St. Louis Cardinals Opening Day – Welcome Back, Boys. Baseball is Back, 162 to Go
Oh, hi. Didn’t see you there. It’s been a while.
Only five months, you say? Seems like an eternity.
“How can you not be romantic about baseball?” Billy Beane asks in Moneyball, one of my favorite films of last year. I can’t really argue with him, and Opening Day is the ultimate in romance. It’s the first dates of a new relationship, the excitement thinking about it, the anticipation building to the first kiss.
Ultimately, for 29 teams, it ends in heartbreak. The Chicago Cubs are set in the permanent friends zone.
For the first few days, though, it’s a time of hope, because everyone’s starting from the same spot. Nobody’s below .500, and there’s always hope that even teams that are predicted to fail could surprise the hell out of someone. Ultimately, it turns out to be nothing more than a pipe dream for most teams.
For us Cardinals fans, though, nothing is a dream too great. Last September and October? Not even my most absurd dreams could ever match that.
This is truly one of the prominent baseball towns.
St. Louis has a metropolitan population of roughly 2.8 million people, yet they had the sixth-best attendance in baseball last season, drawing over 3 million.
St. Louis is the 24th largest market in the league but last season had the second best ratings; during the playoffs, we were number one, when more than one in every four households (26.2%) were tuned in.
The Cardinals lost one ace pitcher (Chris Carpenter) but gained another one (Adam Wainwright).
They lost the best hitter of the past decade (Albert Pujols), a franchise player once heralded as the Stan Musial of our generation, but gained a five-tool outfielder (Carlos Beltran) who, before microfracture surgery two years ago, may have been one of the best outfielders in the game.
If you’re into the sabermetrics and want to compare the team by Wins Above Replacement, this team might be better than last year’s.
There’s a long way to go in this season, and it won’t be an easy one. The Marlins are a dark horse to contend in the National League, while it’s entirely possible there are six teams in the American League who are more stacked than any team in the National League.
We’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Oh, by the way (and yes, I acknowledge the circumstances are different; Stan was retiring, whereas Albert’s still relatively in his prime), what happened the season after Stan retired in 1963 and the Cardinals had to replace a once-in-a-generation talent?
They won the World Series.
So sit back, unwind, and take these moments in.
The crack of the bat, when you know, you just know, it’s gone.
Middle-aged men wearing polyester baseball uniforms grabbing random body parts in public and not getting in trouble for it.
Wainwright snapping off a 12-to-6 curve that falls off the shelf.
The joy of seeing a guy like Erik Komatsu making the major league roster for the first time. Welcome to the big leagues, Mr. Komatsu. Hope you and your fellow freshmen are ready for whatever the Cardinals throw at the rookies this year.
Last year’s treatment was, well…
The Cardinals open up the season tonight in Miami at 6:05 in the gorgeous (except for the home run tower) new stadium there. Should the Marlins hit a home run (given their line-up, it’s a pretty good possibility), watch for the celebration in left-center field and try not to have a siezure.
Here’s to a new season. To quote one of the great baseball minds of our time, “May our feet be swift, may our bats be mighty, and may our balls be plentiful.”