This season finished short of the goal of the Cards’ 12th World Series Championship in 2012. The highs and the lows of the NLCS have been covered by others and there is no need to repeat them here. Good luck to the San Francisco Giants, who beat the Cards soundly. Bring back another World Series championship to the National League, OK?
Professional wrestling has turned from the sport it once was into a soap opera for men, with good guys and villains, plots, etc. Upon reflection, I realized that baseball, like wrestling, is very much like a soap opera, except the sporting aspect has not been lost like it has in wrestling. Let’s take a look at the structure of a soap opera.
All soap operas have a cast of characters. Some characters are good guys or gals and some are villains. Some characters turn from good guys to villains and vice versa. Some characters just hang around until they get a good storyline. Some characters interact with everyone else on the show and some characters interact with very few other characters. The Cards’ cast of characters contains very few, if any villains. There were players from other teams, however, that were villains to the Cards. In the fans’ minds, sometimes the umpires were villains.
Soap operas are usually set in a city (like Salem on Days of Our Lives or Genoa City on The Young and the Restless) and its characters function much like we do in real life – they go to work, come home, marry, have kids, get divorced, etc. The drama then is what happens to those characters, the situations they find themselves in, and what do they do in those situations. The main setting for the Cardinals is Busch Stadium, although they do play in other major league stadiums. What happens in players’ lives outside of baseball also can have an effect on their baseball careers.
Another soap opera staple is SORAS, or Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome. In soap opera vernacular, this means taking a child character and aging them to a teenager in order to advance a storyline or inject life into a dull storyline. The equivalent in baseball would be calling up a player from the minor leagues to replace an injured player or to help the team, thus taking them out of the natural progression of the player into the major leagues. Will the minor league player play/pitch better than the veteran and he then replaces him? Will the minor league player perform at a major league level, or will he fail to live up to expectations and be sent back down to the minor leagues?
Soap operas and nighttime dramas as well also have story arcs, which is when a character has a storyline with a beginning and an end. Good soap operas and nighttime dramas will have several story arcs – you have to fill up an entire hour, after all. Sometimes the story arcs relate to each other and sometimes they don’t. Major events, such as a natural disaster, can also occur to tie together story arcs or change the lives of characters forever. In baseball, a major event could be a World Series championship or the illness and/or the tragic, early death of a ballplayer.
So let’s take a look at how the 2012 season fits into the soap opera description. Three story arcs developed for this season. The first arc was the question of whether the Cards could repeat their World Series championship. The second arc was the hiring of Mike Matheny as the replacement for Tony LaRussa, despite the fact that Matheny had never managed at a major league level before. The third story arc was how the team would replace the production of Albert Pujols after he signed with Anaheim.
Two of this season’s story arcs actually started in the offseason last fall when Tony LaRussa announced his retirement and Albert signed with Anaheim. As referenced above, the solutions for these problems were the hiring of Mike Matheny and the signing of Carlos Beltran. The drama continued in spring training, when Chris Carpenter was injured and was supposedly lost for the season. That plot ended with a twist – Chris returned to action earlier than expected. Another story was the return of Adam Wainwright from Tommy John surgery. There were other injuries and call ups too.
A major event was the Cardinals’ wild card play-in game with the Braves. There were bad umpire calls and rioting by the Braves’ fans, but then a fantastic comeback win to lead the Cards to the NLDS. Another major event was Game 5 of the NLDS. The Cards’ comeback in the top of the ninth and the win over the Nationals to advance to the NLCS was high drama.
A major event with sad consequences was how the Cards lost the NLCS to the San Francisco Giants after being ahead 3 games to 1. The bats died in those last three games and the defense didn’t do their job either.
Alas, the first story arc of this season had an unhappy ending. I looked through the window of the office directly from my desk today and saw an empty Busch Stadium. Today would have been the first game of the 2012 World Series and it would have been here. The Indian summer weather we’re having today would have been beautiful for watching a game. Cards fans mourn for what might have been.
What will the story arcs be for next season? Will the Cards release Kyle Lohse or will they find a way to sign him? Will some of the coaches be fired? Will Lance Berkman retire? Tune in over the winter and next season for – As the Cards Turn.
Thanks for reading! See you next time!