Friday, March 30, 2012

Good News for Cardinal Nation

Accurately predicting the fates and fortunes of all 30 MLB teams is virtually an impossible task; often, "luck" - good or bad - completely changes a team's destiny, for better or worse.  Or, we allow personal bias to factor into our prognostications; thereby creating our own, personal little "wish list" (Example:  The North Side Chicago resident who has predicted the Cubs will win the World Series every year, for the past forty-seven years.  Well, it's been 103 years and counting, and there's no end in sight).

Aside from luck and personal bias screwing up the predictions of even the most astute baseball "experts", the real culprit is misinformation; either ignoring relevant information or misinterpreting it altogether.  For example, MLB Network's team of analysts - including former players such as Harold Reynolds, Larry Bowa, Mitch Williams, Billy Ripken, Sean Casey, Al Leiter, and the ever-zany Dan Plesac - were unanimously off-base when ranking the hitting prowess of the four NL teams in the first round of last year's playoffs.

That one should have been a no-brainer; the Cardinals not only led the league in BA, OBP, SLG, and RUNS (the most important category), they were coming into the postseason about as red-hot as a team can be.  Strangely enough, not one of these savvy baseball whizzes figured that one out, favoring the obvious "favorite", the pitching-rich (not hitting) Phillies.  Go figure.

The uncanny knack for making predictions that are the polar opposite of what is actually going to happen is a trademark for some of these geniuses.  A classic example occurred during last year's World Series when the ever-garrulous Sean Casey was unable to correctly predict the winner for ANY of the seven games played between the Cardinals and Rangers.  That's hard to do, folks.

My personal favorite MLB Network prognosticator is Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams, who voices his opinions so decisively and with so much conviction, he almost sounds believable.  Of course, even by his own admission, when it comes to predicting the outcome of anything significant - such as the six division champions each year - he's batting .000.  That's why I was horrified when Wild Thing boldly declared back in December, the Cardinals - even without Albert Pujols - would win the NL Central in 2012.  Yikes!

They were officially doomed.

Reluctantly, I had to write the Redbirds off, although I tried to rationalize that the opinions expressed by Mitch Williams should have no bearing on the actual outcome.  But deep down inside I knew; if there's one thing certain in baseball, it's Wild Thing's absolute perfection in being wrong.  There's no denying it; he's the best there ever was at never being right.

Well, somewhere along the line, between Ryan Braun's miraculous synthetic testosterone exoneration and Chris Carpenter's shoulder problems, Wild Thing had a change of heart.  "The Brewers will win the Central", Mitch declared earlier this week on MLB Network.  This is, of course, horrible news for fans of the Brewers, although they probably don't realize it.  All they know is their man, Braunie, didn't do it and he's coming back for a full Beast-Mode season; so there!

More importantly, this is great news for the good guys - the Cardinals - who hope to defend their title minus King Albert, but still with a very good team that just got some very good news on the pitching shoulder of Chris Carpenter.  According to Cardinals Senior Vice President and General Manager John Mozeliak, Carp should be back in the rotation "sometime in May".  I think most fans would've been happy with a June or July return of our conquering postseason pitching hero; so this is a definite bonus.

Things are looking up in Cardinal Nation as this week draws to a close; and it all started innocently enough with Wild Thing's revised prediction earlier this week, capped off with that favorable prognosis coming down on Friday of that very important right shoulder in the Redbirds' starting rotation.

Cardinals fans have been patiently waiting for this new season to begin, biding time over the past five months watching David Freese's glorious Game Six heroics, over and over again.  It never gets old.

The team has had a nice Spring Training, looking good in their post-Albert exhibition games.  Now, it's just about time for the real thing, as the Cardinals strive to win back-to-back World Championships for the first time in franchise history; number twelve overall.

I suppose the only way the Redbirds could top the magic of 11 in '11 would be an encore.  How does 12 in '12 sound?

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