The St. Louis Cardinals are once again showing just how dangerous they can be late in the season.
When the competition really begins to matter, the Cardinals do what needs to be done—beat the teams they should be beating. A bad series against either the Houston Astros or the Chicago Cubs could have sealed their fate, but the Cardinals have learned to come through when it counts.
That’s what they did in 2011. Once they were all but mathematically eliminated, the team came together and mowed through the competition all the way through the World Series.
The Cardinals, 10-3 in their last 13 games, may be getting hot at just the right time.
With their magic number currently sitting at two, the Cardinals are poised to once again be the team no one wants to face in October.
Here are several reasons why the Cardinals always manage to get hot late in the season.
Just like in 2011, the Cardinals have a good vibe in the clubhouse.
Last year, Lance Berkman had a lot to do with it. In 2012, it’s more of a combination of guys as well as their new manager. Regardless, things are running smooth for the time being.
Keeping good charisma among the players is something the Cardinals have aimed for when bringing in new talent. Carlos Beltran and Rafael Furcal are both examples of acquisitions that brought more to the table than just their baseball skills.
A happy clubhouse, however, does not necessarily make for a successful team.
For years, the Cardinals have been very fortunate to have good veteran leadership on their team.
Despite having a well-stocked farm system to draw from, St. Louis manages to balance their youth well with seasoned veterans.
Players like Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday play a very important role with the younger players. They are able to teach them about how to keep a straight head in high-pressure situations and how to handle their newfound fame and money.
The older players also bring valuable postseason experience to the table. One of the problems younger teams face is that the pressure of the playoffs can be more than some players can handle.
The amount of success the Cardinals have seen over the years has helped to season even the youngest of players—Lance Lynn and Jon Jay, for example—to what October baseball means.
The 2011 World Championship would likely never have happened without the carefully executed moves of general manager John Mozeliak at the trade deadline.
While many questioned the decision to trade Colby Rasmus, when the trophy was hoisted, it was Mozeliak who went from being Walt Jocketty’s protégé to one of the game’s elite general managers.
When the 2012 trade deadline grew near and the only move the Cardinals made was to swap third base prospect Zack Cox for a middle reliever from the Miami Marlins, many fans were disappointed.
Now two months into the Edward Mujica deal, the Cardinals are looking to have come out on top once again—even if only in the short term. Cox still has potential to grow, but once again, the front office addressed an immediate need in a way that seems to be working in their favor.
Often referred to as the “Best Fans in Baseball,” the St. Louis Cardinals are fortunate to have one of the most supportive fanbases in all of sports.
Unless a player is a faltering reliever (Ryan Franklin or Jason Isringhausen anyone?), the fans are extremely forgiving of struggles and slumps.
The Cardinals typically draw over three million in attendance from every surrounding state and even have a decent crowd at road games all across the country.
While the fans don’t take the field, there is something special about being a player with the level of support they enjoy in St. Louis. This has helped make St. Louis an attractive destination for players throughout the years.
The Cardinals always seems to have a talented coaching staff, and those key members have long played an invaluable role to the now defending champions.
Derek Lilliquist, who has taken over for one of the most highly-regarded pitching coaches in MLB, has done an impressive job with the starting rotation in 2012. Some may credit that to Dave Duncan, but Lilliquist also deserve credit.
He learned a lot from Duncan and has done a good job of holding together a pitching staff that ranges from rookies with no starting experience to veterans dealing with crucial injury issues.
Hitting coach Mark McGwire has also had a lot to do with the Cardinals' success in recent years. He has worked well with young players like David Freese and Allen Craig to help them develop a successful approach. He even worked extensively with Yadier Molina to help get him to the point of where he is today.