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Cardinals of the Lost Ark

Here’s what I wish Dick Stockton had said in the ninth inning of that absurd St. Louis-Washington game last night: For those of you just joining us here in Washington, you’ve missed a lot. The St. Louis Cardinals were almost run over by a boulder. Then, after being chased by an angry tribe of natives and ambushed by Nazis, they found themselves in a pit of snakes …


There really isn’t any conventional way to describe the Cardinals’ 9-7 victory Friday night or the absurdity of their now two-year fate train or the agony in Washington after losing a six-run lead … it’s all so outsized and cartoonish and staggering. For the last 20 years or so, baseball has tried hard to move away from the leisurely and pastoral game where championships were determined slowly over six months, like slow developing photographs. They wanted to make the baseball more of a 3-D thrill ride. And so baseball added more playoff teams, and they added interleague play, and they added even more playoff teams, and  gave us the one-game, no limit wildcard game,  gave us best-of-five free-for-alls where the lower-ranking team gets the first two games at home, all in an attempt to make baseball more riveting.

It has been riveting. You had last year’s final day, the most rip-roaring, spine-tingling, mind-blowing day perhaps in the history of baseball. And you’ve had this year’s playoffs. San Francisco comes from two losses at home to beat Cincinnati! The Yankees and Orioles lock up in the Octagon for five tense and exhausting and sublime days! Detroit finally puts away the amazing A’s! And in the headliner, the Cardinals are down 6-0 to the team with the best record in baseball, chip away at the lead, chip away at the lead, chip away at the lead, and then finally, in the ninth inning, go crazy and win their fifth straight playoff series … all five against teams with better regular season records.

Though even saying that misses the point. Regular season records don’t mean much now. Regular season records these days remind me of the ninja in black in Raiders of the Lost Ark, you know, the one who comes out of the crowd with a sword. He has obviously trained his whole life to become this great swordsman, and he throws the sword from hand to hand, flips it around with great skill as he waits for Indiana Jones. You can imagine that countless hours he spent developing his sword-fighting virtuosity. The St. Louis Cardinals, like Indiana Jones, had a gun.

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14 Responses to Cardinals of the Lost Ark

  1. David says:

    Too… much… to… read…

  2. nightflyblog says:

    St Louis Cards are soaring souls…
    Named after a priest or bird
    Their energetic bats are ready to resist
    Any dominating closer
    Their gloves should catch any ball that’s smashed
    Their feet keep pace, swift afield or on base
    Their pitching should whiff any opposing stiff
    And their bats ever-ready for a knock-out blow

  3. Kansas City says:

    Great games. MLB has great highlights. I said it in a post below, but I suggest everyone watch the interview of Nationals relief pitcher Storen. Very impressive.

  4. Kansas City says:

    I know it was a tough play, but shouldn’t the Nationals shortstop have made the play on the single that tied the game? He must be aching today. I assume no one is really blaming him, but he must think that he should have held the ball that bounced off his glove. It did not look like that hard a play.

    By the way, the Yankees won, and Jeter made a nice looking though pretty easy play to end the 8th inning Oriole rally, but on an earlier replay of a ground ball base hit to left field, I finally say what everyone has said about Jeter’s lack of range. It was a ground ball to his right, and it did not look like he even reacted until the ball was about half way to him (maybe more).

    • Gary says:

      I’m assuming that you’ve never played shortstop.

    • Unknown says:

      It would have been an exceptional play; one that Nats fans would have been raving about for years if Desmond had come up with it. I would say that for a normal shortstop, 9 times out of 10, he doesn’t manage to convert a ball hit that hard with that short hop that far away in to an out.

      Your shortstop would have to be on the level of Ozzie Smith for you to expect that ball to be converted in to an out.

    • Kansas City says:

      He did have an easy force at second base if he held on to the ball. I agree it probably would take a good shortstop to make the play, although it was only a step or so and a dive. I’m not ripping the guy, but I am almost certain he feels like he should have held on to it. He did have it in his glove (I realize it was a hard hit ball). I would gues the normal shortstop makes the play 2 or 3 times out of ten, but if you consider how often the normal shortstop would have made the play if he had the ball in his glove, it probably is more like 8 times out of 10.

    • It would have been Walt Weiss vs. the Astros in 1999, jawdropping and heartbreaking

    • Rob Smith says:

      To your Jeter comment, Jeter has been a below average shortstop his entire career based on Advanced Metrics. But, even beyond that are the observations like his slow reaction time and inability to get to balls that seem awfully close to him to get by cleanly. I never understand why some dispute this fact. Maybe because he does have good hands, and once he gets to a ball he definitely makes the play. But he just doesn’t get to that many balls, especially comparing him to the high level of shortstop many teams have these days.

    • Dinky says:

      In Ian Desmond’s first three seasons, his range factor at shortstop exceeded league average, and his two full seasons (more than 89 PA) he had OPS+ of 89 and 80, so it’s fairly clear Desmond was groomed as a good range defensive specialist. This year, his OPS+ was 126, his range factor dropped. mostly on a big jump in slugging percentage. It’s possible he put on some weight, given that his starters included so many strikeout artists, so offense was more important. But I’d say that a defensively valuable shortstop could have held on to that ball. It’s also worth noting that his fielding percentage isn’t that great, so maybe what happened is normal: his range let him reach the ball, but his glove didn’t let him hang on to it.

  5. Michael says:

    Joe paid tribute to the intelligence of Davey Johnson. All well and good. But I learned something about him long ago, and so I wound up not surprised last night–just surprised that, as smart as he is, he didn’t learn.

    In 1988, my Dodgers faced Johnson’s Mets in the NLCS. In Game 4, Dwight Gooden gave up a key homer in the 9th to Mike Scioscia that enabled the Dodgers to come back. Now, in a regular season game, back in those glorious days when pitchers were supposed to start what they finished, Johnson would have left Gooden in. But in a playoff game, was that the thing to do? I realized that Tommy Lasorda, a great clubhouse manager in keeping a team loose and ready but incapable of field strategy, managed in the post-season like it was NOT the regular season–and proved it again in the World Series against Tony LaRussa. My question is why Johnson managed last night’s game like a regular season game, leaving in his starter to let the Cardinals back into the game, leaving in a closer who clearly didn’t have it.

  6. Brian says:

    As Joe mentions, the Cards have won 5 playoff series in a row, all against teams with better regular-season records. This after getting knocked out of the playoffs in ’00, ’01, ’02, ’04, and ’05, each time by teams with worse regular-season records. Took awhile, but guess it all sorta evens out.

  7. zqxjk says:

    Actually the screenplay called for Harrison Ford to engage the sword-wielding gentleman in a knock-down drag out intensely choreographed duel …

    …. but Mr. Ford was sick that day and shot him instead.

    There’s a lesson in there somewhere

  8. Sam Lawrence says:

    Interesting history … Great job!
    http :/ /

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