And here we sit, facing a team that we know (KNOW!) we can compete with and should be leading in the standings, regardless of their $300 million spending binge this last summer. Maybe I'm just too into the local team or don't pay enough attention to the baby bears, but I think that the Cubs, frankly, are somewhat south of impressive. The Cardinals, for all the drinking/ driving, death, HGH rumors, cavalcade of injuries, insistence on sending out that Wells guy every five days and other assorted distractions, are somewhat impressive considering the amazing amount of shit they have had to play through this year. Almost any other season I think that this team beats their team for the division and this late season series is the type of non-monumental set that causes Cub fans to say, "when these two teams meet, throw out the records!"
But no. Instead, after a disastrous (DISASTROUS!) road trip, the end of the season is no longer a nail-biting, must-watch, edge of your seat roller coaster ride. Instead, as our great writer/contributor Brad Lee so aptly called it, the end of this season has become the baseball equivalent of the Terry Schiavo deathwatch. We all know the plug is gonna get pulled sooner or later, but the waiting is just wearing us all out.
This season, for as unsuccessful of a stretch as it has been (you just know you're going to look back on this year someday and say, "how did they not win that crappy division?") has been incredible. The Josh Hancock ordeal was a splash of cold water to the face of everyone who watches this team, especially after we had all been pointing at the drinking and driving (and sleeping) of Tony La Russa early in the year. La Russa's move was how pro athletic alcohol-related incidents were supposed to end – as a silly, non-violent message to be smarter when having some wine with your meal at the end of a long day.
On the other end of the spectrum, we got to see the incredible story of Rick Ankiel continue on. How great of a natural athlete do you have to be to make the major leagues twice in completely different times at completely different positions requiring completely different skill sets? His recent HGH accusations may be weighing on him and on his teammates, but it honestly doesn't seem like anything is going to come of it. He seems to have a plausible excuse in needing it for rehab, plus, at that time HGH was not a banned substance. The New York Post got their headline, Cubs fans got their jeers, but beyond that I don't think much else will come of it.
If you ask me, the early season error of La Russa (remember when he threatened to hit members of the media with a fungo bat? Good times.), the death of Hancock and the resurgence of Ankiel should pretty much guarantee the Cardinals success in the post season. Is it too late to get Hollywood involved here? You know they'd make the Cardinals a lastsecond squeak-in playoff contender that managed to dig deep, defeat the odds and beat the Yankees for the World Series. Hell, the script even has the ready -made return from injury of Mark Mulder and the late-season addition of former Cardinal Miguel Cairo to play the role of inspirational vets who won't let the team get down on themselves.
Alas, not even Hollywood can help this team turn into Cinderella at this point. Looking back on this season in five years will certainly be interesting. What will the 20/20 hindsight show us then? There's no way to be certain, but I'm willing to bet that it'll be of an incredibly fascinating group that faced an unbelievable amount of adversity and was unable to overcome it. It's too bad, too, because this was a division that was asking to be won by a scrappy team fighting against the odds. Man, that sounds familiar….
-Sean " it's only an opportunity if you take advantage of it" Gallagher