On July 3rd, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was kind enough to answer a few questions for Blog Red Machine, to help preview the upcoming Reds-Cardinals series. At that time, the Cardinals were tied with the Brewers, 2 games in front of the Reds for first place in the NL Central. Despite several key injuries, the Cardinals looked like a force to be reckoned with in the division.
To open to the interview, I asked Bernie:
"The Cardinals have fought through what seems like a never ending string of injuries, managing to stay in or around 1st place all year. How have they been able to match (or even outplay) the Brewers and Reds, with all the injuries?"
Considering the events that transpired last night, his answer provides great insight to the mentality of the St. Louis Cardinals…
"Mental toughness is impossible to quantify, and some would undoubtedly scoff at the suggestion that it makes a tangible difference. But the Cardinals have plenty of it. And it does make a difference. I’ve seen this team absorb a bunch of cruel punches all season — it’s been unbelievable — and they don’t stay down for long. They always pick themselves up. They compete like crazy."
Well, anyone who may have “scoffed at the suggestion” that mental toughness makes a difference is probably reconsidering that opinion today. Baseball fans across the nation witnessed this exact quality last night. Mr. Miklasz warned us about this team before the All-Star break.
Bernie continued with this:
"It’s a hard-edged team that doesn’t mope around, feeling sorry for itself. Much of that comes from the manager, Tony La Russa. He’s a polarizing figure, even in St. Louis. He’s so combative and relentless, and it rubs opponents the wrong way. Lance Berkman said it best: he couldn’t stand La Russa when he competed against him as a member of the Astros for all of those years. Berkman said he wanted to punch La Russa. But he also said everyone on the Houston side respected La Russa because his teams would show up, compete, play hard, go after you, always look for an edge and never really back off. And once Berkman became a member of La Russa’s team he came to appreciate the manager’s high standards and personality. And the Cardinals are definitely a reflection of La Russa’s personality – both good and bad. But at times like this — with the team constantly being rocked by injuries and adversity — that’s when TLR is at his best."
Say what you want about the Cardinals and their manager (hell, if you’ve read my posts you know I’ve taken my shots at them), but Miklasz seems to be spot-on with this analysis. The 2011 Cardinals have overcome more than any team I’ve ever witnessed. A season-ending injury sidelined their best pitcher before opening day… Spring Training was dominated by the uncertainty of Albert Pujols‘ future, after the team failed to sign him to an extension… And of course, the Cardinals were 10.5 games behind the Braves for the final NL playoff spot on August 25th…
Last night’s improbable comeback exemplifies exactly what Bernie Miklasz told our readers nearly 4 months ago. Game six of the 2011 World Series was a microcosm of the Cardinals entire 2011 season.
As Reds fans, you can continue to despise the Cardinals and their manager… but you should at least respect, and maybe even envy, their resiliency and heart.
You can read Bernie Miklasz, and his take on last night’s game, here
Follow me on twitter @CKFreshness