(BaseballStL) -- A team is often remembered and sometimes even defined by what it did in its last game.
While understandable, nothing could be more unfair to the 2013 St. Louis Cardinals.
Every team ultimately has but one goal – to win the World Series and thus anything short of that is a disappointment of varying magnitude. That is the problem with goals; they often induce a sense of failure, obscuring all that has been accomplished.
But a successful season should be defined by what was achieved, not by that which was not. The 2013 St. Louis Cardinals’ season was packed with stunning achievements in the face of potentially spirit-crushing injuries.
That is how they should be defined.
To lament the loss of much of the projected pitching staff to injury or poor performance is to disregard the inspiring performance of Michael Wacha, Joe Kelly, Carlos Martinez, Seth Maness and Trevor Rosenthal. To dwell on the loss of Rafael Furcal is to ignore the resiliency of Carlos Beltran, the contributions of Matt Adams and the remarkable emergence of Matt Carpenter.
This is a team that trusted each other and believed in the power of a team over that of a random collection of self-interests. Their faith was rewarded with a division championship, an improbable NLDS title over a team that beat them often during the year and pennant against a team that outspent them by $100 million.
Yes, the season ended with a loss; every playoff team’s does save for one. What distinguishes the Cardinals from all the other teams whose season also ended with a loss is more than just an impressive array of titles and awards.
They prepared and played as hard as they possibly could all year and particularly in this World Series. They were defeated by a team that made better plays and better pitches, not by a team that had more desire.
Only when a team has committed everything it has to the common cause, when each has given himself over to the pursuit of a singular goal, can defeat be tolerated. It’s called ‘no regrets’ and for athletes, it is often the only way to cope with coming within a game or two of your goal only to see it slip away.
A team is a temporary collection of individuals bound together by mutual respect, trust and the belief that the whole is greater than just the sum of the parts. The Cardinals were that team in 2013, never doubting themselves or each other, overcoming a wall of obstacles and challenges to rise to the very top of the National League.
That is how they should be remembered by fans and how I sincerely hope they remember themselves; a talented collection of players whose determination and composure carried them further than their talent but just short of their dream.
Teams are transitory and changing. Some players will return for 2014, others will retire and some will move on, to be replaced by tomorrow’s heroes before they too, fade to black.
But the memory of the 2013 St. Louis Cardinals, frozen in our minds for all of time, should be of a proud Band of Brothers for whom a final defeat cannot overshadow the magnitude of their achievements.