As a Cardinals fan since I was a wee lad, I’ve seen so much amazing October baseball that changing leaves and cool fall weather no longer reminds me of football…it reminds me of baseball in the midwest.
When the temperature starts to drop and the grass begins to brown, instead of reaching for a pigskin and heading outside, I start wondering where I put my red ponchos and my Cardinals stocking caps. It’s not yet time for football. Football starts in November.
October is for Cardinals baseball.
The Redbirds entered this postseason by the hair of their chinny-chin-chins and narrowly escaped a quick exit out the side door of Atlanta’s Turner Field…but the Cardinals held it together and advanced. Yay! Now you get to face the Nationals…the National League’s top team with 98 wins.
Hmmm…any of this sound familiar?
In 2011, the Cardinals took their season all the way to the end. While they played 162 games that mattered, it was game 163 – a Braves loss after the Cardinals wrapped up a neat victory in Houston – that ultimately punched their tickets to postseason play. Their reward?
A date with the NL’s top pick to win a World Series Championship…the Philadelphia Phillies. An early exit was expected. In fact, the Redbirds were more than happy to oblige by losing Game 1.
In 2012, it took 162 games for the Cardinals to earn a berth in game 163 (they played in 161 that mattered, but it was a Dodgers loss on the West Coast that finally clinched a spot). Their Game 163 opponent? The Atlanta Braves. The Cardinals once again ended the Braves’ season and advanced.
Once again, the Cardinals were rewarded with yet another NL East team picked by many “experts” as the most likely NL team to win the World Series. This time…the Washington Nationals. And once again, the Cardinals coughed up Game 1.
But now the Cardinals find themselves within one game, one win of advancing to the NLCS in their second straight year (knock on wood…). Win today, and the good guys are in. Lose today and win tomorrow…same result.
In 2011, the Cardinals watched Chris Carpenter pitch a 1-0 shutout against Doc and the Phillies to advance to the NLCS. Their opponent? The easy winners of the National League Central Division, the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brew Crew had dominated the season and outstripped the second place Cardinals by double-digit games at multiple points in the season, but a strong September saw the Redbirds close the gap to a single digit number of 6 games.
In 2012, the Cincinnati Reds are one win away from advancing to the NLCS. If the Cardinals take care of business today or tomorrow (knock on wood…), a Reds and Cardinals NLCS would mark the second straight NLCS to pit the National League Central Division champions against their second place finishers…two teams separated by double-digits for multiple days during the season. Once again, a strong September by the 2012 Cardinals reduced the gap to a single digit number of 9.
Hmmm…6…9…anyone got a mirror?
Obviously there are too many differences to count between the 2011 and 2012 Cardinals…but just to name a few:
1. 2011 saw Tony LaRussa manage his final season. Mike Matheny is in his first season as a manager at any level in 2012.
2. 2011 saw Albert Pujols lead the Cardinals to their second World Championship in his 11-year career. This year? Pujols is watching the games from his St. Louis home as a member of the now-eliminated Angels.
3. 2011 saw a healthy Chris Carpenter throw 270+ innings and all but one clinching game for the Redbirds. 2012 is delighting in a Carpenter only 4 starts into his season and one rib lighter.
4. 2011 saw Adam Wainwright miss the entire season due to TJ Surgery. 2012 seems set up to cast a mostly-healed Waino in the Carpenter role as he’s set to pitch both Game 1 and Game 5 (if necessary…) of the NLDS.
And so on, and so on…
But while multiple differences abound, one can’t help but notice the almost eerie similarities as well, right down to the numerological oddity observed by many fans in Cardinal Nation…
In 2011, the Cardinals won 11 postseason games to capture their 11th World Series Championship. #11in11 for #11
In 2012 (due to an unprecedented rule change that created a one-and-done Wild Card game for the first time in over 100 years of professional baseball), the Cardinals would have to win 12 postseason games to capture a 12th World Series Championship. #12in12 for #12
Here’s hoping the stars align once again and the Cardinals pull off another stunner to become the first ever second Wild Card to win a World Series Championship (knock on wood…).