Some of you may have noticed that I've not written about the Cardinals-Reds series that concluded yesterday. I wanted to wait until the whole thing was over and take it all in. It's too easy to look at just one game and read more significance into it than is warranted, and that's true of this series as well. After a dispiriting extra-inning loss in Florida and the Cardinals dismal road record of late, I wasn't optimistic about our chances. Before the series started, I was hoping for that Terry Pendleton moment.
Back in 1987, the Cardinals spent much of the season in front of the old NL East (there were only two divisions then), but the hated NY Mets (Pond Scum) were close on our heels, and we were going in different directions. The Cardinals were struggling and inconsistent, while the Mets (Pond Scum) were ripping off winning streaks and closing the gap day by day. The Cardinals traveled to Shea Stadium (garbage landfill) for a pivotal three-game series.
Essentially, if the Mets (Pond Scum) won the series, they most likely would have taken the division. The Cardinals were down or tied late in the game (I don't remember if it was the first or second game of the series) when third baseman Terry Pendleton came to the plate and hit a home run right into that stupid top hat out in center field. The Cardinals won the game, pulled away from the Mets (Pond Scum) and eventually won the NL pennant in 1987.
Not only did this series provide us with a Terry Pendleton moment, it gave us no less than three: 1) Skip Shumaker's grand slam in game one; 2) Yadier Molina's line in the sand to boneheaded loudmouth Brandon Phillips in game two; 3) Colby Rasmus's grand slam in game three. Three unlikely and pivotal actions that could, when we look back on the season, mark the turning point when the Cardinals separated themselves from the Reds.
It's easy to put the blame on Phillips for instigating this uprising, but one thing is certain: the Cardinals have been inconsistent to the point of baffling, especially in key games and big moments. We knew that the Cardinals had the talent to rise to the occasion, but they had already failed in moments like these previously this season. So what was the difference?
Here's what I think: Tony LaRussa hates Dusty Baker, and Dusty hates Tony. I don't think Phillips said what he said out of turn. I even think Baker approved of him calling the Cardinals "little bitches." Tony's an animal lover, so this was a shot directly at the Cards manager, as well as questioning the manhood of the Cardinals players. Have we seen three games in a row where almost every player (except Brendan Ryan, who's a putz) was so intense and focused? Does anyone else fear meeting Chris Carpenter in a dark alley (other than Brendan Ryan, who's a putz)? Is anyone else reminded of a mafia don when LaRussa gives off that dark scowl he does so well? Why on earth would the Reds have gone down this particular dark alley?
Here's why: When you haven't done anything before, you talk. When you're champions, you don't talk, you play. The Reds did all the talking, but the Cardinals hit, pitched, fielded and fought harder. This whole series revealed the character of each team. The sprint to the finish will reveal whether this series truly was this year's Terry Pendleton moment.