Cardinals fans were on top of their Chicago-hating world just one week ago. The Cubs had it handed to them in last year's playoffs and flopped their way to a second place finish this year. The Cardinals had beloved Cub Mark DeRosa in their dugout and acquired slugger Matt Holliday at the trade deadline. Adam Wainwright led the league in wins and Chris Carpenter put up Cy Young numbers. Many (including your truly) thought they'd represent the NL in this year's World Series.
And then ... the NLDS.
Five total runs in three games. A .129 average with runners in scoring position. One RBI for Pujols. Huge errors--the kind that bring to mind that internationally known sign where the hands are grasping the throat. Blaming the towel-waving fans in the stands. Arguing with the home plate umpire even though TBS's little pitchtrax thingy clearly showed a strike (c'mon, La Russa, you owe it to your team to watch the game on TBS in the clubhouse so that you can see the technological miracle knows as pitchtrax).
The Cardinals simply didn't show up. Instead, they were shown up by Randy Wolf, Clayton Kershaw and Vicente Padilla. Vicente Padilla! Padilla was cut by the Rangers earlier this year, but on Saturday he cut up the Cardinal lineup as he put the icing on an old fashioned playoff whooping that put the redbirds on ice until 2010.
Cards fans now have some questions to consider:
- Does this make La Russa more or less likely to return next year?
- How about pitching coach Dave Duncan?
- Do you still want to dish out big-time dough for Matt Holliday?
- How about Mark DeRosa, who is planning offseason wrist surgery?
- How much does it suck to be dealing with these questions just one week after completing a 91-win season?
- Will Brendan Ryan finally shave that god-awful mustache?
In a related story, remember what I said about St. Louis hating Chicago? Someone needs to tell Bernie Miklasz at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that it's not all that insightful to boil down your analysis of the Cardinals' performance to a bunch of cheap shots at the Cubs. The Cardinals didn't morph into the Cubs--this collapse was all their own. They borrowed the Dodgers' fans white towels and spent three games waving them. Just because your crappy little town plays second fiddle to the Second City doesn't mean you should try to make yourself feel better about the Cardinals' pathetic performance by dragging the Cubs into this.
After the Cardinals went down 2-0 in the series, Step 1 of Bernie's two-step process for them to get back on track was to "quit impersonating the Cubs." Oh, that's very helpful, Bernie. I'm sure Tony La Russa wrote your plan on the back of his hand so he wouldn't forget it.
But the Cardinals do have something in common with the Cubs now: they, too, will be watching the rest of the playoffs on TV.