First of all, congratulations to your Chicago Cubs on what has been an incredible season. After beating the St. Louis Cardinals 5-0 yesterday afternoon, your team stands at 98 wins and 55 losses. If your team loses out and the Cardinals win out, you will still win the division by an astonishing nine games.
And it pains me to say this as a lifelong fan of the Cardinals—your team is simply better than my team. Are they 18 games better? Maybe not. But they are better. And not only do things look fantastic in the present, but they look very promising going forward; Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant look like bona fide superstars, young guns like Addison Russell and Willson Contreras have been revelations, and the starting rotation, which some considered a weakness entering 2016, has been the best in baseball. As is typically the case in baseball, no one team is considered such hands-down favorites that a reasonable person would, say, pick them over the field to win the World Series, but any objective analyst would have to agree that no team has better odds to win the 2016 World Series than the Chicago Cubs.
And this is the goal Cubs fans had in mind when you were hired after the 2014 season. It wasn’t to win 100 games, 105 games, 110 games, 162 games (though going 162-0 would be pretty cool)—it was to win the first World Series for the Chicago Cubs since 1908. And while I, a Cardinals fan, am not rooting for you to do it, I have great respect for this team. I cannot pretend to be a fan of Aroldis Chapman, but your roster is overwhelmingly an endearing crop of incredible baseball talent.
And because this talent has played so absurdly well, and because your team has accomplished just about everything it could hope to accomplish in the regular season (home-field advantage throughout the National League playoffs, though not clinched, is an extremely safe bet), I am encouraging you to take it easy for the next two games against the St. Louis Cardinals.
I’m not saying you should do this out of mercy, and I’m certainly not going to pretend that this will not lessen your chances of winning these games. What I’m saying is that, from your perspective, it does not matter. And at least for Spring Training games, it is established that neither team cares; the Cardinals have tons of incentive to win every game. So why grind out games down the stretch?
There is an unwritten rule of sorts that suggests that you should still try your best in games which matter for other teams even if they do not matter for you, and to a degree I agree with this. I’m not saying forfeit and I’m not saying that your players should just go up and not swing at pitches or anything like that.
By all means, you should want to win your games against the Cardinals this weekend. But don’t do this at the risk of your own season. Injuries happen, and fatigue happens, and these things can be unavoidable in the middle of a long and grueling season, but this should be your victory lap! You ever see a NASCAR driver go 190 miles-per-hour for a victory lap? No; he takes a relatively casual stroll across the track in order to take in the moment.
Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, John Lackey, Dexter Fowler, Ben Zobrist (the ship has sailed on Jake Arrieta already)—there is no logical reason to expose these players. Sure, you want to keep them sharp, but if you truly believes the Cardinals are maniac vigilantes (they aren’t, but you seem to talk about it a lot), why take this risk?
You have a lot of good, young talent that doesn’t figure to have a big role in your postseason, and these are the guys who should be starting. I sincerely doubt you care all that much about which team you face in the NLDS and instead are preoccupied with how good of a chance you have. And if everybody is healthy, you will absolutely be favorites against the Cardinals, the San Francisco Giants, or the New York Mets.
You have a chance these next two days to make both Cardinals and Cubs fans very happy. And if not everybody in the latter group appreciates it, you should gently remind them that as satisfying as it is to defeat your rival, I was much more exciting about World Series victory over the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers, two teams I generally like.
John J. Fleming
Okay, Joe, you can stop reading now (though if you would like to learn more about what was posted on Viva El Birdos yesterday, by all means stick around).
I wrote about some of the least productive players during the Mike Matheny era, and how players such as the 2016 version of Jhonny Peralta still manage to amass a pretty high level of playing time despite poor production.
Craig Edwards wrote about how the Cardinals should destroy the Cubs, and for a little over three hours, he made some very salient points.
The 2012 Wild Card game
Remember Pete Kozma? Lil Scooter remembers Pete Kozma.
The actual stupid baseball game
As You Van Slyke It and Jon Snowzeliak recapped the Cardinals’ 5-0 loss at the hands of the Cubs. I missed the game, but thanks to this recap, I was able to feel like I watched it. So...yay?
Yesterday was a rough day for the Cardinals but hopefully things will go better this afternoon. Check back on this here website for recaps and game threads pertaining to that and every game.