Jerry Crasnick wrote on ESPN this morning about how the Cardinals and Reds are in very similar situations in that they were both clubs in 2012 that had high expectations, succeeded to get into the playoffs, and then suffered horrible collapses to the 2012 World Champion San Francisco Giants.

There is no doubt that the end of this season was beyond frustrating. It’s hard to complain, because they did just win the World Series and to win two consecutive years is an incredible feat, but it was really the way it happened that was so irritating.

Had the Cardinals not made the playoffs, we could have said ‘Well they didn’t have Pujols, LaRussa, or Duncan.’ We could have said ‘How do you expect a first-year manager to be that successful.’ Or we could have said ‘Well Carpenter’s out for the year and Wainwright is coming back from surgery, I can’t imagine we’ll be that productive.’

But as it turned out, none of those things mattered. Though the new playoff format helped them out a little bit, the Cardinals were able to return to October baseball, and suddenly expectations rose again. They were down 6-0 to the Washington Nationals in game five, and they came back in what was — dare I say — arguably almost as exciting as game six. They were up 3-1 on the Giants and seemed on the verge of returning to the Fall Classic. But unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. They had a lot of issues (defense, hitting with RISP to name a couple) and I felt that they all came back to bite them in those last three games of the NLCS.

You have to look at things in context. There were not very many people in baseball who thought the Cardinals could achieve what they did with what they had. And while 2012 will go down as a disappointing year, it should be looked at as a very positive step in the right direction as well, a new era for Cardinals baseball. Mike Matheny has made great strides since accepting the managerial position one year ago, and I’m looking forward to what he has up his sleeve for 2013.

SH