Saturday, October 29, 2011
What 11 in 11 really means
11 in 11 was a catchy phrase someone thought of as the St. Louis Cardinals approached the 2011 MLB season. This team had 10 World Series Championships, so getting their 11th in 2011 would be 11 in 11 for short. While it was catchy, it seemed at first far fetched. Before the season even began, the Cardinals learned that they would lose one of their top starting pitchers, Adam Wainwright, to a season ending injury that would require surgery. Hopes for an 11th World Championship were quickly dashed. On top of that, when the season was not even a week old, they found out that Matt Holliday would be on the DL for a few weeks after needing an emergency appendectomy. What else could go wrong? Much of the season went on with the Cardinals not playing as well as fans felt they should, even with the injuries. They made too many errors. They hit into too many double plays. Their bullpen had problems. They blew too many saves. Even their marquee player, Albert Pujols, was having an off season. He wasn't even hitting 300! At one point in the season, the Cardinals found themselves in 4th place in their own division, considered the weakest in baseball! By the end of August, they were 10 1/2 games out of the wild card race. It was a foregone conclusion that the Brewers would win the division, which they did. But something happened. Tony La Russa said it happened one day as the Cardinals were playing the Cubs. The fans still cheered. Cardinal Nation still loved their Cardinals, and that gave them hope. Tony La Russa instilled a mantra into the players that this team would always play a "hard nine". They would never give up and throw in the towel. This team would play out the season with respect for the game and respect for the fans and the city they played for. They would do their best for their coaches, front office personnel and their owner. This team would not give up. Mike Shannon said after a game in late August, "You never know what can happen win you start to win and build some momentum!" And so the Cardinals began what will go down into the history books as one of the greatest comebacks of all time. They caught the Atlanta Braves on the second to last day of the season to clinch the Wild Card berth into the playoffs. They then went on the beat the mighty Philadelphia Phillies and the beasty Milwaukee Brewers. They found themselves in the 2011 World Series with a chance, a chance to win 11 in 11. Of course now they faced the feared Texas Rangers, the returning American League Champions. A team that lost the World Series to the San Francisco Giants the year before and wanted to taste the World Championship in the worst way. Through five hard fought games they found themselves back in St. Louis down 3 games to 2, but with the home field advantage. But game 6 would not seem to go their way. Facing elimination and down 7-4 they fought their way back to tie the game in the ninth, only to lose the lead in extra innings, twice! They were down to their last strike...twice! But they didn't give up! An unlikely hero in the form of a St. Louis native, one of the lowest paid players on the team. A kid, named David Freese, who made the team as the 3rd baseman after suffering injuries and personal problems in the past, but developed into a confident hitter as the season progressed. This hometown hero would drive home the winning runs with a walk off home run in the 11th inning. But the Cardinals still had to win game 7. Down 2 runs in the first inning, the Cardinals tied the game on a hit by, you guessed it, David Freese, the hometown hero! They were bolstered by a strong pitching performance by Chris Carpenter, pitching on three days rest, and the Cardinals went on to win the game, game 7, by a score of 6 to 2 and become the 2011 World Series Champions! 11 in 11 had been accomplished. Yes, 11 in 11 means the 11th Championship in 2011, but what it really means is, don't give up! Don't count yourself out. Keep fighting. There is still a chance to win! Anyone can come back. You can dream of winning the World Series and being the MVP, as David Freese did. This Championship was for the underdogs. The unsung heroes. The people who beat the odds and made something happen that wasn't expected. The Cardinals did it. You can do it too! Whatever your dream is, don't give up. Who says it can't be done? Make it happen. You can be a winner!