As all the attention of the baseball world shifts east, baseball's most overlooked rivalry starts up again Friday at Wrigley Field when the defending World Champion St. Louis Cardinals visit the Chicago Cubs.
Yuck, it sickens me every time I have to think about the Cards being World Champs. I've had to deal with it every day since October. With World Champs hats, sweaters, t-shirts.....any time I have to see someone wearing those items, it feels like a punch to the balls.
But that was last year, every day is a step further away from that disastrous month of October. Since that night however, a lot has changed in the world of Cubdom.
I came up with the slogan "This is the year that Cubdom strikes back" which is a play on "The Empire Strikes Back." Pretty cool, I think. Then Andy MacPhail (F-A-I-L) stepped down, triggering the following events:
- John McDonough becoming interim president
- Lou Piniella is hired as manager
- The Cubs spend $300 million on revamping the worst team in the NL
- The Tribune Co. announces that it will sell the team at the end of the season
- The Cards decided to weaken their bullpen because they decided that they didn't want to partake in the free agent spending spree. The Cards will go to battle with their 8th and 9th inning guys to start the game instead of end them.
- They've also decided not to go with a right fielder. Unless you consider Skip Schumaker, Juan Encarnacion (still injured), Preston Wilson and So Taguchi as a formidable right field trio. Oh and they've also decided to give Jim Edmonds uber amounts of money despite health concerns and a clear decline in skills.
- Then there was this little bitch fit between Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen. "I won't sign autographs unless I make this much more than Rolen."-Pujols. "I won't sign autographs unless I make this much compared to Albert." -Rolen. What a bunch of bitches.
- Oh, and then Tony LaRussa decided that he was gonna drive off that World Series hangover.
- Game 1 matches up reliever-turned-starter Braden Looper and Ted "The Forty Million Dollar Man" Lilly. I endorsed the Lilly signing for a multitude of reasons, including the Cardinals inability to hit left handed starting pitching which continues to be a trend. Lilly has yet to disappoint, he's 1-1 with a 2.37 ERA and is racking up strikeouts while minimizing walks. Looper isn't terrible in his own right (except for the fact that he is wearing a Cardinals uniform.) Looptey-loop is 2-1 with a 2.37 ERA. He'll benefit from me not being at Wrigley to heckle him. As some of you may or may not know, Looper and I have history between us. As a member of the Marlins, Looper was heckled endlessly by me before, during and after a rain delay. He tried to get me kicked out (presumably...why else would he be talking to an usher pointing at me?) However, little did Braden's bitch ass know that the usher was a friend of mine. Looper would go on to blow the save, just like I predicted.
- The most intriguing match up occurs Saturday afternoon as the Cardinals send Anthony Reyes (0-2, 5.40 ERA) to the mound against former Cardinal Jason Marquis. Marquis signed a three year deal worth $21 million with the Cubs after a terrible 2006 season in which Marquis posted an ERA higher than 6.00. To add insult to injury, Marq was left off the WS roster and left out to dry on several occasions by LaRussa and pitching coach Dave Duncan. Duncan and LaRussa grew thin of Marquis and basically made him Cardinal Nation's whipping boy. Cards fans are licking their chops for a shot at Marquis, who is coming off his first win in a Cubs uniform. He's sporting a 1-1 record with a 2.65 ERA.
- On paper, game three looks to be a mismatch in favor of the Cardinals. They'll send World Series hero Adam Wainwright (1-1, 3.20) against Wade Miller (0-1, 9.00). Miller has been absolutely terrible this year. He hasn't pitched deep into ball games and I don't think his fastball has reached 90 MPH this year. If he continues to struggle, Angel Guzman might take his spot in the rotation if he keeps impressing out of the pen (and now in the minors.) Wainwright, a starter-turned-reliever-turned-starter struggled in his last two innings of work against the Pirates in his first loss of the 2006 season. But his raw stuff is still there as there are times where that mid-90s fastball coupled with that big breaking ball look untouchable.
- Both teams will be missing significant players this series. The Cardinals are without Chris Carpenter for about 4-6 weeks after an elbow injury. The Cubs will be without the services of Alfonso Soriano, who is nursing a hamstring injury.
- The Cardinals should consider themselves lucky, they're missing lefty Rich Hill who threw an outstanding game in the Cubs 3-0 win against the Braves. They're also on a long flight from San Fran. to Chicago after their 6-2 loss to the Giants. Sucks for them! The Cubs are on their way back from Atlanta as we speak.