The Cardinals are coasting through September right into the playoffs for the first time since 2006, and I think we’re all kind of wondering the same thing: What the hell took so long?
I think I just heard Pirate and Red fans groan audibly from St. Louis. No offense to those historically fine baseball cities, but I’m just not sure that the Pirates, Reds, or Brewers can actually make the playoffs. Not just in 2009 or 2010, but ever, really.
Seriously. Never again.
The Pittsburgh Pirates haven’t had a winning season since 1992. That’s not a misprint either: nineteen ninety two!
The Reds? Well, the Reds haven’t tasted playoff juice since 1995. They seem further away from the promised land than ever before after totally rolling over and burping on what looked to be a stepping stone year for the franchise.
Now the Brewers, the Brewers had their shot in 2008. But after CC Sabathia left for the big money, the Brewers realized that they mortgaged their future (i.e. young, stud arms) for a two-month rental.
By not even attempting to sign him, they alienated their best player, Prince Fielder, and gave second thoughts to Ryan Braun about why he’d want to wallow in mediocrity—especially when you’re a young millionaire in a city whose women look like Otis Nixon. On a good day.
The Cubs, for all they’ve got going against them—history, brain capacity, etc.—will never not spend the money to field what they feel is a competitive team. Thirty million dollars to a Milton Bradley would cripple 15-20 teams for the next three years, but for the Cubs it was a fairly expensive mistake—one they will no doubt mask with another big free agent signing in the offseason before trading Bradley for cents on the dollar.
The only thing that keeps the Cubs from being in the top two in the NL Central every season is the Cubs. They’re idiots. But they’re idiots that are loaded and not afraid to spend money. This will always make them better teams than the Reds or Pirates.
But the real scary thing for these three teams?
The fact that the Cardinals looked this recession that is bringing out less than 10K in fans per night to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in the eye and bitch-slapped the organization back to 2004.
While teams like Oakland and Cleveland were looking to unload salaries, the Cardinals realized that if 3.1 million was an “off” year for attendance in an abysmal economic climate, well, maybe they could spend a little bit of money after all.
Instead of leveling the playing field, the financial times have actually catapulted the Cardinals into a more envious position than before. It’s almost like these other teams in the division can’t win for losing.
Which is my point: What can these teams do to ever have hope they can make the playoffs again?
When two giant behemoths are stronger than ever, financially and organizationally, and see themselves not competing with you, but using regular beatdowns of you to compete with each other? That’s brutal. And it’s not getting better.
Frankly, I’d love to see more competition in the NL Central—a packed PNC Park, a hungry Reds team in September. But it’s not going to happen. Not soon; possibly never. Not that I’m complaining.
It’s just that three years is a long wait when you play in this division.