As if watching the late-August and early-September swoon of the Cardinals hasn’t been bad enough, it appears no one else wants to take the NL Wild Card spot in the playoffs. The Mets lost to the Cubs tonight, allowing the Cardinals to mathematically remain “in the race” regardless of their outcome versus Arizona tonight (and I fear they just lost their best chance to win tonight, with Albert Pujols whiffing with men on first and third in the bottom of the seventh).
The Cards are a National League second-worst in their last thirty games, at 11-19 (only the Pirates are worse at 8-22, and three of those wins came in a sweep of the Redbirds).
The odds-on favorite to win the Wild Card not long ago, the Brewers have unraveled at 13-17 in their last thirty.
In short, a playoff spot was there for the taking. The Mets, Phillies, Florida, and Houston (who could’ve been destined for great things until Hurricane Ike forced them into Bud the Brewer’s backyard) have all capitalized while the Cards have faded out of the conscious of pretty much every discussion.
While out of town over the weekend, I didn’t get to see any of the Cubs series. The disappointing part, for me, is that I didn’t terribly miss it. It is a real downer – having poured a ton of energy into this team, this season, this roller-coaster ride – to watch the slow death of such a story. This season was supposed to be LaRussa’s crowning achievement, his coup de grace, the final feather in the cap of a surefire Hall of Fame managing career, right? This was going to be the ultimate trump card for TLR – even moreso than 2006 – to thumb his nose at the experts who predicted the Cards were going nowhere fast.
Well, it looks like in a way, both parties were right. The Cards are going home after game 162. But if you think that Tony and his band of red-and-white clad misfits didn’t put a scare into some folks in Chicago and Milwaukee, you are sorely mistaken.
Golly, I didn’t really mean this to be an obituary. For some reason, I can just feel the disappointment flowing out of my fingers right now.
Please don’t interpret this as a criticism of this year’s team. Don’t read this and think that I’m dismissing what these guys have accomplished, or saying that this year was a failure. I think the Cards learned a lot about some players they needed a thicker ‘book’ on. I think (hope) that John Mozeliak learned that the Jocketty Plan – throw a bunch of scrap heap guys against a wall and see which ones stick – is not going to cut it against today’s Cubs and Brewers. Most of all, we learned that Tony can, and will (even if somewhat forced) use young players in all variety of situations, with games on the line.
To the 2008 Cardinals: You entertained me, and for that I am grateful. I can’t think of a season that I have followed and allowed myself such a wide range of emotions over sports in a long time.
At the risk of getting too sappy here about this team (after all, it’s the first one that I’ve documented on this here site), I’m going to cut out here – I plan on sticking with this team through the end of the season – we would expect them to play all out until the end of 162, so I will do the same. So keep reading for more IN-season analysis.
They might not make the playoffs, but I’m just not ready to close the book on the 2008 St Louis Cardinals just yet.