UNDERDOG FAVORITES: How many times can the defending champions be written off? Photo courtesy Rob Carr/Getty Images

There’s nothing quite like life taking your criticism over a decision or a move and immediately fabricate the perfect counterargument.

Take the St. Louis Cardinals, for example. They have given pro baseball an immediate return on this investment into a new playoff format. Baseball purists, like the game itself, are not always welcoming to change. Many, in fact, still loathe the day the ORIGINAL wild card was put in place. But a second? Some might call it downright blasphemy.

There was plenty of reason to hate it. Now baseball teams, who have been playing series since the oldest of fans could remember, were going to play one-game elimination matches. Division winners got an extended break. Two division teams would know who they play immediately while the third would only get 48 hours notice.

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But then came those Cardinals.

St. Louis, the DEFENDING World Series Champions, entered the postseason via this new fifth playoff berth in the National League. Then, they went into Atlanta and sent the Braves packing. After that, they took out the Nationals who had the best record in baseball. And now, heading into the third weekend of October, they are one win away from going back to the fall classic.

You see, this 2012 St. Louis team seems to have been fabricated deep in some clandestine MLB laboratory. Why? Because they are a made-to-order defense for the new playoff format in the FIRST year the format is used.

The fifth team doesn’t even really have much a chance? What about St. Louis.

It ruins the chances for dynasties? What about St. Louis.

It’ll just prove how little parity exists in the bigs? WHAT ABOUT A ST. LOUIS?

It almost seems scripted. Too scripted, in fact. You know, one of those times people say, “if you took this story to a Hollywood producer, they’d tell you it’s too unrealistic.”

That’s the thing about baseball, though: it doesn’t care what seems unrealistic. A second wild card berth? Boom, let’s have the defending champs make it back to the NLCS via slot. Only two sub-90-win teams in the ten-team field? Boom, let’s make those two the guys that play in the World Series.

Okay, that second part hasn’t happened JUST yet, but it certainly seems likely. This St. Louis team has been so impressive in October, we’ve almost completely forgotten about that bizarre infield fly against Atlanta.

Oh, yeah. Remember that controversy? Supposedly, it was the instant proof baseball purists wished for to prove what a bad idea this new postseason is. But the 2012 Cardinals have overcome that and so much more. There’s no doubt the greater St. Louis area is rooting for a Cardinals repeat, but don’t be surprised if, deep down inside, somewhere where they don’t publicly admit things, the league executives in New York are secretly rooting for them as well.

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NOTE: This story was originally published on SportsHead. To read this story and others click here.
When Bryan isn’t writing, he is on Twitter! Make sure to give him a follow @bclienesch for MLB updates and other shenanigans.