I was as disappointed as anyone about the outcome of Games Two through Four of the National League Championship Series. But, I was even less than thrilled about some fans' reaction. With each successive Cardinals loss starting over the past weekend, the volume of questioning and second-guessing increased to what had become an almost-overwhelming level.
Here is just a sample of the rants that you can find on any one of a number of Cardinals-themed message boards. I came up with twenty without having to try hard. I could easily argue either the pro or con for any one of these, but that isn't the point.
See how many of these you recognize.
- The umpires were incompetent.
Jason Lane's slide into Abraham Nunez in Game Three was dirty.
- The Cards were weak in not retaliating against Lane.
- Hector Luna's two errors each cost a crucial run. He shouldn't have been playing.
- Tony La Russa is wound too tight and his teams reflect that in the playoffs.
- With his Game Three comments about Wally Bell, La Russa alienated the umps, who took it out on the Cards in Game Four.
- Albert Pujols shouldn't have broken from third in the ninth inning of Game Four.
- Larry Walker was hurt, wanted to pull everything, refusing to go the other way and shouldn't have been in there.
- Reggie Sanders shouldn't have been playing either, because he was not 100%.
- La Russa and
cracked under pressure in Game Four. Edmonds
- The Crawford Boxes and Tal's Hill make for a tricked up ballpark.
- The noise amplified by Minute Maid's roof being
closed created an unfair advantage for
- Wild card scheduling gave the Astros too much of a break.
- General Manager Walt Jocketty didn't add badly-needed outfield and relief help at the deadline.
- The absence of injured players Al Reyes and Scott Rolen continued the Curse of the Tarp.
- The Cardinals should have bunted against Roger Clemens, since he recently had a groin strain, but didn't.
- The team was driven too hard all season and was running on fumes by October.
- Hitting coach Hal McRae didn't do his job as the offense choked.
- Jason Marquis should have started Game Three but ended up blowing Game Four.
- Matt Morris should have started Game Two at Busch if he pitched at all.
…and on and on…
Now, don't get me wrong. I've wondered about some of these myself, maybe many of them – and we probably all have.
Granted, the Cardinals hitters didn't hit, but does anyone think for one minute that they didn't give it their all? The pitchers pitched their hearts out, too. Didn't the manager and coaches do the absolute best they knew how?
Sure, it is certainly understandable to ask "What if?" about these and many other game situations. But, that time has officially passed.
Now that the final out of the Cardinals' Game Five victory has been recorded, it is time to stop the excuses. We can safely and honestly acknowledge the truth - the Houston Astros outplayed the St. Louis Cardinals over Games Two through Four.
But, that's old news now. Those games are over and done. Ancient history.
With Albert Pujols' dramatic home run in the top of the ninth inning of Game Five, the momentum has shifted strongly in the Cardinals' direction. In addition, there is another monumental shift, as the location of the remainder of the series will be in The ‘Lou.
So, let's wipe the slate clean, and look to Games Six and Seven.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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