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Is it Over?

by Brian F. Logush

As the 2006 season was coming to a close, the St. Louis Cardinals were limping into the playoffs. Losing records in the months of August and September led to the team winning the division by a margin of one and a half games. Had the team been in any other division in the league, there would have been no postseason. Going 83-78 hardly merits a Wild Card spot, let alone a division title.

I remember telling friends before the Padres series that there was no shot the team would win. I was firm in my belief that they would continue their mediocre play and get bounced in five, with them winning two just to build up hope before the roof came crashing in around them. Obviously, I was wrong. And I felt guilty that I had given up on the team I loved. The World Series title was bittersweet. I had seen a World Series win, but I was completely wrong. And my friends being who they are, never let me forget. I still get texts from one in particular.

Where does that leave me for the 2010 Cardinals? Should I have faith that this team, like the 2006 squad, will band together and make a tremendous surge to the top of the Central? Or should I put my Cardinal red in the basement, and break out my Mizzou black and gold, my Blues gear, and my Colts paraphernalia?

As the House of Pain song goes... "Pack it up, pack it in."

It's over. Done.

The past few weeks has brought some of the most disheartened, uninspired play that I have ever seen. I feel like a Pirate fan, and Islander fan, and a Fighting Irish fan rolled into one, miserable ball. It's sad, tragic, depressing, whatever you want to call it.

After Brandon Phillips called the team a bunch of little bitches, I thought that was the spark they needed to re-evaluate themselves. All right, our manhood has been called into play. Let's stop effing around and put these punks back into place. We're ten time World Champs, they live in Ohio. And for a few days it worked. They swept the Reds, reclaimed first place, and appeared to be peaking right when teams are supposed to go into that extra gear. And what happened?

Lost series to the Cubs. Swept by Brewers. Take 2 of 3 from San Francisco. Lose series to the Pirates of all teams. Lose 3 of 4 to the freaking Nationals? Seriously? That tells me everything I need to know about this club. The fight is gone. Phillips' comment was the ultimate billboard material. What should have been a rallying cry for dominance has turned into a dormitory notice on the community bulletin board. Saddening. No, that's too gentle. Sickening. Absolutely sickening.

So who is at fault? There are so many qualified candidates, it's like picking the most ridiculous, asinine, contrived Michael Bay film. Every answer could be correct. Blame Mozeliak for trading Ryan Ludwick when the team needed help scoring. Blame Brendan Ryan for being a modern day Samson, for with no 70's porn 'stache, he has fallen. Blame Felipe Lopez for, well anything really.

But the winner of the Blame Game is ultimately Tony LaRussa. As someone who has wanted to keep him as manager, it's a little surreal to say I hope he leaves. But it's time.

I respect him for being loyal to veterans, and who can blame him? When you reach the postseason, you want a healthy ratio of experience to rookies. Guys like Winn, Lopez, Feliz, and Westbrook compliment that idea. The Jays, Rasmuses and Garcias of the team could be overwhelmed. We saw it with Rick Ankiel, although that was partly due to Matheny's absence. The 2006 team needed Preston Wilson to play a role, and he did. Sometimes it works.

But some of this is inexcusable. What has Felipe Lopez done in the past few months to inspire any faith or confidence? Aside from the grand slam against the Mets and the solo shot against the Cubs, I can't recall a single time where I thought, "Boy, I'm sure glad he's in the lineup." While the amount of injuries suffered have attributed to his playing time, it is telling that he gets so much playing time and delivers so few results. That's what matters.

Tony has been the manager for almost fifteen seasons now. In the modern sports world, that's a hell of an achievement. Like Pope St. Peter's reign (34 years, for those of you who don't know your papal trivia), it's impressive. But what he has done this year is far from impressive. By trotting out those veterans, he is installing nothing but doubt in the fan base. What should be a Cy Young year for Wainwright is being taken away. More of this, and Albert might take a long look at his looming free agency and decide he wants to be elsewhere.

It hasn't been a good sports year for me. Mizzou lost to Navy. Then the Colts fell to the Saints. Duke wins, Shawn Michaels retires, Arsenal can't gather enough to top the EPL, Blues miss out and the Hawks win, Spain beat my pre-tournament selection Holland, now the Cardinals implosion.

I've always liked LaRussa. I even got his autograph in 1996 at a Moody Blues concert in Riverport. Not the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater. No such place exists. It's Riverport. Always was, always is, always will be. He was kind, shook my hand, and said he hoped I'd enjoy the concert (I did).

Maybe the reason I wanted him to be manager for all these years is because he was the first coach in St. Louis I liked. I come from the Rich Brooks and Mike Keenan era. One of those gets booed and can't be shown on the Jumbotron when he comes in town. The other is like DB Cooper, no one knows where he is, and no one really cares.

But his time has come. LaRussa should not come back in 2011. Go back home, spend some quality time with your family, and wait a few years for the phone call from Cooperstown.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go break out my Peyton Manning jersey and Blues sweater. Good luck in the playoffs Cincy. I just hope Phillips gets injured and you get swept by the Padres. That would be my sports salvation of 2010.

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