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Surprising St. Louis Cardinals Win the 2011 World Series

Posted on October 29, 2011 by Dean Hybl

An improbable season ended with the St. Louis Cardinals as the 2011 World Series Champions.

The 2011 St. Louis Cardinals are a perfect reminder that in sports it isn’t how you start, it is about how you finish.

Considering that they lost their best pitcher to injury before the season even began and with just six weeks left were 10.5 games behind in the Wild Card race, it is quite amazing that last night they claimed the 11th World Series Championship in team history.

Even in the World Series they seemingly had an insurmountable mountain to climb as they were twice down to their final strike before rallying for an improbably extra inning victory in game six.

Then in the decisive seventh game they trailed early, but scored the final six runs to defeat the favored Texas Rangers.

Since Tony Larussa became manager of the Cardinals in 1996, the team has had their greatest success in seasons when they weren’t given much of a chance.

The 90-72 record that St. Louis posted in 2011 was actually the seventh best single season total for the franchise during Larussa’s tenure. Yet, the only other World Series title the team has earned came in 2006 when the team won only 83 games.

The Cardinals finished the 2011 season winning 24 of their final 33 games to sneak into the playoffs on the final day of the season.

They then won the final two games of their first round playoff matchup against the heavily favored Philadelphia Phillies to advance to the NL Championship Series.

Who is the Best Baseball Manager of the Last 30 Years?

  • Joe Torre (37%, 35 Votes)
  • Bobby Cox (22%, 21 Votes)
  • Tony Larussa (22%, 21 Votes)
  • Jim Leyland (11%, 10 Votes)
  • Mike Scioscia (4%, 4 Votes)
  • Lou Piniella (2%, 2 Votes)
  • Davey Johnson (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Tommy Lasorda (1%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 95

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After dropping the opening game in Milwaukee, the Cardinals won four of the next five games to reach the World Series for the first time since claiming the 2006 title.

Having played from behind throughout the entire season, it must have felt a little uncomfortable for Larussa and the Cardinals when they won the first game of the World Series and then led the second game entering the ninth inning.

They surrendered two runs in the ninth inning of the second game to lose 2-1, but again regained the series momentum with a 16-7 victory in game three.

David Freese went from unknown to World Series hero.

However, they scored only two runs over the next two games as Texas regained the edge as the series returned to St. Louis for the final two games.

Twice down to their final strike, the Cardinals and World Series MVP David Freese tied the score with a triple in the bottom of the ninth inning and then won the game with a home run in the 11th inning.

World Series history is full of players that went from unknown to hero during the Fall Classic and Freese will forever be added to that list.

A solid, but unspectacular player during three major league seasons, Freese became a star during the 2011 postseason. He hit .397 in three playoff series and his 21 total RBIs in 18 games is more than 20% as many as he has (98) in 184 career regular season contests.

In the decisive seventh game, Freese was again a key performer as his two-run double in the bottom of the first inning tied the game at 2-2 and allowed the Cardinals to regain the momentum.

While the playoffs were the coming-out-party for Freese, it could also end up being the going-away-party for longtime superstar Albert Pujols.

Even though Pujols had a game for the ages with five hits and three home runs in game three of the World Series, he had only one hit in the other six games.  In addition, the 2011 regular season marked the first time in his 11 year career that Pujols hit below .300 (.299) and drove in fewer than 100 runs (99).

Since Pujols will be 32 years old at the start of next season, the Cardinals may be leery to commit long-term to a player whose best days may be behind him.

Could a seventh inning strikeout be the final at bat for Albert Pujols as a member of the Cardinals?

Conversely, while the Cardinals may not be willing to pay Pujols, after falling just short of the World Championship for the second straight season, the Rangers may have little chance but to roll the dice and pay the slugger.

The World Series victory could also solidify the argument that Tony Larussa is the best manager of his generation. Though his three World Series titles are one behind Joe Torre, Larussa has 400 more victories and led three different organizations to division titles with two of them winning World Series titles.

Since taking over the Cardinals in 1996 (Torre was fired midway through the 1995 season after managing the team since 1990 without finishing higher than second), Larussa has quietly turned the Cardinals into the most successful team in the National League during that era with nine playoff appearances and now two World Series titles.

You can’t yet consider Texas a consistent power after just two consecutive playoff appearances, but it sure looks like Nolan Ryan and Ron Washington are building a squad that can have long-term success.

How each team deals with the final outcome from 2011 will certainly have a big impact on whether they are back in contention in 2012 and for years to come.

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