All's well that ends well. But sometimes the ride to your ultimate goal is enough to drive you nuts.
It took all of seven months for the 2014 edition of the St. Louis Cardinals to come together on the field. After lingering slightly above the .500 mark for more than three-quarters of the season, they've streaked out front of the National League Central Division and seem in line for a playoff berth.
So angst-ridden Redbirds rooters can finally breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy watching baseball.
I don't know why it took so long for things to gel. While I have been frustrated in the past by the Redbirds' off-season inactivity and their occasional willingness to to leave huge holes in the starting lineup -- years when they penciled in So Taguchi as the starting left fielder or Daniel Descalso as the starting second baseman come to mind -- this year they looked like they had all the angles covered.
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St. Louis let Carlos Beltran walk as a free agent not because they were too cheap to pay him but because they didn't seem to have any room for him. Allen Craig as penciled in to take over in right field while Oscar Taveras was on the brink of the big leagues. The Cardinals dealt from another position of surplus, third base, shipping David Freese to the Anaheim Angels for outfielders Peter Bourjos -- to add team speed -- and Randal Grichuk -- a power-hitting, slick fielder. Even though Kolten Wong was set to take over at second base, the Birds didn't take any chances, making what seemed to be a shrewd signing when it added veteran infielder Mark Ellis as a backup plan and bench bat.
I remember being excited in spring training about club's versatility. Wong is a lefty, Ellis a righty. Incumbent centerfielder Jon Jay a lefty and Bourjos a righty. Craig a righty who could counter lefties Taveras in right and Matt Adams at first base. Then there were relievers Trevor Rosenthal and Carlos Martinez who seemed poised for great full seasons after strong finishes in 2013.
But for some reason none of it came together in spring training... or April... or May... In late August, even, the Cardinals lost their series with the last place Philadelphia Phillies and then they lost their first two games of a four-game set with the lowly Chicago Cubs.
What happened? I'm not sure. The Cardinals didn't respond to benchings, minor league demotions, the trade of popular clubhouse fixtures Craig and pitcher Joe Kelley... I'm just glad the team finally woke up.
What seemed to be a lost season has been redeemed. The Birds, who looked two weeks ago like they might not even secure a wild card playoff berth, now have a decent chance to catch the Los Angeles Dodgers and possibly the Washington Nationals for the best record in the National League.
Sometimes baseball just can't be figured out.