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World Series 2011: At Least It Was The Cardinals

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It's been a couple of days, and no, losing the World Series isn't going to miraculously stop hurting for Rangers fans. There's no doubting it was an awful way to lose, and perhaps one that leaves some fans doubting why they follow sports at all. The story for 2011, though, isn't Texas' Game 6 collapse.

Luckily for the Rangers, they lost to the Cardinals. The same Cardinals who were buried in late August, the same Cardinals who were buried in September, and the same Cardinals who were three games back of the Wild Card with five games to play. 

The story of 2011 is St. Louis' resilience, and the Rangers and their fans should in a strange way be grateful for that. 

If the Rangers had lost in the same manner to the Milwaukee Brewers or Philadelphia Phillies, it's likely the hurt would be exactly the same for Rangers fans. Losing is losing, after all. But at least in terms of 2011's story, Texas is an accessory to the story rather than the story. 

Most outside of Texas will remember 2011 as the year that the Cardinals refused to give up, the year that there was some seemingly outside force guiding them to a miraculous two month run to end the season.

After the Rays won the Wild Card in the manner they did, overcoming a 7-0 deficit late in Game 162 against the Yankees while the Red Sox choked against the Baltimore, most anointed them as the team of destiny, the hot team in the playoffs that you simply don't want to face. 

The Rangers, though, managed to squash that story, defeating the Rays with relative ease, winning the ALDS in four games.

St. Louis, on the other hand, clinched the NL Wild Card on the last day of the season -- much like the Rays. They were down 2-1 to the Phillies in the NLDS, and quickly down 2-0 in Game 4 with Edwin Jackson on the mound against Roy Oswalt. The Cards came back to win Game 4 and force a Game 5...where they managed to defeat Roy Halladay - in Philadelphia - to clinch the series.

The Cardinals then went into Milwaukee and took two out of three in Miller Park during the NLCS. The same Milwaukee Brewers who went 57-24 at home in 2011. The same Milwaukee Brewers who sold the farm to acquire Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum to deliver them to the World Series. 

We all know the World Series story by now, as well. Twice down to their last strike in Game 6, the Cardinals battled back, much like they have all season long. Chris Carpenter, pitching on short rest for just the second time in his career, thanks in part to the weather forcing a Game 6 postponement, managed to overcome a shaky first and limit the Rangers to just two runs over six plus innings in Game 7. 

If there ever were a team of destiny in sports, it is the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals

Yes, the end result is heartbreaking for Rangers fans, and it's going to sting for quite awhile. Looking back on this World Series will never be fun for Rangers fans. Maybe it'll take until the Rangers actually win the World Series, but in due time, hopefully Texas fans will still look at this 2011 season as a success. After all, the Rangers became the first American League team since the Yankees to win consecutive pennants.

The future is bright for Texas as well. The Rangers boast an excellent farm system, still featuring Jurickson Profar and Martin Perez. C.J. Wilson is the only major piece of the team eligible for free agency. If the last two years have proven anything, it's that the Rangers are the new favorites of the American League. 

Yes, the Cardinals are the champions of 2011. They have cemented their names in baseball history, pulling off one of, if not the, greatest comebacks of all time to get into the playoffs, win the pennant and win the World Series. They are the story of 2011.

And in due time, after the sting eventually wears off, perhaps Rangers fans will be able to realize and take some solace in the fact that the Cardinals were the story of 2011. 

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.