Pomp & Pride: Cubs v. Cards

All across Cardinal Nation, fans are gathering up the hopes and expectations they once had for this season, and raking them into a pile in the backyard. Dried and withered, left without nourishment for most of July and August, they ought to burn well in October. Best to keep your distance, son, this fire will burn quick and hot.

However, there is one goal that is the same every season, no matter the standings, no matter what Miss Cleo's crystal ball says about our October hopes. The Cardinals must beat the Cubs when they come to Busch, and send those Cub fans packing with their tails between their legs.

The man who has been stolidly wearing his Cardinal cap throughout the summer, enduring gut-punch losses like these against the Mets with an unquivering jaw, will screw that hat down on his head with renewed pride for this home series. The woman who has been wearing out her red and white prayer beads, pleading in vain for a quality start by anyone not named Chris Carpenter, or a shutdown save by Isringhausen, will find her faith restored when the Great Satan from the North comes calling. The child whose summers are being defined by two equal and opposite phenomena – "extraordinary feats of Albert Pujols (aka Superman)" and "new curse words I heard my daddy say" – will bring rare hope and pure energy to this series.

One can only hope that our players can do the same.

Plenty of Ammo for Cub Fans

For the bums in the blue jerseys (besides the umpires), opportunity is ripe. Sure, the Cubs are miserable, so their fans should be miserable too, but the Cubs are always miserable and that's never stopped them from getting plastered on St. Louis beer and trying to bring Cards fans down a few pegs.

Pure misery can be clarifying, even uplifting. After all, there's nowhere to go but up, and there's always next year. Worse than misery is the affliction spreading throughout the Redbird Nation – Doubt.

Doubt is the Cub fan's greatest weapon. Doubt pierces the royal pride of the Cardinal fan. Doubt introduces just a half second's hesitation, when the Cub fan launches a verbal salvo, before your reply. And so I hope to present a useful cheat sheet to quicken your responses, to mask that doubt, and take this weapon out of your enemy's hands.

Cub insult: "Walt Jocketty is a garbageman.

"In the July and August stretch run, he was sifting through the compost pile, picking up Jeff Weaver, Jorge Sosa, Jose Vizcaino, and Preston Wilson, and calling up Timo Perez. How can you stand having other team's trash on your precious Cardinals?"

Cardinal response: "Jim Hendry is an idiot.

"Hendry has $100 million in payroll, more than Jocketty, and has absolutely gutted an already pathetic team. Greg Maddux to the Dodgers for Cesar Izturis? Really? How does that not get classified as prison rape? And, he doesn't even have the stones to fire Dusty Baker!"

Cub insult: "Tony La Russa is a joke.

"He's a robot, always over-managing, who can't call it a seventh inning until he's used four pitchers and warmed up three more. His career win total is only as high as it is because crappy teams like yours continue to pay him the money. And, he needs to get in a time machine, go back to 1982, and give his haircut back to Pete Rose."

Cardinal insult: "Dusty is a dead man walking.

"First of all, Tony has (A) won a World Series, and (B) taken his team to the big game without the help of a roidedout freak, something that Dusty has never done. The only good teams in his career were riding on the testosteronebloated shoulders of Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa. You ever wonder what he does with all those toothpicks? He puts them into voodoo dolls that represent all Cub fans everywhere, because he's killing you guys!"

Cub insult: "Your pitching sucks, has always sucked, and now the full suckitude is finally coming due.

"How much do we love Dave Duncan's tired old "pitch to contact" theory? Especially when you sign two woodenlegged midgets to play the middle infield, letting dozens of your precious ground balls bleed through for hits. You want to know why the Cubs always beat the Cards, despite having a lineup that won't take walks and strikes out more than any other? Dusty's stupid ‘swing away' hitting strategy is the perfect foil for your ‘pitch to contact' strategy."

Cardinal response: "You had the best pitching staff in Cubs history, and pissed it all away.

"Now that they suck and/or are gone, we can admit that Prior/ Wood/ Zambrano/ Maddux was a freakishly good rotation. But what happened? One playoff appearance, two total meltdowns, one traded away, and the only one left is a total headcase. And you're starting whas-is-names like Rich Hill, Carlos Marmol, and who was the guy I saw taking the loss last week? Was it former Dodgers' owner Walter O'Malley?"

Cub insult: "Mark Freaking Mulder.

"Come on. Why trot this guy out there? He's toast, and all of baseball knows it. Even Ozzie Guillen is ripping the guy, saying Mulder couldn't even play for his team, and you know what? Ozzie's (cough) right! (Cough cough COUGH COUGH cough wheeze cough). Sorry about that… I just never thought I'd ever say that."

Cardinal response: "Mulder could not only start for the Cubs, he'd be your second-best pitcher. Today. Pitching right handed.

"In fact, it's such a good idea that why don't you guys go ahead and sign him up to a 4-year, $50 million dollar contract today. (suppressed laughter.) He's worth easily that much and more, and could be the guy who pushes your team over the top! (face turning red, pinching self to keep from laughing, or crying.)"

Cub insult: "Four words: Is-Ring-Hau- Sen!"

Cardinal response: "Four more words: Ry-An Demps-Ter!"

(The two of you stare into each other's faces, like the master swordsmen of the movie Hero, and play out the entire argument in your minds, a fight neither of you can win. Each of you then takes a long drink of your beverage of choice, and contemplates the face of death.)

Cub and Cardinal fan together:

"You're the reason the National League sucks!"

What to Expect

Chicago hit bottom in the standings about a month ago, falling to 22 games under .500 on July 22nd, but have begun a slow-but-steady climb of semirespectable baseball since then, potentially positioning themselves as a spoiler in September, a role this team was born to play. Oddly, their strongest suit is in the bullpen, with a middle relief corps that most division-seeking teams would kill for. And in an accidental indictment of the overall weakness of the NL Central, this group of bottomfeeders has the second-best record against its division foes.

The Cubs just salvaged a game out of a four-game home series with Philadelphia, knocking out prized Philadelphia starter Cole Hamels after two innings, in a cathartic 11-2 romp. It will be up to our pitching staff to tighten up and quell the Cubs' momentum early in this series.

For the Cubs, playing the Cardinals in spitting range of September is as good as a playoff series. With Cincinnati breathing down our necks in the division, we need to play with the same level of intensity. It's gut-check time.

Contact: horton@stlouisgametime.com


EDITOR's NOTE: St. Louis Game Time is the official print publication of The Birdhouse.  It can be purchased before all home games at the stadium and is also available by email subscription. For more content, visit www.StLouisGameTime.com.

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