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They must continue to fall, free and hard, the way Dudley Moore once fell for Bo Derek, the way Wile E. Coyote so often fell for the hard-rock bottom of the canyon. I've got nothing against the Cardinals, and I'm not speaking on behalf of Astros fans. I'm speaking on behalf of baseball. I'm saying that outside of the Show Me State, and maybe even inside the Show Me State, it's in everyone's best interest that they completely blow this thing. Why? Eight reasons, in honor of the long-lost 8½ game lead they held over Houston entering play on Sept. 20 First of all, it's just remarkably good television. Not since Farrah was on Letterman, maybe not since Richard Nixon held press conferences in the spring and summer of 1974, have we seen such high-quality train-wreck TV. You can't look away. You wince. You giggle nervously. You shake your head. But you can't look away. How far will it go? How bad can it get? Like an ancient Greek audience steeped in catharsis, like a theater full of howling wolves at a showing of "Jackass Number Two," you're wondering at the limits of human experience, marveling at the outer reaches of human emotion. They are taking you somewhere you've never been, sacrificing themselves for your edification and entertainment. A-1 television, my friend. And better each and every losing night.
|Tony La Russa's clearly not getting much sleep these days.|
Fourth, the Brad Lidge face. I'm talking about that flat, flabbergasted look of horror he flashed when Scott Podsednik took him deep in last year's Series. Before that we had the cool, dominating, filth-throwing Brad Lidge face. Waiting to see which face appears in his first big postseason save opportunity this year, wondering whether the faces might do some sort of Sybil shuffle, alternating between pitches, at-bats and games, is the sort of thing that'll make the playoffs great.
|There's something magical about that helmet muck.|
Sixth, the prospect of Clemens vs. Piazza in another playoff stare-down. Seventh, they're just not a great team. We've granted them the NL Central crown since May because we're awestruck by Albert, and because the Astros got out of the blocks the way Jabba the Hut gets up out of a papasan chair. But take another look. This team is not going to win the World Series. This team is going to rely on Jason Marquis and So Taguchi. Aaron Miles is going to get serious time for this team. And unless they wise up and ask Adam Wainwright to close, this team will struggle mightily to hold even the most comfortable of late-inning leads. Contrast that to Houston, where Roger Clemens and Roy Oswalt start twice in every seven-game series. And where young Luke Scott is looking like old Roy Hobbs. And where Lance Berkman continues to do a very, very credible Albert Pujols impression again this year. As a nonpartisan fan, which club looks more compelling? Which club looks more like one you'd actually want to see play in a postseason series? Careful, the questions get harder after this. Next, I ask you your name and the color of the sky. And eighth, and most importantly, they have the chance to be legendary. As a team that makes the playoffs and gets pounded (either in the LCS by the Mets, maybe, or in the Series by the Yankees) they're utterly forgettable; this time next year I will spot you the C, the A, the R, and the D, and ask you who won the NL Central division in 2006 and you will stare at me the way McMurtry stares at Chief just before the big fella brings the pillow down on him. But if they continue to sputter, and flail, and take the elevator all the way down to the parking garage, they're legendary.
|Even Albert the Great hasn't been able to lift the Cards out of this funk.|