The St. Louis Cardinals have proven to be one of baseball’s most consistent teams. Even the loss of players can’t keep them down.
By William Chase
There are few teams in sports that would be considered a lock.
A lock to win a game, to win their division, to consistently reflect, and to sustain, success year in and year out.
The Golden State Warriors are a lock to win just about every game they play. The New England Patriots are AFC East locks every year, and just about as sure a Super Bowl-lock. The Chicago Blackhawks and San Antonio Spurs are teams that might not have the best regular season record every year, but seem to know when to flip that switch come playoff-time.
Then there’s the St. Louis Cardinals.
Not just a team that constantly competes and battles, but an organization that never can be counted out. The Chicago Cubs grabbed John Lackey and Jason Heyward off last year’s Cards roster, but you still have that feeling as if the Cards will be just fine.
Adam Wainwright on Carlos Martinez facing live hitters today: “I think he looked better than anyone I’ve ever seen.” https://t.co/DzpGyWHGuv
— Drew Silva (@drewsilv) March 4, 2016
Then came news that shortstop Jhonny Peralta will miss at least 2-3 months following a torn ligament in his thumb.
— CBS Sports MLB (@CBSSportsMLB) March 7, 2016
A sure blow to the club, but yet another obstacle one gets the sense the Cardinals will overcome. It’s what they do. For one of, if not the best, well-run organization in all of baseball, and maybe sports, the St. Louis Cardinals have always boasted tremendous depth in the most efficient and effective ways.
Watching a baseball game last summer, a Saturday night contest between the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals, the commentator alluded to the Cards, and how they call up Major Leaguers.
Not just prospects. Major League-ready talent.
In 63 games last season, Piscotty (.305/.359/.494) hit seven home runs, 39 RBI, and perhaps more impressively, carried over his regular season numbers to the playoffs. In the Cardinals four postseason games, he hit .375, also showing off the power with three home runs, six RBI.
Grichuk hit .276 in 103 games last season, with 17 homers, 47 RBI.
As we’ve seen across sports, it’s not always how much one spends on free agents, or always who is signed, but how everyone comes together for the team at the right time. There’s no telling who’s going to be playing come October. But the Cards expect to be there.
“We expect to win” says Wainwright in a Bob Nightengale column for USA TODAY Sports.
Why wouldn’t they?
With only one losing season in the last 15 years, St. Louis has captured the last three National League Central division titles, made four World Series appearances since 2004 and nine trips to the NLCS since 2000.
They’ve won the World Series when it looked like they were better suited for hitting the links—2006 iteration won only 83 regular season games before dispatching the 95-win Detroit Tigers—and have been eliminated in years when they looked like the best team.
Even in years when they were riddled by injury, or faced with unparalleled adversity, they competed until the end. The 2007 Cards, fresh off their 2006 title, won 78 games but suffered through the tragedy of losing pitcher Josh Hancock in a car accident. Ace Chris Carpenter was lost in the second-half of the season to Tommy John surgery.
The 2012 Cards looked on the brink of elimination during the NLDS against the Washington Nationals, yet they naturally finished the job.
But there’s always one constant for these Redbirds; they can never be counted out. They’ve proven it during the Tony La Russa days and carry that mantra forward, under former catcher-turned skipper Mike Matheny.
Even with the injury to Peralta, the loss of Heyward and Lackey, and plenty of attention on the Chicago Cubs, there’s still that feeling like you can’t count St. Louis out.