The only thing worse than losing is dying. It may sound overly dramatic but ask any sports fan and they will tell you the same thing. Loving a team isn’t easy when they don’t perform up to our standards. When they get knocked out, we need an ice pack on our jaw as well. It hurts watching your team swing through its final pitch and see the other team celebrate. There’s a particular chill to the experience.
After the fourth inning tonight, when the Cards went down 6-0, I had to get off twitter and turn my phone off. A necessary motion because at that point, I was simply tired of complaining. For a guy who writes as many as 3-4 blogs a week and over a thousand tweets and goes on a radio show barking about it, I was literally tired of discussing their latest downfall. So I sat and watched. Every pitch and out. The Cards made waves in a few innings and collected more hits than the Red Sox yet fell 6-1. The series was lost in 6 games.
It stings because we were up 2-1 on Saturday and seemed to be taking control with an excellent Lance Lynn start and a 1-0 lead in Game 4. Then, a Red Sox rally occured, Lynn left, Seth Maness entered and Johnny Gomes hit a 3 run home run that still resonates at Busch. That, to me, was the tipping point of the series. Kolten Wong gets picked off first base to end Game 4, our bats get shut down by Jon Lester in Game 5 and silenced by the Red Sox for a single run again in Game 6. Fenway Park erupts for its first World Series clincher at home since Babe Ruth was pitching and playing outfield in 1918. Good for them. I mean that. It’s hard to not like the Boston Red Sox at least a little. They are classy and play the game right. A similar bunch to the Cards. They made mistakes in the past just like the Cards have with performance enhancing drugs. They were rocked by a terrorist event in the spring. Tonight, they celebrate and while it hurts to see my team lose, I can stand on two feet and remember we were beat by the best. The Cards and Red Sox were the best teams in the majors and played a gritty World Series full of firsts and weird moments followed by huge hits and big game pitching. The Red Sox were simply the better team.
I will meet anyone halfway about Mike Matheny’s roster compilation. He put two pitchers on the World Series roster that barely worked in the previous two series’ in Edward Mujica and Shelby Miller. He gave up two respect spots to those guys and cost the team depth on the bench and the bullpen. That will be the biggest question facing Matheny and he will probably eat half that bullet. Good for him, but shame on him as well. He thought with his heart and not his head there. Did it cost the team? While it can’t be measured, I will say it did. Secondly, Matheny hurt his team by playing slumping players. Jon Jay and David Freese each didn’t record an RBI in the first 5 games and looked overmatched at the plate. Yet, Matheny started Freese all six games and Jay 5 of the games. Shane Robinson, the better arm, bat and center fielder than Jay, didn’t even get an at bat in Game 6 with runners on and the game somewhat in reach. Matheny stuck with Jay and Freese and it cost him. Kolten Wong did get picked off to end Game 4 but he also gives the team an element of speed that is lacking. With Shane and Wong in for Game 6, I won’t say the outcome is different but the game may have been less ugly. Freese won’t be back. Jay will only be a part timer next year. Matheny’s roster management was overall crap. He knows it. You don’t include a rookie of the year candidate and a man with 37 saves on a roster and not use them. If they aren’t going to work, why include them? For the division series, I saw the idea. For the pennant, I thought it was enough. For the World Series, I thought it was absurd. This is Mike Matheny’s youth as a manager showing up. He has things to learn before 2014.
Biggest difference in the World Series was Jon Lester outpitching and beating Adam Wainwright twice in Game’s 1 and 5. The two aces clashed and Boston’s came out on top. Lester, green goo or not, was magnificent. Waino was average or a little better. The second biggest difference was the big hits factor. After breaking records hitting .330 with runners in scoring position, the Cards hit .259 with RISP in the World Series. They LACKED the big hit. All series and especially in Games 1, 5 and 6 where they put guys on base. Matt Holliday had the only home runs. Carlos Beltran, Allen Craig and Yadi Molina hit well. No dent was made. The Cards streaky offense hit a pale white stretch at the worst time. It happens…and it sucks. A lot. The Cards 6-7-8 spots didn’t drive in a run. The Red Sox got 4 RBI from Shane Victorino and a solo home run from Stephen Drew(6-7 hitters) in Game 6. They got a game winning double from 8th place hitter David Ross in Game 5.
Sure, the Cards got raked by Series MVP David Big Papi Ortiz for the first 5 games, but they walked him 4 times in Game 6 and his teammates made us pay. That was the third difference. The Red Sox supporting players in the lineup didn’t hit well overall for the series but got BIG HITS. Victorino finished the series 2-14. Drew had one hit. Gomes had 1 hit, the 3 run homer. Ross had 3 hits. These guys made their hits count. The Cards did not. End of story.
Lance Lynn didn’t get to finish things in Game 4 but came into Game 6 and pitched like garbage. He relieved Michael Wacha and gave up 2 RBI singles and a walk. That’s it. His season ends appropriately.
The kid, Wacha, created magic four times in the postseason but threw his fastball tonight 48 of 68 pitches and got burned. Instead of relying on his best pitch, the changeup, Wacha went high octane and got blasted. The kid just didn’t have any more magic left in that golden right arm. The future is bright for him.
The future is bright for the whole Cards team. Lots of young arms. Payroll getting slashed. Opportunities abound. Real quick.
Jake Westbrook, Rafael Furcal, and Chris Carpenter are gone. Carlos Beltran is probably gone depending on what he wants. David Freese should be gone. Jon Jay could leave but will probably be brought back. Jaime Garcia returns. Tyler Lyons and John Gast are two impressive young lefties. Jason Motte returns in May barring a setback. Trevor Rosenthal is your closer and in my mind Carlos Martinez may be your 8th inning guy until Motte comes back. The needs are shortstop and centerfield. Watching the Red Sox celebrate, you wonder if two of their free agents, Stephen Drew and Jacoby Ellsbury, have a chance of wearing Cardinal Red in 2014. Drew is highly more probable than Ellsbury but the need is there. Oscar Taveras will be here next year. Wong will be contending for a spot. In my gut, I believe Wong can hit at least. 260 if given enough at bats. At worst, he is your Kozma next season. A light hitting defensive specialist with speed. Shane Robinson SHOULD take Jay’s spot. Adams takes over first. Craig could move into right field but that’s dependent on the future of Mr. Beltran. It’s unfortunate the team couldn’t win a World Series for Beltran, but he got there and sometimes that can fill the gap. He may be back next year. 2014 should involve another battle with the Pirates and maybe the Reds. The Cards will be contending for a long time just based off their unbelievable young stock of young pitching.
Remember this as you deal with anger managements the next few days. This team was slammed with injuries to their starting crew. The Cards got hit as hard as any team in the major leagues. Motte, Carpenter, and Furcal for a whole season. Garcia and Westbrook for part of a season. Craig for the last month. We dealt with and we kept on going. The Cards got to the World Series and lost in 6 games. This is not 2004. Not even close. Our Redbirds will be back.
Hang your head. That’s fine. Just don’t forget the amazing ride this team took us on for close to 7 months.
Thanks for staying and goodnight,
Dan L. Buffa
@buffa82 on Twitter