The original Oktoberfest in 1810 celebrated the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen and featured a big horse race. This year, baseball's Oktoberfest celebrates the eight teams that were skilled enough to keep playing deep into October and, if they're lucky, finish the year with a trophy, a platter of sausages, and an imperial pint of Hofbräu. Next up, the St. Louis Cardinals, as penned by The Colonel.
Well, well well. Look here. The St. Louis Cardinals are the NL Central champs. This comes as a surprise/disappointment to some of you, but it was actually a remarkable journey to get to this point. Just look at the Opening Day roster. The starting third baseman was Brian Barden. Someone named "Chris Duncan" was starting in left field. David "Mister" Freese was the Cards third baseman representative on the All-Star ballot.
The roster has changed. Julio Lugo has had a slight rejuvenation going against Houston Astro and Washington National pitching. Mark DeRosa has stabilized the hot corner, and Matt Holliday has provided another impact bat AND mortgaged the farm system. In addition to these additions, Grapefruit League Batting Champion Khalil Greene has been relegated to pinch hitter status and Brendan Ryan has delivered Gold Glove-caliber defense.
Ryan's defensive coming-of-age has coincided with the emergence of Joel Pineiro. I admit that at the beginning of the season I was not looking forward to having Pineiro in the starting rotation. I figured Todd Wellemeyer would have built on his 2008 in which he posted a 3.99 ERA. I obviously didn't factor in Wellemeyer and Pineiro finding a mysterious skull from the South China Seas à la Vice Versa.
Pineiro revitalized his career with the help of Dave Duncan and his philosophy of the sinking fastball. Pineiro is currently sporting a 3.24 ERA thanks to all those ground balls. His progress, along with the woodworking pitching duo (You see, a wainwright is a wagon maker and a carpenter is a carpenter) give the team a formidable arsenal going into the playoffs.
This being the seventh time the Cardinals have made the playoffs since 2000, it's easy to take this accomplishment for granted. But the fan base is far from that of the Braves fans in the 90s (Sorry, matt_t). The team isn't taking their playoff entry down to deadline. The organization's top prospects were traded away this year to lose in the first round. The organization is going for broke and the Greatest Fans in Baseball.™
Oh, and Pujols, bitches.