The Captain Is Betting On The Cards

Tonite is the last time I can watch a Cardinals game for at least a week.  I’m leaving on a weeklong cruise tomorrow, which means I will probably miss the Cardinals being the first team to celebrate winning their division.

Damn!  Still, I’m not complaining.  As of today the Cardinals have won eight of their last ten games and have best record in the National League.  The Cards have been on an absolute tear since after the All Star break.  Since that time I’ve been telling anyone who will listen that I think the Redbirds are headed to the World Series.

Now that the team seems destined for greatness, the bandwagon is in full effect in St. Louis.  As a fan who’s been watching the team all season I’ve see many reasons why I think the Cardinals will make it back to the World Series.  What a perfect topic for a Top 5 List!

Top 5 Reasons I Think The Cardinals Will Play In The World Series In 2009

1.  Management Made Some Key Trades And Spent Some Money

Starting in 2007, the Cardinals’ owners and front office have put a renewed focus on player development in their Minor League system.  This has produced some high quality players currently on the Major League squad, including Brendan Ryan, Skip Schumaker and Ryan Ludwick.

As much as I liked this renewed focus on player development, it seemed at times that the front office was too focused on player development.  I mean, how long can a team wait around for guys like Chris Duncan to develop?  At the same time, the Cardinals have been reluctant to spend big bucks for major league talent.1

After two years of making little to no splash at the trade deadline, the Cardinals got aggressive this year.  In one month’s time, they landed two great everyday players in Mark DeRosa and Matt Holliday.  These acquisitions in turn made it possible to talk future Hall of Famer John Smoltz to sign with the club too.  The Cards had to give up a couple of great prospects, but the resulting upgrade has turned the team into serious contenders.

With guys like Pujols, Wainwright and Carpenter already putting together an amazing season, management realized the potential of the 2009 squad and made the right moves.  I think a trip to the World Series will likely be the result.

2.  Almost Everyone Is Having A Good Year

Sometimes winning is as simple as having your best players play their best.  That is definitely the case this year.  Check out the MLB Leader board today:

Cardinals lead the Majors in three separate categories:  Home Runs, Wins and Earned Run Average.  That’s amazing!

I’ve come to expect Pujols to have a good year every year, and he’s been quite consistent this year.  More surprising is how consistent the Cardinals’ pitching has been in 2009.  The front of the Cardinals rotation has been damn near perfect.  Wainwright, Pineiro and my man Carpenter are probably the best 1-2-3 in baseball and definitely I’ve ever seen in a Cardinals uniform.  And our closer, Franklin, seemingly came out of nowhere to become the best closer of 2009.  If pitching truly wins championships, then the Cardinals are looking pretty tough to beat.

Perhaps most impressive is the fact that the Cardinals have a legitimate candidate for all for major awards.  Pujols is almost guaranteed to win MVP again this year, LaRussa has a good shot for Manager of the Year, Wainwright and Carpenter are poised to duke it out for the Cy Young award, and Colby Rasmus has an outside shot at Rookie of the Year.  The best Cardinals are also the best in baseball.  That’s how championships are built.

3.  Rule of Three

For the last five decades a pattern has emerged with the Cardinals and the World Series:  The Rule of Three.  In the modern baseball era the Cardinals have gone to the World Series three times in even numbered decades.  In the Sixties, the Cards won pennants in 1964, 1967 and 1968.  In the Eighties, the Cards won pennants in 1982, 1985 and 1987.  So far this decade, the Redbirds won pennants in 2004 and 2006.  Going to the World Series in 2009 would complete the cycle.  It’s in the cards!  Much like the Cubs never winning the World Series again, winning the pennant is destined to happened.2

4.  The Crazy Facial Hair

Sometimes it’s the crazy little luck charms that give a team it’s mojo.  For the Cardinals it seems that facial hair is just that luck charm.  The 2006 champion squad had Spezio’s bright-red-soul-patch to bring them luck.

This year several Cardinals have embraced the luck of the facial hair.  Our closer, Franklin, has earned the nickname Redbeard the Redbird on account of his wild goatee.

And the rest of the team has taken to growing moustaches.  It started with Ankiel back in the beginning of the year

And at one point was adopted by the entire starting pitching staff.  Even my man Carpenter sported lip-whiskers for a couple of weeks!

Since then the facial hair has become a bit tamer, with only Ryan and LaRue still rocking the moustache.  But the mojo still seems to be working and I’m pretty sure we’ll be treated to several playoff beards.  Hopefully even a moustache or two!

5.  The Home Town Crowd

Simply put, the St. Louis fans have been amazing this year.  Even during a recession the Stadium has been full.  The hometown crowd made a great showing at the All Star game and had been even more faithful throughout the summer.  Most predictions had stadium attendance falling short of 3 million this year, but St. Louis seemed assured to shatter that number this year.

The Cardinals have the fourth highest attendance in the Major this year, behind the Yankees, the Dodgers and the Phillies.  And when you consider how much larger those markets are than St. Louis, it speaks very well to the fanbase.  Management has gone on record saying that the increased attendance has enabled them to make the big moves this year that have turned this team into a real powerhouse.  Even though most of the national sports media has ignored St. Louis, the fans have kept this team in spotlight.  It makes me proud to be a resident of St. Louis!

Bonus Reason – Pershing Says So

Back in June, Meg and I took her favorite guy that she supports from her work to a game this summer.  Pershing is a really great guy, and a HUGE Pujols fan.  I asked him what he thought of the Phillies chances at a World Series run and he loudly declared “Nuh-uh!”  Next I inquired about the league-leaders at the time, the Dodgers.  “Nuh-uh!” claimed Pershing.  How about the Cardinals?  “YEEAHHHH!!!” he screamed.  What can I say, he makes a strong argument.

And with that I will say goodbye for awhile.  I’ll be cruising in the Caribbean for the next week, and then I’ll be back in Florida for a few days to visit friends and family.  That’s right, the Captain will finally be back on a boat!!!  So until then…LET’S GO CARDS!


The Captain

1. i.e. going after Kip Wells because A.J. Burnett was too expensive.  Funny how that didn’t work out…

2.  This of course carries a major downside.  If the Rule of Three stands, then the Cardinals won’t go back to the World Series until 2020 at the earliest…

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