Friday, October 19, 2012

WHY WE SHOULD LOVE THE ST. LOUIS CARDINALS


St. Louis is a pure baseball town and arguably the best in the entire country. It has
a genuine love affair with the Cardinals but doesn't come with all the drama of New
York or the vitriol in Boston. They aren't addicted to sports radio and would never
get consumed by the antics of A-Rod or be obsessed about a chicken wing eating,
beer drinking scandal like the good folks of New England were. They don't live
in the past with Buckner or Bucky "Effin" Dent, for that matter.

The franchise is steeped in tradition with "The Gas House Gang", Rogers Hornsby,
and Stan "The Man" Musial stitched into it's fabric forever. Their classic bird on bat
logo has never changed, neither have their rich uniforms. They've been void of scandal
for the most part, Mark McGwire's steroid-enhanced magical run to a home run record,
nicked their otherwise pristine record.

The Cardinals have raised 11 World Series banners and have a good chance of making
it an even dozen. They are on the verge of going to the Fall Classic despite losing the
game's best player and arguably, the best manager, which makes this team and this
franchise more easy to love.

St. Louis could've opened the vault and signed Albert Pujols to a record-
setting contract, but they didn't. They could've locked up a player who had already
cemented a place in the Hall of Fame and was as popular and well-loved as Musial,
but they didn't.

It would've been easy for them to get emotional about it like the Steinbrenner
brothers were with A-Rod, and lavish Pujols with a monster contract, but they
didn't. The Cardinals showed remarkable restraint and did what was best for the
organization, not Albert Pujols.  Oh, they showed the fans  they really tried to
sign King Albert, but that was really, um, for show.

Their baseball people took the emotion out of it and surmised that giving Pujols, no
matter how great a player he was, a 10-year contract, would hamstring the organization
for a long time. They saw what the Yankees didn't. They knew in this Steroid-less era
that players no longer get better when they hit age 36, and just like in the old days,
they usually go into a rapid decline. (See A-Rod).


The Yankees are on the hook with A-Rod for five more years and a whopping
$114 million and because of it, don't have many options. Pujols is still a great player,
but is no longer the best hitter in the game. The Angels have him for nine more years.
He is more likely to end up as  A-Rod than Barry Bonds, who hit 271 home runs
AFTER the age of 38.

Albert Pujols took God's advice and followed the money to Anaheim, which came
shortly after Tony LaRussa took the road to retirement. Considered a Hall of Fame lock,
LaRussa led the Cardinals to a pair of World Series titles, earning a special place in
franchise history. So management had to replace a guy who had managed 5,097 games
and did it by choosing someone who had not even managed one. Zero. Mike Matheny
never managed anywhere. Not a Little League team or even a minor-league one.

Management could've chosen Terry Francona, a manager with two World Series titles
on his resume, but they decided to go with a former Cardinal who had never even made
out a line-up card in his life. It was bold to let Pujols walk, it might've been even bolder
to give the keys to the team to a person who had never driven.

So, here the Cardinals are now, just one game away from going to the World Series
with a new manager and without Albert Pujols. (I wonder what Albert is thinking)
They have a team that plays the right way and one that doesn't have a game-changing superstar
like Pujols. There are Motte's, Kozma's, and one of the eight Molina brothers. Their
best player, Matt Holiday, has the personality of Bobby Valentine's bike helmet. But
it doesn't matter. This team plays hard and doesn't attract any drama. Carlos Beltran
isn't scanning the stands for his next hook-up and Mike Matheny doesn't make the
game all about him. (See Bobby V).


I couldn't name 10 guys on the Cardinals, but I really don't care. These guys are
passionate about the game and make EVERYTHING about baseball, and that's
refreshing.

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