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Heartbreak aside, Cardinals - and their fans - are still in the 'good old days'

Four World Series in 10 years may just be the tip of the iceberg in St. Louis
11/06/2013 9:03 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro

There was no parade in St. Louis this year, but the Cardinals are still in a real good spot for 2014 and beyond.(AP)
In the series finale of NBC's The Office, Ed Helms' character Andy Bernard uttered a line that perfectly sums up the pathway of nostalgia: "I wish there was a way to know you're in the 'good old days' before you've actually left them."

Well then, here's a memo to St. Louis Cardinals fans: despite the heartbreak of the World Series, you, my friends, are in the good old days, and realistically should be for another few years.

Sure, roughly a week ago, it was the Red Sox who were celebrating at Fenway Park moments after capturing their third World Series in 10 years, and not your team; and yes, last Saturday, it was Red Sox Nation popping a Sam Adams and welcoming the duck boats down Boylston Street, and not Cardinals Country cracking a Budweiser to watch floats cruise down South Broadway.

But hey, that's just one year, and there's no reason not to believe that chance won't be there 365 days from now. Not bad, and even when you look at the cases of Beltran and Mujica, you'll see that the Cardinals have such an embarrassment of riches that they could be easily replaceable in-house, let alone outside the organization.

If Mujica leaves, then Fernando Salas or one of the handful of young righties who saw bullpen time with the Cards this year could theoretically step into his now-middle relief spot, even if it's just until Jason Motte returns from Tommy John surgery.

As for Beltran, well, the team wants him back, but if he goes, the easiest solution is to see if Allen Craig, who played 46 games in the outfield this season, can convert to right field full time to make room in the lineup for both he and late-season breakout star Matt Adams, who replaced the injured Craig at first base in the playoffs. If Craig can't do it, maybe David Freese can, allowing Matt Carpenter to play his natural position of third base and finally find a spot for second base uber-prospect Kolten Wong other than late-inning pinch runner.

And if neither can do it, well, the Cards can go out and find a right field power bat, either by signing or perhaps by packaging some combo of Freese, Carpenter, Adams, and Wong to a team looking to shed some payroll and/or clear a surplus of outfielders - Dodgers, anyone?

Remember, this is a team that lost Albert Pujols and replaced him with a resurgence from Beltran and Lance Berkman, then replaced Berkman with Craig and Adams, so things can easily fall into place.

Even if they don't add a full-time shortstop to replace the Pete Kozma/Daniel Descalso platoon (Stephen Drew would surely be an interesting signing), this is a team that would be pegged to win 90 to 100 games once again - and with a rotation that's completely under team control until 2017 (even without Jaime Garcia) and a core that also has a good three or four cost-effective years ahead, and it's potentially Dynasty City, population St. Louis.

Believe me, it was painful for any Yankees fan to watch Boston win the World Series, one year after the Bombers were in the ALCS while the Sox were the laughingstock of baseball - but as the Bronx gets ready for perhaps the most tumultuous off-season in years, there's likely very few who bleed pinstriped blue that don't envy the position of the fans in Red Sox Nation now.

Since the strike wiped out the 1994 World Series, only the Yankees (seven times) have been to the World Series more than St. Louis - and all four of the Cards' appearances have come since 2004, when the Yankees had just completed a run of six trips in eight years.

And, on top of that, St. Louis has as many or more World Series appearances in the last decade than 14 of the other 29 MLB teams do in their history, and the two teams directly below them in terms of series appearances, the Dodgers and Athletics, haven't been there period since they won it all during the first George H.W. Bush administration.

The good old days? You're in them now, St. Louis; you've been in them for almost 15 years now, and from the looks of things, you're at worst two-thirds of the way through a glory period.

So yes, we understand it's heartbreaking to lose a World Series that you held a 2-1 lead in, but look on the bright side: that full-page ad the Red Sox took out in the Post-Dispatch thanking you for a great Series and hoping it was a prelude to next October? Yeah, it's not really so far-fetched of a thought.

And hey, it could be worse - just ask your NL Central brothers about 300 miles up Interstate 55.

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