Watching the St. Louis Cardinals play baseball in 2014 has been difficult at times, I’ll admit it.
They haven’t always been the most consistent bunch this year. I know injuries have played a part in that too, with Yadier Molina and Michal Wacha missing significant time and of course Jaime Garcia is hurt again, but here we are watching big games in September ... again.
Since 2000 every season the Cards are right there when the calendar starts to turn to fall. They have made the playoffs 10 times since the turn of the century, including playing in four World Series and winning two of them. Only once over that span — 2007 — did they finish under .500, at 78-84, and even then were in the top half of the Central Division.
As fans we’re spoiled. Too often people complain because we lose a few games, or a player’s stats are down from prior seasons.
When St. Louis dropped three of four in Cincinnati recently, the Chicken Little effect began as fans thought the sky was falling. Then the Cards return home with a couple wins and fans are chirping about another World Series berth.
I fall into the bipolar fandom group at times, too. Earlier this season I visited PNC Bank Ballpark in Pittsburgh for a game and got into a heated discussion with a Pirates fan. I complained of how Matt Holliday’s numbers were down and at the time Allen Craig was a disappointment. I talked of how Jon Jay, Lance Lynn and Jhonny Peralta were overrated and he quickly interrupted me, saying the Pirates would take any of those guys and continued with, “This is Pittsburgh; their numbers would be great here.”
Then I thought about it — to a fan whose team had just made the playoffs in 2013 for the first time since 1992, I did sound pretty whiny. The poor Pirates hadn’t even had a winning season between ‘92 and ‘13, let alone sniff the playoffs.
In St. Louis as fans we expect little from the Rams during the football season and they generally come through; we expect a lot from the Blues on the ice and they generally fail us. As Cardinal fans our lofty expectations are generally met, or at least come close to being met.
It’s World Series or bust; that’s the level of accomplishment we expect from our Cardinals. Those are hard shoes to fill and during a 162-game season it’s a grind and there are going to be highs and lows. Let’s not get too worked up over a loss here or there; it’s a marathon, not a race, and at least the Birds are in the lead pack when September comes around even if they don’t win.
That’s a lot more than a lot of baseball fans can say, so let’s enjoy it.