Oh my goodness…we have life. For the first time all year, I honestly feel like we have a shot. A shot at what, I don’t know – .500 ball? Maybe. A playoff spot? It’s not impossible. A division title? No…No, that would be going too far…or…would it? A week ago – hell, for most of the season – I would have said, “Oh, come on. There is no way this team is going to win the division. Uh uh. No way. You’re crazy.”
It’s almost as if one swing of the bat jacked this team right out of their identity crisis and gave them a second chance. After last night’s game, 5 ½ games back doesn’t seem that bad. Let’s review the reasons to feel optimistic:
1. Rick Ankiel. Not just his bat, his presence on this team. The team feels good, they feel happy, and they feel encouraged. This is just the kind of affect a young, likeable talent can have on a down-trodden team.
2. Starting Pitching. Suddenly, we have some. Wells seems to have figured out his issues, same goes for Reyes, Wainwright is, well…he’s just solid and continues to look more and more like a younger, stronger version of Chris Carpenter in the making. And then comes Joel Piniero (we’ll affectionately call him JP for short). His first start…okay…the guy was a reliever trying to start for a depressing team in which almost anyone could claim the Ace role…that is, if any one of them could pitch. But his second start…whew…what a performance. Again, credit Ankiel. The attention being lavished on the young outfielder effectively eclipsed any spotlight trying desperately to focus on JP. He was able to relax, focus, and just pitch.
3. Young Bats. Rick Ankiel. Chris Duncan. Ryan Ludwick. Youth is exactly what this team needs down the stretch. These guys can provide the energy needed to power a team late in the season.
4. Veteran Leadership. If there is one thing we have in abundance, it’s experience. Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds, Eckstein, Izzy, and even young Yadi. These guys know what it takes to not only win, but win with a purpose. And every one of them is (or has been) All-Star caliber – Yadi will be…you watch…oh, yes…he will be.
5. Our Division Sucks. Let’s face it…it sucks. The Cubs are…well…they’re the Cubs. With Soriano out and Ramirez heading back to Chicago for examinations, the Cubs are a 3rd place team with decent pitching. Plus, they have Marquis…and we all know how Marquis tends to pitch late in the season. Nope…not lookin’ good for the Cubbies. The Brewers…well, they’re so young they don’t know what to do with first place. It reminds me of that movie where the kids paid the hooker for a flash of her breasts (Milk Money?). All they can do is stare in a stupor…it’s embarrassing, really…watching the Brewers flounder around like that. Just like those kids in the movie…they’re just happy to be there. In fact, the only real team I worry about…really…is the Astros. But, hey…they still gotta’ catch us, right?
Yep. After last night, things are lookin’ up. The only question now…What the hell are we gonna’ do with Juan Encarnacion??? If all else fails, he could always play Eeyore at Disney World…God knows he has the disposition for it…