Someday, long in the future when historians are trying to decipher exactly whenÂ the St. Louis Cardinals reign of terror ended, they will have a few milestone moments to choose from.
They’ll weigh the importance of moments like Kyle Schwarber parking a ball on top of the Wrigley Field right field video board, or Hector Rondon striking out Stephen Piscotty to end that National League Division Series. Â They’ll consider Jaime Garcia literally shitting his pants while fielding an Austin Jackson bunt, or Javier Baez hitting a three-run homer just moments after Jason Hammel sent John Lackey into an open-mouthed, drool-filled rant towards his own dugout and catcher. Â They’ll wonder if it was when Lackey turned down a chance to return to the Cardinals but instead signed for two years with the Cubs, and they will probably settle on the moment the Cardinals best player in 2015–Jason Heyward–turned down a crapload of money from the Cardinals to take a smaller crapload of money from, yes, the Cubs.
All of that is a very entertaining trail to follow, but if you want to really know the exact moment the Cubs curb stomped the “Cardinals Way” it was September 17, 2015.
It was the moment Joe Maddon responded to an innocent question about the Cardinals hitting Anthony Rizzo in the seventh inning of a Cubs 8-3 win. Â You’ll remember that game for the two homers Starlin Castro hit, and for Dan Haren hitting Matt Holiday in the head with a pitch in the fifth. Â Only a crazy person, or a fake tough guy, or both, would think Haren intentionally hit Holliday, but Mike Matheny is one, or the other, or both, and he ordered Matt Belisle to do the deed.
The moment everything changed was in the Wrigley press dungeon, when Joe said:
â€œI have no history with the Cardinals except I used to love them growing up. That really showed me a lot today in a negative way. I donâ€™t know who put out the hit. I donâ€™t know if Tony Soprano is in the dugout. I didnâ€™t see him in there. But weâ€™re not going to put up with it, from them or anybody else.
â€œI didnâ€™t cause a ruckus out there because I have a lot of respect for the umpire crew that was out there. I thought they did a great job. But I just want them to know this. Weâ€™re not going to take that. Very simple.â€
â€œTo become this vigilante group that all of a sudden wants to get their own pound of flesh, thatâ€™s absolutely insane and ridiculous and wrong. Furthermore, we donâ€™t start stuff but we will end stuff. Thatâ€™s their call. That was their moment right there.â€
â€œThat is ridiculous. I donâ€™t want to hear that. I donâ€™t want to hear about pitching inside. I donâ€™t want to hear any of that crap. That pitch that Danny hit their guy with- absolute mistake. It was awful. We all hated it in the dugout. Iâ€™m happy that heâ€™s fine, absolutely. But you donâ€™t do that.â€
â€œIn the ninth inning they were playing behind us when we were leading by five runs,â€ he said. â€œThe next time we do it, weâ€™re going to run. I want everybody to know that. I never read that particular book that the Cardinals wrote way back in the day.
â€œI was a big Branch Rickey fan, but I never read this book that the Cardinals had written on how to play baseball. So, if you play behind us, weâ€™re up by five points in the ninth, weâ€™re running, and you have every right to do the same thing. Why?
The Cubs went on to win that series,Â and just 10 days previous they had won two of three at Bus(c)h Stadium…and really should have swept. Â Then, they faced the 100-win Cardinals in the playoffs for the first time ever and won that.
Then they convinced the Cardinals best pitcher in 2015 and best hitter in 2015 to come play for them.
The Cubs are drinking the Cardinals milkshake. Â They are drinking it all up.
All their base belong to us.
None of this will stop the 1908 chants at Bus(c)h Stadium or the guys who waste $180 on Steve Bartman Cardinals jerseys. Â No, winning a World Series is the only thing that will end it.
The reason the Best Fans in Baseball responded with extra homophobia, racism and just plain hate to the news that Heyward had chosen the Cubs over “baseball heaven” is that they know the moment is coming. Â It’s unavoidable. Â The Cubs are too good, too young, too well run and have too many resources for it to not be inevitable.
Their world changed on September 17, and it smacked them in face a month later:
But they take solace in the fact that the Cubs didn’t win the pennant. Â Because they’re assholes that way. Â But it’s coming, and they know it, and so, like the bitter little inbred children they are they lash out, they throw their poop, then rub some in their hair.
Sometime this October they’ll be in the fetal position covered in their own filth (a tradition unlike any other) and the Cubs will be going apeshit in the big league’s second largest clubhouse1, celebrating something that really matters.
Last year’s Cubs won more games than any of us thought they could. Â They did it because their rookies decided to not play like rookies. Â The 2015 Cubs bludgeoned you to death with a lineup that wouldn’t quit, a top of the rotation that was often dominant and a bullpen that fell perfectly into place when it mattered most.
If all they had done was bring that back, they’d have been formidable.
Instead, they’ve addressed every weakness. Â For all of that thunder in the lineup, they often lacked dependable table setting.
Even a casual look at the playoffs last year would have led you to believe that the Cubs could use guys like Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward. Â The Astros and Blue Jays couldn’t get Zobrist out, and the Mets didn’t when it mattered most. Â The Cubs “held” Heyward to a 1.080 OPS.
Lackey was the only Cardinals pitcher to beat the Cubs in the playoffs. Â So they hired him away, too.
The only subtraction the Cubs have had to make so far was Starlin Castro to the Yankees to clear second base for Zobrist.
I, for one, love Starlin and my manliness is not imperiled by admitting it. Â For much of his time with the Cubs, Starlin was all we had. Â Sure, he was flawed. Â His defense was shoddy at best, his baserunning was often inattentive, and he could be downright maddening. Â But Starlin is awfully good at hitting a baseball, and he always looked like he was having fun. Â So it was hard not to like the guy. Â So as much as we’ll miss him, it’s not like he really did anything that the Cubs couldn’t replace. Â Zobrist will play better defense, even as his range diminishes (even at second, Starlin clanked more than his fair share of grounders–at least from there he was able to turn more of those into outs), Ben will get on base more often, he’ll hit with more consistent power, and he’ll remember to make left turns on the bases.
I’d like the see the Cubs keep Jorge Soler in right field and play the all-linebacker outfield of Schwarber, Heyward and Jorge.
Oh, and while I’m rambling, can everybody get off Kyle? Â He played more than adequate defense in left until the last two games of the Mets’ series. Â His rookie counterpart for the Mets Michael Conforto–who has played outfield his whole life–did the same thing in the World Series and nobody thinks he can’t play left. Â Kyle works his ass off, and he’ll work at it all offseason and all spring and he’ll be fine. Â So just knock it off.
How loaded are the Cubs? Â Loaded enough that they’re just going to turn Baez into a super utility player. Something he’ll be great at. Â Javy had barely ever played third base when he came up in September and was immediately the best third baseman the Cubs had. Â He’s really good at both second and short and it’ll take him about ten minutes to figure out how to play the outfield.
You know Joe will just amuse himself during games by having Kyle play left and catch, have Bryant play third, center and right, and have Javy play…everywhere, just for the hell of it.
And as for the contracts that Zobrist, Lackey and Heyward got?
The only fear with Zobrist is that the Cubs are committed to him through his age 38 season, because his average salary is more than reasonable.
Lackey’s annual salary is less than the qualifying offer for free agents, so even if he finally swallows one bug too many there’s not much risk.
I’ll admit when the offseason started I was in the “don’t pay Heyward like a star because he’s only a good player.” Â But I had been converted long before he picked the Cubs over the Cardinals.
The people complaining that the Cubs overpaid him are in the “he doesn’t hit enough homers or drive in enough runs” camp. Â That’s just dumb.
As if this Cubs team is in danger of not having enough power.
Heyward is good at all of the things the Cubs aren’t. Â He gets on base consistently. Â He steals bases. Â He takes the extra base. Â He drives in runners from third with less than two outs. Â He plays Gold Glove defense.
Plus, he’s 26. Â He’s one day younger than grizzled, old veteran Anthony Rizzo. Â The Cubs lost Starlin and added Heyward and didn’t age a bit. Â If anything their “best young core in the game” got better without getting older. Â This is next level shit.
But then, the people complaining about Heyward also think Lester was a waste of money because he only won 11 games and doesn’t throw to first. Â The world apparently needs dumb people. Â Just let them be.
The Cubs…our Chicago Cubs…have the most talented roster in the game. Â Despite graduating several top prospects they still have one of the game’s best farm systems. Â They have the best manager in baseball. Â They have incredibly smart guys running the baseball side of things, and they are starting to shake real money out of the business side.
The Cubs are the envy of baseball.
It’s about time we started acting like it.
Cardinals fans have it figured out. Â And it’s driving them fucking crazy.
And it’s awesome.