Every Cubs fan knows that terrible feeling when their team is taking on the Cardinals. It’s that sick-to-your-stomach, “make-it-stop” kind of feeling that makes you want to cry “uncle.”
OK, it hasn’t been that bad over the years — oh wait, yes it has! I have a couple of Cardinals fans in my family (I know, I think it’s blasphemous too, but my mother says we have to be nice to them) and they love to remind me about their 11 World Series titles. That looks awfully good in comparison to the Cubs total of two titles — neither of which have come in the last 100 years.
Allow me to tell a story. During last night’s game, my friend, a life-long Cubs fan and Rhodes Scholar of Major League Baseball, turned to me and said, “Who the hell is Aledmys Diaz?”
Great question — that same question was probably asked in thousands of homes across the Chicagoland area. He’s the Cardinals rookie shortstop, he’s batting .336 and has a .570 slugging percentage. Classic Cardinals baseball. They seem to do this all the time: grab some guy off the streets, hand him a glove and bat, throw a uniform on him, slap him on the butt and say something to the effect of, “Go get ‘em, tiger.”
Next thing you know they’re tearing up the bigs and making a name for themselves. It’s the “Cardinal-way.” Time and time again, I’ve thought that they would go away. When Albert Pujols headed west, when skipper Tony La Russa retired, or when the entire team seemed to be on the DL last year — every time, somebody steps right up and fills the void. It’s a next-man-up mentality.
For most baseball fans, it’s beautiful, admirable and somewhat unbelievable. For a Cubs fan, it’s painful and makes many middle-aged men pull out whatever hair they have left.
Freddie Mercury famously sang, “But into every life a little rain must fall.”
A little rain seems fine. But, as a Cubs fan, I feel like I’m neck-deep in raging flood waters as Cardinals fans sit, watch and laugh from their gorgeous, mountainside homes while enjoying an ice-cold Budweiser. There’s been more than a little rain over the last 107 years. I’ve only been alive for 20 and it’s been hard enough.
But this year is different. And this series was a reflection of just that.
Monday was tough to watch — the ending brought back the usual feelings for Cub fans: sadness, anger, lament, etc. As frustrating as the walk-off loss was, the Cubs did get to Adam Wainwright early. If they could take back a base running blunder and one misplaced pitch, the Cubs would have swept the series. I know it’s silly to play the hypothetical game — “If ifs, ands, and buts, were candy and nuts…” — however, I believe the Cubs proved just how strong of a hold they have on this division.
Tuesday’s 12-4 dismantling of the Cardinals was fun. And even though Jake Arrieta didn’t look like Jake Arrieta in the series finale, the offense stepped up and bailed him and his beard out. The bullpen also got the job done down the stretch.
The Cubs have now taken two of three from the Cardinals in both series this season. Between that and knocking the Cardinals out of the playoffs last October, Cubs fans don’t know what to do with themselves. You know what they say: “there’s a first time for everything.” I guess it really is true.
Have the tables completely turned? I’m hesitant to make that declaration just yet. Like an old, beat-up greyhound, they might just break late and start to look like, well, the Cardinals.
For now, Cubs fans should let this rare, euphoric feeling sink in for a while. The Cubs are king of the NL central. Enjoy the ride while you still can, Cubs nation.
Kevin McCarthy, a junior at the University of Illinois, is serving an internship at Scout.com this summer and covering the Cubs for NorthSidersReport. You can follow him at @KevOMcCarthy on Twitter or contact him by e-mail at Kevin.McCarthy00@yahoo.com