The other day my beloved St. Louis Cardinals emerged victorious over the Philadelphia Phillies although it is all but impossible to claim my birds “won” the game. The Phillies were up by five runs early and after a series of base running blunders, fielding mistakes, and mental errors; the Cardinals managed to win the game. What I find interesting about this turn of events is the Cardinals have largely been losing games this way for the last two seasons.
The Cardinals are widely considered one of the model organizations in baseball and have a tradition of success that dates back nearly one hundred years. The Cardinal Way is sort of a mantra. It basically means the players are more interested in winning games than their own statistics. Like all sayings, it’s not completely true. But there is a special relationship between the city of St. Louis and the Cardinals. Players like coming to this town and they are largely treated with kid gloves by the media and fans.
That’s why these last two years have been painful to watch, and why this game is a beacon to returning to glory. Should the Cardinals choose to understand why they won the game over the Phillies they might be able to use it as springboard back to relevance. Right now, they are usually the team guilty of making base running errors, throwing to the wrong base, losing focus, and trying to make a spectacular play when an ordinary one would do just fine.
This is not only a blueprint for failure on the diamond but in real life as well. The Cardinals are about as talented as any team in baseball. Perhaps there are a few better and a few worse but at the major league level most of the teams are fairly equal. Certainly, a superstar starting pitcher or closer can make the difference but it’s often a matter of the team making the fewest mistakes that wins the game.
It is human nature to want to perform the spectacular, to stand out from the crowd. We yearn to do something so well everyone notices us and heaps praise and rewards upon us. But how do we manage the remarkable? It’s often a matter of simply doing all the little things perfectly. A Cardinal example of this was Ozzie Smith. He took infield practice every day, for hours. He practiced doing all the simple things so that he could do them easily and without thinking in stressful situations. He didn’t generally attempt spectacular plays, although he certainly has many to his credit.
This is a good lesson for all of us. Don’t attempt the amazing. Just do all the little things perfectly and you’ll be just fine, in fact, you’re more likely to achieve the amazing.
And, of course, Go Cardinals!
By Tom Liberman
Tom Liberman is a regular fellow from St. Louis, Mo., who enjoys spending time with his wonderful family and great friends. He writes Sword and Sorcery fantasy novels in his spare time.