This might be my favorite Cardinal team in recent memory. When ace Adam Wainwright went down in March, Cardinal fans braced for a long season. “Let’s just sign Pujols,” was the prevailing sentiment among many. Play for 2012 and beyond.
But this club never bought into that line of thinking. Not when all the pundits picked them to finish 3rd in their division. Not when former All-Star closer inexplicably lost the ability to get anybody out in the late innings (or any inning, for that matter). Not even when franchise stalwart Albert Pujols fractured his wrist mid-summer, potentially ending his season. Pujols came back, and so did the Cardinals. They kept showing up, kept grinding. Refused to throw in the towel, showed lots of “guts”, even when they were 10.5 games out of the wild card race in late August. They went on a ridiculous late season tear — thanks to the “Happy Flight” rally call and a colossal choke job by the Braves — and made the playoffs on the last day of the season. They faced the Phillies and nobody gave them a chance to win…but they found a way to grind out a series win in 5 games. Then they played Milwaukee and again, nobody expected them to win…until they did, this time in 6 games. And now they’re in the Series, chasing their 11th championship all-time.
But I love that TLR has been wringing production from each member of the 25 man roster. There’s Octavio Dotel, or the Ryan Braun-equalizer as he’ll be remembered; there’s erstwhile closer Jason Motte, who has nearly as many saves in the postseason as he had in the regular season; Allen Craig, Mr. Pinch Hit; Mark Rzepczynski, or “Scrabble” as his teammates call him; David Freese, the NLCS MVP whose assertion as a force in the #6 spot makes the Cards lineup as deep as any in baseball; Lance Lynn, who looks like the 2nd coming of Bruce Sutter; and Arthur Rhodes, whom the Rangers are paying to get Josh Hamilton out this postseason.
I don’t know if the Cardinals are going to win the Series this year. But I know this: the ’11 Cardinals have showed more guts than any team I’ve ever followed. And that’s why I love ’em.