Friday, July 18, 2008

What If...

I've tried to remain quiet about the Cardinals' success so far this year. Somewhat out of fear of "jinxing" the team (as if my actions had any role in the team's outcome), but mostly because I didn't want to praise the team and then look stupid when it went in the tank.

I was quite excited going into this season due to the new faces and lowered expectations everyone else had. Although it received little love from the pundits, I liked this team a lot. It had gotten a lot younger and hungrier over the winter.

Now with the season past the half-way point, I have to say this has been one of the most enjoyable seasons to watch. Because the expectations were lower than past years, there has been no great frustration those few times when the team hasn't played well.

The opposite effect is also most certainly true- there is nothing more aggravating than seeing a team with supposedly great players struggling, like we've seen occur in past seasons.

This season kind of reminds me of the 2006 post-season. What made that whole thing so enjoyable was not just the ultimate victory that resulted, but the way the team played so loosely under little expectation of triumph. We just sat back in awe and enjoyed the ride. Let some other team grip while we just have fun.

To be only 4 games in back of the Cubs and leading the wildcard with the starting rotation stitched together like it is is simply a gift. It has been enjoyable.

IF things go according to plan, this team is about to get a lot better in the next month. I see no need to make a trade.

Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, the two best pitchers the Cardinals have, are set to return within the month. Carpenter hasn't pitched a meaningful game since Opening Night 2007, the game in which he was injured. But apparently all systems are go for his return as he has been sent out for a rehab assignment that could take up to 30 days.

Injuries are always the joker in the deck, so the outcome of a season is always in doubt. However, this season has to be labeled an unqualified success, regardless of what happens here on out.

Do I think we're going to see a repeat of 2006? No, not likely. Could it happen? Yes, absolutely. And to be able to say that heading toward August and September is good enough.

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