If the New York Yankees are the cream of the American League crop, then the St. Louis Cardinals are certainly the icing on top of the National League cake.
With a 9-0 thumping of the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game Six of the NL Championship Series, the Cardinals advanced to their fourth World Series since 2004 — and St. Louis will have a chance to add its third MLB championship in the last eight seasons when the Series starts next week.
Their opponent is yet to be determined, but the Cards have recent playoff history against both: in 2004, the Boston Red Sox swept St. Louis in four games, and in 2006, the Cardinals beat the Detroit Tigers in five games.
St. Louis is clearly the flagship franchise of the National League now: in this century, the Cardinals have made the postseason ten times in 14 years, advanced to the NLCS eight times since 2000 and have only finished under .500 once (2007).
Almost makes you wonder how St. Louis managed to blow that 3-1 lead last year against the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS, doesn’t it? After all, this is an organization that knows how to win — historically and presently.
The franchise dates back to 1882, when the team was known as the Brown Stockings. And from 1883 to 1898, it was just the St. Louis Browns, before one season (1899) being called the Perfectos. In 1900, the Cardinals nickname was adopted, and it has stayed put.
This is the 19th NL pennant for the franchise as the Cardinals, incidentally, and St. Louis could win its 12th World Series title — second only to the Yankees’ 27 championships.
What else is there to say?
Since winning their last title in 2011, the Cards have changed managers (Tony LaRussa retired after that championship, his second in St. Louis and third overall) and lost perhaps their biggest star of the last half century (Albert Pujols). But they just keep winning.
It’s a testament to franchise stability, fan loyalty and organizational integrity that every other team in the NL wishes it could match.
But none of them can.
Considering the Cardinals sent a rookie pitcher (Michael Wacha) to the mound tonight to take on Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw, the three-time All-Star and 2011 Cy Young winner who will probably win it again this season, perhaps nothing should surprise baseball fans across the country when it comes to the St. Louis organization’s ability to develop young talent.
After all, this 14-year run began right before the emergence of Pujols, who would win three Most Valuable Players awards in St. Louis and just missed on a few others because Barry Bonds was ingesting flaxseed oil by the bushel at BALCO.
Yet even without El Hombre, the Cards don’t miss a beat: their two first basemen this year, Allen Craig and Matt Adams, hit a combined 30 home runs with 148 RBI in 882 at-bats.
Former Cy Young-winning starter and three-time All-Star Chris Carpenter has pitched just 17 innings in the last two years as he battles injuries, but no worries: St. Louis comes up with Wacha, the 21-year-old rookie who just took down Kershaw twice in the NLCS, and Shelby Miller, a 22-year-old who posted a 15-9 record with a 3.06 ERA this year — and wasn’t even “good enough” to make the playoff rotation.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, these are the St. Louis Cardinals, and from now on? The road to the World Series from the National League runs through Busch Stadium.
Get used to it, fans of (insert your favorite NL team here), because they’re not going anyway any time soon.