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Cardinals free and easy while pressure shifts to Cubs

We in St. Louis Cardinals country have been taking a lot of heat over the past few months from our “friends” to the north.

It seems fans of the Chicago Cubs have already booked their trips to Wrigley Field for the 2016 World Series.

As they start of the season nears, the Cubs fans’ self-assured bragging about the certain fate of their favorite team has reached deafening levels.

I’m sure Cubs fans don’t want the advice of folks from St. Louis. But I’m going to pass some on anyway: Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched. It only leads to disappointment.

Remember that the Washington Nationals were the prohibitive favorites in the Senior Circuit last season. The Tigers were going to walk away with the American League crown.

Washington’s manager got fired and Detroit canned its GM and dumped ace David Price in a trade deadline deal.

Funny things happen when you apply reality to expectations.

No one knows how people will react to that sort of pressure, especially when they’re young people who haven’t experienced much of it before. It’s amazing how good teams can look in May and June only to disappear in October.

Look at how the Cubs were on a high after managing to defeat the Cardinals in the NL Division Series only to get steamrolled by the Mets in the NLCS.

The Cubs aren’t new to the role of being media darlings and paper favorites. Remember when Kerry Wood and Mark Prior were going to lead the team from the outhouse to the penthouse?

How did that turn out?

The Cubs spent millions on Moises Alou, Aramis Ramirez, Sammy Sosa, Carlos Zambrano, Eric Karros and the previously mentioned Prior and Wood. They were going to need to expand Wrigley Field to hold all the trophies they were going to win.

In short, it turned out to be the best team that never won a darn thing. And the Cubs went from limitless possibilities to a whole lot of nothin’ in the blink of an eye.

Mark Prior might have been the most valuable player in baseball right up to the moment the Cubs squandered a chance to beat the then Florida Marlins and advance to their first World Series since 1945. After the Cubs blew that game and then lost the next night to fumble away the series, Prior was never really the same.

Championships are an elusive thing, no matter the team involved. I will go to my grave insisting that the 2006 World Series winning Cardinals were the worst team St. Louis fielded between 2004-2006.

The Redbirds backed into the playoffs on the last day of the 2006 season when the Atlanta Braves beat the Houston Astros while the Cardinals got beat by Milwaukee on their home field.

St. Louis’ 83 wins were the least by a World Series winner in a year not shortened by a labor dispute.

In 2004 the Cardinals were the best team in baseball with a 100-win season. They stormed through the Astros in the playoffs and seemed sure to win the championship -- until the Cardinals ran into a red hot Boston Red Sox team fresh off of overcoming a 3-0 deficit in the American League Championship Series to beat the New York Yankees.

In 2005 the Cardinals won 98 games and seemed to be on a roll at the right time. But the Astros were hot and the St. Louis pitching staff was worn out, ushering St. Louis out of the playoffs early.

So let’s forget about what rosters look like on paper and see what happens when the games are played.

It’s a long season -- and anything can happen.

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