After the Cardinals’ collapse at the end of the regular season, I expected my ‘birds to go out in 3 or 4 to begin the long winter recovery from season of injuries and missed opportunities—on the field and in the front office.
Somehow, though, the team that lost something like 114 games in their last 12 rallied in the bottom of the first and the bottom of the sixth to wash their wealthy hands of the San Diego Padres. Six to two was the final of the game, three to one the score of the series.
But the Cardinals lost something big, too. So did the fans who still have a bit of naiveté about modern ball players and where their team ranks on their agendas.
Scott Rolen has been a favorite of mine since he came to the Cardinals. Scott’s an Indiana native who grew up a ‘birds fan and displayed sincere joy at coming to the Cardinals. He is one of the 2 or 3 best defensive third basemen to play the game in the last 40 years, and during the regular season, Scott is a reliable hitter. He protects Da Mang in the clean-up spot most of the time.
Scott, though, has a flaw. He won’t tell his manager or trainer when we can’t go. He would rather the team lose the series than win without him.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
La Russa was displeased that Rolen waited until after Game 3 to inform the team that his shoulder hasn’t felt right. He said Rolen has often been asked about the shoulder and always responded it felt “fine.”
I love guys who play through pain. Jim Edmonds battled through post concussion syndrome, shoulder injuries, and something like turf toe to bat .300 during the NLDS. I don’t like guys who take the field knowing their presence in the line-up hurts their team’s chances of winning.
That’s apparently what Rolen did.
In three games against the Padres, Rolen hit .091, swinging at balls above his head and nearly out of the left batter’s box. He looked like a fourth grader on Saturday against Eric Young.
Tony LaRussa rarely criticizes his players to the media, but in an interview with the Post-Dispatch, he couldn’t hide his frustration with Rolen.
“I do think we’ve stressed so many times to the whole club that that’s not the smartest way to go about it,” La Russa said. “I think you want to have players be straightforward about how they feel,” La Russa said.
For my four boys, I hope the Cardinals win the World Series, and for my love of old-time baseball, I wish Scott Rolen could have been part of it. Even if he returns, though, I know now he’ll play for the ring on his finger, not for the pennant on the stadium roof.