As unfortunate as Lance Berkman's injury is, and as devastating a blow it is to the St. Louis lineup, the Cardinals have faced about as much adversity over the past 15 months as any team in Major League Baseball. Yet, they just keep winning.
When pitcher Adam Wainwright went down prior to the start of last season, many were already writing off the Cards, wondering how they would fare without their two-headed monster in Wainwright and Chris Carpenter. It was a justifiable concern, as Wainwright won 20 games in 2010, finishing right beyond Roy Halladay in NL Cy Young voting.
But soon, the likes of Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse, Jake Westbrook and eventually Edwin Jackson proved to be serviceable, keeping St. Louis within striking distance heading into the season's final month.
That final month or so wasn't without its own set of obstacles, as the Cardinals faced a 10 1/2-game deficit in the wild card standings on Aug. 24. St. Louis would go 23-9 over its final 32 games, though, squeaking its way into the playoffs on the season's final day.
Once the Cardinals reached the postseason, the rest is history, but there weren't some major hurdles to leap over en route to World Series glory. The Cards had to dispose of the Phillies — who were baseball's championship favorites heading into October — in the NLDS. They rallied from the brink of elimination in Game 4, and then emerged victorious in a winner-take-all Game 5 in Philly.
The Cardinals' most memorable rally during their championship season, however, came in the Fall Classic itself, when St. Louis was one-strike away from falling to the Texas Rangers on two separate occasions in Game 6. David Freese and the Cards kept fighting, though, overcoming deficits in the ninth and 10th innings en route to a victory in that game and eventually the series.
The celebration was memorable, but it was short-lived, as the Cardinals soon faced an offseason that required them to replace their manager and eventually their franchise player, after skipper Tony LaRussa retired and Albert Pujols bolted for the West Coast in free agency. You can hardly "replace" those two legends, but the Cardinals did what they could to lessen the blow, hoping that it'd be enough to compete once again in a weak NL Central.
Then, the team's ace — and postseason hero — Chris Carpenter was shut down indefinitely with shoulder issues. It was another tough pill to swallow, and a loss that seemed to mirror that of Wainwright prior to the start of the previous season.
Certainly, the Cardinals would regress.
Not so fast.
Rafael Furcal, Carlos Beltran, Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday continue to power the offense, and the emergence of Lance Lynn has stabilized the rotation for new manager Mike Matheny's club. The Cardinals enter Monday's action atop the NL Central, jockeying for position with the Cincinnati Reds.
Now that Berkman, who put together an incredible bounce-back season in St. Louis last season, will miss extended time as a result of what could be a torn ACL, the Cardinals' road to the postseason just got a little rockier.
Just the way they like it.