As Cardinals owner William DeWitt Jr., general manager John Mozeliak and manager Tony La Russa were presented with the Warren C. Giles Trophy for winning the National League Championship Series on Sunday, there seemed to be one thing they could all agree on -- 2011 was one of the strangest seasons they've been a part of.
When the Cards were 10 1/2 games back in the NL Wild Card race in late August and 8 1/2 back at the start of September, even Mozeliak was starting to wonder if maybe 2011 just wasn't St. Louis' year. A month earlier, he had pulled the trigger on Trade Deadline deals that landed starter Edwin Jackson and relievers Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczysnki, but the club still seemed to be fading quickly out of contention.
Then something finally clicked.
"We always thought we had a chance if we could ever get it going," Mozeliak said. "It took a couple weeks [after the Trade Deadline] to start looking like it might work, but once it did, we took off. And to be here tonight beating the Brewers, who are just a fabulous team -- they play so well -- it's just a remarkable run, and I'm just proud to be part of this organization."
Dewitt echoed those sentiments, admitting that the thought of hoisting any sort of trophy come October might have seemed a bit far-fetched back in August.
"We know our guys never gave up, it's incredible. We just said, 'Let's win as many games as we can, and let's see what happens,'" Dewitt said. "And you saw what happened. This was a good series, it could have gone either way. They've got a great team, a great organization, and I congratulate them on a wonderful season.
"But for now, I want to enjoy the trophy, and our guys were terrific. Our team couldn't have played better, and it's just very exciting to get our 18th pennant."
As for La Russa, who will be managing in his sixth World Series, the path to the 2011 Fall Classic was unlike any other. On top of the dramatic late-season run just to qualify for the postseason, La Russa led the Cardinals back to the World Series for the first time since 2006 despite the fact that not one of his starting pitchers pitched into the sixth inning in any game of the NLCS.
"No, not really," La Russa responded when asked if he could believe his team was moving on. "This one's a little bit unusual."
Paul Casella is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.