I. Adam Wainwright disappears, along with his 5.64 ERA, a month before the All Star break, leaving behind only his crumpled jersey on the locker room floor. In the first week of September, he reappears as a force ghost to Tommy Pham, to officially pass along the ceremonial reins of leadership as the Cardinals begin their push to win the NL Central.
II. Carlos Martinez builds a small castle out of Gatorade cups, where he sleeps continuously for three days and three nights. On the morning of the fourth day, he emerges with perfect hair and a newfound ability to consistently locate the inner half of the plate. He finishes the season with a 2.86 FIP and 5 WAR.
III. Yadier Molina struggles with injuries and an aging body over the course of the 2018 season, eventually coming to terms with his own physical limitations and passing the torch to catcher-of-the-future Carson Kelly. Years later, after a series of ill-advised real estate investments, Molina secures work as the Cardinals manager, despite having no previous managerial experience. Nevertheless, he effectively manages platoons and a 12-man bullpen.
IV. Matt Bowman's arm turns to literal ash in a high leverage situation, resulting in a heartbreaking Cardinals' defeat. He leaves the game, spends some time living in Kevin Siegrist's basement, but later reemerges as a Pete Gray-style folk hero and player-manager in the independent leagues, eventually using his Ivy League degree in economics to help save his beloved Lincoln Saltdogs from bankruptcy.
V. Matt Carpenter bats lead off for 70 games and in the 3-hole for 70 games. His slash line is an identical .270/.385/.490 from both positions in the lineup. Stat nerds cite this perfect symmetry, alongside Stan Musial's home/away hit splits, for decades to come. Gas stations across the Midwest fall momentarily silent.
VI. Mike Maddux puts a tender finger to Matheny's lips, gently takes the dugout phone from his hand, and hangs it up. Mathey nods, weary but relieved, as Maddux dusts off the cover of a binder labeled "Analytical Pitching Data."
VII. Tommy Pham erupts in a righteous fury mid-July after a game is lost in extra innings, due to uninspired play. The team is baptized in the fire of his fury and immediately embarks on a ten-game winning streak. Bud Norris expresses his genuine appreciation for Pham's energetic style of play and leadership.
VIII. Paul Dejong manages a WRC+ of 120, in spite of his 30% strike out rate, and plays average defense at shortstop. Somewhere, in a country to the north, Randal Grichuk manages 3 WAR with regular playing time. "GOD BLESS," he thinks to himself, as he watches a wild cardinal light atop his snow-covered outdoor grill during the off season. "GOD BLESS US, EVERY ONE."
IX. Miles Mikolas matches the respective production of Jake Arrieta and Lance Lynn, Luke Gregerson matches Greg Holland's value as a reliever, and Matt Carpenter accrues more WAR than Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas combined. The theoretical purity of mathematical analysis and the chaos of empirical reality are merged, gloriously, for one fleeting season.
X. Giancarlo Stanton sheds a single, masculine tear as the Cardinals defeat the Yankees in six games to become the 2018 World Series Champions. Newly acquired third baseman Josh Donaldson bats .320/.405/.550 down the stretch and signs a five-year, market-value contract after the season ends. He is beloved in Missouri for the rest of his days.