Sunday, October 01, 2006

The '06 Cardinals - The New '64 Phillies? Hell No

The 1964 Philadelphia Phillies are somewhat ignominious in baseball lore for holding a 6-game lead with 7 more to play, and then promptly losing all 7 of those games to cough up the division title and seal one of the most embarrassing collapses in sports history (aside from the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS vs. the Red Sox). Recently, there were rumblings in Redbird Land that the Phillies may have found a new companion in loserdom.

The Cards were on the verge of choking in dramatic fashion, losing seven games off their once-comfortable 8.5-game lead in seven days, while the Astros staged a furious last-minute roar and closed to within .5 games of the Central lead while the Reds lurked hopefully but were never that much of a threat. It seems as if the Astros are dead and buried every year - for the past two they were under .500 before the All-Star Break and then came roaring out into the playoffs in both '04 and '05. This year, they pulled off another cockroach imitation, refusing to be squished and making Cardinals fans everywhere very, very nervous.

Let's face it - this year's edition of the Redbirds is nothing like the overwhelming '04 squad, which amassed 105 wins and rolled into the postseason, dispatched of the Astros in seven thrilling, classic games, and then apparently decided that they'd had too much excitement and promptly got swept by the Red Sox in the World Series. This team is pretty flawed - too much So Taguchi, Jose Vizcaino, even Jason Isringhausen-type players. They still have Chris Carpenter, and of course God Himself, Pujols, but their dominance definitely hasn't been there this year. I'm not sure that many Cards fans, myself included, are expecting a serious postseason run, but we can deal with the exit - we're sort of prepared for it. We can't deal with the collapse and sportswriters everywhere chortling like a flock of buzzards.

Well, those fears were laid to rest today, as the Atlanta Braves kindly dispatched of the Astros, 3-1, to bump St. Louis' magic number down to zero and put them in possession of a third consecutive division title. Now, the playoffs are a total crapshoot - the White Sox backed into the postseason last year, having also almost been caught and overtaken (by the Indians) and then won the World Series, sweeping those same Astros. It's hard to say what ramifications the regular season can have on the postseason.

My God, the regular season is over. The playoffs start on Tuesday. I must admit that I'm not good with pressure - I swear to myself that I'm not going to look in on the game because I put way too much emotional investment in them, and then I usually do look anyway. I'm addicted... but scared as hell. I really, really want my Athletics and Cardinals to kick some behind. My dearest dream is of a World Series with those two, but I would be absolutely torn as to who to root for.

My next post will probably be "Requiem for a Season," since I'm going to relive the thrilling ride that was 2006. Holy crap, where does the time go? I nearly died last off-season and I don't want the playoffs to be over... because after that is a long, cold, dark, depressing winter with no baseball. It sucks.

In the meantime, REDBIRD POWER and GO ELEPHANTS!

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