Is St. Louis Coming to Town the Boost the Cubs need?

By Tony Andracki

The Chicago Cubs need a boost of some kind. At 15-18, the so-called “Loveable Losers” are in that sort of purgatory between not being good enough to truly challenge for first place and not being bad enough that anybody is giving up on them.

But the St. Louis Cardinals coming to town may just be that boost they need. Maybe, just maybe.

Why? Well for one, the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry is one of the best in the Major Leagues. I’m biased, so I won’t come right out and say it is the best. Red Sox-Yankees get all the headlines and considering those two teams have been in every postseason race in the past decade, it’s not hard to see why.

St. Louis Cardinals Ryan Theriot throws to first base to get Florida Marlins Mike Stanton in the second inning at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on May 5, 2011. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

But Cubs-Cardinals is a true class rivalry. Both teams always give each other their best games, regardless of standings, records, venue, coaches, players.

But then again, those things do help out. Especially the players.

Ryan Theriot was a huge fan favorite as he came up through the Cubs’ system. He was the home-grown hustle boy. The undersized, maximum effort guy everybody loved to watch and at first, the player all St. Louis supporters loved to hate.

Not anymore.

Theriot was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the trading deadline last season, along with Ted Lilly. Blake DeWitt came back in the deal and was supposed to be the second baseman of the future here in Chicago. But, even though he hasn’t panned out that way, it’s not hard to see why the Cubs pulled the trigger on the deal.

Theriot may have been a fan favorite, but at 30, he was no longer the future of the franchise. Starlin Castro came up faster through the ranks than anybody expected and took over for Theriot at shortstop. With DeWitt coming back in the deal and then Darwin Barney and Jeff Baker already on the roster, it made sense for Chicago in every way.

And that’s not even discussing Theriot’s numbers. He’s not a superstar, even if the fans made him out to be that way. The Riot had just one season with an OBP above .345 and never had a slugging percentage above .370. For a guy who hit near the top of the lineup almost primarily, he never scored more than 85 runs. Part of that was because his steal percentage was only around 66 percent from ’08-10. Getting caught 13 times sucks when you’re only stealing 22 bags.

But his numbers shouldn’t be the only reason why Cubs fans have a bone to pick with Theriot. After he was dealt to St. Louis for Blake Hawksworth in the offseason, Theriot said he was “finally on the right side of the [Cubs-Cardinals] rivalry.”

Are you kidding me? After the Cubs gave him a career?? That’s ridiculous. But, that’s not the issue at play here. The Cubs responded as expected–with anger. Koyie Hill said Theriot should expect to be tasting the dirt a lot.

Let’s see how that works out. If nothing else, maybe the Cubs will actually show some fire here. Get riled up, have some passion.

Between Theriot and the rivalry, that shouldn’t be hard to do. And if this fire is ignited, maybe it will stick. Maybe the Cubs will be able to put something together here and make a legitimate run at the playoffs. They do have the talent. It is possible.

Plus, as an added boost, Chicago is four games out of first, the spot St. Louis holds. If the Cubs sweep, they’ll be just one single game out. After the crappy start to the year, a minor three-game win streak here at home while Albert Pujols is scuffling a bit and Adam Wainwright is guaranteed not to pitch doesn’t seem as out of reach as in years past.

But then again, maybe I’m just being too optimistic.

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