One of the great truisms of professional sports is the importance for a team to have control over it’s own destiny. In the strictest interpretation, on opening day or kickoff weekend or first puck drop, every team competing controls their own fate that season. We know this isn’t fully true – some teams simply don’t have the quality of personnel needed to will their way to anything. But, for the most part, if you play well enough, you can chart your own course and sail smoothly into the playoffs.
The Cardinals, Pirates, and Reds all project to win 90+ games this season. All have played well enough to earn a month long victory lap to close out. But instead of resting achy veterans for the postseason and giving extended looks to September call-ups, the teams will fight tooth and nail for the division title and the privilege of escaping the Wild Card coin flip game. The Cardinals are currently navigating a 13 game onslaught of intra-division madness, where each contest figures to be fought for like it’s the last. The collective mood of us fans will surely rise and fall with each pitch.
It’s logical to think the balance of the season hinges on this stretch against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. It very well might. When we look back, we might point to late August as the turning point, for better or worse. Or the Cardinals could come out on the other end with little more clarity of their future than they currently have. And that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world – the team closes out the season with 19 games against sub-.500 teams.
Channeling my inner Hawk Harrelson: This is what teams play for. You can only ask to have control of your own fate. As baseball fans, we can’t ask for much more. As much as we’d like the team to have a 9 game lead, the exhilaration of a honest-to-goodness pennant chase can’t be beat. And if it doesn’t shake out exactly how we want, we can hang our hats on a chance at the play-in game. This is fun.