By Tony Hooker
After writing somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 columns, sometimes topic ideas escape me. This is one of those times, so if you have any ideas about what I should focus on, let me know. This week, I’m going with a couple of topics that I write about on occasion.
On the NL Central
The two teams that are nearest and dearest to most of us here in town, the Cubs and Cardinals, are locked in a battle for first place with 40 games left in the regular season, which is a cool thing that I predicted in this very space back in April or May. Yay me for being such a fearless prognosticator, right? Not exactly, as neither team has turned out to be the juggernaut that I envisioned. The Cubs are the one of the most Jekyll and Hyde teams that I can remember. These guys play like the ’27 Yankees or ’75 Reds at home and play like the Camargo Cubs (no offense to Randy Mayhall, Brent Shunk and all the other standout Camargoians from days of yore) on the road. The baby bears are 41-19 at home and 23-37 on the road. The hitting splits have looked similar. In fact, they’ve clubbed more homers on the road than in the friendly confines. Where the difference is stark is on the mound. The Cubs ERA is a respectable 3.35 at home while ballooning to a pedestrian 4.90 on the road. Weird. What this tells me is that Chicago would be a legit favorite to play in the world series, IF they could play all their games at 1060 W Addison. Unfortunately for the legions of Cubs fans (both diehard and bandwagon jumpers) their inconsistent play will almost certainly force them to play the majority of their post-season games on the road. And then there are my beloved Cardinals. First place this late in the season is cool, until you dive a little deeper and realize that we’ve feasted on the worst teams in both leagues to get to this point. We’re 0 for our last 8 against teams with a record above .500 since the all-star break. Unless Matt Carpenter or Paul Goldschmidt or preferably both go off on some sort of unlikely otherworldly tear, the Birds on the Bats don’t have the offensive firepower or starting pitching to be a contender, and the front office should be held accountable. There were pieces to be acquired, but they lacked the fortitude to make a move when the chips were down. Apparently, the thought of finishing in third in 2021 or 2022 was more important than possibly winning now. I mentally checked out on the beloved when July 31 came and went without a sound, and I fully expect us to fade down the stretch as our starting pitching wears out what’s been a stellar bullpen. So, sadly, I see the Cubs winning the division but not making it out of the divisional series against the Braves. The Cardinals will be lucky to make the wild card game, where they will probably have to beat the Washington Nationals and either Stephen Strasburg or a refreshed Max Scherzer. Good luck and have a nice winter, boys.
I heard a rumor that because of the public comments of a particular JFL fan base via social media, the team in question will have to work hard to find officials willing to cover their games. The officiating shortage is real, kids, and to loudly and publicly disparage their efforts can have very real consequences. I’ve also heard of parents who should know better demanding that their little johnnie or jenny be played at a certain position on the field. Not cool. Not cool at all. What is cool is that the fall sports schedule is getting fired up for real, and as always, I can’t wait to see how everything shakes out.