BOSTON (CBS) — I’ll admit, I don’t typically spend my mornings scanning the St. Louis newspapers, looking to see what folks in the Gateway to the West are saying about sports. Yet on this day, Boston.com’s Eric Wilbur tweeted a link to a column from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeff Gordon, and it seemed almost too crazy to be true.
In the column, which is titled “Red Sox fail to sustain Cards-like success,” Gordon discussed the Red Sox’ recent trades, noting that the team did well, considering the circumstances. He wrote that receiving Yoenis Cespedes, Allen Craig, Joe Kelly, Heath Hembree and Edwin Escobar was a “pretty good haul” for the Red Sox, but he added that Red Sox fans must still be going through a very painful period.
“The Red Sox bailed out after winning a World Championship,” Gordon wrote. “That must be hard on Boston fans, who believe the world revolves around them.”
Sort of an unnecessary dig at a large group of people, wouldn’t you say?
Gordon then goes on and on about the Cardinals’ great success, about how they compete every year despite injuries and free-agent departures, about how they “reload” and never “rebuild.” It is an unapologetic victory lap, celebrating the Cardinals and all of their glory.
That’s all well and good, I guess, but there is one minor problem with the premise of the story.
The problem is that the Red Sox just beat the Cardinals in the World Series.
There’s also the fact that in the past 10 years, the Red Sox have won more World Series than the Cardinals. So what in the world inspired this column?
You see, in sports — professional, collegiate, high school, pee-wee, heck, even fantasy — there is but one goal. That goal is to win championships. It is the reason that we keep score, it is the reason we have standings, it is the reason the playoffs exist, and it is the only reason the players take the field. Every year, a team earns a hard-fought title, and no trades or slumps or rough patches in future years can ever erase that championship from the history books.
And to be fair, the Cardinals have won themselves some titles in recent years. They won it all in 2006, and they were champs again in 2011 (thanks to the fact that Nelson Cruz does not know how to play the outfield). So, yes, hooray St. Louis, champs forever.
But a funny thing happened in 2007, the year after the Cards won the World Series — they went 78-84, finished in third place and did not win a single playoff game for the next four seasons. That’s an awfully long session of “reloading,” if you ask me.
Somehow, this part of the history lesson was missing from Gordon’s column.
“Adversity kept coming, year after year after year after year,” Gordon wrote, clearly in awe of the perfection of the St. Louis organization. “Yet the Cardinals kept competing and contending. They haven’t had to bail out and concede a season.”
I understand that the Red Sox are currently in St. Louis, so they’re going to be a topic of conversation. But to use Boston as an example of failure is an interesting choice, considering it was the Red Sox who beat the Cardinals not only last year but also in the 2004 World Series. Back then, the Cards were without question the best team in baseball. That is, until they showed up at Fenway Park, lost a back-and-forth affair in Game 1 and never again so much as sniffed a lead for the duration of the four-game sweep.
Surely, Gordon remembers this part of history, right? After all, it happened right on his home turf.
The Cardinals earned their title two years later in 2006, but the year following that saw the Red Sox actually fulfill their proper potential as the best team in baseball. That ’07 Sox team won 96 games, dispatched of the Angels in a first-round sweep, recovered from a stumble against Cleveland to win the ALCS in seven games, and swept the Rockies to capture their second title in four seasons.
And six years later, at the expense of the amazing Cardinals, the Red Sox had their third championship of the decade.
That’s not too shabby, and it’s a history that has Red Sox fans feeling not too bad about their current position at the bottom of the standings in 2014. As Gordon himself admitted, the players acquired by the Red Sox were a good step toward retooling, and the Sox still have a winter of free agency awaiting them. Another worst-to-first turnaround is not an impossible scenario to imagine, considering no team in the AL East can be considered a powerhouse.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, are sitting a game back of the Brewers in the NL Central, and a half-game ahead of the Pirates for the second wild card spot. With Lackey in the rotation, the Cards may very well be poised to make another postseason run. But in the competitive National League, where three teams are realistically still chasing the wild card and the battle for the NL Central is also a three-team fight, it’s nearly just as likely that the Cardinals find themselves in the same position as the Red Sox this October — sitting at home, watching on television. In fact, the Cardinals have a 65.2 percent chance of making the playoffs, which is another way of saying that hey have a 34.8 percent chance of not making the playoffs, which is another way of saying the praise of the Cardinals and the mockery of the Red Sox might all end up being for naught.
Remind me again — where is it that people believe the world revolves around them?
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