The St. Louis Cardinals- the best team on
If you are a Boston Red Sox fan, you might want to stop
reading right now. Go ahead and flip the page, because what is printed
below probably will not interest you. However, if you don't limit yourself
to one team and consider yourself a fan of baseball, I would encourage
you to keep reading.
The Saint Louis Cardinals are one of the best teams in baseball.
For a moment I ask you to forget the tired, late-Babe Ruth-esque
sideshow spectacle that Mark McGwire has become. I ask you to set aside
any preconceived notions of Rick Ankiel and the Cardinals pitching staff.
And most importantly, I ask you to disregard the fluke season that the
Chicago Cubs have experienced. (It's a cheap shot, but I feel I must bring
up their benchmark year of 1908.)
When this paper goes to press, the Cardinals will be six
games out of first in the National League Central Division. They will
sit only one game out of first in the National League Wild Card race.
Their winning percentage currently hovers around .550. They're a respectable
team to say the least.
This past week Albert Pujols recorded his thirty-third homerun
of the season. He presently leads the team in this department, as well
as leading the club in RBIs and Runs (109 and 105 respectively). Pujols
has Rookie of the Year in the bag.
Joining Pujols in the outfield is J.D. Drew, who despite
spending much of the summer on the disabled list, has managed to crank
out 60 RBIs while batting a solid .322.
In the infield, third baseman Placido Polanco holds his
own with a respectable batting average of .318. Fellow infielder Fernando
Vina ranks fourth in the league with 169 recorded hits (Pujols ranks third
with 170). Vina too is batting over .300. The Redbird infield is weathered
and well stocked.
Though his performances at the plate have left fans longing
for earlier seasons, McGwire's skills are too often overlooked in the
field. I truly believe that at the bag, he is one of the finest first
basemen in baseball today. His fielding percentage ranks among the highest
in the league at .995.
Overall the infield is very solid, but it's the guys throwing
the heat that have been leading the organization. For the first time in
several seasons, the Cardinals have what could be safely called a sound
pitching staff. Last week rookie left-hander Bud Smith threw the ninth
no-hitter in Cardinals history at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. Daryl
Kile and Matt Morris are both knocking on 150 strikeouts apiece, with
respective ERAs of .307 and .318.
I feel that the aforementioned statements and statistics
have more than justified the St. Louis Cardinals as one of the most well
rounded teams in baseball. We look pretty good on paper. So why are we
two games behind the Chicago Cubs?
As I drove back to school several weeks ago, I tuned my
radio to KMOX 1120, the voice of the Cardinals. The Cardinals had a serious
shot at encroaching upon the Astros in first place, but what mattered
was the fact that we were ahead of the Cubs. Because it was a clear night,
I was able to pick up the Cardinals/Reds game just after I passed through
Wheeling, West Virginia. Granted I had to dodge in and out of Blue Ridge
Mountain static, I could still pick up the game in bits and pieces. It
was the dramatic conclusion of the game that nearly caused me to swerve
into oncoming traffic.
The Cardinals gave up their lead in the eighth, allowing
the Reds to tie, thus subsequently taking the game into extra innings.
It was there that Ken Griffey Jr. knocked one off of the centerfield wall,
the ball took a sickeningly beautiful bounce into left field. One of baseball's
rareities, an in the park homerun. If you're going to lose the game in
extra innings, that's how you do it. Like usual, the Cardinals pulled
It's sick really. Just when things start to get important,
we split at the seams. We do dumb things. (See Tony LaRussa starting rookie
Rick Ankiel during the 2000 post-season). Just when things start to get
good, it all falls apart. This past August, just out of reach of first
place, on the verge of a twelve game winning streak (not accomplished
by the Cardinals since the 1982 World Champions), we lose it in the eleventh
to a Griffey in the park homerun.
The Fates have it in for the Cardinals. Clotho, Lachesis
and Atropos sit in the Busch Stadium bleachers, drinking Budweisers, thinking
of creative ways to toy with the emotions of an entire Midwestern city.
Look what they did to Rick Ankiel.
But I have faith. Cardinals fans know that our ball club works in a vicious ten year cycle. We'll be hot for ten years, then lukewarm for the next ten. Look at the 80s (Again, Ozzie), the 60s (Bob Gibson and Lou Brock), the 40s (a rookie named Stan Musial made his debut), and if you remember the 1920s surely you must remember Rogers Hornsby. Here's where I want to leave my insane unfounded ramblings; it's 2001, we haven't been hot since the 1980s. We're well stocked, and though this may not have been our year (it's not over quite yet), the next ten years are looking pretty good.