The 2018 season is down to the final week and a half of games and the St. Louis Cardinals are still in the thick of the playoff chase. While all fans are hopeful of playoff chases every year, this year may carry more weight for the Cardinals for years to come. Let's take a look at why this year should be especially exciting for Cardinals fans.
The potential Central Division matchups with the Brewers and Cubs
There's nothing quite like the feeling of ousting a rival from the playoffs. Don't believe me? Ask Cubs fans. The sting of being ousted by the Cubs in 2015 still hurts Cardinals fans. Think the Brewers have forgotten about 2011? Think again.
The prospect of facing the two biggest rivals in the NL Central and sending them packing has me on edge with excitement. The Cubs and Brewers both have flaws that the Cardinals can exploit. The Cardinals have handled these two NL Central foes quite well this year.
The Cardinals are an even 8-8 against the Brewers this year going into the final week. Against the Cubs they are 9-7 so far. My point here is that St. Louis has beaten these teams this year and are more than capable of doing it in the postseason.
Cardinal fans are sick and tired of the national rhetoric that says the Cubs and Brewers are better than their team. Now is the time to put up or shut up. What better opportunity to reassert NL Central dominance than to turn the Cubs and Brewers into fertilizer for the Busch Stadium lawn during the playoffs?
Can You Say Manny Machado?
Okay, so the Cardinals basically let the Dodgers walk all over them the last time they were in town. Playoff baseball in St. Louis is different though. The way things line up now, the Cardinals and Dodgers could meet up in the NLCS. Can you imagine Manny Machado getting a taste of playoff baseball at Busch?
This offseason sets off a perfect storm for free agency as Machado and Bryce Harper are both set to hit the open market. Everyone wants to play for a contender. A player of Machado's caliber does not come around that often. He's exactly the kind of player that St. Louis has been missing since Albert Pujols left for LA, and he's worth every penny he's going to get.
Now is a perfect time to give Machado a real taste of St. Louis Cardinals baseball in October. All he's known have been lackluster teams in Baltimore who couldn't even spell October. He's going to want to play for a contender. The Cardinals need him to want to play in St. Louis.
Cardinals brass needs to be prepared to back the truck up and say, "What do you want Manny? Name your price and we will pay it. Money talks, but so does playoff baseball. This team can lay the groundwork for the courtship of Machado with a strong showing this postseason.
Invaluable Experience for the Youngsters
They say that experience is the mother of all teachers. I'm not exactly sure who "they" are, but they're right. The Cardinals are headlined by some exciting young talent who play one heck of a brand of baseball. Guys like Harrison Bader, Jack Flaherty, Jordan Hicks and Co. are fun to watch. They're still young though and have a lot to learn. Now is the time to learn it.
Bader is already one of the best defensive center fielders in the game. His bat needs some work, but it's more than serviceable. Flaherty is already displaying dominance in the majors at an age where most guys are still getting acclimated to AAA ball. Hicks is the most exciting thing to come out of the bullpen since Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn.
These guys have already been through the grind of the season. Can you imagine them with real October playoff experience? To quote Wild Thing Vaughn, "WINNING!" It's a perfect recipe for success.
The St. Louis Cardinals are one of the most storied franchises in baseball. There may not be a better springboard to winning more World Series titles in the future than a strong showing in the playoffs now.
They don't have to win it all this year. In fact I'm pretty confident they won't. But they have a chance to put division rivals on their heels, court the next great player in franchise history, and give their up and comers invaluable battle testing for the years to come all in one fell swoop. Come on Redbirds! Make it happen!