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Cardinals Pennant Race History: Almost over in 2011

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On August 24, 2011, the Cardinals' season appeared to be over. They would play out the string, but would fail to reach the playoffs in consecutive years. Instead they came back.

Ezra Shaw

On August 24, 2011, the Cardinals' season looked over. They had just been swept in embarrassing fashion by the Dodgers. The Cardinals went down early, trailing 6-1 after the third and never came back. This was just a day after they had been trampled 13-2 and Skip Schumaker was forced into action as a pitcher. The Cardinals were just four games above .500. They were 10 games back of the Brewers for the division and 10 1/2 games behind the Braves for the wild-card. Ben wrapped things up pretty well.

Yes, there are still about five weeks left in the baseball season. And, yes, the Cardinals still have six head-to-head games with the Brewers. The season is certainly not over, but the Cardinals do not seem to currently have a much greater chance at the playoffs than Lloyd Christmas had at winning Mary Swanson's heart.

The odds were not quite one in a million, but they were not good. Cool Standings calculated the odds for the Cardinals to make the playoffs at 1.3%. That was actually not the low point for the Cardinals that season. After winning two, but dropping the third game against the Pirates, the Cardinals playoff odds were reduced to 1.1%. When they came back from that deficit, it would be the 19th most improbable in-season comeback to make the playoffs. It was actually the fourth Cardinals' season on the list, trailing the 1930, 1934, and of course, the incredible 1964 team.

The three-year anniversary today is slightly more improbable than the one in three days because of how the Cardinals made the playoffs. The 1.3% chance and the 1.1% both include the odds for winning the wild card or the division. The Cardinals could not catch the Brewers that season. While the playoff odds were lower at 1.1% on August 27, 2011, the odds of winning the wild card were 0.6%, slightly higher than the 0.5% three years ago today and the lowest of the season. A one in 200 chance to make the playoffs.

Of course, the Cardinals did make the playoffs, and they won a playoff series, then another, and finally another in a most unlikely fashion. If the Cardinals, as underdogs had a 45% chance of winning each playoff series, then that means the odds of winning the wild card and then the Championship three years ago today were roughly 1 in 2200.

Like most Cardinals' fans, three years ago today, I had given up on the season. I had a passing interest in the result of Cardinals' games, but I had stopped truly caring whether they won or lost. I was slowly drawn back in as the Cardinals' season went from afterthought to mild relevance to cannot miss a single thing because this is the greatest thing to happen in my entire sports fan existence. Since that time, I've never given up on any team I root for, nor have I stopped being nervous no matter how great the lead. Games can change with one swing of the bat, just one pitch, but sometimes the change takes a month. I realized over the course of that month I had the choice to care or not care about baseball, about sports, but heartbreak is better than apathy and risking agony for exhilaration is a chance I am willing to take, no matter the odds.