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Editorial: 2019 Cardinals: Looking back, looking ahead

What an amazing sport baseball is.

In the fourth game of the American League Division Series, Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander was beaten by the Tampa Bay Rays. Verlander has an annual salary of $33 million. The entire Rays roster combines to make just $54 million. Strategy trumped salary in this game, but the Astros won game five and the series.

Then, there is the disappointing end to our St. Louis Cardinals’ season.

The Washington Nationals were tied for the worst record in baseball through the first 50 games of 2019. Then, they righted the ship, and by the time they faced our Redbirds in the National League Championship Series they were full steam ahead. 

In the sink or swim series, the Cardinals sunk like stones.

The statistic that stands out for most people is that the Cardinals struck out three times for every base hit. That is pretty bad. League-wide during the regular season, that ratio was closer to one-to-one. So, pretty bad might be an understatement. The hometown team also seemingly forgot how to play defense, and nothing else mattered very much. If you cannot hit the ball or field the ball, winning games will be exactly as elusive as it was for this team in this series.

What’s done is done, however. Had you asked Cardinals fans in April if they would be happy with any kind of baseball being played in mid-October, they would have said, “Absolutely!” The ending might have been disappointing, but there were some pretty great moments along the way: 

Yadier Molina as the hero of game four against the Braves. A bloop hit to tie the game in the eighth and a sacrifice fly to win it in the tenth, capped with one of the great bat flips of all time.

Adam Wainright refusing to turn over the title of ace to Jack Flaherty just quite yet, pitching absolute gems in game 3 of the division series and game 2 of the championship series.

Ten runs in the first inning of the fifth game of the NLDS, taking away all intrigue as to whether the Cardinals would advance before most fans were even home from work.

We got to see Kolton Wong finally put together a complete season and live up to his potential. We got to witness the beginning of Tommy Edman’s very promising career. Jack Flaherty became a star in 2019. 

There were plenty of bright spots, and we should be grateful for the season.

There is also a lot of work to be done in the offseason. What to do with Marcell Ozuna? Matt Carpenter? Carlos Martinez? Will Waino be back? What do we do with an outfield that was over-crowded at the beginning of the year and pieced together by the end of it?

Every season begins with expectations, most end with disappointment. Every offseason brings new questions, issues and possibilities. 

Every year, young boys and girls pick up a bat – some for the first time – and instantly start to dream of one day being the hero. Maybe their parents told them the story of David Freese in 2011. They dream of a game-tying triple, eighth inning of World Series game 6. They dream of crushing a homer two innings later, Joe Buck proclaiming, “We will see you tomorrow night.” They dream of doing all that for their hometown team. 

David Freese announced his retirement from Major League Baseball after his Dodgers had a similarly disappointing end to their season. We wish the hometown hero best in whatever comes next in his life. 

Most seasons end in disappointment, but we always believe that next year will bring another hero, another David Freese blast or Yadier Molina bat flip. That is the beauty of our national pastime. What an amazing sport baseball is.

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