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The Newer, More Sympathetic St. Louis Cardinals

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Presswire

Voila—the Cardinals have finally begun addressing their run differential problems aggressively, and once they started it didn't even take them the whole week. At this point the fraud thing has escaped all rational bounds and become a disembodied meme, but it's worth noting here for future meme-anthropologists that by being more or less shut out this past week while their pitchers were crushed the Cardinals offense became like 30 runs less fraudulent than they were earlier.

Which will be largely irrelevant if this team actually collapses, in the same way that we've all agreed to never talk about the 2007 Cardinals again. I'm typing at you remotely—from one of those hotels that offers a million complementary movie channels and charges $10 for wi-fi—so I don't have the usual navel-gazing time and space available.

But insofar as the Cardinals actually have felt fraudulent this year, or disappointing, or whatever, it's been because they're better than the 2007 Cardinals. Not just because of the run differential, but because they avoided the World Series curse—the urge to get everybody back together and let's all have the same career years over again—and built, remarkably quickly, an exciting, different team worth rooting for for its own sake.

After this latest setback I've actually found them a little easier to root for, and I wonder if it might mean the end, in an organic way, of all the presumptions of moral failure we've dealt with so far. It's easy enough, in a universe with Jim Rome in it, to blame the Cardinals for failing to capitalize enough on the runs they've scored.

But now the effects of baseball's long season are fully apparent. Yadier Molina's damaged, and Rafael Furcal's done, and Lance Berkman is a few pinch hits away from a retirement he didn't plan back in April.

This last month, then, might be something else entirely from the bright new team we've complained about through the summer. John Mozeliak's weird veterans-and-prospects plan is no longer novel, and the trajectory of the team is no longer a surprise. Maybe this is a team people will be able to enjoy on its own terms—now that it's not as good.