The 2014 season has long since passed and I have finally had time to gather my thoughts. With so much going on during this off season, my review of the previous year lost its urgency, until now. Obviously, the tragedy of this past fall has been at the forefront of the minds of Cardinal nation, but the time has now come to start thinking about next season, and the lessons learned in the previous one.
The season began with high expectations, which was a great compliment to our organization and our guys. Our club got off to a very warm start, and that pace seemed to keep up with us for the majority of the season. If there ever was a team that exemplified the old adage "a marathon, and not a sprint," it was our club. Our guys were most consistent in one thing....effort. I can't tell you how proud a coaching staff is when we witness hard work, positive attitude and a selfless approach, for almost 8 straight months. The result was a slow and steady push toward the finish line, and the hard work and mental toughness prepared our team for one final, strong push in September.
Along the trail, we lost 2 of our starting pitchers for extended periods of time, watched our ace gut through arm problems all season, had significant changes to our opening day lineup, and even had to endure 7 weeks without the one player who the rest of the baseball world believed we could not survive without. We were able to keep our heads above water while Yadi and Waino healed and our methodical, work-man like approach kept pushing forward. The guys smelled the finish line and responded to the pressure of the pennant race to take the National League Central in the final weekend of the season.
Just like every other team, we experienced slumps, droughts, trades, injuries and criticism, but we stayed the course. In the end, the 90 win total was enough to allow us into October, and to reward the 3.5 million fans who graced us with the honor of playing in front of them for 81 games in Busch Stadium. Our fans, much like us in the clubhouse, felt the strain of a long season that seemed to have more gut wrenching losses and "edge of your seat" wins than most teams experience in a decade.
October produced some of the greatest postseason feats which will be enduring memories for our players and our fans. Some of our young players grew immeasurably on the big stage, and our guys showed the watching world why they deserved to be playing for the big prize. After an amazing upset in the Division Series, a strong Giants club simply beat us as we had to watch them celebrate once again in San Fran.
As we tried to move forward from our disappointing loss, the entire baseball world was punched in the gut with the reality of real loss. Oscar Taveras was a talented super star in the making, but that was not important to those who were close to him. Oscar was a son, brother, father, friend, and teammate, and his loss will forever sting those who knew him well, and the Cardinal faithful. We are all thankful for the opportunity to know Oscar, and to have watched him grow into the player we knew we would someday see in St. Louis.
Life, like baseball, seems to move on and into the next season. We could not be more excited about the new additions to our club, even though that always means someone in the family must be moving out. Best wishes to those who are using their talents for another team, and a welcome to Jason Heyward, Jordan Walden, and Matt Belisle. The Cardinals take great pride in bringing in great people, as well as great players, and the group leaving and coming live up to that high expectation.
More blogs to come throughout the winter and into the spring, and best wishes to all for a Merry Christmas, or whatever it is that you celebrate this time of year with friends and loved ones, and a Happy New Year. Spring Training is right around the corner, but for now, thankful for family, friends and the honor of being a part of this great game.