There are no big series in May. We all know this. Nothing will be decided in the season's fifth week. And yet you feel this upcoming four game set with the Cardinals... well, it has just a touch more spice than it might normally, and certainly more than any have had in the past five or six years.
Full disclosure, my irrational and borderline psychotic hatred of all things St. Louis probably colors this is a bit. So know that at the top. But this is the first time the Cubs have bought an actual, real life baseball team to West East St. Louis since at least 2009. And while we love to talk about "THE RIVALRY," it isn't much of one when one team is competing for World Series berths and the other is having trouble not peeing down its leg. Certainly from our side, getting laughed at isn't all that pleasurable.
I don't even know if we can say the Cubs can throw down a marker the next four nights. Any gap made up can be gobbled up over the course of the season easily, from either side. And yet after the Cubs took five of seven from the Pirates the past two weeks, you kind of feel like, "Yeah, there's no reason the Cubs can't hang with them all season." You sort of want the same feel after these four games.
We've been here before. We think the Cubs have something going, they walk into Meth County and get smacked around, and you're left feeling bitter and alone until the next time the teams play and the Cubs can put it right. No one wants that.
And there is a shift in this rivalry. For as long as I can remember, the Cards were held up as the model organization. They bring players through, they all blossom, they play the game THE RIGHT WAY (which is total horse leavings anyway) and they never get caught out with bad contracts and bad players. The Cubs were always the club that couldn't figure it out, whose brief and unfulfilling spasms of success were only fueled by luck and a raft of money tossed at free agents. Somehow St. Louis is still able to paint itself as small-market efficiency while the Cubs have been the picture of big-market idiocy.
But no more.
Now the Cubs have a model organization, or at least will in the very near future. The lineup the Cubs bring down I-55 has five of the eight positions manned by either products of the system or pieces gathered via trade of pieces in the organization. There's only the one free agent pitcher in Jon Lester. The back end of the bullpen is manned by players picked off the discard pile from other teams and turned into dominating pitchers. We are what we were told we would never figure out.
And the Cubs aren't going anywhere. It's going to be like this for a very long time. Suddenly, the way the Cardinals and their toothless fans look at us just might have to change. I hope that just the very start of that, at least an eyebrow raised, begins this week.
-I find it kind of hilarious that now that the wind finally started to blow out of Wrigley and the weather warmed up, the Cubs have managed two runs in two games. Imagine the furor if that goes on any longer?
-It seems like every time I get into an argument with a friend this season, where I try and claim that Starlin Castro has been really good defensively, he makes an error or two the next day. I can't win.
-At some point soon, someone is going to crunch the numbers on how Joe Maddon's batting the pitcher 8th has affected the lineup. I totally understand the theory behind it. These days, you want to get your best hitters as high up in the lineup as you can, and that basically starts at the #2 spot. This does get them extra ABs over the season, and not an insignificant number of them. Giving them another player in front of them who gets on base more than the pitcher is a chance for more runs. On paper, I'm sure it works in some fashion.
The problem for the Cubs so far is the 9-hole has been mostly occupied by Alcantara, Herrera, and Russell, none of whom have gotten on base regularly yet. I feel like if we give Russell another month we'll definitely have an idea of what we're working with. As for right now, I'm sure the numbers don't tell much of a good story. As with everything in baseball, patience is required.
-Made my first trip to Wrigley this season on Monday, and was happy for the snappy game time with the temperature what it was. So I've seen the video board, and I honestly don't know why anyone would complain. Finally, I can see what a hitter has done in his previous ABs or how many Ks the pitcher has without checking my phone. Even though it it large I don't feel like it's an awkward add-on to the park, and I wonder if in two or three years we'll even notice.
I suppose one unique part of Wrigley was the clear view of the neighborhood around it that only it had. You can't see what's outside of Fenway, after all (that Citgo sign is about half a mile away, and strangely there aren't any Citgos in the Boston metro area). Newer stadiums have views of downtown, but of course Wrigley isn't downtown. The views are still there if you're in the upper deck and over to right field. I like the wider concourses already and the cleaner look. Progress isn't bad, people.