In the end, it couldn’t have been more perfect.  Our beloved Chicago Cubs ended the St. Louis Cardinals’ season, and they did it for the best possible reason.

They’re just, plain, better.

Nothing about the three games to one National League Division Series win was fluky.  Once game one was over, the Cubs kicked the Cardinals’ ass all over the field.  They out hit them, they out homered them (by a shit ton), they played better defense, they had better starting pitching (not that any of it was all that good) and the Cubs’ supposed Achilles heel–the bullpen–was better than St. Louis’ even though they had the most famous Achilles heel in all of the playoffs1.

The beating was so thorough that if the NLDS had an MVP, we’d still be debating which Cub or Cubs to give it to.  You could make pretty convincing arguments for at least half the friggin’ team.  For instance:

Kyle Schwarber – After hitting an iconic homer in the Wild Card game against Pissburgh, Kyle hit two more in the NLDS and the one he hit in the deciding game four is so famous now that the Cubs have encased it in lucite on top of the right field scoreboard.

Jorge Soler – The record for anyone reaching base in consecutive at bats to start their playoff careers was five.  Jorge did it his first nine trips to the plate.  That included two homers.  Oh, and when it looked for all the world like the Cardinals were going to take the lead in the sixth inning in game four Jorge made an absurdly great throw from right field and nailed Tony Cruz at the plate.  This is the same Jorge that TBS’ Brian Anderson kept claiming that the Cubs almost left off the playoff roster.  Brian Anderson is a fucking idiot.

Javy Baez – I’m sure the guys who made Hoosiers and Rudy have already started working the script for “Javy.”  In it, a young Puerto Rican superstar blows his first chance in the big leagues by striking out…a lot.  Then his beloved sister dies.  Then, on the cusp of being recalled from the minors he breaks a finger.  He finally comes up late in the season and plays well enough to make the playoff roster, but is nailed to the bench.  Until the starting shortstop pulls a hamstring.  Javy goes into the game, makes a horrible, embarrassing non-chalant throwing error.  The next day he gets the start for the still ailing starter, and with his team trailing in the final game of the Cardinals series he’s on deck when the mouth breathing cartoon-villain pitcher hangs a slider to the opposing pitcher.  The pitcher throws a tantrum on the field and yells at his own dugout and his catcher that he wants to “throw the fastball!”  So, Javy figures, “I’m clearly getting a fastball,” on the first pitch.  He does, and he hits every damn inch of it and drives it ludicrously far to the opposite field to give the Cubs a 4-2 lead as they go on to win the series.  With one swing, he turns around the entire game.  You can’t make this shit up.

Trevor Cahill – The best part of the Pillsbury Outboy’s resurgence is how much it confused TBS’ Joe Simpson.  Joe’s a dolt, but you can’t blame him for wondering if T-Bone Cahill was the same guy he saw pitch for the Barves earlier this season.  Atlanta DFA’d him, then the Dodgers cut him loose and the Cubs saw something in him to make them believe if he ditched one of his pitches and stopped having to pace himself as a starter he could just let it rip and be impossible to hit the ball in the air off of.  Incredibly, when the Cubs needed big outs in the eighth inning in game two in St. Louis, and knew they couldn’t get them in that hellscape from Pedro Strop, they went to Cahill and it worked.  And then it worked again in game three.  And then it almost worked in game four.  But after Soler “bailed [his] ass out”2 by throwing out Cruz and leaving the game tied, he ended up getting the win, anyway.

Clayton Richard — Sure, he only pitched to two batters in the series.  Both of them were in big spots.  In game three, Kolten Wong hit the ball about 20 feet right to him.  In game four, he struck out Heyward.

Jake Arrieta — OK, Jake didn’t pitch great in game three, but it was a rough night to pitch with the wind howling out at about 25 miles an hour.  Still, he pitched into the sixth, he struck out nine and he left with the lead.  We’re just used to him giving up about a run a month.

Starlin Castro — Starlin’s redemption is my favorite thing about this awesome season.  It has carried over into the postseason and the single biggest hit in game three was Starlin immediately tying the game after the Cardinals had worked so hard to get a lead.  The fact that Cardinals fans hate everything he does, only made his homer all that much better.  To see him go from starting shortstop to benched to part-time second baseman to full-time second baseman to key bat in the middle of the order in just over two months…well, it’s pretty goddamned great.

Kris Bryant — He only had three hits in the series, but one was a huge homer in game three and the other was a triple in the eighth inning of game four3  He’ll do better in the NLCS.  Why?  Because he’s awesome.

Austin Jackson — Stole third base on the mighty Yadi which started a glorious unhingement of the Cardinals in game two which included Jaime Garcia literally shitting his pants on the field on a bunt, another bunt scoring another run, and a Jorge Soler homer.

Travis Wood — He gave up one run in three games, and his two and a third scoreless innings in game two put the Cubs in position to win it.  It’s nice to have an All-Star starting pitcher just hanging out4 your bullpen.

Justin Grimm — He only pitched one inning in the whole series.  But what an inning it was.  As the first of many to relieve ineffective starter Jason Hammel 5 he inherited a runner at first and nobody out.  He then got what might have been a double play ball hit to Kris Bryant.  Bryant was at least going to get the lead out at second, but he dropped it trying to get it out of his glove.  Two on, nobody out.  So what did Grimm do?  He struck out the side.  The inning ended with those same two slackjawed Cardinals standing on those same two bases.

Pedro Strop — When he gave up a two run bomb in the eighth inning of game one you figured Joe was just going to have to mothball Pedro for the series.  He’d struggled against the Cardinals all season.  The only concession Joe made, though, was to not use Pedro in the Big Urinal Cake at the end of game two.  Pedro pitched huge eighth innings in games three and four, and he was up to the task.  In fact, in game four he was unhittably dominant.

Jon Lester — He deserved better than to get the loss in game one.  He pitched his ass off, he didn’t get the same enormous Phil Cuzzi strike zone that hand-licking Lackey did.  I’m sure just sharing the mound with a cancer survivor made Lackey’s skin crawl.

But your NLDS MVP 6 is…

Anthony Rizzo — How can the MVP of a series get that award when he only hit .214 with one walk?  Well, you make sure two of your three hits were homers, and that both were huge, but the second one is the homer that nearly causes Wrigley Field to crumble from the noise and jumping of the crowd.  Oh, and you make sure that homer is the deciding run when you take a huge dump on the Cardinals’ season.

You can not say enough about Joe Maddon in this series.  He was on top of everything.  His bullpen decisions were flawless (after game one, at least).  He switched from offense to defense at the right times.  But mostly he set the tone by just being Joe.  He’s said all year you play the game on October 15 the same way you played it on August 15 and April 15.  That this team can have this many supertalented rookies all playing to their capability and so many retreads being used in just the right role is a testament to the way Joe runs his team.  This team would be good without him, but it’s hard to believe they’d still be playing this year if he wasn’t there.

And how about pitching coach Chris Bosio?  The Cubs beat a 100-win Cardinals team when they didn’t win a Jon Lester start, Jake Arrieta gave up more runs in 5 2/3 innings than he had total since mid-August, and neither Kyle Hendricks or Hammel got out of the fifth inning.  The bullpen saved the Cubs asses time and again.  No, seriously, the bullpen.  That’s all Boz.

I will admit that over the years I’ve imagined what it would be like when the Cubs finally played, and beat the most unctuous, awful, detestable team in all of baseball in the playoffs.  In my imagination it was always great.  It ended with the Cardinals beaten, humiliated and lying in their own filth.

So, the real thing happened last night.  And you know what?

It was soooooo much better.  To see Cardinals fans having hissy fits was completely satisfying.  To see Mike Matheny staring blankly from the dugout7 with no answer for what the Cubs were doing to his team.  To watch Lackey lose his shit on the field before and after that Javy homer.  To watch the Cardinals treat a opposite field, 23 bounce slappy single by Yadi like it was his Make-A-Wish.  To see Cub after Cub launch tape measure length homers into the night.  To see Fernando Rodney fuck with the Cardinals by finally doing his bow and arrow routine as he walked off the field in game four.  To see Pedro nearly dislocate both shoulders doing fist pumps.  But mostly to see Cubs fans, at Wrigley, let it all go as our heroes dogpiled on each other between the mound and home plate.  All the years of fake, haughty Cardinals superiority, and condescening assholishness8 fell away.

The Cubs haven’t won anything they give trophies for, yet.  And bigger games are coming up shortly, but this meant a lot.  The Cardinals were sure they were going to win this series.  They were going to lean on the “Cardinal Way” and prove that they just do all of the important stuff better.  When they won game one they were convinced it was true.

But these Cubs couldn’t give two shits about how St. Louis thinks you need to play baseball.  The failures of Cubs teams in the past mean nothing to them.  They know two things.  They’re pretty fucking good at playing baseball.  Winning is pretty fucking fun.

As the Cardinals sat in their cramped dugout at Wrigley watching the Cubs party on the field you know they were pissed that the Cubs would get that excited about winning a division series, of all things.

But these Cubs celebrate regular season games like they just won the World Series.  It’s what they do.  These Cubs celebrate achievement in any form.  You know why?  Because they should.  They are enjoying every second of this.  They are wringing every last bit of fun out of everything they do.  And it’s one of the many things that makes them so much fun to watch.

Sure, we were all basket cases during these games.  During the sixth inning of the last two games I literally was reminding myself to breathe.  It was agony.  And then it was ecstasy.

The best part about winning these games wasn’t just that it was happening to the Cardinals and their fans were being driven insane by it9.  Every win meant there would be another Cubs game.  Even when they are torturing us these games are incredibly fun.  We don’t want them to end.

Soon they’ll find out if they’re playing the Mets or Dodgers in the NLCS.  It doesn’t really matter.  The Cubs are going to do what they always do.  They’re going to find a way to beat you.

And, as the Cardinals found out in the most painful way possible, they are going to beat you for one simple reason.

They’re better than you are.

Better get used to them.

They are built to win.

And they are built to last.

 

Here are those annoying footnotes.

  1. That of Adam Wainwright who actually pitched pretty well for a guy who had only thrown three innings since April.  But one pitch in game three to Jorge Soler is all we’re ever going to remember.  Well, that and how offended Adam apparently gets by boner pill commercials.
  2. Trevor’s exact words.
  3. As per Cubs custom he did not score, even though he tripled with nobody out.
  4. And likely living in
  5. Trademark: the entire second half.
  6. If there were such a thing.
  7. Actually, he always does that.
  8. Sure, “assholishness” is a word.
  9. But that was pretty damned great.