The St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series last October, and in quick succession lost their decorated manager, their superstar first baseman and the greatest pitching coach of the last generation. They reached the postseason, anyway — as the last National League team to clinch — but entered the playoffs without two more stars from their championship lineup.
Yet as long as the Cardinals have those birds perched on a bat across their jerseys, it seems, something overtakes them. The birds might as well be vampires. The team without Tony La Russa, Albert Pujols, Dave Duncan, Lance Berkman and Rafael Furcal simply cannot be killed.
“We don’t really classify ourselves as one thing or another,” said the new manager, Mike Matheny, when asked last Thursday if his team was especially suited to the postseason. “What I would like to say about our team is that we’ve shown a lot of heart this year. I’d say, also, they don’t quit, and it’s hard to beat a team that doesn’t quit.”