10/01/2002 12:41 pm ET
Press Row: Overcoming adversity
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
The Arizona Daily Star's Jack Magruder pointed out the significance of the T-shirts Arizona Diamondbacks reliever Greg Swindell printed last week. "It's not what you accomplish in life that matters ..." they say on the chest. On the reverse: "It's what you overcome."
Cardinals versus D-Backs in the National League Division Series, beginning tonight. Each team trying to overcome some serious obstacles.
Arizona, last season's World Series Cinderella, now finds itself suddenly short with injuries to Craig Counsell and Luis Gonzalez, and surprising struggles for co-ace Curt Schilling. St. Louis overcame the tragic deaths of broadcaster Jack Buck and pitcher Darryl Kile to get to where everybody thought at the beginning of the season they would be.
Sure, the Cardinals are talented. St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz wrote they might have something else on their side, too:
"Sometimes, you have to wonder if there are mysterious forces at work, pushing the Cardinals to an inevitable, happy-ending October.
"Consider: When starting pitcher and team leader Darryl Kile died on June 22, the Cardinals had a 40-31 record. They finished the regular season with 97 victories.
"Do the math. The Cardinals won 57 games after Kile's death. Kile, of course, wore uniform No. 57.
"'That's just amazing,' Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. 'Unbelievable.'"
But the team got bad news on Monday. According to the Post Dispatch's Joe Strauss, Woody Williams will not pitch in the division series. "I'm done, at least for now," Williams told Strauss. He cut short a bullpen session after 12 pitches Monday, was scratched from a Game 3 start and replaced by Andy Benes.
With Schilling set to pitch Game 2 behind Game 1 starter and Cy Young favorite Randy Johnson, the Cardinals will need all the pitching they can get. The Arizona Republic's Mark Gonzales wrote that the D-Backs are facing their own challenges:
"Without Craig Counsell, who hit a game-winning home run in Game 3 of last year's NLDS at St. Louis; All-Star left fielder Luis Gonzalez, the team's premier offensive threat who had the winning hit in Game 7 of the World Series; Reggie Sanders and Danny Bautista, a Diamondbacks series victory will require different heroes in addition to Johnson and Schilling.
"'Hopefully, someone else will step up and be a hero, because prior to that, we were all just everyday players until we were in the spotlight and came through,' Johnson said. 'Now someone will have an opportunity to be a hero like Gonzo and Counsell.'"
The injuries, Republic columnist Dan Bickley wrote, leave the defending champs at a crossroads:
"The Diamondbacks can succumb to injuries, alibis and the long odds that frame their third postseason appearance in four years.
"They can bow out early, bumping their heads on the low ceiling of expectations.
"Or they can shock the world once again, and in the process, join the fraternity of dynasties. After all, if they become the first National League team to win consecutive championships in 26 years, doing so in the era of the free-spending Yankees, their place in history will be secured."
So who wins? Gonzales offered perhaps the best arguments on both sides:
"Three reasons [the Diamondbacks] will repeat:
1. Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling are the best postseason pitching tandem since Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale.
2. The Diamondbacks have plenty of postseason experience to overcome injuries and other shortcomings.
3. There's enough hunger to repeat as world champions.
"Three reasons they won't repeat:
1. The Diamondbacks were 14-20 this year against postseason teams.
2. The Cardinals are 14-10 lifetime against Arizona aces Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling.
3. The Cardinals offense is deeper and better than the Diamondbacks offense."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.