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And So It Begins

Posted on October 1, 2011 at 9:36 AM
Filed Under: Milwaukee Brewers | Philadelphia Phillies | St. Louis Cardinals
I wrote two different posts yesterday talking about the NLDS and in neither one of them did I actually get around to asking a question that I meant to ask.  So before we talk about the latest Cardinal roster move, let me jump into that.

I don't to speak for a large part of Cardinal fandom (though I would hope the fandom would speak in the comments to what I'm about to say) but so often we go into the postseason with high hopes and high expectations.  I don't think there's an NLDS that I haven't expected the Cardinals to win.  So often it seems like that's just a stepping stone to going deep into October.  

It hasn't always panned out that way, of course.  When the Cards were swept last time, in 2009 against the Dodgers, there was a lot of angst and frustration.  We knew this team was better than that.  We knew they should be moving on.  And yet they weren't.

Today, the Cards kick off another NLDS.  I do believe they can win it (as I noted yesterday) and I know that if they don't win, I'll be disappointed at seeing the season come to a close.

And yet, I don't think I'll be able to get really worked up about it, no matter what.  Sure, a couple of late inning collapses and I'll rue what could have been.  In the heat of the moment, I might get irate over what has just taken place.  But angst?  Lasting frustration?  I just don't see that happening.

I think that, because I had pretty much put this team to bed in August, that everything from now on is house money.  I want the team to win, I think they can win, but I don't think I can get all wrapped up in a loss knowing that if Atlanta had just been a smidgen better at holding a lead, the Cards are playing golf right now.  September gave us a lot of thrills and have given us the chance to see some October baseball, so to some degree I think I am just "happy to be here."  That doesn't mean I don't want to see more, just that I'll be content either way.

Being the fact that the Cards are an underdog rather than a favorite probably plays into it as well.  It's one thing when we've seen a team be strong all year long and are playing a team that's perhaps their equal or less.  We feel the Cards really should win those series.  Instead, this time they are playing possibly the best team in baseball, a team that is on paper built to win it all.  Again, doesn't mean that the Cards can't do it or that it'd be some major miracle if they did, but I can accept being beaten by a team that appears superior better than I can a team that the Cards really should handle.

Am I wrong?  Are more of you going to live and die with this October just like you have in years past?  Let me know in the comments or on Twitter.

Now, we've talked about the surprise in the rotation already, but there was another twist to the roster.  Kyle McClellan won't be on the NLDS roster, it seems.  McClellan had complained of a dead arm recently, but he says he was back to full health.  The Cardinals felt they couldn't trust him to be available on back-to-back days and so they left him off.

That's a very, very tough call.  As Kevin referred to last night on Twitter, the Cards asked McClellan twice this year to change roles, first from the pen to the rotation when Adam Wainwright went down, then back to the pen when Edwin Jackson was acquired.  McClellan was a good soldier, doing what the team asked of him.  In that regard, doesn't he deserve the honor of going to the postseason with the club?  I mean, that's the reason that Jake Westbrook is still on the team, isn't it?  Westbrook hasn't relieved in a game since 2004.  He can eat up innings if the Cards are getting blown out, but that's about it.  I don't think we want to see Westbrook come into a game in the fifth if it hangs in the balance.

On the flip side, the Cards have to put out the best team they have, and if they are concerned that McClellan can't go more than an inning every other day or so, that's a legitimate reason to leave him off the roster.  The postseason isn't a time for sentiment and minimizing hurt feelings.  Remember, the Cards dropped Jason Marquis from the roster in '06 due to ineffectiveness.  McClellan has been prone to the long ball lately--possibly due to arm fatigue--and that can be a dagger in the postseason.

So I can't fault the Cards for doing that.  I do wish they'd have made room for Eduardo Sanchez, but they aren't completely sold on his health either, so I guess they are consistent about the whole thing.

The good news about the roster is that Rafael Furcal and Matt Holliday will both be on it after passing some physical evaluations.  It looks like Furcal might be healthy enough to go in Game 1, while Holliday isn't likely to start until later in the series, but could possibly pinch-hit.  Hopefully those guys can be healthy and productive, because that would be huge for the Cardinals' chances.

One last note--Tony La Russa is again a trendsetter.  He hit the pitcher eighth, then a couple of other teams started flirting with it.  He announces that Chris Carpenter is going in Game 2 on short rest and immediately Milwaukee thinks that's a great idea for Zack Greinke.  'Course,  Ron Roenicke said if Greinke had thrown 100 pitches he wouldn't be doing it, which shows he still has a ways to go before getting to TLR levels.

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