It's been 151 days since the most last St. Louis Cardinals game that counted, which was Game Six of the World Series on Oct. 30. Now, it's 2014 and a brand-new season begins today. The proverbial slate is clear — even the Cubs, Marlins and Twins still have a chance. (Theoretically.)
That's the beauty of Opening Day: new beginning, fresh start, all those cliches every sports columnist and blogger trots out every year just for today because those too are part of the baseball tradition … even though the Dodgers have already played three games, the Diamondbacks two and the Padres one. Today, though, is Opening Day for real, because the Cardinals are playing.
And that's what we've been waiting for. Daydreaming and counting down to Opening Day is what got us through the very long and very awful winter with so much snow and Polar Vortex cold which all seems far in the past with the ground now clear and the temperatures warmer.
But, finally, here we are.
Our Cardinals are taking the field at last and facing off against the Reds when 3:10 p.m. Central Time arrives. Yeah, Johnny Cueto is starting and we all rightfully hate him and we'll no doubt have to hear from Danny Mac and Al what a terrific guy Brandon Phillips is, just like they tell us every single Cards-Reds game, and they'll have to mention August 2010 and all of that and still talk about Dusty Baker even though he's gone — but it will be Cardinals baseball and we will be watching it again. Therefore, it's good.
Which is why I want to remind you to enjoy it.
I know, we all take baseball seriously as Cardinals fans — sometimes a little too seriously, as I saw people complaining on Twitter about the lineup for the very first spring training game a month ago since they were unhappy with who Mike Matheny was and wasn't starting in a game that didn't count for anything at all. But so many of us structure our lives around these next 162 games and beyond for the next six or seven months because we do enjoy it … right? That's why we're Cardinals fans — because we genuinely like our team and don't just like complaining when things don't happen exactly as we think they should?
So remember the big picture of your love for the team when things annoy you throughout the months ahead. Because things are going to happen over this long season — even though the Cardinals are defending National League champions with a deep and talented team and a very good manager and wonderful general manager. They are going to lose some games — sometimes in terrible, frustrating and even unfair ways. Mike Matheny is going to make stupid moves. Every guy on the team is going to make an error. Every guy on the team is going to strike out, and probably look really bad doing so from time to time. Every pitcher is going to have a rough outing. Every pitcher is going to have at least an inning where nothing he throws is going to be a strike. There are 162 games. Things happen.
But, even better, great things are going to happen too. Walk-off wins. Grand slams. Majestic Matt Adams and Matt Holliday home runs. Yadi again and again throwing out those baserunners foolish enough to attempt stealing second. Game-winning from unexpected guys. Complete game shutouts — hopefully from every guy in the rotation. Heaters from Trevor Rosenthal and Carlos Martinez that will make our jaws drop. Curveballs from Adam Wainwright and changeups from Michael Wacha that will make us rewind the DVR to watch them again (and again). Great defensive stops in the infield. Diving catches in the outfield. Stolen bases from Peter Bourjos and Kolten Wong. The major league debut of Oscar Taveras. Standing ovations when the starter leaves the game. Starter Carlos Martinez getting more than one of those ovations. Lance Lynn as well. Many, many, many wins.
The good of the 2014 St. Louis Cardinals will outweigh the bad in the end — of this I am confident, and not just because it's Opening Day.
It's because a wonderful franchise that's been the most successful in National League history is in the midst of a glorious and grand period right now, and they're our team. Yes, expectations from everywhere are high — but probably none higher than the expectations those 25 guys and manager and coaches who will line up on the third base line at Great American Ballpark this afternoon have for themselves over these next 162 games and beyond.
They want to win.
We want them to win.
And the story of this year's team begins to be written today.
So relax. Enjoy. It's baseball, it's Cardinals baseball, and it's great.
Just in case you're not sufficiently fired up yet, let me close with this. The goosebumps are optional.
Christine Coleman is the lead writer for Aaron Miles' Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or email email@example.com. Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates and like AMF on Facebook if you don't already.