Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Baby Don't Hurt Me, No More

Due to popular demand (well, okay, two of my friends and my son), I offer some thoughts on the Cardinals in the National League playoffs:

I've purposely kept my expectations low (read: non-existent), not only to blunt another inevitable October LaRussa disappointment, but because this team really isn't much good. I've been the proverbial wet blanket among those around me getting their hopes up for a Redbird post-season. Last year, the Cardinals were good enough to be a World Series team; this year, they don't even belong in the playoffs and are only there because of the blessing of playing in a crummy division.

That having been said, yesterday's win in San Diego is big, and I think puts St. Louis in a good position to again reach the League Championship Series (where they will undoubtedly fold like a cheap tent at the LaRussa family campout--which I imagine is usually scheduled in October right around what would be Game 5 of the World Series, which Tony never sees even when his team wins the pennant). The Cardinals' big problems are on the road, where they're pitiful. By winning Game One in San Diego, they take away the Pads home field advantage. They now have to win two games to advance--and they happen to have two games at Busch Stadium, where they are much more formidable.

With their starting lineup largely healthy again for the first time in months, it's just possible that they're not as bad as that late season skid made them look. And it's possible that the lower expectations will work in their favor. But they'll still need Jeff Weaver(!) to pitch like Sandy Koufax for a few weeks and Adam Wainwright to become the second coming of Mariano Rivera for this to be any more than a flash in the pan.

Personally, I'm not getting my hopes up. I've experienced too many years of TLR's postseason atmosphere-killing tension and hallucinogenic strategy moves (anybody remember Larry Walker's bunt in Game 4 of the disastrous '04 World Series when he was the only Cardinal hitting the ball?) to get geeked up over one win against a mediocre team in the least of the divisional series match-ups. Don't get me wrong--I want to see the Cardinals win a championship. But as The Who once said, I won't get fooled again. Call me when they've won one World Series game, and then I'll start getting excited.

(P.S. All of this whining goes straight out the window if Albert Pujols [A-Poo, as I now officially call him]--or any other Redbird, for that matter--hits a game-winning ninth inning homer in one of these contests. Then--who am I kidding?--I'll have bought my first-class sleeper car ticket on the Heartbreak Express as it hurtles off the rails and over the cliff again.)

(P.P.S. Since I mentioned my son, I should also mention my daughter. Namely, that she couldn't care less about any of this.)

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