There's little doubt that we're witnessing one of the greatest eras in the history of St. Louis Cardinals baseball.
Over the last three years, the worst the Redbirds have done was make it to the seventh and deciding game of the National League Championship Series. They've won a World Series and a pennant in the other two seasons.
Zoom out a little bit and, over the past 10 completed seasons, the Cardinals have won a pair of world championships, four pennants and they qualified for the playoffs seven times.
The skipper who managed the team over most of that period of success will be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame this summer. The guy who replaced him has a .567 winning percentage as St. Louis's dugout leader and has never failed to lead his team deep into the playoffs.
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We've been fortunate to watch Chris Carpenter, Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, Carlos Beltran, Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina play in a St. Louis uniform over that time. And the future looks blindingly bright with the latter two players plus potential superstar youngsters Michael Wacha, Oscar Taveras, Trevor Rosenthal and Carlos Martinez -- to name a few -- in the mix for years to come.
So... with that being said, what in the world is up with all the whining and complaining about the Cardinals?
You can't turn on the computer without being overwhelmed by an avalanche of angst and griping about everything from the team's current manager Mike Matheny, to the broadcasters to Fox Sports Midwest's camera angles, for crying out loud. It's on the social network sites, the chat boards and the comment sections of seemingly every newspaper or internet story about the club.
That's right. FSM decided it would be novel to show small portions of the Cardinals games from different parts of the stadium than usual. Twitter was on fire a couple of days ago because the network was showing the view from behind home plate instead of over the pitcher's shoulder! Seriously? I thought it was kind of cool to see different perspectives because, as a season ticket holder, I sit at the same place nearly every time I go to the ballpark.
It's comical that people who are older than 35 or so who were raised on Jack Buck or Harry Caray love to talk about how they prefer listening to games on the radio to watching them on television. Part of that is surely because those Hall of Fame announcers were the best of the best. But I'm sure part of it was because televised ballgames were awful until fairly recently.
Major League Baseball didn't allow more than a handful of games to be shown in the local market when I was growing up. When the games were on it was either a nationally telecast game by people who were wholly unfamiliar with the local team or a local broadcast that seemed to be on a shoestring budget. As the broadcast quality increased, I hungered for the chance to be able to see more games and was thrilled when they were on.
A major factor in the decision-making process when I considered moving away from St. Louis when I was younger was that I would be cut off from Cardinals games. That was something I wasn't sure I could take.
Now you can watch the all the games from anywhere in the country. But anyone under 35 or so flips out if they don't like the camera angle on which they watch the games in high definition on their giant flat screen televisions. And God forbid the announcer should ever make a mistake or mention something they already knew! They never would have made it with a snowy, black and white TV.
Are people really THAT jaded?
It's amazing how we went from waxing on and on about how wonderful the start of the baseball season is and counting down the days until the games started to griping and moaning about the CAMERA ANGLES?
While any Cubs, Mets or Astros fan could tell St. Louis fans how fortunate we are to get to watch such a consistently good — and not just good but VERY good — team year after year, a sector of Cardinals Nation has become completely insufferable.
I'm all for calling a team out when it's lousy. And the Redbirds have had their share of gaffes as they've stumbled out of the gate this season. But let's look at the big picture here. They're above .500 and have lately been showing signs of life. And let's not forget it's May 1, for crying out loud. It's not like they're anywhere near the end of the world.
It's a lot like the Seinfeld episode in which George Costanza, the assistant to the traveling secretary, was giving Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter tips on how to hit. Jeter pointed out that the team won the World Series the previous year and George sniffed "In SIX games."
There's a contingent on the social networking and blogging sites that thinks the Cardinals' decision to bench .160-hitting outfielder Peter Bourjos is akin to the suffering slaves went through before emancipation. Set him free, they say, so he can go to a place that appreciates him.
The Cardinals never gave him a chance, they howl. How could he be expected to hit better when he doesn't get enough playing time to get in a groove?
Geez, without getting into the well-worn statistics, whatever happened to someone having to prove themselves as opposed to being handed a chance? We knew coming into the season that Bourjos was an eighth-place hitter at best as evidenced by his .304 career on-base percentage and his .247 batting average over parts of five seasons in Anaheim and St. Louis. But, somehow, it's the fact that Bourjos (who leads Major League Baseball in strikeout percentage) doesn't get to play which has caused the Cardinals to win less often in 2014 than we would have liked.
It seems inconceivable to some that there might be other factors behind Bourjos not playing. Is he in the manager's doghouse for a lack of hustle? Is Matheny trying to shelter a fragile player from a slump? Instead, conspiracy theories abound. Has anyone on the chat boards ever heard the expression that when you're in a hole you need to stop digging?
Personally, I admire Matheny for his guts displayed by not continuing to start Bourjos. Does anyone recall just two months ago when the general manager announced that there was no competition for the starting centerfield job? John Mozeliak said he acquired Bourjos to be the starter and that was that. So it takes some guts for Matheny to stand up to his boss and say I'm my own man and I am going to manage the team as I see fit. That pretty much debunks the previous conspiracy theory that the Cardinals hired Matheny, who had no previous managerial experience, as a puppet who could be controlled by the front office.
Whatever happened with Bourjos, it was compelling enough for the Redbirds to backtrack on their previous plans to install him as the starter with no audition. And I think the members of the peanut gallery need to consider on the Bourjos issue -- and many others -- that they don't have all the information. They don't know what's going on in the clubhouse or between the ears of the players.
When Bourjos stumbled, Jay thrived when given the opportunity to replace him. Bourjos clearly was not up to the competition and folded. That tells me a lot about the character of a player. I'm not saying Bourjos will never be any good or that he's a bad guy. But I certainly think he seems like he could use some toughening up. And I think what we're seeing is Matheny showing him some tough love.
Don't accuse me of being a homer or of making excuses for the organization. I have the hate mail to prove that I'm not afraid to call the Redbirds out when they do things that don't make sense. But it's difficult to deny, no matter how bitter and negative one might be, that the Cardinals are in a very good place in the current era. They've been successful and they're both committed and set to be successful in the future.
Those facts leaving me asking myself one thing: Can people claim to be Cardinals fans when they hate the manager, hate the broadcasters, hate the established players and even hate the TV camera angles?
Thank God they don't live in Chicago where they'd really have things to complain about. It's my opinion that if they find primarily negatives in the current state of the organization that, perhaps, they're not as big of a fan as they think they are. And it might be best to find another hobby before, as all things go, the Redbirds reach a down period. They'd never survive.