The Cardinals refused to lose. So how come they just lost?

Matt Holliday walks away as the triumphant Giants march onward. (AP photo)

The Cardinals' Matt Holliday walks away as the triumphant Giants march onward. (AP photo)

It was only yesterday that many among us saw the St. Louis Cardinals as The Perfect Postseason Team. The Redbirds never got rattled, went the party line. (And there was, we concede, reason for such reasoning.) They knew how to manufacture runs. They’d be down to their last strike and still Find A Way To Win.

This just in: The Perfect Postseason Team lost.

Ahead 3-1 in the NLCS, the Cardinals were outscored 20-1 over the final 27 innings. Of the 35 runs the Giants scored in the series, 10 were unearned. The team that overcame staggering odds to beat Texas in the 2011 World Series and the Nationals in the NLDS had three chances to close out the unassuming Giants and didn’t come close in any of them. Yes, there was one massive fluke — the Game 7 double struck by Hunter Pence that actually was struck by Pence’s breaking bat three times! — but that only proves the greater point. Which is:

Even the Perfect Postseason Team isn’t immune to the vagaries of postseason baseball.

Pardon me for belaboring this point to Tim McCarver lengths, but postseason baseball defies handicapping. We need only look at these playoffs: Both wild-card games were won by the team with the lesser record; three of the four Division Series were won by the team with the lesser record, and one of the two League Championship Series was won by the team with the lesser record. Only in the Yankees-Orioles series and the Giants-Cardinals series did the team that had been better over 162 games prevail, and both times the series went the distance before a winner could be determined.

Credit Jayson Stark of ESPN for picking the Giants and Tigers to reach the World Series, but even Mr. Stark would surely concede that his prescience was more hunch than conviction.(Fun facts: Of 29 surveyed ESPN analysts, only three — Jim Caple and Michael Knisley were the others — tabbed the correct Series participants, and not one of the 29 hit the correct final four.)

For the Giants and Tigers to make it, two teams of seeming destiny had to collapse so utterly as to leave you breathless. The Cardinals had rallied from six runs down in Game 5 to beat the Nationals and stood one game from a second consecutive NL title … and then they were routed by an opponent that had lost its fearsome closer (Brian Wilson) in April, lost its All-Star Game MVP (Melky Cabrera) to steroid suspension in August and seen its presumptive best pitcher (Tim Lincecum) have such a lousy season he was reduced to spot starting and long relief in these playoffs.

As for the Tigers: They have a lot of what you’d like in a playoff team, meaning power pitching and power hitting, but they have a terrible bullpen, and that’s a flaw generally seen as an October disqualifier. Sure enough, the Detroit closer Jose Valverde faltered in the ninth inning of ALCS Game 1, yielding two-run homers to Ichiro Suzuki and Raul Ibanez. At that moment, you had to be saying to yourself: “No way these Yankees lose — they know how to win pressure games!”

Except that particular Perfect Postseason Team lost Game 1 in 12 innings and mustered a grand total of two runs the rest of the series. Derek Jeter broke his ankle and Alex Rodriguez got benched and the empire collapsed in a pile of pinstripes. And now the Tigers, who mustered the seventh-best record in the 14-team American League, have reached the Fall Classic and been installed as heavy favorites. Which probably means they won’t win.

After all, Detroit will face yet another Perfect Playoff Team. The Giants trailed Cincinnati 2-0 in the Division Series and won three games on the road to advance. They trailed St. Louis 3-1 and won breezing. They’re 6-0 in elimination games this October, which means they’re the new Cardinals. Which means the Giants probably won’t win, either.

I know, I know. There are only two teams left. One of them has to win, right? But that’s the thing about postseason baseball: Whatever seems to be true almost never is. Me, I figure Game 7 will go to extra innings and the rains will descend and the genius Bud Selig will intercede and declare the whole thing a tie.

By Mark Bradley

64 comments Add your comment

Gumby

October 23rd, 2012
12:25 pm

If only a blown infield fly call could have figured into the Cardinals loss………..Oh well, a beat down is almost as much fun.

Mark Bradley

October 23rd, 2012
12:27 pm

I’d submit that the Pence double was as weird as the infield fly.

OZZFEST

October 23rd, 2012
12:34 pm

Oh for a time-machine…..so you could go back and present this to Bobby Cox…say around mid-September 1991….

jarvis

October 23rd, 2012
12:37 pm

Georgia Tech just returned 1,900 of its 8,000 ticket allotment to the UGA game next month. Their fans are terrible.

Train Wreck Bystander

October 23rd, 2012
12:37 pm

So glad that Taint Louis got Leghorned last night. But honestly, I am more interested in the Braves pending personnel decisions than I am in the WS.

[...] Tigers vs San Francisco GiantsFox NewsCan't miss Scutaro's impact in Giants winESPN (blog)Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) -New York Times (blog) -SportingNews.comall 5,928 news [...]

coach13

October 23rd, 2012
12:42 pm

They had no business being there in the first place. Had the Braves not choked…again they never would’ve been there. It’s the 1 downside of a playoff system. It has nothing to do with the best team but rather the hot team. The Giants were far from the best team a couple of years ago and they are hardly the best team in the NL.

Don’t get me wrong, the playoff system is the only way to go (are you listening College Football) but everything has at least 1 downside. At least the AL sent a worthy team to the WS and I hope they sweep the Giants. I don’t like how the GIants are rolling and the Tigers have been idle.

Herschel Talker

October 23rd, 2012
12:42 pm

MB:

How ridiculous is it for baseball to have such a long regular season only to have so much flukiness in the postseason. At this point, it’s all about the money – no one cares about anything else.

HT

dick whiskey

October 23rd, 2012
12:43 pm

jarvis,if you were a tech fan,would you pay to watch this team? not me

gtt

October 23rd, 2012
12:43 pm

C from Marietta

October 23rd, 2012
12:47 pm

Hey Mark,

Sometimes in sports you just get beat. If you lose it doesn’t mean you choke all the time. I know giving the time that won propts is a lost art these days. However, it could be the Giants just played good?

Cobb Dawg

October 23rd, 2012
12:47 pm

Mark: Do you think the Giants will be at a disadvantage given the fact that they had to play a full 7-game LCS, while the Tigers breezed through (relatively speaking)? I’ve noticed in the past that sometimes the team that plays the shortest LCS seems to have an edge — maybe because the seasons and postseason are just so long to begin with.

[...] Giants to SeriesMLB.comWorld Series Preview: Detroit Tigers vs San Francisco GiantsFox NewsAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog) -SportingNews.com -New York Times (blog)all 5,914 news [...]

Mark Bradley

October 23rd, 2012
12:57 pm

I’ve given up trying to figure it out, Cobb Dawg. Some people think rest is bad for a team, and the Tigers will have been off since Thursday.

George Stein

October 23rd, 2012
12:59 pm

They forgot how to win, Mark.

In all seriousness, this confirms that playoff baseball proves little. Also, closers are largely irrelevant players.

Mark Bradley

October 23rd, 2012
1:01 pm

Closers aren’t irrelevant. But they can be overrated.

Still, I’d rather have a good one than not.

Mark Bradley

October 23rd, 2012
1:05 pm

As for just getting beat, C from Marietta: Sometimes that’s exactly what happens. And that’s kind of the point. You can look like a great baseball for a few days, and then you can stink for the next few days. In the long term, baseball results make sense. In the short term, they can make none.

dba4

October 23rd, 2012
1:10 pm

To the obnoxious Card fan in section 414R during the wildcard playoff game, whacha got to say now bigboy?

Shug

October 23rd, 2012
1:11 pm

Has anyone noticed that nobody is paying attention to baseball? Anyone engage in any baseball talk around the office cooler this morning?

COOPER

October 23rd, 2012
1:14 pm

A one game wild card playoff was the stupidest decision every made. Atlanta had a better team that the Cardinals but the Cardinals had ONE starter who was pretty good and he got them past the braves. If it had been best 2 out of 3 Atlanta would have played the Giants.

George

October 23rd, 2012
1:16 pm

The season is too long. Yes, division play and wild card teams make it more interesting, but playing baseball as November approaches (in Detroit no less) is just crazy. Maybe the baseball powers want a season to begin and end with snow on the ground. Or, is it really just about money?

RegalBeagle

October 23rd, 2012
1:35 pm

The “perfect postseason” team lost because they played another team that knows how to win as well. They lost to a team that won the World Series year before last, not exactly chopped liver. After winning it in 2006 and 2011, as a Cardinals fan, I am pretty much good for another 4-5 years. Especially if they are going to make playoff runs like this each year sprinkled in wiht the World Series titles.

Peter

October 23rd, 2012
1:35 pm

Because the Giants are built to score runs the old way hit singles, doubles and to manufacture runs…..Plus they made a god awful amount of errors..

Come on Mark that was a Dumb question.

Do you see Blanco and Infante now in the World Series….. Mark comment on that and how Dumb WREN was to let both of these guys get away.

How is Uggla doing ? How about Rick Ankiel ?

The Braves are built like the Cards, but without the heart !

Peter

October 23rd, 2012
1:41 pm

You can look like a great baseball for a few days, and then you can stink for the next few days. In the long term, baseball results make sense. In the short term, they can make none.

Sounds like an EXCUSE for the Braves and the ridicules moves by the front office Mark.

Giants are built to win, they have good enough pitching, and they have SPEED…. first to third or scoring from first when an outfielder bobbles the ball. Cards made too many errors !

This was not about a team that just got hot mark. the Giants have been HOT for almost two months…. have you watched the At bats ?

They are patience, and aggressive…. they understand counts, let a pitcher walk them, and know when the pitcher is in trouble like with the bases loaded, and do not get ANXIOUS .

Please do you really study the game ?

Peter

October 23rd, 2012
1:44 pm

coach13 . This statement is silly……

They had no business being there in the first place. Had the Braves not choked…

Really so the Braves choked and also deserved to be there…… maybe the braves are NOT built to win in the post season….. They are a softball team, waiting to hit the long ball to score.

Even Bourne who led the league in stolen bases before he became a Brave, had a poor season for him stealing bases………that should tell you allot !

Stinger 2

October 23rd, 2012
1:54 pm

Mark: This collapse by St.Louis proves that any team can go from hot to cold at any time.It leads to a point I would like to make to Braves fans who constantly complain and criticize Fredi and the Braves as chokers. The Cards only needed to win only one of three games to advance to the WS but they lost three. The Braves had to win one of one but lost. Which teams collapsed the worst? A no brainer.
I am one Braves fan who believes the team is fortunate to have Frank Wren and Fredi as leaders in spite of the naysayers who call for them to be replaced. I have not checked the win/loss line for ML managers for 2011/212 but I believe Fredi will be close to the top for those who have managed both years. Go Braves!

Mask of False Bravado

October 23rd, 2012
1:59 pm

Peter

October 23rd, 2012
1:35 pm
Do you see Blanco and Infante now in the World Series….. Mark comment on that and how Dumb WREN was to let both of these guys get away
*****************************************************************************************

This is “stoopid” and tired reasoning. Blanco and Infante are hardly the reason the Braves are not in the WS and the other two teams are. Noboby was falling all over themselves trying to trade for Blanco and Infante went through Miami first.

Want frys with that

October 23rd, 2012
2:02 pm

Ah yes what is odd two former braves in world series How’s that feelin now Frank Wren…ooh wait n they gave u 2 years now for what…where the message from owners n front office thankin for us comin…..Nothin no words of thanks well good for Frank Wren here he help other teams be better we just be like Mark Richt coachin football…We good but not that great..that sayin San Francisco will take series 4-3…..win 2ndtitle in 3 seasons….as for atlanta will keep same coach and inpet 2nd baseman in Game 7 there second baseman of cards played like Uggla batted…I think braves took over there uniforms and did a braves chokin act we know so well in 91 and 92 and 93 and 96 and 97 and 98 and 99…..after all bobby cox did help Ny Yankees become the team of 90″s….

Doug

October 23rd, 2012
2:03 pm

Pence double was a flukey event. The ump call was pure bs. A outfield ump calling an infield rule? Anyway, I’m glad the cards lost but i can’t stand the giants either.

Mask of False Bravado

October 23rd, 2012
2:05 pm

Infante hitting .222 this post-season (.263 OBP), Blanco hitting .182, but he does have 6 BBs. Would you have played Blanco instaed of Bourne? Prado? Heyward? Chipper?

Jay

October 23rd, 2012
2:10 pm

Um stinger, the team that didn’t make it past round 1 choked the worst. Duh.

Stinger 2

October 23rd, 2012
2:22 pm

Hardly Jay. The Braves had only one chance to get in. The Cards had three to advance.

dick whiskey

October 23rd, 2012
2:29 pm

hate baseball,stupid and slow and boring,puts me to sleep about as fast as NASCAR,well maybe not that fast

Alphare

October 23rd, 2012
2:36 pm

Braves management sucks. Infante & LaRoach were great players, but they get rid of them. Would be a different story if they are around.

ken

October 23rd, 2012
2:36 pm

Because some out of position, this wasn’t your call to make umpire wasn’t there to yell, “Infield Fly”

Mask of False Bravado

October 23rd, 2012
2:37 pm

By the way….Uggla was much better than Infante in all offensive categories except for BA. OBP Uggla .348, Omar .300…..HR 19/12….RBI 78/53….Runs 86/69. ERRORS Uggla 12/ Omar 17

mark

October 23rd, 2012
2:37 pm

ah the Giants- Where we cheer loudly for our steroid and HGH cheaters!!!

Mask of False Bravado

October 23rd, 2012
2:38 pm

Infante a “great player”??? bwahahahahahahahaha

billy bob baseball

October 23rd, 2012
2:42 pm

October 2010, the Giants and Bruce Bochy had just beaten the Braves to eliminate Atlanta and move to the NLCS, on their way to eventually winning it all. In the midst of their celebration on the mound at Turner Field, they interrupted their revelry and all turned to salute Bobby Cox, who had just managed his final major league baseball game. That was class personified, and as long as Bruce Bochy and any remnant of that 2010 team remains a Giant, I will pull for them to win it all unless they are playing our Bravos. Go Giants!

Alphare

October 23rd, 2012
2:47 pm

Is there any player worse than Uggla?

kitty

October 23rd, 2012
2:53 pm

As a life long Giants fan originally from the West Coast, I think you billy bob baseball for your kind words towards my Giants. As far as mark, too bad the Braves just keep choking, huh? Melky is no longer on the roster, mark. As far as Mota, whatever he was doing definitely didn’t make him any better. Sour grapes on your part?

The Cards and the Reds are great teams. Just the way the baseball bounces, our heart was just bigger than theirs at this time. Detroit is a really good team so this should be fun. Go, Giants!!!!

billy bob baseball

October 23rd, 2012
2:56 pm

Alphare
October 23rd, 2012
2:47 pm

Is there any player worse than Uggla?

Yeah, his name was Bert Shepard, but in all fairness, Shepard only had one leg. If he hadn’t lost the leg, uggla would hold the title for worst player ever.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bert_Shepard

Alphare

October 23rd, 2012
3:09 pm

Here is Uggla’s average:

07 – .245
09 – .243
11 – .233
12 – .220

I did better in the other 2 years in between, but not a whole lot. Just horrible overall.

Alphare

October 23rd, 2012
3:11 pm

Andruw Jones was chased away he stayed around .220 for 2 years as I remember. Let’s see how it goes for Uggla.

Hillbilly D

October 23rd, 2012
3:20 pm

In October, everything is magnified. Pitching and defense nearly always wins. St Louis struggled in both departments, in this series, especially after they got back to SF.

Big Crimson 75

October 23rd, 2012
3:21 pm

I don’t hate the Cards as much without LaRussa.

Every parent needs to read this

October 23rd, 2012
3:25 pm

When the AJC and Cox Media Group-Atlanta upgraded the look and feel of the AJC.com website, they decided to postpone the really crucial part: changing the blogging interface so that real log-ins would be required. That was not done because of “priorities” and “reallocation of funds.” Oh, the ad revenue will probably increase because of the pretty new look, but you, the end user are apparently less important than the window dressing.

By deferring the upgrade to the blogging environment they made the choice that certain features are going to continue as before. This means that somebody with Cox Media Group-Atlanta will have to manually remove offending posts when requested by users.

That means that

- racist
- misogonistic
- obscene
- homophobic
- threatening
- name calling

posts, as well as trolling creeps posing as other users, particularly on the sports blogs,
will be allowed to continue.

This is business-as-usual for Cox Media Group-Atlanta
and the AJC.com, I guess. That promise of enhanced customer experience falls real short for end users, doesn’t it?

In order to protect your children from this trash content, I suggest that you set up individual user accounts in your operating system. For example, in Windows you keep the Admin account for yourself only, with a secret login name and password. Then, set up login accounts for the kids. As Admin, you can then enable PARENTAL CONTROLS to block offensive sites on the web. For your kids, I think that http://www.ajc.com web site should be blocked, because the content is certainly offensive. You don’t want your children to be engaged in posting with these creeps, do you?

If you are concerned about the Cox Media Group-Atlanta’s wrong-headed priorities, let them know via e-mail or phone call. You are the customer, and their senior management claim to want to be sensitive to your customer experience.

Vermont 39

October 23rd, 2012
3:40 pm

They didn’t belong in the playoff$ to begin with.
They got what they deserved…It wasn’t in THE CARDS!!!

Dirty Dawg

October 23rd, 2012
3:56 pm

Why did they lose? Because the baseball Gods had had enough of the Cardinals, along with those two Cardinal suck-ups, aka, announcers, whose tone and tenor during the losing performance ‘their’ team put on last night was palpable. They, the Gods, were ready for these guys to be history. For me, I’ll be happy for either team – the Giants or the Tigers – whoever wins….just so long as it wasn’t the Cards or the Yankees (those baseball Gods took care of them first).

Dawgdad (The Original)

October 23rd, 2012
4:02 pm

Managers play a significant role in getting teams to and thru the playoffs. No one is talking about Bochy and Leyland. If we had either one from 91 to 2009, we would have won more than one WS, IMHO. These guys, like Torre and LaRussa ad to a teams chances to get the job done. Seems the same ones keep showing up in the WS, often with different teams.