October in St. Louis is supposed to mean captivation. It’s supposed to mean one team captivating the imaginations of generations of fans – shining a light of hope and tradition for an entire city to gaze upon and imagine what kind of fairy tale ending could be gleaming upon them. Each year in March, 30 candles are lit. One by one the flames fade; some will flicker and on the verge of fading, gather again, but in the end, only one flame remains among a sea of smoke. Eleven times that triumphant candle has been Cardinal red, and twenty-nine times it has shined into the autumn air as others got packed up for the winter. But for the last three years, the Cardinals’ candle has faded prematurely, tearing out blank pages of a fairy tale and ending the story in its tracks.
This 2019 team had gone dull and gotten saved by a rejuvenating gust of wind in July. Once again our light will shine in October, generations of fans will swarm 7th and Clark, and thousands more will watch from home. So what’s in the Cards this time around?
The “Cardinal Way” encompasses something different for everybody. The phrase became popular when a White Rat promoted the most exciting brand of baseball this town had ever seen. His teams were fast, they were crisp, smart, entertaining, and more importantly, they were good. If you believe that’s what the Cardinal Way is all about, then you likely believe Mike Shildt promotes a nostalgic and refreshing brand of baseball. But can that brand still prevail in 2019?
The Cardinals breed baseball players. While the rest of the league is preaching demolishing home runs at Herculanean rates, the Cardinals are staying true to their roots, which lead to them finishing 24th in home runs in the regular season. The teams that finished 1-4 in home runs, also happened to finish 1-4 in wins. In the last postseason, the teams that out homered their opponents went 19-4. The long ball is becoming more and more a proven recipe for success, and the Cardinals are lagging behind.
However, how do you counteract the long ball? You do just that – you counteract the long ball. If you’re not going to hit them, you better not give them up, and the Cardinals haven’t. The Cards were the third best team in preventing the long ball in the regular season, and fifth in run prevention, thanks in large part to a .989 fielding percentage, the best in the game.
The Cardinals have a chance to prove that pitching and defense still wins championships, and that the Cardinal Way is still deployable. This postseason has a chance to teach this organization a lot. Is our leadership outdated, or is our model still elite?
Perhaps our candle will prevail for the 12th time, or perhaps it will simmer and fade to the dismay of its admirers. Either way, baseball will be played in Busch Stadium this October and that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Get ready Cardinal Nation, it’s time to fly.