(BaseballStL) -- Over the last half decade, the Cardinals have sparred to the end with virtually a different team each season. It was the Brewers in 2014, the Pirates the year before that, the Reds before that and the Brewers before that.
It’s been quite a while since the Cubs were relevant in the National League Central. A long while.
But that’s about to change. If Joe Maddon becomes their manager, which many expect to happen, that would make the Chicago Cubs the sexy pick to surprise and compete for a playoff spot in 2015. They have the young hitters. They have the money to go sign pitching – which seems inevitable.
Now they could add one of the best managers in the game.
Nothing against Rick Renteria, who’s done a wonderful job leading a young and inexperienced group, but Maddon would bring instant credibility and name recognition to a city that’s starved for a winner. Maddon may even be intrigued by the challenge of giving the Cubs their first World Series title in 106 years.
He’d be a legend. A statue would reside outside Wrigley for centuries if he could accomplish that.
That’s why it seems inevitable the former Rays manager, who just opted out of his deal with Tampa Bay and is now a free agent, will ultimately manage the Cubs. Why wouldn’t he go there? They have the young talent that’s ready to compete. They have the deep pockets to pay him. That offer the challenge of giving a city something it hasn’t had in more than a century.
Unless he’s looking for a front office type job that Tony La Russa got with the Diamondbacks this appears to be a shoe-in.
Now the Cardinals may have to duke it out with a solid Brewers club, which despite the free fall still has a lot of talent. The Pirates possess as much young talent and good prospect pipeline as anyone in the league. Even the Reds, despite failing to meet expectations for the second straight year, have a lot going for them with Joey Votto and Jay Bruce leading the way.
A team or two always surprise and finish at the bottom of the standings every year. It has to happen. Not everyone can finish first or second. As much as these teams play each other for six months someone has to lose.
But with all five teams in the division having pretty stable big league rosters and some looking quite good in the future due to minor league systems, winning those games is going to become harder and harder over the next few years.
For a while the Cubs were the easy ones to look past. No more.
They’re about to make a giant leap in the standings and be a major pest to Cardinals fans.