What you see happening this week all over Cards’ sites brings back a lot of memories. The high hopes brought by St. Louis in 2009 left many feeling unfinished business after getting swept at this stage. All that makes this improbable run even more amazing to witness.
For the crew here at PH8, we each have our own view of the last decade and that leaves us reflective this time of year. None of this would be possible without Nick, and his most recent piece hits the 2011 expectations dead on. Dennis takes the “fans” to task after the whirlwind couple of months, but today is a celebration of sorts for us all.
I was in Iraq for all of the 2004 and 2006 World Series runs, so the memories I have of October baseball at home are not the greatest. This has all changed in part due to Philadelphia making most of it possible! Check out a couple of stories that seem to portray Roy Halladay and his Philly teammates facing the pressure test.
While most of my brain would like to believe the Cardinals are stress free and just glad to be there, the sensible (read — small) part tells a completely different tale. This club worked harder since the end of August than most teams do since spring training, and the results have been fascinating.
Now the reality continues that the June swoon nearly cost St. Louis more than just a long off-season of wonder. TLR and Co. found the winning formula before it was too late, a completely different recipe than the MV3 teams of ’04 and ’05.
Originally this post had more in common with possibly my favorite team in the Pujols Era. After the Boston sweep, nothing could get in the way of destiny the next season. Posting a 15-7 record in April, the 2005 Cards started hot and continued well into the summer.
For whatever the reason, St. Louis eased up down the stretch. Maybe it was clinching early or just wanting to get some of the veterans like Larry Walker rested for October. Kind of sounds like a certain NL East Champ to me but let’s stay focused, shall we?
Changing things up mid-way through is nothing new to baseball, and the Birds on the Bat have proven very capable of making moves when needed. While getting ready for my first deployment, the previously mentioned Walker was in Colorado still hitting the cover off the ball. Then all of a sudden, he is dealt to the team with the best record in baseball.
This may not seem like a good parallel, but the 2004 and 2011 Cardinals are eerily similar with one main difference. While the MV3 scared plenty of pitchers, this year shaped up to have an even better offense and ends as the TLR5.
Why should the Phillies be worried tonight? Look at the middle of the lineup with Albert again anchoring, but he has plenty of help. Berkman and Holliday are more than than merely protection, much like Edmonds and Rolen, and this year spots six and seven are just as dangerous.
Yadier Molina and David Freese should share more than line-up spots given their importance to St. Louis in making the charge to the Wild Card. Key plays on defense and timely hits on offense make both a vital part to the plan that future HOF skipper Tony LaRussa has crafted.
With very few holes throughout the order, the luxury given this summer was the ability to play ‘let’s make a deal’ without sacrificing the core group. MO capitalized on the desired market and brought a stabilizing force to the club much as his predecessor did seven summers ago.
Rafael Furcal couldn’t have pulled off a better situation if he tried, and he made the clubhouse better instantly just like Walker. No longer worried who sits atop the batting order, the rest of the Cardinals have fit their roles perfectly down the stretch.
Looking at tonight’s game, TLR has pulled off another few twists just in time to keep Philadelphia guessing. Skippy moves to CF and 2nd with his .625 hitting this series. PH8-pick Nick Punto also brings another switch hitter into the mix, making for more intrigue as Game 5 progresses.
While maybe not worth a holiday, tonight is something special. 2004 did not end up how anyone visiting this site wanted, but that is ancient history at this point. Enjoy the festivities, a little Darth Carp, and maybe even a double switch or two. It all comes down to one battle between friends, and it sure feels like Christmas to me.