My first Fan Post! Hopefully not as incoherent as usual. I stopped by The Hardball Times to see what they said about the Cubs knock-out. Or knock-off. I've been digging through post-Cubs stories, not to rub it in as much as to figure out what _not_ to do when you're a loaded franchise out of the NL Central. Think of it as a failure analysis.
It struck me that Tim Dierkes echoed what the BBTN crew said: the Cubs don't have anyone that scares the cleats off opposing pitchers. So goes the article:
The offense does not have a scary monster that teams go out of their way to avoid, like an Albert Pujols or a Manny Ramirez.
I don't think they're saying that's all a team needs, but it's like this, well, "impact player" is a key component to post-season success, something to put them over the top. Agree? Disagree? Is that all the baby bears need? Or are the problems just too deep? (It's worth noting that the same outlets mention that the Cardinals' standing pat through the trade deadline as one reason we didn't contend.)
My gut instinct is that the sheer hunger of our Cards squad is the edge when all things are equal. As the NL Central starts to change from a two-team joke to a four (or even five) team rumble, and more owners consider opening up their pockets, we've gotta stock up for leaner times. Personally I don't think that impact player needs to be an overpriced star; witness David Eckstein. (Well, exorbitantly overpriced.)
It's hardly a convincing argument, though, since "hunger" and "spark plugs" and "leadership" can't be measured in numbers. Team concept is pretty nebulous, especially with a closed-doors clubhouse like the Cards'. Vets have time and again have contributed off the field, including some of the guys on the DL — that has to help a young team. Reputation can affect what the other team does, too, i.e. the teams who didn't dare run on Ankiel under any circumstance.
At the same time I'm not sure it's fair to use the 2008 Cubs as a cautionary tale of what happens when an otherwise talented team doesn't have that mix of cohesiveness and hunger. Maybe it was something else like: being out-scouted, or being streaky, or simply not having to deal with adversity (24-22 in one-run games vs LAD's 31-21), or helping knock out the Mets. More data is needed, or at least more seasoned opinions. What do you think? Talent and money being equal, can one player complete the equation? And if so, do the Cardinals have the edge in that category, or do we need to go get it?