2012 NL Wild Card Game: What Makes Cardinals Turn into Juggernaut in October?
Regardless of the regular season and where the St. Louis Cardinals stand in the rankings, the team has the ability to become an absolute beast as it makes its way through the Postseason.
You could call them the New York Giants of MLB.
The Cardinals came into the Wild Card game with virtually no one expecting to see them win. They coasted through the season but always managed to come through when the situation became dire.
Regardless of the awkward mess that Friday night’s Wild Card playoff win over the Atlanta Braves became, the fact is the Cardinals pulled through.
Despite an awkward timeout that became a two-run home run, a ball thrown into the back of a base runner and one of the strangest infield fly calls in the history of the game, the Cardinals are going to the National League Division Series on Sunday.
Maybe the Washington Nationals had a better regular season than the Cardinals, but they could very well have their hands full when they arrive in St. Louis. Even though the Nationals bested the Cardinals 4-3 in regular season play, the postseason is new territory for Washington.
So why do the Cardinals have the ability to turn into an October juggernaut?
The atmosphere at Busch Stadium is always electric. The stadium stays full most of the year, and the crowd is always intense.
The crowd really gets behind this team, and the players feed off of that.
To a team with no experience in the postseason whatsoever, Busch Stadium could be overwhelming during the Postseason. As Game 7 of the 2011 World Series reached its pinnacle, the place literally rumbled.
Talent on the Field
The Cardinals nearly always field a good team.
At a recent bloggers event, Cardinals President Bill Dewitt III spoke on how St. Louis demands competitive play and that thanks to their widespread fanbase, they have the ability to keep their payroll in MLB’s top 10.
No, they didn’t pay up when Albert Pujols was ready for a huge payday, but within weeks the team made a move they felt would replace the majority of his lost offense.
That move worked out for the Cardinals. Carlos Beltran struggled after the All-Star break but heated back up at the end of the season.
The Cardinals front office takes its manager seriously.
Tony LaRussa, Whitey Herzog and Red Schoendienst will be joined together in the Baseball Hall of Fame in the near future and with good reason.
Many questioned the team’s decision to bring in former Cardinals catcher Mike Matheny after LaRussa announced his retirement, but so far the decision looks to have been a good one.
How deep will the Cardinals go into the playoffs?
Given all Matheny has dealt with in 2012, for him to have guided this team through the top level of the playoffs is quite impressive. Sure, he has dealt with some growing pains, but he’s come through looking like a champ.
The decision to give Kyle Lohse the ball for the Wild Card playoff was questioned by some, for example, but in the end Matheny comes out looking like a genius. The same questions were raised when Matheny lifted David Freese for a pinch runner, but he turned it into a run—and the speed of Adron Chambers was needed to get it in.
Postseason play is not new to the Cardinals—even most of the younger players.
It’s hard to think of players like Jon Jay, Allen Craig and Lance Lynn as experienced in October baseball, but they definitely are.
The team’s veterans are even more familiar—Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, Chris Carpenter and Jason Motte to name a few.
Over the years the Cardinals have competed in 17 World Series and won 11 of them. They are second only to the New York Yankees in both categories.
If this team with its grit and talent has anything to say about it, they will soon be tacking another notch onto both of those lists.
Why are the Cardinals such a force in October? Because it’s all they know.
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