We’re 30 days away from Opening Day, so here is the number 30 reason to get excited for another season of Cardinals baseball.
They say that in order to be the best, you have to beat the best. Well, if that is true, then the St. Louis Cardinals have as good a chance as anyone. Or at least as many chances as anyone.
The Cardinals face off against the reigning World Series champion Chicago Cubs 19 times this season. Some may view this as a negative because the Cardinals have a tougher schedule. But this is what makes baseball fun. The Cardinals get 19 cracks at beating the team on top of the world, and we get to enjoy watching it!
Yes, this is the perfect way to start the season. The media will be all over the story about the Cubs breaking their drought and looking at reigning NL-MVP Kris Bryant. But do you want to know something about Bryant that I assure you Cubs fans do not?
In 35 games and 135 plate appearances against the Cardinals, Bryant has hit just 2 home runs. He has also struck out more times against the Cardinals than he has against any other team.
Another interesting piece of that matchup is that Carlos Martinez’s most effective pitch in 2016 was his changeup. Bryant whiffed more often against changeups than against any other pitch. He also hit home runs less frequently against changeups than against any other pitch that he saw regularly.
Every single Bryant at-bat on Opening Day will be about National League MVP. The only thing that few will notice is how well this matchup actually favors Martinez. Martinez will almost certainly be starting Opening Day, and those whiffs will look great on national television. Cardinals fans might take extra delight in the Bryant hype before each at-bat, knowing that their ace has a good chance to deliver.
Of course, Opening Day is about more than just Martinez vs. Bryant. This will be the first chance to show that the Cardinals are a playoff caliber team. They get a chance to beat the best of 2016 in game one, and for a team looking to prove itself after last season’s rare September exit, the Cardinals have a chance to make a message early on.
The Dog Days Mid Season Excitement
I personally hate the term “dog days” when referring to baseball’s middle of the season. The phrase implies that the season drags on here. Because I am an insane baseball fan, I would be very happy with two games a day in June and July (although I don’t recommend that).
Alas, the term “dog days” is commonly used, and many fans do believe that the season drags on too long. That shouldn’t be the case this season.
Games against the Cubs are always big draws in attendance, but this year means even more. Every game against the Baby Bears comes with the chance to show that the Cardinals belong on top. What, you don’t think the Cubs will carry too much hype throughout the season?
You better believe that they will, and the Cardinals have a chance to ruin everyone else’s fun with it. When Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and the rest of the North Siders come to town, fans will have the chance to see their team take on everyone the media seems to adore.
There will be no dog days against the Cubs. The baseball will be too good, and there will be too much riding on those games in terms of storylines. The talk will remain centered around the Cubs all season long, and the Cardinals will have a lot of chances to show that they play pretty good baseball too. If nothing else, these matchups should give you enough reason to keep up with the Cardinals all season.
Late Season Drama
7 of the Cardinals last 16 games come against the defending World Series Champions in 2017. Sure, that’s a long way away, but doesn’t the idea of a division race coming down to head-to-head matchups in late September excite you?
The Cardinals have to prove that their missing the playoffs in 2016 was a fluke. What better way to do it than by solidifying their spot in the playoffs against the Cubs?
19 games against the Cubs may drive up their strength of schedule, but the Cardinals can turn these games into a big positive. A good record against the Cubs is a sure way to declare your standing as a top team in MLB. The ring, the hype, the MVP can all work in the Cardinals favor, if they win. That obviously won’t be easy, but it’s much better this way. Would you rather have just six chances to beat the Cubs, or 19 this year?
Beating the best feels great, even if you lose a couple along the way. Those tough wins are the ones fans want to enjoy much more than wins against the worst teams. Cardinals fans may still not be over the fact that the Cubs are World Series Champions, but that goes away in 30 days.
In 30 days, the Red Birds will have a lot of opportunities to knock off the defending champions, starting with Opening Day.
Photo credit: Dennis Wierzbicki – USA TODAY Sports