Most every morning, I get my Cardinal glass out of the cupboard for the daily glass of orange juice. If it's not a work day, I'm usually putting on one of my 20 or so different Cardinal shirts. If it is a work day, occasionally I'll wear my dress Cardinal shirt. In the summer, I'm always seen in my Cardinal crocs, unless I have to wear shoes, in which case I sometimes have my Cardinal socks on.
My desk here at home is covered with Cardinal bobbleheads, statues, stadium giveaways. My license plate is CARDS1. I check the date on my Cardinal calendar, have a good selection of Cardinal books, and my stuffed Cardinal Fredbird (complete with 2006 WS Champs insignia) is well worn.
I'm the biggest Cardinal fan in this area, according to the number of people who came up to me this weekend and said congratulations on the Series win. People that I hadn't seen in months found me at our local fall festival Saturday to tell me they were thinking of me when they were watching the games. I would hope my fandom is fairly unquestioned.
And yet I still don't think I ever quite believed this was going to happen.
How could we? This was a team that spent about 70% of the season running in place. A team that could never win more than four games in a row. A team that hit the end of July in first place, but hit the end of August more than 10 games back in both the division and the wild card.
Who expects this to happen?
There's no doubt that there were some that never gave up, which is to their credit. They'd have believed there was a chance if the Cards were 20 out with 21 to play, I believe. More power to them and they've definitely been vindicated over the last few days.
However, there's too many posts I have, too much audio of me hoping for a positive outcome but not expecting one, for me to say now, "Oh, I knew it all the time." And, if I may be a bit presumptuous, I don't think that you come to this blog for blind homerism, but hope leavened with realism. I hope that's what you come for, at least, because that's likely what you are going to get.
It just turned out that realism had no place in this story.
I did think this team had a chance once it got into the postseason, assuming they could get past Philadelphia. That looked awfully dim a couple of innings into Game 2, but it wound up leading to an amazing Game 5 of the NLDS. The best baseball game we'd ever seen--and then it goes out and gets topped.
I was sure they were done in Game 6 of the World Series. I half-expected Allen Craig to hit into a double play there in the ninth. I sure didn't expect them to tie it up. Then, after Josh Hamilton hit that home run, I was again sure it was over, but it wasn't. This team defied all expectations and rational thought, and it was a wonderful thing to see.
And now, like Bernie Miklasz asks, now what? We've lived and died with this team intensely for six weeks or so. Every day has been another cliffhanger, another chance to chew our nails and wonder not only what the Cards have done, but what the Braves have done, what the Brewers had done.
For so long the Cards didn't control their own destiny, having to rely on the kindness of strangers to get into October. Then, once they got there, they never could be comfortable. They never led in the divisional series until after the final game. They fell behind Milwaukee in the divisional series, came back, took the lead, lost it, then finished them off. They were so close to leading Texas 2-0 in the World Series, but that would have been out of character for this team. To complete the story properly, they had to need to win the last two games. They just had to.
However, that adrenaline rush is now over. There are no more games, a fact that really came home to me as I was out yesterday afternoon and had to fight the urge to turn on the radio to hear the Sunday afternoon ballgame. Eventually, we have to come down from that high and start focusing on other things.
There are still ceremonies, though, in regards to the team. The parade yesterday gave everyone a chance to celebrate the victory and from the pictures there was a huge mass of humanity there. Tonight, you can flip between seeing David Freeseon Jay Leno and Tony La Russa on David Letterman. There are still shirts to be bought, caps to be worn. Heck, maybe some of these Redbirds can spend the offseason making a little extra money by hiring themselves out to teams that need a little magic. It worked for the Rams yesterday, who hosted the Cardinals then upset the Saints.
The business of the offseason is coming, of course. Albert Pujols and the others eligible filed for free agency on Sunday, starting the storyline that will dominate the next few weeks. John Mozeliak will get back to work today, still enjoying what the team has done but getting to work on the 2012 team, a team that can hopefully do the same thing, just in a much less stressful way.
The offseason is coming for this blog, as well. I won't go into hibernation, of course, but things will likely be slower than they are during the season. I'll continue recording Conversations With C70 (and you can find the latest with Josh of Pitchers Hit Eighth over on the show page) and I'll be here to talk about any news and rumors that might be floating around. Plus I have a backlog of books that I need to review, so expect some posts like that as well.
For baseball, it's not that winter is coming; winter is here. But we have a wonderful fire of memories to keep us warm through it! And if you want to keep reading about it, you can find a lot of great WS-related posts linked up at the United Cardinal Bloggers site. Fuel that fire!
The BBA has, as a secondary aim, the goal of producing year-end
awards in a similar fashion to the Baseball Writers of America. These
awards can be found at the official site in October with links back to the voters,
ensuring transparency and, most likely, the onset of some good baseball