“The first thing we did as an organization [was], we basically took 24 hours to have our pity party,” Mozeliak said. But after that, he said, the only choice was to put the loss of Wainwright behind them and move forward. “Honestly, [since then] I haven’t thought much about it.”
For the Cardinals, April would see them blow six saves and lose slugger Matt Holliday to an appendectomy on the second day of the season. There would be additional injuries — disabled-list stints by Albert Pujols, David Freese and Skip Schumaker — and then the seemingly inexorable late-summer march to elimination.
The Cardinals’ near-death experience can be quantified: The computer-simulation Web site coolstandings.com calculated their chances of making the playoffs at 1.1 percent at the end of play on Aug. 27. Their comeback required 20 wins in their last 28, but also some help from the Atlanta Braves, in the form of an epic September collapse, and the Philadelphia Phillies, who played their regulars in a season-ending sweep of the Braves that handed the wild card to the Cardinals.
“We’re a team that never gave up,” Pujols said. “Give a lot of credit to number 10. Tony was always pushing us and making sure we were focused the whole time. When we were 101
2 out, we just said, ‘Hey, listen, let’s see what we can do with these next 35 games.’ And we were able to win the wild card, and now here we are going to the World Series.”
The links between chemistry and success in sports are intangible and debatable, but the Cardinals can look back at some of the moves Mozeliak made over the past 11 months — adding “character” veterans such as Lance Berkman, Nick Punto and Ryan Theriot — and can honestly say their back-from-the-dead act in September would not have been possible without that element.
“The way we got there — blown saves, tough losses — I think a lot of teams might have caved,” Mozelik said. “There would have been many reasons to say, ‘This is just a tough year.’ ”
Caving? Conceding? That’s for the coat-and-tie-wearing general manager, whose job is to keep one eye on the present and the other on the future, who has to think practically in the face of overwhelming odds. For Mozeliak’s sake, it is a good thing his viewpoint wasn’t shared by the men in uniform, whose job it is to believe and to fight for life, even when they were 98.9 percent dead.