The Cardinals and their fans are licking their wounds after a game seven loss, but they can take comfort in the fact that their future is bright.
After all they had done to get to game seven of the NLCS, it was tough to see the Cardinals end their season with a resounding thud in a 9-0 loss to the Giants.
We have become so accustomed to the Cardinals pulling rabbits out of their collective hats that it was a bit sobering to see them get shelled in the final three games of the series in San Francisco.
But the fact of the matter is that their losses in San Francisco were just making things right.
This Cardinals team overachieved in a big way. As deflated as the Cardinals and their fans probably are after Monday night’s loss, they should be proud of how far the team got.
This was a team without Albert Pujols completely, without Chris Carpenter until the last few weeks of the regular season and without Lance Berkman for all but a handful of games. This was also a team that had to deal with their ace, Adam Wainwright, suffering through his worst season since becoming a key cog in their rotation.
They had a bullpen full of rookies with little to no big league experience. In the postseason, they were leaning hard on players like Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma, a guy that hit .227 in the regular season and a guy that had all of 72 at-bats in the regular season, respectively.
Their top two hitters, Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday, were both in and out of the lineup by the time the NLCS rolled around.
This team wasn’t exactly loaded with elite talent and they had a hard time keeping the elite talent they had healthy.
When it comes right down to it, they also had more than their fair share of good fortune.
You can’t forget that they only made the postseason because of the new rule which allowed two wild card teams into the postseason. You also can’t forget that in their wild card game against the Atlanta Braves, they were helped by an infield fly call that could be described as controversial.
Then there was the series against the Nationals where they found themselves down to their last strike twice in game five before Drew Storen decided that there was no time like the present to start nibbling.
You knew that eventually things were going to turn.
This, of course, is all little consolation shortly after a tough loss.
But what should help ease the pain is the fact that the future is bright for this franchise in both short and long term.
In the short term, almost all of this team should be back next year.
Carpenter and Wainwright should both be healthy simultaneously for the first time in two seasons. Carlos Beltran has shown that he has a lot more left in the tank. Matt Holliday is signed long-term, giving the Cardinals middle of the order punch and another veteran presence in the clubhouse. Jason Motte has emerged as a tremendous closer and Yadier Molina is an elite catcher both offensively and defensively. The positives go on and on.
Looking to the future, the Cardinals already have much of their core established.
Allen Craig and David Freese have emerged as solid, if unspectacular, players to build around on the infield. Jon Jay is a fantastic table setter in the lineup with a great approach at the plate. He is also already an elite centerfielder.
The young bullpen that I alluded to earlier quickly became a strong point for the Redbirds. Handing the ball over in the late innings to a continuous stream of flame-throwing youngsters was a huge asset.
St. Louis very well may lose Kyle Lohse to free agency this offseason. That will hurt the rotation, there’s no doubt, but the good news is that his replacement will come from the ranks of the bullpen that shouldered such a heavy load in the postseason.
As a matter of fact, it’s not ludicrous to think that 60 or even 80 percent of the Cardinals future starting rotation was on the roster this postseason. Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn, Trevor Rosenthal, Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller will all get a crack at being a part of that nucleus.
For any other holes that may form over the next few years, help is on the way. Baseball America ranked the Cardinals minor league organization as the tenth best in all of baseball in their rankings put out before the season. That’s really good when you consider that the Cardinals have been drafting at the end of the first round every year because their big league club has been so good.
Maybe most importantly, the Cardinals have the right man leading the way in manager Mike Matheny. The transition from LaRussa to Matheny was nearly seamless and that’s about as good as compliments get. Since everyone needs a little pat on the back every once in a while, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I saw this coming about this time last year in this piece right here.
There’s no denying that the loss on Monday night stings. No one would expect anything different. But make no mistake about it. The Cardinals are not going anywhere.