A lot can change in three years.
Just three years ago, the St. Louis Cardinals kissed the postseason goodbye at the hands of the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. A crushing blow to end a season filled with heartbreak from the loss of Oscar Taveras in the previous offseason and a total 100 wins to clinch the division title.
St. Louis would fall short, glancing at the postseason through a foggy window while other teams popped champagne and had customized postseason apparel.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Cubs would become a Major League favorite while the St. Louis Cardinals took a back-burner for most.
The Cubs would go on to win the 2016 World Series that next season, while the Card’s would end 17.5 games behind in second place. They were the first St. Louis team since 2010 to fail going into the playoffs.
Changes were crucial over the next three years. Fans knew it, the organization knew it, and the players knew it. The St. Louis Cardinals were falling short and nobody could fix it.
2017 looked an awful lot like 2016, only rather finishing in second place — the Cardinals slumped into the third.
The arrival of 2018 looked the same. The birds were continuing to sink below the line of what is good and what is unbearable to watch to some.
Personally, I admit that I wasn’t paying much attention to baseball at the time. I was caught up in my own personal defeat and decisions to change my life — for the better.
Around the time that I finally caught my own bearings and began to pay attention again, Mike Matheny was sent packing. Interim Mike Shildt had a lot to prove with a team that stacked high in the error column.
Despite picking up big names such as Paul Goldschmidt and Andrew Miller, 2019 began to look exactly like the previous season. Only winning nine games in May, the postseason looked bleak.
It all looked the same. A repeat of 2016, 2017, and 2018. Until it didn’t.
After the All-Star break, every single game began to matter. Without any fresh trades at the deadline, the birds had something to prove — to themselves, to disgruntled fans, to the team’s organization, and to all of Major League Baseball.
The fire was lit under each and every single member of the active roster. The bats began to get hot, the bullpen began to look like the bullpen everyone expected, and the big names began to lift the team at the exact right time.
On the second to last weekend of the 2019 season, the St. Louis Cardinals proved to everyone that they belong in the postseason by sweeping the Chicago Cubs in four games at Wrigley. The result of the sweep? A clinched spot in the postseason.
But instead of stopping there, the Cardinals want more. They want the division to be theirs once more, back in St. Louis where the National League Central Division title belongs.
Like I said, a lot can change in three years.
(Photo: David Banks/Getty Images)