When I was watching the game last night, I couldn’t help thinking about Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, and the timing of their free agency.
Reading the coverage this morning, I couldn’t help thinking about the Yankees, and the timing of their early postseason exit.
At no point this season did the Cardinals look like the best team in the National League. Even when they were winning all of those games in September, making a sudden push for the postseason, they were clearly behind the Phillies and the Brewers in terms of pennant favorites.
Then the Cardinals beat both the Phillies and the Brewers. The Cardinals beat two teams that seemed to have better rotations — isn’t that all that matters in the postseason? — and seemed to have deeper lineups. The Cardinals won the NLCS without a single starting pitcher lasting more than five innings. They won it with their ace on the disabled list (Adam Wainwright), their second baseman suddenly sidelined (Skip Schumaker) and their Opening Day center fielder in Toronto (Colby Rasmus). Their winning pitcher last night was Marc Rzepczynski, who I don’t remember ever seeing pitch particularly well when he was with the Blue Jays.
Give credit wherever you want — great bullpen management by Tony LaRussa, a lineup getting fairly healthy, roster pieces finally falling into place, a lucky squirrel — the bottom line is that the Cardinals played well at the right time. They got some big hits and some big outs, and they’re going to the World Series.
The Yankees did not do that.
Teams are built to win through a 162-game season, but winning in the playoffs is all about timing. The Cardinals learned that fun way. The Yankees learned it the hard way.