Winter Comes Sweeping Through the Door

And just like that, it’s over.

Last Thursday, we were still in awe of the bombing the Cardinals did against the Braves, piling up 13 runs in an offensive display that set records.  This Thursday, we’re putting away our gear for the winter after seeing the Cardinals score just six runs in the four games they played in the NLCS.

A hat tip to Washington, to be sure.  As fans, we hoped that the Cardinals could have avoid the Dodgers but apparently that was a “be careful what you wish for” circumstance.  While I don’t know if St. Louis could have topped LA, you’d like to think they could have been a little more competitive.  If nothing else, we know how the Cardinals love seeing Clayton Kershaw.  The Nationals rallied against the Dodgers, just like they rallied all year, and now we get to hear a lot of Walter Johnson stories as our Nation’s Capitol will host games for the Nation’s Championship.

While running into the Nats’ starting staff would damper most any offense, it’s hard to lay all of the sputtering of the bats at their feet.  Anibal Sanchez is a nice pitcher, but he shouldn’t be carrying a no-hitter into the eighth against a division winner.  Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg are excellent pitchers–and should Strasburg opt out this year, I’d be fine with the Cardinals pursuing him–but these same hitters beat both of them just a month ago, as the season was winding down.  The weather had cooled off but that didn’t mean the bats should have been in a deep freeze.

Until last night, the only runs the Cardinals had scored had come from a misplayed ball in the outfield and an outfielder falling down when he tried to throw the ball back in.  For the first three games, you could have swapped in Memphis, Palm Beach, even your local high school team, and had relatively the same results.  As I put out there on Twitter Monday night, this was the worst series that I think the Cards had ever played in the postseason, at least since the sweep by Boston in the 2004 World Series.

Last night redeemed the series a little, but probably not enough to push it far up the list.  If Dakota Hudson (aided by Kolten Wong and a Bermuda Triangle in the outfield) doesn’t give up seven runs in the first, St. Louis might well have won that one.  They seemed to have a plan against Patrick Corbin, a plan that didn’t work the first time around (so many strikeouts) but eventually started to pay dividends.

That the season ended on a flyout by Tommy Edman wasn’t nearly appropriate enough.  After all, Edman has been one of the bright spots in the season, the guy that came up and continued to create highlights.  Even last night, he made a diving catch at third base.  So the season ending on his watch doesn’t feel right at all.

While the season technically ended there, for all intents and purposes it ended an inning earlier and that, my friends, has some good symbolism.  The Cardinals loaded the bases (kudos to Paul DeJong for drawing a walk with two outs and two on, which had to be really hard for him to do) and Matt Carpenter pinch-hit for Harrison Bader.  Carpenter battled but eventually grounded out to second, ending the threat.

When you think of 2019, the fall of Carpenter is going to be a large story line that you will remember.  Going from an MVP-candidate to a guy that couldn’t start the important games, Carpenter’s crash is one of the major reasons this team struggled, especially in May, and when Mike Shildt finally made the call to limit his playing time, it seemed to work out for both sides.  The team played better and wasn’t forced to shoehorn in Edman into the lineup while Carpenter seemed to thrive on pinch-hitting moments and occasional starts.

We’ll have a lot of time to look back at this season but the Carpenter extension is really going to stand out.  I said at the time (I believe) that I didn’t understand the rush to add to his contract given that he had an extension for 2020 on his current deal.  They could have seen how he started the year and extended him at any time or waited until the end of the season.  If they had, do you think they are signing him for the next two years, with an option for 2022?  I don’t imagine they would.  They probably pick up the option and figure out what to do with him from there.

Maybe it’ll work out, maybe it won’t, but the aggressiveness of the front office to lock up players hasn’t necessarily panned out well over the last year or so.  What’s doubly sad is that those expenditures will probably keep them (whether in actuality or only in lip service) from doing some things this winter.

Speaking of things that might happen this winter, I’m hopeful that Adam Wainwright will return for another year, as a recent Mark Saxon article indicates he wants to do.  I know that some point out that the underlying numbers indicate he’s not much more than league average, if that, but he stepped up big when the team needed him to do so.  He could have had a win in Game 2 if the offense had done basically anything.  He should have had a win in the NLDS if Carlos Martinez had closed the door.  If he’d do another contract like this year, where he could slide to the bullpen if they needed him, I’d be all for it.

That’s for another time, though.  Right now, the winter wind has slammed the season’s door closed and we’re left without Cardinal baseball until they face the Mets in Jupiter on February 22.  Four months can seem like a short time, but it’ll likely feel like forever.  However, that is two weeks shorter than we’ve had to deal with for the past few seasons.  The Cards returned to October and while the final result was a bit lacking, the fact that they were one of the last two NL teams standing is a great thing.

Allen and I plan to do a Meet Me at Musial tonight so we’ll start laying some groundwork for the winter.  There are plenty of things that will go on here at the blog and I’ll try to find the time to look back and look ahead before the hot stove lights up.  Until then, remember the good, don’t let the bad drag you down, and set your faces towards Florida!

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