There’s no diminishing what the St. Louis Cardinals have done this post-season. Any team that battles back from being down to their last strike and puts up a four-spot in the 9th inning of a game-clinching series deserves any accomplishment they can achieve.
But their road certainly could have been more difficult to traverse.
Sure, they had to win the first ever Wild Card game, but after that one-game obstacle, it could have been much worse.
They drew the National League win-leading Washington Nationals in the NLDS, but they got the version that didn’t include Stephen Strasburg. The Nationals elected not to use their ace down the stretch and in the post-season, thus taking on the Cardinals with less than a full deck at their disposal.
After a historic comeback in the 9th inning of game five, the Cardinals drew the NL West champion San Francisco Giants.
The Giants were also without one of their most productive players from the regular season in Melky Cabrera, and while it was for very different reasons, they voluntarily elected not to use one of their most productive players in the post-season.
While the Nationals chose to shut down Strasburg due to what seems like a poorly-planned attempt to keep him from injuring himself, the Giants took what appears it be a moral stand on their principles that could keep them from winning the National League pennant.
No matter what side of the steroid debate you come down upon, there’s no diminishing the impact that Melky Cabrera had on the Giants post-season run up until his suspension. He was eligible to return at the beginning of the NLCS, yet the Giants decided they would rather lose without him than win with him.
Before the suspension, Cabrera hit well enough to capture the National League batting title and win MVP of the All-Star Game. Sure, his chemical enhancement helped him receive his career numbers, but any help he got from whatever he took certainly didn’t go away in two months time. He still would have made the Giants better.
Which is not saying the Giants should have included him on their post-season roster.
But it is worth noting that for the first time in baseball history, a team, in this case the Cardinals, drew two straight teams in back-to-back playoff series that voluntarily elected not to use one of their best players.
It doesn’t diminish anything the Cardinals have done, but it’s certainly made their road easier.
You can follow Jeff Moore on Twitter at @MLBPW