posted on March 05, 2010 00:00
Spring training games have commenced. And from the very first pitch of the Grapefruit League, the Cardinals were and are the the prohibitive favorites to win the NL Central Division. Giving them a 1 in 8 chance of winning the World Series.
Some might even say they have a better chance than that.
According to Wikipedia, though, sometime in 1983, a lady named Connie Elba invented the phrase that could derail St. Louis' champagne dreams: Shit. Happens. (Seriously, though, before 1983 'shit happens' wasn't in the common vernacular? I can't believe that was true. Could an old person please verify this in the comments, please.)
We do not want shit to happen. We are not anticipating shit happening. But if any of these 10 'shits' happen? Well the Cardinals might just not win the NL Central.
5) The Cubs grow a sack: Way, way back in a time called 2008, the Cubs were pretty much an unstoppable juggernaut of baseball playing. They served the Cardinals their dicks on silver platter all season long and as much as we didn't want to admit it- these guys were poised for a... gulp... sustained run of dominance?!
Then the Dodgers brought the small bears back to earth. Then 2009 fucked them in the butt.
The Cubs aren't as good as they were in 2008. D Lee and Aramis Ramirez are 2 years older (And two years closer to 50. Probably.) Ted Lilly became, well Ted Lilly. Milton Bradley's stank takes at least 2 years to get off everybody. BUT- they are also aren't as bad as they were in 2009. And less we forget, the Cubs were the team to beat in 2009 until Matt Holliday came to town.
If the Cubs start competing early and realize they can play with the Cardinals. Or God forbid they beat the Cardinals in the first couple head to head match-ups... they might just be talented enough to ride out a pennant win.
4) Chris Carpenter hurts: He only had one brief absence in 2009. But he's still the most fragile superstar the Cardinals have. I can still remember sitting in the stadium Opening Day 2007 and watching him leave the field against the Mets and thinking "uh oh". Little did we know just how bad the Cards would be without Carp.
Wainwright may be better. It's at least a conversation. But Chris Carpenter is the guy that give the Cardinals some fucking edge, man. You feel better with him on the bump. The Cardinals feel better with him on the bump. Let's hope the guy stays healthy.
3) Young guys play like young guys: Adding Flip Lopez to the Cardinals team alleviates some of this concern, but overall the Cardinals are still relying a great deal on some very young/unproven talent in key positions. CF, 3B, SS are all going to be manned by men that have very little MLB service collectively. Add in expected bench players like Tyler Greene and Joe Mather and this team is even younger and more inexperienced.
There is a reason these players weren't in the Cardinals line-up last year, or the year before? They weren't good enough. It's a simple as that. Sure, front office types want to blame it on age, but if someone was that good, they would play him in STL. It's really that simple. I'm not saying these young guys can't be good players in 2010, but they haven't been good enough in the past. So it is a little bit of leap of faith to count on them heavily now.
Time will tell, but if they don't contribute, the Cardinals stars will be even more taxed. They can probably handle it... but you never know.
2) Cincinnati is good for once: The Cardinals have feasted on the rotting corpses in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati for years now. The Pirates will be good for at least 13 wins in 2010, but the Reds? The Reds look like a pretty scrappy bunch.
I am not a believer to the extent that I think the Reds can win the division. But they will most certainly have a say in who does. The Cardinals will play this team nearly 20 times in 2010 and going 8-10 versus 13-5 is a HUGE swing that can directly effect the race for first place. Chances are that the team that handles the Reds better will win the NL Central in 2010.
1) The clubhouse becomes a hell hole: Let's face it- the 2010 Cardinals are going to have more than 6 guys with huge TLR daddy complexes as the season starts. Why aren't you starting me daddy? Why don' you believe I can hit lefties daddy? I wanna play more daddy!
The beauty and the best of a LaRussa team is that (almost) everybody is subject to a benching every game. TLR is a maniac with his starting line-ups and some people like it (Lopez) others don't (Ludwick). How everyone reacts to sudden and swift prime to pine coaching moves is a key to every single TLR Cardinal teams.
It seems like he's gotten even more outrageous in the past 3 years, routinely getting over 130 different combinations in during a 162 game season. So how do the boys react?
Resolve? Determination? Back-biting? Infighting? Only time will tell.
Now, there's no way in hell I'm picking any other team than the Cardinals to win the NL Central in 2010. But I think it's worth noting that none of these 5 things are unreasonable in their probability. These guys actually have to go out and earn the playoffs. And that journey started on Wednesday.
Aaron Hooks is managing editor of CardsDiaspora.com and a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. He writes every Friday for InsideSTL. Follow him on Twitter.