SportsMondayTuesday: House Of Cards

St. Louis may be so boring that even the Bowling Hall of Fame moved away a decade ago, but Busch Stadium will be a cauldron of baseball passion this week. I cannot imagine a better way to enjoy the game, either in person or on the telly (or streaming, or satellite radio, or . . . there must be some other technology I'm missing, sorry) than to watch this series.

The Cubs and Cardinals have been rivals for a long time, but a rivalry doesn't really mean anything when one of the teams sucks and sucks and sucks. That would describe the Cubs of the '50s, '60s and '70s and really for most of the '80s and '90s and at least the first halves of the '00s and teens.

Then the Cubs stunk on purpose for three years to build themselves up and finally, over the past five years, the rivalry has achieved consistent intensity. And here we find ourselves 95 games into the 2019 season and, as of Monday, the teams had the same record atop the NL Central. The first game begins Tuesday night at 7:10.

During this decade, as they had for the previous 90 years or so (they won their first World Series in 1926), the Cardinals have just focused on putting the best possible team on the field year after year. And through the years that has translated into 19 trips to the World Series and 11 championships, second only to the Yankees in the annals of baseball.

Busch is a glorious place to watch a game - and not because of a bunch of bells and whistles and gimmicks inside the park or stunning views of a bridge or bay outside. It is because more than 40,000 fans will be completely focused on the game from just about the first pitch on.

Oh, and many of those fans will be backing the Cubs. They will be out in force this week in St. Louis. Not quite in the numbers that again flooded Miller Park in Milwaukee last weekend, but still a force with which to be reckoned.

The persistent lie about Cubs fans - that they are only interested in hanging out at Wrigley Field, drinking beer and creating an atmosphere most resembling a frat party - is obliterated at games in Milwaukee and St. Louis. That is when folks wearing Cubbie Blue show up in huge numbers and focus on the game - like the fans of many other successful teams.

Of course, there are plenty of people who buy tickets to Wrigley because they perceive it as the best party in town. And when the team is consistently competitive, that makes it even better.

But it won't last forever, especially if Theo and the boys can't figure out why their drafts have sucked so badly during their entire tenure. Baseball America just ranked the Cubs' farm system 29th out of 30 teams in major league baseball, and while that has something to do with trading away a handful of prospects to add key veterans during the past four years, it mostly has to do with the fact that the Cubs can't draft and develop a prospect to save their lives.

All of the premier prospects traded away except one, pitcher Dylan Cease, were international free agents signed by the team, not guys selected in the annual baseball draft. The latest promising Cubs call-up, Robel Garcia, was drafted by . . . the Indians, before beginning his amazing jouney to the bigs that was capped off by the North Siders signing him as a free agent off the . . . Italian national team.

No one else has ever made the bigs that way, just to make sure we are all on the same page. So major kudos to the Cubs' scout (Gabe Zappin) who got that evaluation right. Otherwise, the Cubs system is close to barren.

Which is a big reason why fans probably shouldn't hold their breath for a blockbuster trade before the trade deadline arrives Wednesday at 3 p.m. Then again, Theo and the guys have pulled good players out of a hat before for virtually nothing before (see Daniel Murphy and especially Cole Hamels last year).

Bring on Cubs-Cardinals!


Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.

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