I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch
And he said to me, "You must not ask for so much"
And a pretty woman leaning in her darkened door
She cried out to me, "Why not ask for more?"
-- Leonard Cohen, Bird On a Wire
The hopes were high for this season when we started out, but not, you know, too high. I think we all thought this team would be an interesting test case for what the Redbirds are going to look like in the Post era. Post Tony La Russa. Post Albert Pujols. Post everything that has defined what Cardinal baseball has looked like for the past decade plus.
I myself had fairly high hopes; I picked the Cardinals to win the division, thinking they were still the most complete team in a group of slightly-above-average squads. Beltran will mostly make up for the aging Albert, went my thought process, and losing Tony and his odd mind games might even help things out here and there where they had gotten stale. At the very least, it's a manager. Managers don't matter that much anyway.
So hopeful, but not overly hopeful. I was expecting a good but not great season. Then, after the brilliant start, I expected brilliance. I thought we had perhaps stumbled on a latter-day equivalent of the 2005 Cardinals; a team which followed the surprisingly awesome with an entirely different kind of surprisingly awesome.
Unfortunately, since that time this season has largely been an exercise in thesaurus usage, as I've scoured the English language for as many possible syonyms for the word frustrating as I could possibly find. Hopes waned. We went from a glimpse of the future and a pretty good team to a club on pace for better than 100 victories to a bullpen nightmare to an underachieving bunch who bunt way, way too damned much and can't seem to get things right when they need to. It was frustrating, to say the least. (I lost my thesaurus.)
I had modest hopes at best for this team for big chunks of the season. There were times I didn't think they belonged in the postseason, and didn't believe there was any way they would make it. The story of the 2012 Cardinals would be one of opportunities missed, and of chances taken but not taken well. They squeaked into the playoffs by dint of a Dodgers team proving just as maddeningly unable to take full advantage of their talent as the Cardinals, and I didn't think they would top Atlanta. They certainly wouldn't beat this year's model, the Washington Nationals in full emerging-power mode. But they did. The Cards cut a swath of destruction through the NL East then headed for San Francisco, almost entirely without wearing any flowers in their hair.
I feel like I should be sated. Like I should be happy with what this team has given us. We've gotten a successful season, a transition to new blood in the dugout, and a campaign that has, for the most part, erased the bitter taste of a certain franchise player leaving for the coast. We've seen a second consecutive season of an old Astro-villain putting on the uniform of the good guys and being awesome. We've seen further evidence of the future's potential shades-forcing brightness, thanks to a slew of young arms who all seem to throw 96. It's been a really good year, and I should be happy with it. We all should be.
But, I'm not. I want more. I want another title. It's simplistic to say you want to win the World Series every year, as well as perhaps willfully childish in ignoring how the world actually works; i.e. ignoring the whole, "You can't win 'em all," part of the facts of life. But now that we're here, I'm not even close to being ready for this ride to be over. Perhaps it's greed. If so, I'm okay with it. If the Cardinals go down now, I'm going to be heartbroken. I'll probably rant and rave to strangers on the street for weeks, possibly months, about how Matheny pissed away X number of games, and how his foolish decisions in the playoffs cost us a championships, and probably throw in a bit about his struggles in the real estate market just go to show you the man wasn't cut out to be a manager. It won't be until sometime after Thanksgiving at least that I'll be able to talk about this team without going all angry evangelist on the people nearby, forcing friends and family alike to simply avoid the topic when I'm around.
And really, that seems stupid, doesn't it? If the Cardinals had failed to make the playoffs, I would have been disappointed, but ultimately resigned. It was a team that simply had too many flaws, and couldn't overcome all of them. Most, sure, but not all. I would have accepted this as a transition season, a season which saw movement from the past to the future, with all the associated growing pains, and I would have been okay with it.
Instead, we've now come close, and I want more. I want it all. It's a little like an addiction, but junkies keep their dreams small. They rarely dream of big dump trucks full of heroin, preferring instead to only worry about their next small fix.
So what about you? Would you have been okay with the season ending a few weeks back, if, say, the Dodgers had crept up and caught the Cards? And what about now? If this is the last series for the Redbirds, was it a good season? Or was it a six-month buildup just to let you down even harder?