Opponent: St. Louis Cardinals
Annoyance Level: High
Why: Because the St. Louis Cardinals used to be a divisional rival, a hot one. Now they're like visiting dignitaries with their one trip a year and all their good press.
Reputation: Oooh, it's the Cardinals. Oooh, they play in the best place ever. Oooh, they're so good.
Reality: They're very good. They've developed a nasty habit of kicking our ass a little much of late. But screw you, standing-ovation-giving fans and all that “it's so nice to play here” nonsense. This is the same demographic that threw beer on Lenny Dykstra.
Irritants: Mark McGwire, for one. He's the one who took them from relatively anonymous Midwestern franchise to The Happiest Place on Earth. And now look how they've turned on him. “Let's name a highway after him and then let's unname it because that stuff he was doing to make us so happy, we don't approve of it anymore.” Tony LaRussa, for another. Does that need explaining? And Jim Edmonds. May he make a great diving catch heading to the wall and keep going…dropping the ball in the process (Matsui will still manage to get thrown out at a random base). Oh yeah — David Eckstein. Just a hunch.
Likely: Albert Pujols will take Glavine very deep. Heilman, too. Maybe Pedro. Pujols turns Shea into the Royal Albert Hall. Man, he's good.
Possibly: Larry Walker will take Glavine very deep if he cares to face a lefty. Hey Walker: Be a man for once and stop taking bows. Otherwise, he'll simply spank Heilman. Pujols is a given. Whoever's filling in for Rolen will make like twelve great plays. Some punk reliever will whack Floyd on the wrist causing all of us to wince. LaRussa will be all, “Huh? Who me?” Screw you, LaRussa. Go win a World Series or two.
Definitely: A few too many Cardinals fans will show up at Shea because they “travel well”. The last Cardinal game I went to there was a double-whammy: Itinerant St. Louisians and misplaced Tino Martinez lovers. Yeech on both counts.
New Guy To Hate: Mark Mulder. Duel Pedro? Go beat the Yankees in 2000 or 2001, big-shot. Screw you, Mulder.
Fawn Factor: Tom Seaver will tell the world that the Cardinals are a highly professional organization. Dave O'Brien will nod. On the other hand, Gary Cohen will barely disguise his contempt for the whole, red lot of them. I love you, Gary Cohen.
Reminders: They lay down for the Red Sox. We handled them with ease the last time it mattered, in 2000. They barely beat us the last weekend of 1964. Keith Hernandez for Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey is still a scream. The 1985 Royals and the 1987 Twins were world champions.
They Are: Pond Scum, now and forever.