Did history play part in St. Louis Cardinals’ surge?
Plenty of things haven’t gone right for the St. Louis Cardinals this season.
For much of the first half, the birds weren’t able to hit for power. Michael Wacha, Jaime Garcia and most importantly, Yadier Molina, find themselves on the disabled list. The short-lived injuries to others have been too numerous to count. Allen Craig has regressed dramatically after last season’s RBI mania. Oscar Taveras, who will get better eventually, has been a bust after being called up from the minor leagues early on in the year. The list goes on.
I could nitpick for hours, but in the end, the team that I’ve loved since I was first able to pick up a baseball is only one game back of first place in the Central Division. Losing a player like Molina, who arguably is the most important player to any team in baseball because of what he means to the pitching staff, could have and probably would have crippled any other team. So what makes St. Louis different?
There seems to be something about this 2014 team that reminds me of years past. Despite the issues, when two incredibly important series (against Pittsburgh and Milwaukee) arrived right before the All-Star break, St. Louis seemed to break out of its shell just at the right time. Kolten Wong is suddenly a power hitter, and Tony Cruz is doing his best to emulate Molina. Heck, even Matt Holiday decided he wants to hit home runs again. In what has become commonplace for St. Louis faithful, the birds seem posed to have a stellar second half of the season.
The recent success started directly after getting crushed last Sunday by the Miami Marlins. This game was seen by many a Fairfieldien, considering that was the same day the Fairfield Trojans played at Busch Stadium. Before the game, my favorite player of all-time, former St. Louis centerfielder Jim Edmonds, was honored and he threw out the ceremonial first pitch. The stadium echoed with clips of Edmonds making diving catches and his unique swing pounding majestic home runs over the right field fence of old Busch Stadium.
Could teams of old have indirectly influenced this year’s team? How could one not get excited after watching Edmonds smash a walk-off home run against the Houston Astros in game six of the 2004 NLCS? I get goose bumps just thinking about it. Has the 2014 bunch finally realized their potential and kicked into gear just in time with the help of a little positive reinforcement?
St. Louis, just like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, is always cognizant of its history. Whether it’s David Freese’s heroics in the 2011 World Series or the legendary home run Albert Pujols hit off Brad Lidge in the 2005 NLCS, these moments can fuel a collective psyche. Players and fans alike can watch these incredible plays over and over again, and just like that, current problems disappear and all that remains is happiness as a result of reminiscence.
The Cardinals have been in the hunt all season, but they weren’t exactly blowing the roof off of the place after losing a series to the Marlins. But just days after, walk-off dingers and clutch pitching had brought the team an entirely new swagger that feels just like old times. After watching old clips and seeing stadiums erupt, one realizes the two birds and the bat on each jersey means something more than just a logo. This swagger the team just got back isn’t new, they had just lost it momentarily.
When October inevitably roles around this time, I can only hope that there is another indelible memory waiting to seep into my brain, latch on, and never allow me to forget.
Allyus Fritz is the Fairfield Ledger sports editor.