ST. LOUIS—Calling Friday night's victory on baseball's grandest stage "a terrible mistake," members of the St. Louis Cardinals issued a formal apology for making the playoffs, winning the World Series, and depriving baseball fans everywhere of a season featuring the kind of heartwarming, storybook ending to which they have grown accustomed in recent years.
"I'm still struggling to understand how this could have happened," said a sober Tony La Russa during a press conference following Game 5. "It seemed all but certain coming into this series that we were going to be a part of something truly special, that we would easily put the finishing touches on a magical season that inspired millions of fans around the country, but instead we somehow ended up winning."
"It's disappointing, to say the least," La Russa added. "We were rooting for the Detroit Tigers just like everyone else."
According to Cardinals players, they "tried absolutely everything" in their pursuit to earn the Tigers their first world championship since 1984, including eliminating the far more dangerous New York Mets in the NLCS, entering the series completely unrested after a grueling seven-game series, starting a rookie pitcher with five career wins in Game 1 in Detroit, and postponing Game 4 due to rain in the hopes that an off day would swing the momentum back in the Tigers' favor.
"I don't know what we could've done differently," second-baseman Ronnie Belliard said. "We gave the Tigers every opportunity to win ballgames, but when their pitchers keep making errors on simple ground balls, what are we supposed to do, pretend we forgot the rules and start running to third base?"
Desperate for a Tigers win in Game 2, the Cardinals chose to overlook the fact that starter Kenny Rogers was pitching with the aid of a foreign substance on his left hand.
"Of course we all knew it was pine tar, but it seemed like they were finally finding their rhythm… We certainly didn't want to shake their confidence, so we decided to just let it go," La Russa said. "Frankly, if the umpires didn't bring it up, we probably would've let him pitch with it the whole game."
After the final out of the World Series was recorded, the stunned Cardinals retreated to their dugout and watched with disappointed, glazed-over expressions as the Detroit Tigers—the feel-good team of the season whom everyone expected to win it all—packed up their equipment in the dugout across the diamond.
According to Albert Pujols, some teammates took the World Series victory harder than others.
"For a lot of young guys like [Anthony] Reyes and [Yadier] Molina, this was their first chance to see an exciting, inspirational, and truly deserving team win a championship," Pujols said. "Even though the outcome of this series has definitely left a bad taste in my mouth, I can handle it, because I was there in 2004 when we were able to see Red Sox beat us in the World Series. Man, what an incredible feeling that was… Just watching those guys celebrate, I really felt like I was seeing history unfold before my eyes. It was definitely my greatest baseball moment."
"I hope we have the chance to see something like that again next year," Pujols added.
Reporters and sportswriters around the nation were critical of many of La Russa's successful managerial decisions, second-guessing such effective moves as leaving staff ace Chris Carpenter in for more than five innings in Game 3, and failing to bench third-baseman Scott Rolen, who batted a team-high .421 in the series. La Russa, however, said that things would be different next year.
"I think I speak for my players, the front office, the coaching staff, and every fan in St. Louis when I say that all season long, we had just one goal: bringing a championship to the great city of Detroit," La Russa said. "And even though we failed this time around, we will be committed to achieving similar goals next season."
In the somber clubhouse following the victory, Cardinals centerfielder Jim Edmonds admitted that "the wrong team won," but said that the outcome of the 2006 World Series is "just something we're unfortunately going to have to live with."
"Nobody thought we could do this, nobody thought we could stop this powerhouse team that beat the odds to go from worst to first and rolled through the playoffs looking like they were invincible," Edmonds said. "And we thought we had taken every possible step to prove them right."
"We shocked the world," Edmonds added. "We're sorry."