The Cardinal Way is an organizational model for success. Scouting players, drafting players, developing players and shaping their personalities to fit into a winning environment. But the Cardinal Way is also an attitude. And more than anything, it is about people, and the bond that forges professional and personal relationships.
Any baseball franchise can come up with a blueprint and standards for a universal approach. But unless each and every player is willing to sign on and buy in, it won’t work.
The Cardinal Way is about trusting each other, working together, and always pulling in the same direction. It is about subjugating your ego in the pursuit of a more noble cause: fulfilling the goals of an entire organization. . . .
The critics still haven’t figured it out — not even after the Cardinals clinched the franchise’s 19th NL pennant with Friday’s 9–0 victory over the showy, noisy, flamboyant Dodgers.
The Dodgers — with a $227 million payroll — were a collection of expensive individual parts. They weren’t a team; they were independent contractors. No wonder the Dodgers folded when the Cardinals opened a 4-0 lead in Game 6. The Los Angeles players were just 25 guys getting a lot of money to play ball. They weren’t playing for a cause.
It was dramatically different on the St. Louis side.
The players played to honor the Cardinal Way.
And if you want to be Cardinal, there is no other way.
On the other hand, who in their right mind would be more likely to cheer for the Red Sox Nation upon reading this?
But then there is [Johnny] Gomes. By any statistical measure, the Red Sox outfielder is average. Average batter, average fielder, average speed. For a team with aspirations like the Red Sox, he would seem a bit player, if not a waste of money.
Yet to watch Gomes is to watch the human will personified.
He plays as if he gnawed through iron chains just so he could be an eighth-inning pinch-runner. When he slides into second, the bag is visibly afraid. Even his awkward batting swing, which looks vaguely like Lou Ferrigno playing Whiffle Ball, is more a matter of raw desire than skill. He hits the ball (and hard) because he refuses to admit that he can’t, it seems.
If the Red Sox teams of 2004 and 2007 were built in the image of slugger Manny Ramirez, enormously talented and among baseball’s elite, then the Red Sox of 2013 are made in Gomes’s image. They are a team of “glue guys” — players whose contributions come as much off the field as on. How they conduct themselves. How they put in the extra work. How they have a deep passion for the game.
In short, they are a team built on “intangibles.” The 2004 and 2007 versions had their share of character guys, too. But this team is defined by them. And after eight remarkable days in October, it is undeniable that those intangibles were vital in bringing a flawed Red Sox team to the World Series again.
Game One gets underway at Fenway Park at 8:07 p.m. EDT on FOX.