ST. LOUIS -- The 2004 Cardinals scored the most runs and allowed the fewest in the National League. They made a joke of what was supposed to be an epic division race. They won the franchise's first pennant in 17 years.
Then they were absolutely steamrolled in the World Series. And that, as much as anything, tells you about the caliber of the Boston Red Sox team that is celebrating the world title. They took an absolutely dominant team and picked it apart. And appropriately, the Cardinals gave the champions their due.
"They showed everything," said Jim Edmonds. "They showed a lot of heart. They showed a lot of talent. They showed that they know what they were doing. They outpitched us, they outhit us, they outplayed us. That takes a lot of everything, not just luck or talent, or this and that. It takes a lot in every aspect of the game to be right.
"They deserve what they're doing right now. They deserve to be spraying champagne and being the best team in the game for the year. They definitely deserve it."
The losing lockerroom tends to be a sour, morose place, but it wasn't quite like that in the home clubhouse at Busch Stadium on Wednesday night. The Cards were able to appreciate what they had accomplished, and what they had run into.
"For them to get to this point and lead in a lot of offensive categories throughout the year, and with [Curt] Schilling and Pedro [Martinez], two aces on the mound, we knew how good they were," said Jason Marquis. "We knew we had to come in here and play some tough baseball. Also you need some breaks to go your way, and that didn't happen."
The hard part for the Cards to swallow wasn't so much the loss -- after they fell behind 3-0 in the World Series, their odds were minute. It was that they didn't get a chance to show what they were capable of. It wasn't the Red Sox that bothered the Cardinals: it was the Cardinals.
"What's disappointing is that we didn't play our best baseball," said Scott Rolen. "Give the Red Sox a lot of credit. They showed up and played as well as they probably have all year at a time that you need to play as well as you have all year.
Scott Rolen / 3B
Weight: 240 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
"We put our best foot forward and played as well as we could, and we couldn't get things going. We probably played as poorly as we have all year. But a lot of that is who you're playing. When somebody plays well, it makes you look bad."
In the end, philosophical is the word for the state of the Cards after their defeat.
"We just got beat," said Woody Williams. "We didn't play as good as we're capable of playing, but you can't take anything away from them. They played solid. They pitched very, very good, and the bottom line is they beat us."
Said Edgar Renteria: "We tried, you know? They played a better game all four games. That's why they won."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.