While thinking about the 2012 Cardinals chances of making the playoffs with 25 games remaining and a 74-63 record (64.5% according to ESPN’s formula), my thoughts drifts back to the Cards teams of years past. More specifically, the 2011 Cardinals. With 25 games to go in the regular season, the Cards of yesteryear were 73-64, and 8.5 games out of the only wildcard spot held by the Atlanta Braves.

By September the 9th, with the Braves coming to town for a three-game series with the chance to build on a 7.5 game lead in the wildcard, the Cards chances of making the playoffs were dismal. With 19 games to go, only a complete Brave collapse coupled with a Cardinal surge would allow them to even dream about making the playoffs. Even after they proceeded to make a stunning sweep of the Braves, their chances of making the playoffs remained a pitiful 7.7%.

Well as we all know, they took that 7.7% chance and ran with it, all the way to the playoffs and to the World Series. They showed heart, gumption, resolve and every other time-worn synonym that defines a championship-winning team. Just to get in to the playoffs, they erased a 10.5 game deficit over their last 32 games. Their reward? A first round matchup against the 102-win Phillies, a team loaded with the best starting pitching staff in the league. All they proceeded to do was split the first 4 games, and eventually win in a pivotal Game 5 pitching duel against the reigning Cy Young award winner, Roy Halladay. After disposing of the Milwaukee Brewers in 6 games, they faced the Texas Rangers in what was one of the most memorable World Series of all time. David Freese became a legend; the Cardinals emerged as champions.

It’s a year later at this point. The Cards are not the same team as last year. If anything, they could be even better, despite the loss of you-know-who.Rosters have changed. The MLB has changed, as there are now two wildcard spots in either league. The Cards have a good chance of making the playoffs. But, as well all know, nothing is guaranteed. Any team can heat up, sneak into the playoffs, and win the crown, just like the Cards did last year. Here’s to hoping they do it again.

2011 World Series Champions