The Ring and the Echo

by Bryan

In the end, Arthur Rhodes did not back into a championship ring. He was on the winning side, the one in St. Louis, not the losing side, of his former team in Texas. The same can’t be said for Colby Rasmus, the one-time phenom who was shipping out of St. Louis in the summer. Exiled to Toronto, he earned a championship ring tonight through the television. Adam Wainwright, dressed from head to toe in Cardinals white, won one too, one season after he finished second in the Cy Young award voting, throwing 230.1 innings—230.1 more than he’d throw in this, the championship year.

David Freese earned his ring and his MVP trophy, and Chris Carpenter, José Alberto Pujols Alcántara, Lance Berkman and Yadier Molina, among many others, can feel like they’ve done a lifetime’s worth of a job well done tonight. These things stick. They are intractable in a way a ring isn’t. You can’t sell having won a World Series on eBay. If you could have, Jose Canseco would have tried it long ago.

On the losing side, the Rangers gained something they’ve lacked for the first 50 years of their existence: an identity. They are, now, the great losers. Their talent and zest is undeniable, but the fissures upon which the organization stands have opened at precisely the wrong instances too many times in a row to be ignored. Ron Washington said he told his team that they were champions, but they were not. They were the other guys. The line in this series was as thin as it’s ever been between the two—I’m sure we’ll find out tomorrow or on Monday if, in the World Series alone, the Cardinals’s comeback was the most implausible in history. Mets and Angels fans might be ready to object, but the numbers will tell their warm story soon enough.

Even now, at this hour, my inbox is pulsing with emails from fans angry about Ron Washington’s intentional walks. It’s enough, they say, to have turned their allegiance to the Cardinals. I wished I shared their joy right now, because the National League leaves me cold in almost every instance. I find it near-impossible to share in their joy. You know the exceptions.

Tonight doesn’t seem like the night for lessons, but what could we learn, anyway? The Cardinals were the best in 2011, and that’s all that matters. Next season isn’t so far away, if you look real hard. It’s across the winter, and before you know it, it’ll be time for pitchers and catchers, and the pretentiousness that accompanies their arrival to retirement communities.

I don’t see the beauty of spring training. I love October baseball. It’s over, and it’s time to say goodnight everywhere but in St. Louis, where they’ll shield their eyes from next season, and even the next sunrise, for as long as possible. The National League’s steadiest institution has done it proud. As an AL fan, I’m begrudgingly respectful. The Cardinals came through when it mattered. I don’t know why that’s something I have to live with, but it is.