Do me a favor and stop worrying about the St. Louis Cardinals’ current state of affairs for one evening.
Inconsistent, expensive, and sitting comfortably third in the National League Central. Sounds like a cold plate of classic breakfast food. Embarrassing isn’t the right word but overall, this team just isn’t worth your tears. Forget about the wildcard and think about three guys playing baseball on a field tonight.
The location is downtown, where the muscle-bound Stan and bright lights steal the attention. There will be more fans at the stadium tonight than for any previous game, even Opening Day. It will seem like 2014 all over again, but without a Big City moment. Tonight at Busch Stadium, Adam Wainwright will take the mound for the Cardinals. Yadier Molina, for the 301st time in their careers, will squat and catch Wainwright’s offerings. A historic duo only gets sweeter when an old friend steps to the plate. Oh, that’s Albert Pujols. Holder of every record that begins with awesome and ends with awesome.
In 1,705 career games in Cardinal Red, Pujols crushed 445 homers, 455 doubles, and slashed .328/.420/.617 at the plate. He won three MVPs and without Barry Bonds standing in the way, could have owned at least two more. He left in 2011 but racked up two World Series rings in the process, enduring his family to the city in no time–a bond that still stands strong today.
Wainwright and Molina have been battery mates since Pujols began to carve his legend as The Machine, so one could say the trio have been through a lot of games together-but tonight, they are foes.
#50 will climb the hill and throw a few curveballs Pujols’ way, with Molina waiting to receive or watch the ball sail into the stands. That’s the greatness of baseball when you strip it down to its essential pleasure. A hitter taking a stand against two other players, trying to outthink them and crush the ball instead of shaking his head on the way back to the dugout. Before everyone screamed that teams need to win a World Series to keep the interest of their fan base-or at least remain competitive-there was just baseball. The original game.
So, instead of draining your eyeballs at the wildcard standings or scratching your head at Mike Shildt’s reasons for batting a .180 hitter fifth in his September lineup, just watch these three guys have some fun on the diamond. A long time ago, they were just kids starting out their careers.
5,712 games (including postseason play) later, they will share a baseball field tonight. A simple pleasure, devoid of the late season chaos that *should* surround Cardinal Nation every single September. This year hasn’t gone as planned-nowhere near actually-but it has brought us to this moment.
Yadi behind the dish. Waino on the mound. The artist formerly known as the Machine walking to the plate. Right after the clock strikes seven tonight, this should wrap itself around every television screen in town. Just like the old days, when a Pujols at-bat was must-watch entertainment.
Tonight, there’s just a small twist. Enjoy it, folks. Please. We may not see this again.