only one early comeback. Maybe those were just all used up one night earlier, when they twice were down to their last strike before winning Game 6 in 11 innings. Or maybe the baseball gods just decided that for once, this team and its fans deserved not to have to sit through white-knuckle theater. After all, there was enough of that over the previous weeks and months.
La Russa used his bullpen aggressively in the season and even more aggressively in the postseason, as starters got quick hooks in favor of the tag team from the pen. He steadfastly refused to give Motte the title of closer, even though it was he who invariably entered in save situations after Salas had a brief run at the job earlier in the summer.
"Down in the bullpen," Motte said, "we just went out there every single time and it didn't matter when it was or who it was. When that phone rang to say get going, we get ready to go. It's just been one of those things that all year, there's been different guys doing different things, but I don't think anyone down there really cares as long as at the end of the day, we get the win."
Freese, 28, is the first twentysomething position player to win it since Troy Glaus in 2002, but though Glaus was three years younger he already had been an All-Star and had a 47-homer season when he won the MVP award. Derek Jeter was 26 when he won the 2000 World Series MVP, but that was his fourth World Series ring and he was the All-Star Game MVP that same season. When he won the award in 2004, Manny Ramirez had more postseason homers (16) than Freese had career homers (15). Reggie Jackson won his first World Series MVP in 1974, when he had more regular-season homers (189) than Freese has regular-season games.
The average position player to win the MVP had more than 1,200 games in his career before reaching October's individual summit.
Oddly, or perhaps not so, the Cardinals lost nine games in the standings in the first three-plus weeks with their new acquisitions.
"In hindsight, or more of a lesson learned, when you (change) 20 percent of your roster, you have to be a little patient with it," Mozeliak said Friday night. "Ultimately that's what happened.
"Once it did click, it took off."
The Cardinals, counting the postseason, won 34 of their final 50 games while capturing nine of their final 10 regular-season series and three playoff rounds. A team that in August seemed destined to finish around .500 wound up winning 101 games.
The Cardinal way boasts a fraternity of red jackets and Hall of Fame names, congregating at home plate on special occasions, closing ranks around "Baseball's Perfect Knight." The Cardinal way is a code La Russa embraced when he came to St. Louis in 1996. He experienced it as a young player, he espouses it as a Cooperstown-bound skipper. He believes in it.
"There is something to the history and the tradition of the Cardinals that as soon as you sign on you feel," La Russa said. "And those guys remind you. During my first year, they came into spring training and they're there, and you know they're pulling like hell for that year's edition to add something.
The Cardinals rallied from a 2-1 deficit against the favored Philadelphia Phillies in the best-of-five National League Division Series, beating Roy Oswalt and Roy Halladay to advance to the best-of-seven NL Championship Series against Milwaukee, the NL Central champion.
The Cardinals dusted off the Brewers 4-2, overcoming a loss in Game 1 and outscoring Milwaukee 19-7 in Games 5 and 6.
Twice in Game 6 of the World Series on Thursday, Texas was within a strike of taking down the Cardinals for their first championship.
But series Most Valuable Player David Freese tied the game at 7 with a two-run triple in the ninth and Lance Berkman had an RBI single that made it 9-9 in the 10th before Freese homered to lead off the 11th.
The two wildly contrasting results were handled the same way: with a disciplined, forward-thinking approach. With total dedication to the next test on the schedule And after each instance — a deflating loss, and an ecstatic triumph — the Cardinals were ready to play the next game.
There is nothing wrong with criticizing a manager for game decisions gone wrong; that's baseball. But here's what La Russa's most obsessed critics miss: strategies are imperfect because humans that play and manage the game are imperfect. A manager's entire body of work is more meaningful and accurate. How many games have La Russa's Cardinals won through the resilient, unshakable attitude installed by their leader? That's a rare quality and La Russa definitely has it.
Chris Carpenter, the winning pitcher in the decisive Game 7, said it's a source of pleasure to get to share the moment with those veteran additions.
"For guys that have never been a part of this, it is really gratifying for players that have because we've played so long," Carpenter said. "And guys play this game for one thing - most of them. And it's for the world championship.
"You think about that when you're a kid. And to have the opportunity to be able to experience that with guys like Arthur, and guys like 'Dotie' and guys like Furcal - people that haven't experienced this before that have been around for a long time - is amazing."
Our fan confidence poll currently resides at 69. We are a curmudgeonly bunch. But hey, everybody loves a parade, right?