St. Louis Cardinals
I’d say that the Nationals’ emergence is the biggest surprise of this year’s postseason, but I think the fact that the Cardinals were four wins away from the World Series may take the cake.
I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way at all, it’s just that I didn’t know if they would be able to hold off their division rivals in the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs. Lead by Jack Flaherty‘s unbelievable second half, the Cardinals ultimately proved to be the best team in the division, and they managed to take out the Atlanta Braves in the division series, a team that was expected to contend for a spot in the World Series.
What stands out the most to me with this Cardinals squad is the lack of superstars. Flaherty is a Cy Young contender for sure, but beyond that it’s a collection of very good players rather than MVP types. Even their best hitter, Paul Goldschmidt, wasn’t his best this year, hitting .260 while clubbing 34 home runs and 97 RBI. There’s nothing wrong with that of course, but it’s just that it’s good, not great.
Still, the Cardinals got hot at the right time, and if they hadn’t run into the even hotter Nationals in the NLCS, we might be talking about a bit of a Cinderella story here. Truthfully, I have been cheering for the Nationals in this round of the playoffs, but I definitely admire a team like the Cardinals that has overachieved a bit, and gives the average baseball fan a reason to believe in their team a little more.
Just like the Nationals, the Cardinals should show GMs around the league that getting to the playoffs is an important step, and one that can turn out better than you expect, even if you run into a team like the Braves. With more teams playing to either win big or lose big these days, hopefully the Cardinals are a lesson that it’s worth throwing your hat in the ring. You just never know how it might work out.