It was only a matter of time before a Love Letter came your way. I mean, after the way you stepped in this year and, in any circumstance at any time on any corner of the field, you deserve an “‘atta boy” or two!
But for me, it goes back a little further. I had the pleasure of interviewing you at a Cardinals Caravan event before the season started. I had been a fan of yours before (and was quite disappointed when you were not on the Opening Day roster in 2011 …), but there was something about the way you spoke of the game. There was so much respect, yes, but it was more than that.
When you talked about the 2011 team winning it all in such dramatic fashion, it was like you were reliving it all with them. When the subject switched to where you thought you fit on the big league lineup, your eyes lit up with determination and a belief that you had something very valuable to contribute.
I believed that then. But I had no idea how significant your season would be!
It didn’t take long, though. When Lance Berkman went down with a knee injury just after the season got underway, and Allen Craig was still working his way back from his own knee injury, you became “the guy.”
Remember this game? Of course you do. Four-for-four on the day, including your first big-league homer smashed out to Freese Landing in center? Amazing. After that game, Cardinal Nation kind of sat up and said, “Wait … we might really have something here!”
June was hard. Injuries kept you — and several of your teammates — off the field. And it hurt.
So to come back with two hits, an RBI, and a couple runs scored had to feel good. It did for all of us watching, that’s for sure.
August was a sight to see. With the Cardinals trying to make a run at the playoffs, you hit your way to a .372 average with 16 hits, 6 doubles, a triple, and 10 RBI.
The team really needed that. And I’ll bet you never get tired of hearing, “Matt Carpenter, have a day!”
But I think there’s one particular moment that captures your season better than the rest.
NLCS Game 3.
You’re not in the lineup, because Carlos Beltran is. Your parents drove in for the game, but you’re sitting. Until Carlos gets hurt … in the second inning. You’re in, and you’re up. And what do you do?
Oh, just blast a two-run bomb over the Cardinal bullpen to give the Redbirds a 2-1 lead. Watch out, though. You do that too often and you’re bound to become a postseason hero!
You know, your season is so much the kind of season we like to highlight here at AMF — scrappy, multi-use guys like you make the Cardinals tick. At that Cardinals Caravan event, you made mention that you would play anywhere the team wanted or needed you to play. That attitude might well have won you the roster spot, too. And I hope you meant it when you said that, because Matheny and the gang moved you around whenever there was a hole that needed to be filled!
Let’s see. There were 44 games at first base, 5 at second, and 33 at third. Oh, and 15 in right field, 7 in left.
There were a couple of games we thought you might make it out to pitch, too!
Every team needs that guy, though. And you proved time and time again how valuable you had become by being “that guy” who was always ready to contribute.
And you did it all the right way. The Cardinal Way.
And that’s why we love you.