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St. Louis Cardinals should take a lesson on how to play the game from the 1982 champs

A quick look at the Cardinals’ 11 World Series championships

The St. Louis Cardinals won World Series titles in 1926, 1931, 1934, 1942, 1944, 1946, 1964, 1967, 1982, 2006, and 2011. Their 11 championships lead the National League and are second only to the New York Yankees' 27 championships.
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The St. Louis Cardinals won World Series titles in 1926, 1931, 1934, 1942, 1944, 1946, 1964, 1967, 1982, 2006, and 2011. Their 11 championships lead the National League and are second only to the New York Yankees' 27 championships.

A debate I sometimes have with my St. Louis Cardinals fans buddies is, if you had a time machine and could go back to watch only one game in the history of the franchise, what game would it be.

I really would have loved to see Stan Musial play in his prime, especially with the 1942 World Series when one of the greatest dynasties in Cardinals history was just reaching its stride. In addition to Musial, it would have been cool to see Enos Slaugher, Marty Marion and brothers Mort and Walker Cooper take on and defeat the great New York Yankees of the era.

But, if I could only see one game, I think I would have to opt for the deciding game of the 1926 World Series. Also against the Yankees, this time the Murderer’s Row Bronx Bombers of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Tony Lazerri. The Cardinals featured the incredible Rogers Hornsby and Grover Cleveland Alexander. The Cardinals won in dramatic fashion, and I wonder if I would want to know that in advance and really soak in the moment or if I would prefer to be surprised.

Beyond witnessing Hall of Fame players doing their thing, I think it would be incredible to watch baseball without walk-up music, video replays and all the other bells and whistles that seem in many ways to attract more attention than the game that is going on down on the field.

Sadly, as I think about which game I would most want to see if I could go back, it becomes apparent that I wish I could just go back to see any game at all, as long as it was prior to the last 10 years. Forgive me for sounding like a grumpy old man yelling for the ballplayers of today to get off my lawn. But, while it’s obvious that athletes of the day are bigger, stronger and faster than they have ever been before, they just don’t get the finer points of the game.

Sure, players might make athletically spectacular plays. But they make so many more mental errors, throwing to the wrong base, not anticipating what’s going to happen.

More pitchers throw 98 mph or better than at any time in history. The Cardinals have tons of guys who can bring the heat with the best of them. Yet they make mental mistakes by allowing a maddening number of hits with two strikes. Tuesday night in Seattle against the Mariners, the Cardinals lost the lead and then fell behind because two hitters in the inning reached with two strikes.

The 1982 Cardinals celebrated a World Series without relying on three-run homers to score runs. AP

And the hitters. This launch angle stuff has made a generation of hitters one-dimensional, all-or-nothing players. This garbage with the playing three — or sometimes four — infielders on first base side of the field couldn’t have happened with regularity in any other era of baseball. Yes, some teams shifted on Ted Williams back in the 1940s. But the Splendid Splinter was notoriously stubborn and he hit .340 anyway, so it really wasn’t a risk to challenge him with a shift. The players of today just can’t handle hitting the opposite way because their uppercut strokes make it impossible for them to alter their approach.

You can take all your advanced metrics, shifts, pitchers batting eight, openers or anything else that’s happening in baseball now and I don’t think a team that plays baseball that way could beat the 1982 Cardinals, one of the most fundamentally sound clubs I have ever had the pleasure to watch play the game the way it was meant to be played. Why? Because the 1982 Cardinals could do it all. They could steal a base, play shutdown defense, move runners over with a sacrifice and generally prevent the opposition from maximizing its opportunities. The Cardinals of today can’t win without a three-run home run at some point in the game. They’re constantly stranding runners in scoring position with less than two outs, failing to move runners up and getting beaten for extra bases when they should hold the runner to a single.

I sure hope the way baseball historically has been played isn’t lost forever because the way the current caretakers of the game are neglecting it.

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