For the third time in the last week, the Cubs got to watch another team clinch a postseason spot, this time the Cardinals celebrating their first N.L. Central title since 2009 with a lopsided 7-0 win over the visitors from Chicago.
But that's not what I want to talk about in this recap.
I'm very likely not going to be able to bash Dale Sveum much longer; his fate will be announced Monday and I think most of us assume he's going to be dismissed. (Could be wrong, of course, but that's the way I read it.)
So let me get in one last shot. What on Earth was Sveum thinking when he announced before the game that Travis Wood would throw just one inning, so that he could reach the 200-inning milestone for the season, and then be removed?
Quoting the words of Theo Epstein (stated in a different context), that's "borderline disrespectful". The Cardinals are still in a playoff race -- they began the day two games ahead of the Pirates with three to go -- and you've got your best starter scheduled to face him, and you're going to play this like an exhibition game?
The fact that Wood knew he was going to be removed after one inning had to affect his preparation and focus. That's easy to say now after he gave up four hits, two walks and three earned runs, but I think you could have predicted that beforehand, too. It was Wood's worst outing of the year, and instead of having the 200-inning benchmark be something to celebrate, it ended his season on a sour note.
The season is ending! Wood could have had a nice start against a playoff-bound team and really finished off his fine season on an up note. Instead, he's got all winter to think about how his 2013 was completed like it was a spring-training outing.
I do not understand the reasoning nor the logic. I'm glad, if it happens, that the current field management team is being replaced, because I don't care for this kind of thinking, not at all. If this game had been against, say, the Brewers, or the Marlins -- that's another story. But had the Cardinals lost the game, they still would not have clinched the division title and might still be at risk of having to play a tiebreaker. That's worth putting forth your best effort against them, right?
After Wood's bad inning, the game was essentially over, as the Cubs managed just seven singles and a double off Lance Lynn, who did throw six innings even though he's now over the 200-inning mark and will have more games to throw in the postseason, and four Cardinals relievers. Now that the Cardinals have clinched, they're likely to give several of their regulars a break for Saturday's game; that would be the time where the Cubs could sprinkle in relievers in place of Saturday's scheduled starter, Edwin Jackson, who has had a horrific season.
But not when a playoff berth is still at stake. The Cardinals still have a shot at the league's best record (they're tied with the Braves with two games to go), which would give them home field advantage in the first two rounds of the playoffs, so they still have something to play for.
Speaking of Saturday's game, if you want to watch it, you'll have to plant yourself in front of your TV (or wherever you follow games) three hours earlier than the time noted on original schedules. During Friday's game, the Cardinals announced that game time was being moved up to 3:15 p.m. CT due to the threat of evening thunderstorms in the area; both teams agreed to the change to avoid rain delays or having to play a doubleheader Sunday. And check this out:
All fans who purchased a ticket for Saturday's game will be mailed a voucher for a complimentary ticket for a Cardinals game in 2014, regardless if they use their ticket for Saturday. Gates will open at 1:15 p.m. "We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause our fans, but believe this is the best alternative given what we know now," Cardinals president Bill DeWitt III said. "We hope that by making this announcement [Friday night] that we give our fans enough notice to adjust their schedules to attend this important game."
Imagine that. A team, realizing its ticket holders might be inconvenienced, giving them something free even if they go to today's game -- and not only that, this from a playoff-bound team that is going to wind up with more than 3.3 million tickets sold (and probably close to that in actual butts in the seats). The Cardinals will end up second only to the Dodgers in overall attendance for this season -- and yet, they have no problem giving out close to 45,000 free ticket vouchers to their fans (Friday night's game drew 44,030).
A lesson can be learned here, I think. Today's game preview will post at 1 p.m. CT.