But now that it's at the printer, I can finally catch up on everything I missed. I can celebrate during everyone else's post-celebration hangover. I'm going to re-watch Game 5 today, because my first screening of the game was interrupted several times by the printer calling with proofs to review. M made me put down the laptop for the final three outs, thank goodness, so I could experience some joy in a live setting. But I still haven't had that post-victory cry that I expect is welling up in me.
If I let that out this morning, it will look more like tears of rage, however. What is up with America's sportwriters? Not that this will be news to anyone who reads the sports section on a daily basis, but sportwriters are some of the worst writers on Earth -- and on top of that they're gutless sheep who spend about as much time thinking about what they're writing as they do improving their understanding of the games they cover. Far too little. They can't find the storyline -- or refuse to acknowledge it -- through their typical, juvenile snobbery.
Indulge me, please, as I itch my Midwest inferiority complex. The Cardinals were praised prior to the 2006 season as a team with a great shot at winning the NL Central and making it back to the Fall Classic. Why? They had the reigning MVP and Cy Young winners, and with Rolen and Edmonds they boasted a stable veteran core. But in truth, they were a shaky team on paper from the start, and things didn't improve in that regard due to in-season acquisitions. We were a team of castoffs solidified by two of the best players in the game today. When you put it down on paper, it's sort of startling. Eckstein was DFA'd by the Angels. Miles and Belliard were both traded by their respective clubs, considered less valuable than middling prospects and fat old relievers. Very few teams took any interest in Encarnacion in the offseason. Or Spiezio. Preston Wilson was cut by the Stros. Weaver was going to be cut, until we traded for him. And we didn't exactly have to get in a bidding war with any other club to land Taguchi three years ago. Our pen consisted of a dude who pitched in the indy leagues just a couple years ago (Kinney), two lefties that have never been on any scout's radar, a Reds castoff, a rookie in his first year of pen service, and a guy who got boo'd out of NYC. And don't forget about the Cardinals converted "outfielder" who prior to hitting 21 homers in 3 months was considered a nepotistic addition to the roster.
St. Louis played like crap for four months of the season, in part due to a ton of significant injuries (Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds, Eckstein, Mulder, and Isringhausen). But come October, the team was relatively healthy again. And they still had the reigning MVP and Cy Young -- both of which were gunning for to repeat in that department. But because a sportswriter's only memory is recent memory, those same critics who lauded St. Louis as "a good bet" now thought that the Cardinals were "a good bet to get swept" by the Padres, then the Mets, then the Tigers. Either they fucked up seven months ago when they said St. Louis was a great team, or they fucked up in October by failing to remember what they had written seven months ago.
Or maybe the Cardinals truly had become a crappy team in the meantime. But I don't think so. As much as I bitched this season about my team's performance, I did so because I'm a perfectionist that has been conditioned to a high standard. These Cardinals were not the NL juggernaut of their '04 brethren, but they were a far cry from the laughingstock of the playoffs. The Cardinals were built around the philosophy of their World Series MVP, the blue-collar Eckstein: flash isn't necessary, just hard work. They were a team led by veterans who had been-there-done-that in the postseason, but were still hungry for that first ring. And, I have to admit, they were led by a manager who just happened to be on top of his game at the right time.
Still, they can't get no respect. Not even after winning the whole shebang. Not even after beating three of the best pitching staffs in the Majors. Not even after overcoming a poor-by-his-standards postseason from Pujols.
Here's a sampling of the tone that's being adopted by plenty of columnists from around the country. This from Bill Plaschke of the L.A. Times:
When historians recall the 2006 World Series, which mercifully ended Friday on another odd night of freezing winds and flocking birds, one word will come to mind.
It will not be Cardinals, who, let's face it, won a world championship by virtue of possessing a pulse.
It will not be Weaver, the Angels and Dodgers bust who blearily stumbled his way into postseason religion.
It will not be Eckstein, the wonderful little Series MVP who will live longer as a Bill Stoneman nightmare.
The word will not be a name, but a directive, one that defined a team and detailed an embarrassment.
The word will be "Duck!"
Here comes a short throw from a Detroit Tigers pitcher to the third baseman -- duck!
Here comes a throw from a Tigers pitcher to the first baseman -- duck!
You get his point. And unfortunately, it's the same point that is being made by a host of writers: St. Louis, an inferior 83-win team, lucked into a World Series title. While a certain portion of baseball is luck -- "a game of inches" -- a lucky team does not win 11 games in October. It takes a good one. It took a good one to beat the Mets, that's for sure. And it took a good one to beat the Tigers, too, a team that plowed through supposedly superior AL teams to make it to the Fall Classic. Even without those eight errors -- and last time I checked fielding is still a significant part of the game -- the Cardinals would likely at worst be facing a Game 7 today. Why? Because St. Louis pitchers manhandled a good Tigers lineup and tamed an even better Mets one.
Pitching wins ballgames in October. The Cardinals didn't bring the good stuff in June. Or August. Or September. But in October, they brought their A game against baseball's best teams. And that's why they are the '06 champions. You want a story to write, sportswriters? How about tyring out the real story. You may be familiar with it already: a talented Midwest sports team drowning in turmoil bonds at the right time to defeat Goliath. If you need a refresher, just rent Hoosiers.
In the meantime, I'm going to stop reading your slop before it kills my buzz.
UPDATE: Brian Gunn sings a similar tune (to me) over at Hardball Times. Worth a read if you're still not convinced.