How ironic is it that the classes I’m taking to become a journalist interfere with my writing time?
But once again I had to make time to write.
I have to talk about this St. Louis Cardinals team and how much of a team they really are.
The 2015 Cardinals are truly a special bunch. It feels like just yesterday I was driving around listening to Mike Shannon call spring training games on KMOX. I was hearing tales of Tommy Pham’s great spring and the impressive repertoire of the newly acquired Jordan Walden.
The same cast of characters were still there. Waino was back after slowing down in last year’s playoffs, Holliday was looking to continue his year-to-year consistency and Yadi was back after a winter of resting his knees.
The crew was back together again.
Then down went Jaime Garcia. Unfortunately that was news Cardinals fans had heard before. This meant veteran righty Carlos Villanueva was given an opportunity to stay with the club. That same day Tommy Pham’s fantastic–sorry had to do it–spring came to an end with a quad strain.
The season started with an exciting win over Lester and the Cubs in Chicago.
About 10 days later the Cardinals would see their first injury test of the season. Randal Grichuk hit the DL with a lower back strain. The team’s outfield depth was put to the test early.
Eight days later the unimaginable happened in Milwaukee. Adam Wainwright left the batter’s box with an Achilles injury and was told he wouldn’t play again this year. Losing an ace can be a death sentence for any team.
Four days later Jordan Walden, flame-throwing set-up man, landed on the DL with biceps inflammation. The injury was as bad as it sounded and he never returned. Every man in the bullpen had to step into a bigger role.
Ten days later veteran outfielder Jon Jay hit the disabled list with wrist inflammation. Outfield depth was diminished once again.
A few weeks later the team was dealt another big blow when Matt Adams pulled up rounding first base. A strained right quad cost him a few months and catapulted Mark Reynolds into a starting job, not something a contending team wants to see.
Two weeks later it was Matt Holliday’s turn to strain a quad. His absence completely changed the feel of the Cardinals’ lineup. Peralta had to take the responsibility of hitting third and suddenly guys like Reynolds were depended on to consistently hit cleanup.
A couple more weeks passed until Jaime Garcia’s fabulous return season was put on hold due to a groin strain.
The next day veteran set-up man Matt Belisle was placed on the DL with right elbow inflammation. The pitching staff was having a historic year, but it was given even more adversity to work through.
Less than a week later Jon Jay hit the disabled list for the second time of the season.
Three days after that Jaime Garcia was put back on the disabled list for the same groin strain.
Five days later Mitch Harris, the good-story rookie reliever from the Naval Academy, also went down with a groin strain.
When Holliday returned in late July the Cardinals thought they finally escaped the key injuries. They were wrong. He went back on the DL July 30 after re-aggravating his quad injury.
Two weeks later it was Grichuk leaving the lineup again. He had an injury more often dealt with by pitchers, an elbow strain.
That had to be all of the injuries, right?
Wrong. Yadier Molina, the team’s veteran leader behind the plate, went down with a thumb injury in a key series in Chicago. He’s optimistic he will return for the playoffs, but it’s still in question.
This happened in late September. That had to be the last injury, right?
Wrong again. Carlos Martinez, the talented young man with ace potential, saw his season end with a shoulder strain just last week.
Not to mention that Marco Gonzales, the Cardinals pitching prospect closest to being major league ready, dealt with injuries of his own all year, making him largely unavailable to back up the major league staff.
This year’s team epitomized the “Next Man Up” attitude that is usually seen in football.
While Cubs’ rookies grab all of the attention for their flair, the Cardinals rookies have come up and had just as big of an impact. Pham, Piscotty, and Greg Garcia all made big contributions. On the mound, Socolovich, Tuivailala, and Harris all made a difference when given the opportunity.
These young men weren’t just filling in for the missing veterans; they produced in the long run and in key situations.
The veterans that survived the injury plague stepped up too. John Lackey had a fantastic season as he fought off Father Time. Jaime Garcia was fantastic when off the DL. Rosenthal and Siegrist were both lights out in the back end of the bullpen. Wacha and Martinez each showed why they’re two of the most promising young pitchers in the game. Peralta and Wong had a fantastic first half of the season. Matt Carpenter found his power swing as he is the only Cardinal with a chance for thirty homeruns this season.
They haven’t attracted much attention from the national media either. Why? Because they didn’t have Mark McGwire hitting 70 homers or Pujols, Edmonds and Rolen each putting up MVP-caliber seasons. They definitely won’t have a Cy Young candidate and may not even have a hitter with 30 homeruns or 100 RBIs.
What they did have was a manager motivating his team through every twist and turn. A manager who deserves more respect around the league.
There was nothing easy about this 100 win season. For most of the season the Pirates stayed right behind the Cardinals by owning the league’s second best record. In September the Cubs caught fire and made the division even more interesting.
Exactly how difficult was it? Although the Cardinals were the first team to secure a playoff spot, they were one of the last two teams to clinch their division and it took their 100th win to do it.
Yet the Cardinals continued to persevere.
But now it’s time to turn the page. None of this matters anymore.
It’s time to take this attitude into the postseason to win the eleven games that actually matter.
Prepare yourselves, Cardinals fans, because there’s nothing like baseball magic in October.
Regardless of what happens from here, I will always remember the 2015 St. Louis Cardinals as one of the best TEAMS baseball has seen in a very long time.
Need some help getting excited for the playoffs? My friend’s hype video will help you out: