Cheap Seats

Cardinals, as usual, were full of surprises in 2012

If someone would have told me three or four weeks ago that the Cardinals would find themselves with a chance to play a seventh and deciding game of the National League Championship Series I would have been elated.

Back then it would have seemed like a nearly impossible dream thanks to the injuries to Lance Berkman, Rafael Furcal, Chris Carpenter and Jake Westbrook.

But context is everything. And once they got one step away from the promised land that is the World Series, I, like so many other Redbirds rooters, became emotionally invested to a degree I never imagined.

So pardon me if I have a bitter taste in my mouth about the fact that the Cardinals took a commanding three games to one lead in the National League finals and then they blew three games in a row by embarrassing margins to lose out on a chance to go to the World Series in back to back years.

I’m sure in the coming days that I’ll get over it. But right now I’m still pretty steamed about the unseemly way things went down with the Birds scoring one run over the final three games of the series combined.

It was a wild two-week-long playoff ride. But this morning I suddenly find myself reluctant to turn on the television or fire up the computer because I don’t want to read or see any more about how monumental the Giants’ comeback was. I don’t want to see highlights of the Redbirds looking dejected while San Francisco pops the champagne corks. I just want it to be Feb. 15.

It’s rough to be a baseball fan because the emotional highs and lows can’t really be compared to any sport.

No other game plays almost every day for six months. And with less games there is less chance for dramatic movement in the standings. Then, once your team gets to the playoffs, things really get crazy with momentum switching sides more often a driver who forgot to buckle his seat belt before a demolition derby.

In the National Football League there aren’t playoff series, just  individual games. So it’s like a Band-Aid being ripped off when your team loses: It hurts for a short while, but before you know it the pain goes away.

In baseball, a seven-game series is a week and a half long adventure no matter which side of the stick you end up with.

Unfortunately, the way things were going, I saw this train wreck coming as soon as last Friday night when the Cardinals were shut down at home by the most underachieving pitcher in major league history in Barry Zito. When the Birds couldn’t win at home with a rowdy crowd behind them, the Giants chances were greatly increased. And when the Cardinals lost game six on Sunday, the pressure was suddenly all on them instead of the other way around.

So we’re left to try to figure out how a team that downed the Washington Nationals, the best team in the Senior Circuit, and then dominated the first four games of the NLCS could suddenly become so hapless.

Still, I am getting one laugh today. It comes courtesy of Cubs fans who are getting a kick that the Cardinals won’t have another parade down Market Street.

It says remarkable things about the pecking order in Major League Baseball when the fans from the north side of Chicago’s highest aspiration is that we don’t win either.

To them, wait ’til next year is a punch line. Cardinals fans don’t hope for next year. We expect to be in the mix every year. And, with everybody but Kyle Lohse and Lance Berkman expected back for an encore performance, 2013 is no exception for high expectations in St. Louis.