While it is true that the St. Louis Cardinals’ performance began to deteriorate after taking a 2-1 lead in the World Series—and found themselves needing to win twice in Boston to capture their 12th title—the players and fans alike took resolve in another truth: they had been in this situation before, and they could do it again.
On Wednesday night, we regrettably discovered that, after so many glorious October comebacks, this one was not going to have a similar storybook ending. With a 6-1 victory in Game 6 of the World Series, the Boston Red Sox became World Champions once again. And the Cardinals came up short, once again. Just like that, St. Louis’ season was over.
The reality of this World Series is that the Cardinals were outplayed, plain and simple. Boston’s pitching sustained, their relentless patient hitting approach persevered, and their defense rebounded after throwing (and obstructing) away two games. Boston and St. Louis both finished the regular season tied for the best record in baseball with 97 wins apiece. But at least for six games in October, Boston was the better team. Perhaps the greatest tragedy of the 109th World Series is simply wondering what could have been if the Cardinals had played to their full potential.
The immediate days after a season ends too soon are always the harshest. Emotions are still high, memories are still most vivid, and hearts are still heavy.
This phase, though, should not linger. Heads should not hang low for long.
Yes, much was left to be desired. Yes, the Cardinals left us wondering for the second consecutive postseason where the offense went after taking a series lead late in October.
But what they accomplished over the past seven months of the year must be recognized and celebrated.
They should celebrate winning the National League Central for the first time in four years. They should celebrate having the best record in baseball for the first time in eight years. They should celebrate being National League champions.
They should celebrate that, in the year of Stan Musial’s passing, they were able to keep him alive—in their own way.
The Cardinal Way isn’t just about playing fundamentally sound in the game of baseball; it’s about playing fundamentally sound in the game of life. This is why the spirit of Stanley Frank Musial lives on: it’s not just symbolic of the Cardinal Way… it is the Cardinal Way. And by keeping it alive, they kept Musial alive.
He was in every hit Matt Carpenter stretched into a double, sliding head first into second and turning the Birds on the Bat from cardinal red to dirt brown.
He was in every sweet, smooth swing by Carlos Beltran, an athlete equally abundant in both talent and class, who finally got to step on the World Series stage he had strived to reach for so long.
He was in every knee-buckling curve thrown by Adam Wainwright, every pickoff by Yadier Molina and every moonshot delivered by Matt Holliday.
He was in every one of the 19 rookies that, in many ways, helped carry the Cardinals to their 19th National League Pennant.
He was in the 40,000+ that showed up to every ballgame. From heaven he watched 3.4 million fans create their own nightly sea of red in Baseball Heaven.
This is a team that both would have made Stan the Man proud… and did make him proud. And that is why we won’t mourn for long: if it’s good enough for Stan, it’s good enough for Cardinals Nation.
Congradulations to the 2013 National League champion St. Louis Cardinals. After coming one victory away from reaching the World Series in 2012, the Boys of Summer checked that off their list this Fall. Now, they’ll just have to win two more games in the World Series next year…
… Speaking of which: 149 days until Opening Day 2014.
We will be back. And we will be better.