The Cardinals are coming to town. It's the second time they've showed up for a post-championship Opening Day, which is really an excuse to wear gold-numbered jerseys and make the other team sit around while the Giants hoist trophies above their heads. Except it's a little different this time around, because the Giants went through the Cardinals to win the World Series.
Ceremony: blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah
Chris Carpenter: Ugh, when will this stupid thing end?
Ceremony: /pauses while Lou Seal runs around, shooting replica trophies into the stands with a replica-trophy gun
Chris Carpenter: This is just the worst. C'mon.
Mike Matheny: Hey, did you ever think about not being so awful in the playoffs last year? I mean, if this offends you, you could have been less awful.
Matheny: Aw, heck, I didn't mean that.
Matheny: But, no, seriously, we're all watching this because of you.
Oh, fine, it wasn't all Carpenter's fault. And it turns out that he was hurt, which kind of makes me feel bad. You could put Lance Lynn in that spot, or Pete Kozma, or any hitter who flailed at Barry Zito in Game 5. And it's hard to needle the Cardinals too much, seeing as they just won the World Series (as well as the most exciting World Series game ever, give or take).
But there was a NLCS last year, the Cardinals didn't win it, and now they have to stand around and watch another team collect the spoils. The schedule came out long before the playoffs; this is just a quirk.
It's kind of a hilarious quirk. But that's just me, an over-30 dude who still makes the sign of the cross when someone mentions Jose Oquendo. If you're under 30, actually, the rest of this post probably isn't going to make sense to you. So, sorry about that. You can talk about Aaron Carter or Dexter's Laboratory, or whatever defined your youth.
I can't help but think of Pulp Fiction, when Bruce Willis says, "What now?" to Ving Rhames. The two were trying to kill each other, then there were events, then they had to figure out if they were still going to try to kill each other. As long as you don't think about what those "events" were, this analogy is perfect and in no way horribly inappropriate to apply to professional baseball teams. There was a skirmish and an unexpected resolution, and now we have to ask ourselves "What now?" Two ways to go about it, really …
The Cardinals are just another team
Neither Willie McCovey or Juan Marichal won a World Series, and part of that had to do with the Pirates. At some point, Giants fans stopped looking at the Pirates as a team that ruined McCovey and Marichal's second chance at a championship, and started looking at them like another team. A team ripe to pillage and plunder in horribly lopsided trades, but mostly they were just another team. They still are.
For a while -- code for "my entire life" -- I was bitter against the Cardinals. Even after the 2002 NLCS, what with David Bell streaking across home and J.D. Drew's throw reaching home plate in time for the ceremony today, I was still bitter. Bastards ruined 1987, when the Giants would have swept the Twins in four. Will Clark hoisting a trophy above his head. Mike Krukow spraying champagne all around. Should have happened like that.
But the Cardinals' excitement was on a 25-year mortgage, and eventually -- after, like, a ton of harassing calls from a collection agency -- they paid it all back. The Giants won a World Series after all, and so everything's forgiven, Cardinals. They're just another team now, like the Pirates, Reds, or Brewers.
The Cardinals are now blood rivals
Oh, the Giants will always have a blood rival with the Dodgers, but did you ever think that nature never intended for us to be with one rival our entire lives? I mean, maybe this monogamous rivalry thing is a holdover from the Victorian era, man. Food for thought. But if we're thinking the Cardinals are just another team, you know their fans aren't. They're thinking about Hunter Pence's three-hit single. They're thinking about Marco Scutaro … aw, heck, let's do a visual for this one:
They're thinking about Barry Zito's game, and as long as we're on a Pulp Fiction kick, think of how upset Cards fans must be when they think about Zito hiding the game of his life in the same place Christopher Walken hid the watch.
And the Cardinals are still an excellent team. Remember how the Giants and Phillies were supposed to be new-era rivals? That was fun until our catcher broke, and then it was less fun when their entire team broke. Coulda been a rivalry team. Ended up as just another team. The Cardinals should be good for a while, so they might fit the parameters better.
More than that, there's already a history built in. Not just in 1987, but going back to the days of buggies and carriages. The Cardinals and Giants haven't necessarily been in a slap-fight that entire time, but they're two classic franchises. They've played 1,890 games against each other in the regular season, and now they have three NLCS from the past 25 years to build on.
I like the idea of the Cardinals as blood rivals, actually. It was fun for those three weeks when the Phillies and Giants were on that path. A firefighter from Philadelphia wrote me an e-mail that questioned my sexuality! Good times, good times. But I'll open the discussion up and get a poll going. Are the Cardinals just another team, or is there something more there now?