|Redbird Reflections: The 2004 Cardinals had a heck of a season|
Written by Daniel Paulling (Contact & Archive) on November 08, 2004
Many of the “experts” predicted that the St. Louis Cardinals would be fighting for third place in the National League’s Central Division. I made an error in judgment (I will review all my Division picks soon) and I also chose them to finish third, but in my mind, I thought it would be a close race. Well, I made a mistake and I’ll admit it.
The 2004 version of the Cardinals scored the most runs in the National League. They were second to the Atlanta Braves in ERA (by .003 of an earned run over the span of the entire staff’s season), but allowed the fewest runs in the Senior Circuit. This team completely dominated the NL Central race by leading the Cubs and Astros for much of the season and by a rather large margin for the entire year, despite not being picked to compete for the title.
But this team’s bats were silent on the night of the 27th. Because of that, the Cardinals faithful were silent, as the Red Sox swept the Cardinals in the World Series.
And now many fans believe that the 2004 edition of the St. Louis Cardinals was a failure, as well as some of their players. One player in particular, Mike Matheny, believes that their season has some tarnish to due to the sweep.
“What we did in the regular season is a great accomplishment, but you need that championship by your name to make it a really special club.”
His manager (perhaps former, as Matheny is a free agent) Tony LaRussa elaborates further by saying the following: “It's terrific, but we were short so it's disappointing.”
I’m sure that plenty of fans in Boston would disagree with me, as well as many other narrow minded people around the world, but I think the Cardinals had one of the best years in the majors. They won 105 games, which is no small feat. This team, as stated above and reiterated here, scored the most runs in the Senior Circuit, as well as allowing the least. They made no major changes to their team except adding Jason Marquis and Larry Walker late in the year, while the Astros brought in Clemens, Pettitte, and Beltran, while the Cubbies added Greg Maddux. So this team went from an eighty-five win 2003 to a triple digit win total 2004. Quite some magic there.
Can this season be construed as a failure for the Redbirds? Absolutely not.
"It's been a great season," Cardinals 1B Albert Pujols said. "Nobody expected us to get this far, and we got to the World Series. We're just the second-best team in the league. [There's] disappointment, sure, but remember, we weren't supposed to be here."
So instead of remembering that they were swept in the World Series, let’s remember all the great things about St. Louis baseball. Their twenty win gain to take the NL Central, their triumvirate of MVP candidates, their beautiful games against the Dodgers and Astros, and most of all, proof that baseball is played on the field, not on paper or on websites.
Thank you, Tony LaRussa for leading this team to great things with some odd managerial tricks. Thank you, Albert Pujols for an excellent glove, bat, and persona. Thank you, Jim Edmonds for entertaining all fans with those fantastic leaping-over-the-wall catches. Thank you, Scott Rolen for playing the best third base we’ve seen since Brooks Robinson. And thank you fans of St. Louis for supporting your team like no other fan base did (apologies to Anaheim, New York, Boston, Houston, and Chicago). And thank you for everyone on the St. Louis Cardinals for giving us one heck of a season.