It’s a rivalry not quite like any other. It’s Red Sox/Yankees tempered with Midwestern civility. It’s Dodgers/Giants without all that postseason baggage. It’s the Cardinals and the Cubs, and it starts up again tonight in St. Louis.
It’s hard to believe that this is only the second trip for the Cubs into St. Louis. Their last visit was a tragic one, as in the midst of that series was the death of Josh Hancock. Since then, the Cards have basically treaded water while the Cubs have played some good baseball and now sit five games ahead in the standings.
It was just a couple of years ago when a member at CardsClubhouse penned a letter suggesting that the rivalry with the Cubs had been surpassed by one with the Astros. While the 2000s (whatever we are calling them) have been marked by a strong battle with the ‘Stros for playoff berths, all it takes is one year where the Cubs are ahead of us in the standings and threaten to make the playoffs for those old anti-Cub feelings to start stirring. Those feelings are probably more marked now after the last few years.
With the Red Sox and White Sox ending their curses in 2004 and ’05, respectively, the secure feeling that there was some sort of supernatural prohibition on the little bears taking the title has gone. After the Cardinals won last year with a team that squeaked into the playoffs, the consolation that “they aren’t the best team” is pretty shaky as well. In other words, if the Cubs get into the playoffs, they have possibly their best chance to end the almost-100-year-old championship drought, and that’s something few, if any, Cardinal fans want to see.
So that makes this series extra important. Not only do the Cardinals have to play extremely well against the Cubs and then the Brewers to even think about being in the NL Central race, but keeping the Cubs out of first place is almost as important of a goal. The 2007 season has been frustrating enough. Having the Cubs win the World Series would complete the sharpest drop possible from the high of last October.