By Chris Emma–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Decades and decades of Cardinals dominance were all but forgotten on a special night at Wrigley Field last October.READ MORE: Chicagoan David Kronfeld Shares Advice To Career Success In New Book
Rather triumphantly, the Cubs’ young core overcame the franchise’s archrival, eliminating the Cardinals in four games in the NLDS. The Cubs hit home run after home run and sent the Redbirds back to St. Louis. The Cubs haven’t looked back, as they’re running away with the NL Central this season, still leading by 11.5 games after Monday’s 3-2 loss to the Cardinals.
Burdened throughout the course of a grueling baseball season to balance successes with failures, major league managers must keep a fresh mind. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny isn’t one to look at the standings, nor would he take any pleasure in these current standings.
“I throw it away the moment I see it,” Matheny said. “Usually, I tell them not to even put it there, because I couldn’t care less.”
Consider this one of few things that Matheny has in common with Cubs manager Joe Maddon. Many mornings, Maddon emerges from a deep sleep and momentarily ponders what happened in the past day’s game.
Maddon’s morning begins with a cup of coffee and consideration for that game’s lineup. He doesn’t look to the standings and what historic nugget goes with each win.
“It’s nice,” Maddon said with a smirk. “I don’t really dwell on it.”
Late last June, the Cubs went to Busch Stadium and were swept by the Cardinals. Their deficit in the division swelled to 11.5 games. Maddon wondered whether his young team could match its rival’s experience. The Cardinals have a championship pedigree on their roster, led by Adam Wainwright, Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina and a veteran core.
For years, the Cardinals have served as the standard in the National League. The Cubs were struggling and then still finding themselves. Everything changed quickly.
October brought the latest, greatest chapter of the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry, the first ever playoff series between the two teams, with Chicago getting the albatross off its back with an NLDS victory over St. Louis.
“You got to teach yourself a lesson sometimes,” Maddon said. “For so many years, it had been the other way around. At some point, you have to be able to do those things to be able that you can, and we did.”
The Cubs are now the best team in baseball, entering Tuesday with a record of 47-21. Meanwhile, the Cardinals snapped their five-game losing streak to reach 36-33.
For all the Cardinals’ experience, they simply haven’t come close to catching the Cubs and their plethora of young talent this season. Jason Heyward looks to be right in choosing the Cubs’ youth over the Cardinals’ $16 million or so more on the table.READ MORE: AAA Provides Best And Worst Times For Post-Holiday Travel
From the start, the NL Central race has been a runaway. Matheny still isn’t looking at those standings.
“One game, tonight — that’s how we view it,” Matheny said Monday. “Don’t look any further past that opportunity for us. We’re competing against ourselves, because we haven’t shown for a long period of time what kind of team we can be. Once we take care of that, the results will be there.”
Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer responded diplomatically to the standings: “We expect a really good race, there’s no doubt.”
It seems that the tide has turned in this rivalry, with the Cubs becoming a complete force and the Cardinals trailing well behind.
Since the turn of the century, the Cardinals have reached the postseason 12 times, with two World Series championships to show for it. They’ve been a model of consistent success. This season has been different.
“I still view them the same way,” Cubs shortstop Addison Russell said. “Everybody has their bad days and good days. They play great baseball. Sometimes, it’s not in the cards.”
The Cardinals are fifth in baseball for positional WAR at 12.4, but the Cubs are far ahead in first place at 18.1. St. Louis starters are sixth in FIP at 3.80. Meanwhile, their rivals are making a case for the best starting rotation in the league, second in FIP with a 3.05.
The Cardinals could get on a run of their own, but the Cubs are on pace to win well over 100 games and boast a preposterous run differential of plus-170. The Cubs have hardly slowed down since Opening Day. If the Cardinals do get hot, they still have an uphill battle to catch the Cubs.
“It’s getting the cart in front of the horse,” Matheny said. “Right now, the focus needs to be on us playing really good baseball. That stuff just takes care of itself.”
No longer the lovable losers, the Cubs are pacing the NL Central and the rest of baseball. What’s scary for 29 other teams is how young the Cubs are — Russell is 22, Kris Bryant is 24, Anthony Rizzo is 26 and so on. Rookies Albert Almora Jr. and Willson Contreras joined the Cubs in reserve roles as just the latest top prospects to debut.
Years of acquiring young talent paid off for the Cubs in creating a thriving organization. There are still more talented prospects coming through the pipeline, too.
Catching the Cubs in 2016 and beyond will be a daunting task for the Cardinals. This entire organization is moving forward with great momentum into quite the bright future.
The Cubs dethroned their archrivals and don’t plan on being unseated.MORE NEWS: Chicago Weather: Sunny, Breezy With Seasonable Temps