Thursday, September 08, 2005

FROM THE RED STATES

Well, since the Cubs have now clinched atleast a tie in the season series with the Cardinals, with an 8-4 record and 4 games left at Wrigley Stadium, there is nothing to really watch for the rest of the season. There are a few things I am interested in though.

First is homefield advantage for the playoffs. The Cardinals are in pretty decent shape with that, a 7 game lead over the Atlanta Braves. Second the MVP and CY Young Awards. I think both Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter are deserving, but I suspect the voters will once again vote for the current flavor of the month Andruw Jones, and HOF'er Roger Clemens. I am more confident in Carpenter winning the CY than I am with Pujols. Everyone seems to be slurping all over Jones right now especially ESPN, despite his batting average 60 points lower than Albert, and of course Albert leads him in everything else except for HR's and RBI's. Case in point, the other night Pujols hits a 3 run homer to beat the Cubs. Wanting to see the highlights of it I turned on Baseball Tonight and had to sit through3/4 of the show before they got around to mentioning Pujols' heroics. The next night Andruw Jones does the same thing against the Mets and it leads off both Baseball Tonight and Sportscenter. Just an example of the bias against teams from the midwest by ESPN, or the Eastcoast Sports Production Network.

As many of our regular readers will recall in May I believe it was, responding to fellow poster Camden's claim that Lee was better than Pujols I posted that Lee was in fact a one year wonder meanwhile Pujols has been doing these amazing things on the baseball field for 5 years now. In that same post I stated that if Lee won the Triple Crown I would buy 2 tickets to any Cubs game for my fellow posters. Well it looks like I am in pretty decent shape to not have to break out the ol' credit card and fork over two tickets. However, at that time Lee was hitting roughly 60-70 points higher than Pujols and I said that if Lee beat Pujols in any of the jewels of the triple crown, I would wear a Cubs hat at church, the next time I am home, to be humiliated in front of all my friends, especially fellow poster Chris. Well since that post Albert is hitting roughly the same, and as predicted Lee has come back down to earth dropping down to just a 17 point lead. Lee also leads by 3 HR's, but Albert has taken over the lead in RBI's. So with the race in the Central Division all but in the bag, and unfortunately so is the season series between the Cubs and Cardinals thats what I'm left to watch.

On a note from my post from yesterday, there is also another reason I am not too optimistic about the Cardinals chances in the playoffs, and that is history. Not the history of the Cardinals as an organization, but my personal history of heartbreak when it comes to watching my teams in their respective post seasons.

You see Cub fans around the world often feel heartbreak watching their team lose every year. To this I say you should count your many blessing, because the grass ain't always greener on the other side. I live and die with 3 teams, of course the Cardinals during baseball season, the Bears during football season, and the Fighting Illini during basketball season. Let's take a look and the history of those teams in my lifetime.

The Cardinals have been to the playoffs 8 times in my life, losing 7 of those 8 trips. Winning it all only once in 1982 when I was 7 years old. They have also had some pretty memorable collapses, blowing a 3-1 lead in the '85 World Series against the Royals, with the help of Cardinal Nations favortie goat Don Denkinger (still the only time I have ever heard of an umpire or refereee admit they were wrong on a call and apologize for it). Doing the same against the Braves in the '96 NLCS.

The Illini have made the Final Four twice in my lifetime in 1989 of course, losing in the semi-finals against a Michigan team that had defeated handily twice that season. And of course this year coming so close with a Luther Head three pointer that would have given them the lead with less than a minute to play. Illinois has also pretty much made the NCAA Tournament every year I can remember, there were a few years of no NCAA Tournament, but for the most part they are a regular player in March Madness. Yet still have not given me anything but heartbreak.

The Bears were always good when I was younger making the playoffs in '84-88. Of course winning the Super Bowl in 1985. They missed a year in '89, but were right back for more the next 3 years.

So doing the math that is 17 trips to the postseason from one of my teams, and my history shows only winning it all twice. Thats not even counting the many trips Illinois has been to the NCAA Tournament only to lose in the first round to such solid program as Austin Peay, Tennessee Chattanooga. I just counted their two trips to the Final Four. That's a sad and shameful history I have watching my teams in the playoffs.

My point is Cub fans should consider themselves lucky to be out of the race so early. As a Bears fan the past decade I know what it's like to see your team totally suck and have no chance at winning anything, and that is far less painful than watching and rooting them on, having them get your hopes up thinking this might be the year, only to have your hopes crushed right before your eyes. So knowing that 17 trips to the playoffs has only resulted in 2 titles, track record says that the Cardinals this season will break my heart yet again.