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St. Louis, The Team of Destiny

Photo by Michael Heiman/Getty Images)

Why do I love the playoffs?  The answer is simple, if you get in despite your performance during the regular season, there is a chance to win a championship.  Take the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals as a prime example.  No one in  their right mind saw this team winning it all, especially with the numerous issues they had throughout the season.

This is a team that overcame every obsticle possible and just when you thought they were done, they proved that you can never count out a true champion.  This was by far the most improbable World Series run in the history of MLB.

The Cardinals played much of the season chasing the Braves and the Brewers for the opportunity to make the post season.  Albert Pujols was injured early in the season, and the team kept shuffling closers because of inconsistent play. 

Despite their problems the Cardinals kept fighting and holding on to their slim hopes of making the post season.  On August 25 they were 10 and a half games back of the Atlanta Braves for the NL wild card spot.  This seemed like an insurmountable lead, until they went 23-9 down the stretch.

In what was the most memorable final day in MLB history, the Atlanta Braves lost to Philadelphia and St. Louis won their final game and subsequently won the NL wild card.  At this point we should have seen this as foreshadowing for what was to come in the post season.

The Cardinals faced the Phillies in the first round of the playoffs.  After Philadelphia went up 2-1 in the series it seemed like the heavily favored Phillies would knock off St. Louis and be heading to the NLCS.  The resilient Cardinals would not go away and forced a game 5 in Philly. 

Against all odds, St. Louis won game 5 and advanced to the NLCS to face a young, enthusiastic Brewers team who was on an emotional high after winning their division for the first time since 1982.

The Brewers gave the Cardinals a series but proved that they could not knock off those pesty red birds either.  So the World Series match up that everyone predicted was set, the St. Louis Cardinals vs. the Texas Rangers. 

Most people had little interst in this World Series matchup.  What they didn’t count on was that this was going to be one hell of a competitive series that featured 2 evenly matched teams.  The teams split the first 2 games in St. Louis, and the Rangers won 2 of 3 in Arlington.

The scene was set for arguably the most memorable game in World Series history.  Game 6 will forever be remembered as the game where the St. Louis Cardinals refused to lose despite being down to their final out of the season twice!  What was even more amazing is that the Cardinals overcame a 2 run deficite 2 times as well.  They scored in the 8th, 9th, and 10th innings eventually winning the game in dramatic fashion when World Series MVP David Freese hit a walk off home run in the 11th inning.

After losing game 6 the Rangers lost their momentum and confidence as well.  St. Louis won game 7 in convincing fashion, completing one of the most miraculous championship runs in baseball history.  I must admit that I feel bad for the Texas Rangers.  They are only the 2nd team in MLB history to come within 1 out of winning the World Series and failing to do so.  The other team was the 1986 Boston Red Sox when Bill Buckner made one of the most infamous errors of all time.

Some people have asked me if the ’86 Redsox loss in game 6 of the World Series compares to the Rangers game 6 loss. My response is that the Rangers’ loss was much worse.  The reason is becasue the Red Sox already had  won 2 championships prior to their loss to the Mets in 1986.  The Rangers have never won a World Series in their 51 year history.  Not only that, but the Rangers had at least 3 oportunities to finish off the Cardinals.  We are comparing apples to oranges here.

The postseason is truly a magical time where anything can happen.  The St. Louis Cardinals proved that a true champion will always find a way to win.  Sure it doesn’t hurt if your opponent completely blows every opportunity they have to seal the deal, but in the end all that counts is that you can call yourselves world champions.

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