The Cardinals keep drawing well in the intolerability seedings. No way under most circumstances imaginable would I have pulled for them to have captured the Wild Card, but their opponent was the Braves. Advantage: Cardinals. After they clinched that, I thought I couldn’t possibly have pulled for them to capture their current NLDS. But their opponent is the Phillies.
Advantage again: Cardinals.
We’re only two weeks removed from the Mets playing the Cardinals in a crucial game for one of those two teams. Seems longer ago. After all, the Mets were still a baseball team back on Thursday, September 22, not merely an East Coast testing laboratory for dynamic pricing. And there was no doubt that when you saw Jose Reyes, you’d see him wearing a Mets uniform (as opposed to nothing at all) and you’d see him for nine or more innings. We were all so much more innocent back then.
When the Mets charged from behind in the ninth inning of what became the “best” 156th game the franchise ever played, it was sweet as any 2-6 deficit that turned into an 8-6 victory could be on merit, but just a touch sweeter because it was the Cardinals who stayed stuck on 6. That it might have helped the Braves, while unfortunate, didn’t faze me all that much.
Whereas my lifelong antipathy for the Cubs remains relatively steady no matter how little they play the Mets nowadays, my disdain for the Cardinals is more of a renewable energy source. It flared up in 1985 and remained incandescent for the rest of that decade. Then the disgust (except retroactively) went into strategic reserve. 2006 — a seven-game span, specifically — relit it to a point where it’s prone to flicker all out of proportion to the impact the Cardinals have on my life since that most fateful Thursday night five years ago.
My recurring Redbird disdain tends to be pretty selective. The 2007 & later guys are a situational call. For example, two weeks ago, I had it in for the reliever whose name I can’t spell without looking up because he was a consonant-laden obstacle to my happiness. Last night I learned his teammates call Marc Rzepczynski “Scrabble,” and I find it adorable. Not unless we’re engaged in 13-, 14- or 20-inning wars of attrition with St. Louis do I make enemies with them gratuitously, at least not with those Cards who came on the scene in 2007 or later.
There aren’t many October 2006 Cardinals are extant this month, and only a couple really get under my skin. One is the manager and one is the catcher. Mostly the catcher. Totally the catcher, really. I could conceivably root for a team helmed by Tony La Russa (he did manage Tom Seaver, after all), but one that includes Yadier Molina is another matter entirely. If one of Playboy’s centerfold questionnaires ever accidentally landed in my mailbox, I’d fill it out just so I could write in “Yadier Molina” under “turn-offs”. (But I wouldn’t include a picture — I’m no Jose Reyes.)
Molina, however, is just one man. Loathsome for the events of 10/19/06, but there’s only one of him. The Phillies, on the other hand, have like twenty Shane Victorinos. And twenty Shane Victorinos are marginally more abhorrent than a single Yadier Molina.
Even if the contest is much closer than the score would indicate.
On some level, I admire the Phillies’ sustained success — the seeds of which were planted before they had loads of money and prospects to throw at free agents and the Astros — and, if there existed a way of looking past Phillies fans being Phillies fans, I’d admire the passion their long dormant base has conjured for its team. When you read Gary Smith on the topic (and you should, despite the topic; he’s just that great a writer), the current Phillie fever seems more genuinely contagious, albeit like a plague, than that Best Fans In Baseball crap from St. Louis. But anyone who’s been to a Mets-Phillies game in New York lately (never mind Philly) isn’t about to find anything admirable there. Thus, you’re left with a vat of Victorinos versus a lone, loathsome Molina. Given that choice, I believe you simply have to Yadier it up for one more game.
But I’m totally with the Brewers in the next round. Or the Diamondbacks. Or actual poisonous diamondback rattlesnakes who pass some sort of anti-Molina venom on to those squirrels that keep romping around Busch Stadium. The squirrels would just be carriers, mind you. Like “Scrabble,” I find them adorable.