After an extremely disappointing season, I’ve given up hope more times than I can count only to have this club come back to knock on my door, say it’s sorry and ask for one more chance.
But finally, when it put up a pathetic fight against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, being swept in a three-game series to fall six games out of first place in the NL Central, it really looked like it was over this time.
The baseball statistics-based websites calculated that the Redbirds, who went into Chicago with a chance to tie for first in the division with a sweep, saw their chances of making the playoffs dwindle to just 4 percent when they lost all three games instead.
If the Cubs won half of their remaining games, St. Louis would have to win all of its remaining 13 contests to tie. Turn out the lights, the party’s over.
Seeing us move on with our lives, the Cardinals were apparently inspired.
Suddenly, they’ve won three games in a row, finding that sweep they needed but against the bottom-dwelling Cincinnati Reds. The Cubs have won two of three. But the bright side is that one of the games Chicago won was against the Milwaukee Brewers who are half-a-game ahead of St. Louis in the standings.
Suddenly, the Colorado Rockies have lost six out of their last 10 and the wild-card race is coming back into focus for the Cardinals, who stand just 1 1/2 games from getting into the playoffs through that route.
While the chances still aren’t great, the Redbirds playoff odds have soured from 4 percent to 24 percent in the last three days.
While the Cubs and Brewers beat each other up (Go C-C-C-C ... Nope. Sorry. Can’t say it.), the Birds might just slip into the playoffs through the back door. Colorado is playing the lowly San Diego Padres its next three games. But then the Padres have to play the Dodgers, a team among the favorites to make it to the World Series.
Why, Cardinals? Why can’t you just let us go? The St. Louis Blues would treat us right if you’d just give us a chance to spend some time with them and see if they value us more than you did. Just let us move on with our lives. Because you know and we know that as soon as we give you another chance, you’re going to finish the season with an eight-game losing streak and we’re both going to feel so foolish.
Let us remember the good times. When Paul DeJong came up to the big leagues from out of nowhere and was compared to Albert Pujols in several categories in the rookie record book. How Luke Weaver grew up into the pitcher we hoped he could be, winning seven straight starts after joining the starting rotation on a seemingly permanent basis. We’ll always have Tommy Pham’s shocking career year in which he put all his talents together and managed to stay healthy all season to prove he has the tools to be an impact player in the big leagues.
But we’re still getting over all the money we spent wining and dining Mike Leake before the team had to pay him to go away. And then there were the bad breakups with Jhonny Peralta and Jonathan Broxton. The inexplicable baserunning. Manager Mike Matheny and his almost sadistic way of leaving obviously struggling starting pitchers in games until they have been thoroughly humiliated and the game is entirely out of hand.
Even more than remembering the past, I would like to look forward to the future. Cardinals, I would like to see you change your ways and pursue some personal growth. Regardless of General Manager Mike Girsch’s statements that he doesn’t really see any glaring needs for this club (which could be a GM playing it coy ahead of the coming hot stove season — or signs of mental illness), I think anyone who has watched this team on more than a casual basis understands that it’s in desperate need of some middle-of-the-order run producers. It also could use a true ace, a closer and just some general turnover. There are too many mediocre, supporting cast-type guys and not enough good, all-around ballplayers who can be productive at the plate and catch and throw the ball in the field.
I really want to believe in you, Cardinals. I want nothing more than another World Series crown. But I think letting you off the hook if you sneak into the playoffs as a wild card only to go nowhere isn’t really in the best interests of either of us.
Let’s not be fooled into thinking that the reason this team is still alive in the playoff hunt a little more than a week and a half before the end of the season isn’t because it’s so darn good. It’s because it doesn’t seem like the still-rebuilding Brewers, the unbalanced Rockies or the full of themselves Cubs can keep their playoff drive in gear because of their own issues. I would hate to see the St. Louis front office sit on its collective hands and say, “We don’t need to make any changes. Didn’t you notice we made the playoffs last year?” when they have a chance to improve this winter.