Making Sense of the St. Louis Cardinals' Collapse

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Making Sense of the St. Louis Cardinals' Collapse
(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Two days have passed and I still don’t know what to think.

It’s been 48 hours since the St. Louis Cardinals were swept of out the postseason by the Los Angeles Dodgers. I’m still in the same frame of mind. Stunned, disoriented, angry, confused, sad.

I’m sure you Cubs and Brewers fans will salivate while reading this, giddy to see such tragedy befall your rivals. And I don’t blame you. I was there, Northsiders, when our positions were switched last October.

Matt Holliday, Colby Rasmus and Ryan Franklin combined to blow it for the Cards Thursday in Game Two of the NLDS. I can’t remember a time where I experienced that huge of an emotional shift. One minute, we’re up with two outs and no one on base in the bottom of the ninth, with the series coming home to St. Louis knotted at one a piece.

The next, the Dodgers are mauling Mark Loretta between the bases, celebrating their unexpected win and the Cardinals’ epic meltdown, and the Birds are staring out of an 0-2 hole.

At least that moment had a definable turning point. The deciding Game Three never even got going. After initially freaking out over Rasmus' truly rookie baserunning gaffe and Holliday’s decision to play that fateful final fly ball off his groin, Cardinals fans as a whole eventually calmed a bit.

We were cautiously optimistic to win Saturday, and follow it with the Cy Young one-two punch of Carp and Waino. Alas, Saturday’s game was just a listless effort from the Cards. No one hit when they needed to, per usual for this postseason. Joel Piniero was ineffective. And we lost. The Cardinals got swept for the first time in DS or LCS play.

It just sucks that something you’ve invested yourself in since February—162 games worth—is over in a three-game, four-day blink of an eye.

But that’s not to say I’d ever give it up. Ever. The positives outweigh the negatives a hundred times over. Losses like this come with the territory of being a sports fan. Crushing defeats happen. You just hope they don’t happen to you.

I’ve already been spoiled. I witnessed the out-of-nowhere 2006 run to the title. Maybe this year’s implosion is the Baseball Gods way of making up for the ’06 fluke, which still, I’m unashamed to say, is one of the best days of my life. This loss doesn’t take that away. But it does make me want 2010 more.

I don’t know if we’ll resign Holliday. Or DeRosa. Or Lugo or LaRussa or Duncan or…Ah, I can’t think about the future right now. Still trying to make sense of what just happened.

Last night I was watching the Twins-Yankees game, and couldn’t help but pull for both teams to out-choke the other to lose. That’s what all my pro-Cards passion has turned into—unfounded hatred and a insatiable thirst for schadenfreude. I was thrilled the Red Sox also got swept.

I had high hopes for this postseason. Through August, I thought we’d cruise to our 11th World Series. Even after our September slide to end the season, I still thought we’d turn it around.

But again, we lost. And Chris Carpenter was left waiting with the Game Four ball in his hand. Like the rest of us, unfortunately he’ll have to wait until April.

There’s a lot to figure out between now and then. But it doesn’t hurt to look forward to 2010.

Hey, only 174 days until Opening Day.

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