For the third consecutive season, we are proud to introduce the Deadspin Baseball Season Previews. Yes, baseball is starting today.
Every weekday until the start of the season, a different writer will preview his/her team. We asked a gaggle of writers, from the Web, from print, from books, to tell us, in as many or as little words as they need, Where Their Team Stands. This is not meant to be factual, or dispassionate, or even logical: We just asked them to riff on why they love their team so much, or what their team means to them, or whatever.
Today: The St. Louis Cardinals. Your author is Will Leitch.
Will Leitch is the editor of Deadspin and the author of three books, including God Save The Fan, released by HarperCollins in January. His words are after the jump.
You know, all told, it's not all that bad of a time to be a Cardinals fan. Sure, it's probably gonna be a long year — unless you're overly persuaded by the fastball stylings of Todd Wellemeyer — but we know that coming in. It's not like we're the Giants or anything; we clearly see that the Cardinals need to get younger, so this is a transitional year, purging the Rolens and Edmonds and giving kids like Brendan Ryan, Ryan Ludwick, Brian Barton and, yes, Rick Ankiel a chance. If the Cardinals finish .500, it will be a success, and no one will consider the year an unmitigated disaster of they don't.
As a sports fan, I tend to only find myself truly passionate when I am attempting to head off failure. (It's like this in life too; it's really quite awful.) Don Denkinger in 1985 was awful. Losing to the Giants the year Darryl Kile and Jack Buck died was awful. Being swept by the Red Sox in four games — and having Drew Barrymore and Jimmy freaking Fallon run on our field directly afterwards, like they owned the place or something — that was awful.
This year? Nothing too awful can happen this year. When expectations are low, it's difficult for the news to be too devastating. Barring an implosion of Albert Pujols' aorta, nothing can go too wrong this year. We're looking at positive increments forward, with the inevitable steps back easily shaken off.
Except: The Cubs.
The Cardinals-Cubs rivalry is every bit as storied as the Yankees-Red Sox, but, you know, a little nicer. Neither team's fans are ever in danger of being throw off the balcony when they show up at the opposing team's stadium, for example. But do not mistake this for passivity; Cardinals fans and Cubs fans revile each other teams with considerable fervor. May I remind you of my favorite Cubs memory:
October 2003. I was at my apartment in the Inwood neighborhood of Manhattan, listening to Cubs-Marlins Game 6 on the radio because I didn't have cable. Cubs were up 3-0, bottom of the seventh. My phone rings. It's my father. I know what he wants.
"Jesus, it looks like they're really going to do this."
"I don't really know what to do with myself now. I don't know if I'm ready to live in a world where the Cubs have made the World Series."
"I've been listening to the game on the radio. But you know what? I think I should go downstairs and watch the end. I mean, I've hated them for so long, I feel like their history is kind of my history. In a weird way, I feel like I owe to them. I should watch them do this. They've earned it, I think."
"You go ahead. I'm going to bed.
I put on some pants and went to the bar downstairs. The top of the eighth began. I ordered a cool, icy Budweiser, brewed in St. Louis, Missouri, and settled in, ready to begrudgingly salute the enemy.
So yeah: That's probably my favorite Cubs moment.
I like to consider myself a reasonable nice person, but, jesus, that's just mean. And that's what I'm talking about. In a season in which the Cardinals have no real stakes, the only thing that can truly go wrong is the Cubs making/winning the World Series.
As you've all heard ad nauseum, this year marks the 100th year since the Cubs last won the World Series. In that time, the Cardinals have won 10 World Series. Obviously, that was not a number any Cardinals fan has to look up. We all take much pride in this number; in my home town of Mattoon, it's about 65 percent Cardinals fans, 35 percent Cubs fans. We loved to remind that 35 percent of that number repeatedly.
But lo, the Cubs look far superior to the Cards this year — and it hurt my soul just to type that — which means that the only thing that can go wrong in 2008 is the Cubs winning the World Series. Imagine it. Lou Piniella on the cover of Time. The Cubs becoming America's wild success story (we're sure Chicagoan Obama, White Sox fan or no, would get some mileage out of it too). And someone would certainly drag poor Steve Bartman out for Matt Lauer too. The Cubs would be everywhere. It would be poetic and wonderful and all we dream of for our great game.
And God: It would be awful.