A daily accumulation of history and present as I follow the 2011 year through the baseball season and reflect on the glories and disappointments of the greatest game on Earth.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Dave Duncan

St. Louis has always been a great baseball town. Many great players have made it in the city by the Gateway Arch, and many others have resurrected their careers playing in front of the friendliest fans in the baseball universe. From their first World Series win / appearance in 1926 where they beat the New York Yankees, it was on. Now, they have 10 best of baseball awards and 7 more World Series appearance where they came up short.
They've won as recently as 2006, with a team that pretty much couldn't win the division until it inevitably happened (they finished with 17 losses for September - which included a stretch from the 18th to the 29th where they won twice - shades of Philadelphia in 64 and Boston in 78, anyone?). However, with a team that wasn't that great they put it all together. Sure, Albert Pujols was there. Yadier Molina was too, but mostly it was "scrappy" (i.e. short, but tough) David Eckstein (who won the World Series MVP because someone had to), Adam Wainwright in rookie mode, Chris Carpenter, a discontented Scott Rolen, and some guys like So Taguchi, Juan Encarnacion, and Preston Wilson (role players who would soon be cast off). In ending the Tigers absolutely worst to first run in that year of baseball, they made the midwest proud, and life was good again, but since then, they've been squeezed out in much the same way that the Mets were that year when Endy Chavez made the catch only to lose it to 2 things - Yadier Molina hitting a 2-run just enough shot (shades of Ozzie Smith, anyone?) and Carlos Beltran stared at a pitch from Wainwright.
In the end, St. Louis was victorious in the NL and MLB - if not for ability for the fact that Kenny Rogers doctored the ball with a foreign substance and the universe went against the Tigers.
Perhaps it made up for a loss to Boston in 2004 when they went out 4 games to none after the GREATEST COMEBACK IN SPORTS HISTORY. That year was Pujols, a horrible swinging Jim Edmonds (worst swing in baseball history, but damn... that glove was beautiful), and a resurrected Larry Walker brought over from Colorado with tremendous fanfare for the days past (shades of Roger Maris, anyone?).
And maybe this year is another version of 2006. The pitching staff doesn't feature Bob Gibson or anyone like him, but damn... Kyle Lohse, Jaime Garcia, and Kyle McClellan don't want you to tell them that. Carpenter definitely isn't himself. Wainwright isn't even with the campaign, and still, the team is in 1st again. You've gotta love Dave Duncan. He takes a pitcher, makes him the best that he can possibly be, and the Cardinals fans just love them and make them 100 times better than they could be on any other team.
Look at what they did to Lance Berkman! That guy was written off, and now... he's dominating. Look at Matt Holliday! He's more productive than the best player in baseball (Pujols) - at least for now. They're making Stan Musial proud. They're living up to the legacy of love that McGwire brought out of the fans in those glory years (I still remember what it was really like - not what the asshole commentators and baseball revisionists want you to think of it).
St. Louis was and is a great baseball town.
Unless the Reds bring their A-game and their hatred and their imaginary feuds and player posturing, the Cards will be playing in October (and let's just say that we don't believe in Cueto, Volquez, or any other pitcher on the Reds).

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