Preparing for a World Series Game 7 no one saw coming

by on October 28, 2011 · 4 comments

“What are you doing here?”

Tony La Russa to Lance Lynn, Game 5

It’s been a punch line since Monday night, but viewed in a different light, that line – that question – is really a microcosm of how the Cardinals’ 2011 season has turned out, no?

They weren’t supposed to be here.

Ten-and-a-half games back of the Brewers on September 5th. Eight-and-a-half back of the NL Wild Card-leading Braves. Yours truly had all but written the Cards off in the middle of August, albeit leaving that “never give up hope” door open on my way out…

I didn’t intend for this to come off as an obituary for the 2011 Cardinals.  Not yet.  Lots of baseball to be played, and stranger things have happened.  I’m still watching every game, and I hope you will too.

My goodness, I’m glad I didn’t cancel my MLB.tv subscription the next day. We all know how September turned out. It, among other wins and wonderful evenings along the way, have allowed me to write this post.

They weren’t supposed to be here.

Well, of course just getting into the playoffs was a taxing ordeal for a team that battled through injuries and various kerfuffles (both self-inflicted and otherwise) – surely they would be no match for the Phillies in the Divisional Series. After all, the Phillies had been pretty much awarded a bye into the World Series by most writers, fans, and otherwise (and I’m not being critical, I mean, why not?).

Yet in five games, the Cards dispatched of the Philadelphia contingent. All the while long, the loose Redbirds seemed to be finally having fun. Enjoying their magical run, finally evolving into the team that many in Saint Louis had hoped for and expected in April.

They weren’t supposed to be here.

So onward it was, this time to face the divisional rival Brewers. Again, conventional wisdom had already pegged the Cards’ story as exceptional to this point – surely this Cinderella run would end. After all, the Brewers had laid waste to the Cardinals and the rest of the NL Central in such convincing fashion during the regular season that their path to the World Series contained only a tiny yellow warning sign warning of the speed-bump-ish Cardinals.

Six games later, Cinderella still had a firm grasp on her slipper.  Onward again, this time to face another team of destiny.

They weren’t supposed to be here.

Trading wins with the Texas Rangers has been exasperating for fans of both teams. The Cardinals surely had the series locked up after demoralizing the Rangers in their own park in Game Three. Following an offensive outage and embarrassing game management in Game Five, the Cardinals were left for dead.

By the ninth inning of last night’s Game Six, it was all over but for the shouting. Joe Strauss reported today that La Russa had phoned the bullpen to remind pitchers that they had post-game obligations to a program for the fans in the event of a loss. Rangers family and friends gathered outside the visitor’s clubhouse in anticipation. Photos of the Texas clubhouse from after last night’s game indicate there was plastic sheeting hung already.

Then David Freese happened.  And Lance Berkman happened.  And Freese again.

They weren’t supposed to be here.

Bill Ivie wrote a fantastic post at I70 Baseball today that summed up my thoughts on Freese’s Game Six exploits perfectly.

It brought back memories of me in my own backyard, Wiffle bat in hand (the official yellow one, is there any other?!), my lineup card made out (featuring Tom Herr, Vince Coleman, Ozzie Smith, Tom Brunansky, et al – a veritable All-Star team of 1980′s and 1990′s Cardinals) and mashing home runs over the neighbor’s chain link fence at the other end of the yard.

David Freese wasn’t supposed to be here either, remember? He quit baseball. Had lost the love, the desire. But it crept back in, and he found himself bouncing around the minor leagues with the Padres. I read a story Freese told about receiving the news he had been traded to the Cardinals for Jim Edmonds from a friend, believing that he was the victim of a prank. Then the phone rang again and it was San Diego’s front office with the notification…you’re going to the Cardinals.

A few years and too many injury heartbreaks to count later, here Freese is, on baseball’s largest stage – and he owned it.

They weren’t supposed to be here.

So now we wait, anticipating the first – and ultimately, last – pitch of Game Seven of the 2011 World Series. And the Cardinals are still playing.

It’s easy to continue the same refrain that I adopted from the moment the Cardinals clinched a playoff spot in Houston exactly one month ago. They’re playing with house money – how could you get upset with the ultimate result of this season, regardless of how it pans out?

No doubt, Cardinals fans have experienced an embarrassment of riches in performance, playoffs, and World Series appearances in almost every generation. Mine is no different – multiple playoff appearances, extended success, six (!) World Series berths, and they’ve won it all twice. It rouses feelings of anger and jealousy in fans of other teams, and we don’t always deal with either well – we’re spoiled. Admit it. Spoiled. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to let those expectations falter because someone else thinks I should.

Forget all the nonsense you usually hear or read about “must-win” games. Game Seven is the definition of must-win. The Redbirds have faced it three other times already this season. They have won all three, with Chris Carpenter leading the way in two. He’ll take the mound again tonight, only this time

must-win means you’re going home either way – just with varying levels of satisfaction.

So here we sit, Game Seven looming. I’m no longer satisfied with house money. After the euphoria of Freese’s walk-off home run in Game Six wore off, as I sat in awe of last night’s game today pondering, wondering what would happen tonight – I got greedy. House money is for those expecting to hand it back. The Cardinals aren’t prepared to do that, and no longer am I.

Thank goodness no one told this Cardinals team that they weren’t supposed to be here.

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Writing about the Cardinals and other loosely associated topics since 2008, I've grown tired of the April run-out only to disappoint Cardinal fans everywhere by mid-May. I do not believe in surrendering free outs.
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{ 4 comments }

Zach October 28, 2011

FIRST!!!! WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS MY FRIENDS!!!!

Go cards!!!!! Go Freeese!!!!! Go carp!!!!! Go rams????

AHHHHHHHH. IM SO EXCITED!!!!! Had my doubts but the cards proven me WRONG!!!!!!!

CARDINALS ARE AWESOME!!!!

PH8 October 30, 2011

Is that some beast mode I detect in there?

Phil October 29, 2011

Congratulations! What a run and what a series!

The Rangers are a heckuva team and to take them out like that was awesome!

Thanks to the staff at pitchershiteighth for the coverage throughout the season!!

Phil

PH8 October 30, 2011

Thanks Phil for your support of the Cards and of the site – you called it way back in early September!

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