Last week I was out of town for my full-time job, which is marketing manager for a trade association’s large annual convention.
Through the years I’ve gotten to know many of the association members pretty well, which means knowing their sports interests and them knowing mine. (Of course, the convention starts on Super Bowl Sunday every couple years — including this one — which helps with the sports talk considerably.)
Despite the football influence, last week brought about many baseball conversations. And they were all remarkably similar.
Whether it was a Reds, Red Sox, Indians, Rangers, Phillies, Pirates, Braves, Giants, Cubs, Twins or Tigers fan, each person said virtually the same thing: “The Cardinals are in trouble now that Albert’s gone.”
To which I always had the same response: “No, they’re not.”
I understand that reaction, of course. Losing a Hall of Fame player is a blow for any team — and especially if they’re the reigning World Series champions. (So is losing a Hall of Fame manager, but not one person mentioned Tony La Russa’s retirement.) But Albert Pujols is one guy. And one guy does not a team — or a championship — make.
Need an example? Think back to one year ago right now, just before spring training 2011. Who was the Cardinals best starter, someone everyone would have said would be absolutely crucial to success in the season ahead? Duh, Adam Wainwright. And how did he contribute to World Series championship No. 11 in ’11? Oh. Yeah. That’s right …
Was Waino missed? Again, duh. And Albert will be too. That Guy Who Used To Play First Base did a hell of a lot last year, even with his very slow start. Yet look at how the team succeeded even during that very slow start in April and May. Because it’s a team made up of 24 other guys too.
I understand the easy storyline of “the Cards are in trouble without Albert,” especially because many of the people who told me that don’t necessarily share my enthusiasm (well, OK, obsession) with the day-to-day ins-and-outs of baseball and especially the Cardinals. A year ago, or even as recently as the beginning of October, chances are good every one of them would have said the Phillies were going to be 2011 World Champs. Especially the Phillies fans among them.
But perception is not always reality, especially when it comes to sports. Like all those Patriots fans I saw throughout the day on Super Bowl Sunday, wearing their Brady and Welker jerseys and hanging up flags on the podiums of seminar rooms and crowing about what they were so sure was going to happen that night — things don’t always turn out like you expect they will. Games are played, and seasons are played, for a reason.
Those games, and seasons, are played by teams. Teams that, in baseball, are made up of more than one guy.
And, in the case of the 2012 St. Louis Cardinals, teams made up of guys who want to be there … and already know they can overcome anything and still win. If they ever forget, the World Series rings most of them will receive on April 13 will serve as a reminder.
And here’s another reminder — vote for Cardinals fan Kelsey Shea for the MLB Fan Cave right here. Voting continues until Feb. 22, so vote early and vote often!
Christine Coleman is the senior St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates.