We'll call it the Noah's Ark Team. It's gonna be great.
Religious implications aside — and, given the rather high level of belief among a large portion of the Cardinal players in general, I don't say that lightly — it's really the one and only story that makes sense for this team. The beasts of the world, coming from all over, to support the Redbirds as they try to win a championship for the animal kingdom.
What? You think I'm joking? Hell no. Cards beat the Phillies. Not sure what a Philly is, but it's not an animal. Maybe a cooked one, like a cheesesteak situation. But I don't think animals are still considered part of the flock once they've been grilled and smothered in onions.
Cards beat the Brewers, too. Brewer, not an animal. Brewer fans, maybe — they do seem to like Nyjer Morgan, after all. But a Brewer is not an animal.
Now the Cardinals go to take on the Texas Rangers. And I'm sure I don't need to tell you, but a Ranger isn't an animal, either. In fact, according to one well-placed source in the animal organization who spoke on condition of anonymity — he did say he was smarter than many of his brethren, and so wished to avoid drawing undue attention to himself — Rangers are often an animal's greatest foe. Chasing them away from pic-a-nic baskets is really only the tip of the iceberg.
So given that backdrop, it's no surprise that the Cards have gotten some of their most meaningful contributions down the stretch from members of the animal kingdom. In September they were buoyed in body and spirit by the support of Allen Craig's pet tortoise who took to the Twitterverse to provide insight and inspiration on a daily basis. Got his own T-shirt, too.
Then came the Rally Squirrel — or squirrels, I suppose, though I personally find it more believable that it was the work of a single squirrel who simply took a plane. The squirrel proved absolutely instrumental in the Redbirds sending the juggernaut Phillies to their grave. He didn't show back up in the Milwaukee series, but mostly because he didn't need to. By that time he had already enchanted a taxidermied member of his race with playoff mojo and left it in a Cherokee Street pawn-shop window for Octavio Dotel to happen upon. He did, however, take time to sign a sweet licensing deal on all those Rally Squirrel towels they handed out at Busch Stadium. Clever little bastard, that one.
This is the World Series, though. The Rangers are not concerned with debating Cheez Whiz versus provolone, or just how many High Lifes you have to down before Ryan Braun's clothing line starts to seem like a good idea. (The answer is fourteen, in case you were wondering.) The Rangers are here to steal our pic-a-nic baskets and ruin our October. Trusting in the leftover mojo from Torty and Herr Squirrel is a bad idea.
The Cardinals need a new animal.
We here at the RFT have the good fortune to be under the brilliant guidance of a truly great group of individuals. No, not the editors. Those guys, well, never mind. I'm talking about the legendary Council of Indie Journalism. Oh yes, they do exist. Working from the shadows for decades, this group of men and women has crafted the very essence of alternative journalism into the behemoth it is today, responsible for Dan Savage's career, depressing comic strips and setting the minimum number of Pavement references in any given record review (seven). Truly, they are as gods who have built this world.
I was summoned to the secret council chamber late Sunday night and given a command: I was to find the next mascot for the Redbirds. You see, the council is allied with the grand animal leadership, and so have decreed the Cardinals must defeat the evil Rangers. (Plus, I mean, let's face it: This is a council of alternative-journalism types. Probably not huge fans of Texas stuff just in general.) It was a daunting task presented to me, but I resolved to undertake it with all my heart and soul. I declared before the council, trembling all the while, that I would do my level best to find the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals a mascot to bring them four more victories.
I began by narrowing down the candidates. I drove the roads, looking for likely animals. Local fauna would be best, I thought. I did think of just combining the turtle and the squirrel, but it turns out Pokémon beat me to the punch by, like, two decades. Stupid Japanese, taking all the good ideas.
There was a skunk flattened on the center line, and I briefly considered him. Probably not too talkative, though, and not all that lively. Road kill is not exactly the image I want to project, either. But what about a live skunk?
There are some good points for skunks, you know. Gorgeous animals, really. Surprisingly affectionate if domesticated. But there's the smell, which may not play well in a locker room, and people just don't seem to like skunks all that much. Except Pepé Le Pew, which seems a little odd to me. Sure, he was charming, but he was also French, and we Americans do not generally take kindly to those cheese-eating surrender monkeys. Plus, he was at least a stalker, and probably a rapist. The cat never specifically said no, being unable to talk, but she was clearly running away. Bouncing after her with comic music playing in the background doesn't really change the end result, which is a mute feline cornered in a dark alley somewhere by a flouncy, stinky French rape skunk. You know what? Skunks are out. When that's the best representative your race can field, you don't deserve to be the face of a World Series team.
Ooh, armadillo crushed on the shoulder. Recent invaders to our state, they are kind of funny animals. Maybe there's something there. Ah, but armadillos have kind of a Texas flavor to them in the public eye. I suppose we could do a turncoat angle, but I just don't trust 'em. Any animal wearing that much armor is clearly looking for trouble. Piss off, armadillos.
Thought about possums, but in extremis they fall over and pretend to be dead. Maybe a Jake Westbrook mascot, but not for the whole team. Saw a deer heading across a field and stopped to tell it about my mission, but it just talked my ear off about how much he hated the designated hitter and saying, "Dude, seriously, is my rack not looking awesome this morning? You have any idea how many does I'ma pull with this shit?" It was a little creepy. Also, he was totally down with Ryan Braun's clothing line. No go.
After my aborted encounter with the buck, I headed off into the woods for inspiration. Met an owl, and he seemed wise. Said the key to a Cardinal victory might just be avoiding having to pitch to Nelson Cruz with the game on the line. I was encouraged, but after that he just wanted to talk about Tootsie Pops. Not helpful. Saw an actual Cardinal and thought maybe we just go with Fredbird, but he's kind of a lame mascot already. Plus, I'm pretty sure the dudes in those suits are sporting erections, like, way more often than they let on, and I'm a little uncomfortable with that.
I came across a beaver and took a long hard look at him. Kinda cute, really. Funny tail adds to the charm. Industrious. Midwesterners love high-effort types. David Eckstein equals beaver of the baseball world. Sans the dam-building prowess, of course.
So maybe this beaver was the answer to my long search. I walked over, thinking I might offer him the job, and he stopped his little beaver-sized crane and stared over at me.
"Um, hello, M-Mr. Beaver," I began. "I'm here on behalf of the Riverfront Times and a mysterious group of elder journalists to offer you a job."
"Yeah? Well, buddy, I got a job," he replied, gesturing to his construction equipment. "It may not be some fancy-pants writin' job, but it puts food on the table. Which I gnawed myself, thank you very much."
Surprised at facing such a prickly animal outside the porcupine world, I was somewhat taken aback. "Well," I tried again, determined not to be put off by the beaver's brusque attitude, "this may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Especially since you guys only live, like, five years anyway, right?" That earned me a dark look, but I forged on. "How would you like to be the Cardinals' mojo mascot for the World Series?"
He spat, stretched his back and spat again. I thought perhaps no answer was forthcoming, but then he spoke.
"Cardinals? Huh. You do realize the Texas Rangers' offense put up significantly stronger numbers than the Cards, right? The Rangers' team OPS was a full 34 points higher than the Cardinals' number. In fact, the Rangers posted a team OPS of .800, one of only two teams on the season to have an .800 or better, along with the Yankees. Their team wOBA was second in all of baseball as well, behind only the Red Sox, and sixteen points higher than the Cardinals."
Ah, crap, I thought. I knew beavers were notorious statheads, but had forgotten. I had to find a way out of this situation. "Well, that's true," I started, "but the difference is largely due to the DH and park factors, so..."
"Combine the Rangers' offensive firepower," he said, cutting straight through my argument with the polished ease of a veteran debater, "with the Cardinals' horrific struggles in the starting rotation, and this series could get ugly."
"Well, yeah, the starters have had a rough time, but the bullpen has been on lockdown. They need to get the starters going deeper, no doubt, but the relievers have stepped up and held the opposition night after night."
Again he glared at me. "Sure, the 'pen has been good, but how long is that going to last? And in case you didn't notice, the Rangers have a pretty solid bullpen of their own. The closers are probably a wash, but I'm not sure the Cards have a second reliever as good as the Rangers' Alexi Ogando. The Cardinal relief corps may be deeper overall, but Texas has a better one-two punch."
"Oh," I answered, realizing he was right again. "Well, the Cards have several hitters who mash left-handed pitching, guys like David Freese and Albert Pujols, and the Rangers' rotation is full of lefties. That could very well swing the needle back our way."
"Really? You're going to bank on a St. Louis Cardinal team bashing left-handed pitching? That's a terrible argument." I grimaced, not having much of an answer. He turned back to his crane. "Listen, bub, it was nice of you to stop by, but I gots to get this dam finished up tonight. Take 'er easy."
"Wait," I tried, wanting to know why he was so down on the Cards' chances. "Do you really think the Rangers are that much better?"
He stopped for a moment and considered. He blew a breath out between his teeth. "You know, I was born and bred in this here river, and I've followed this team my whole life. The Rangers are a better team. Rotation is stronger, the lineup is deeper, the bullpens are a wash. Tough to really see it any other way."
I needed to know what this brilliant beaver thought, so I asked. "So, what's your prediction? Rangers in five? Six?"
He thought it over a moment more, then grinned a beavery grin at me. "Nah, Cards in six. The Rangers are better, but this team's just too much fun right now."
I nodded, feeling a grin of my own rising. He waved to me as I turned away. Halfway back to my car I heard his crane fire up as he continued working on his dam. "You know," I thought to myself, "maybe he really is the right critter for the job after all." He clearly sees the flaws with this team, acknowledges the Rangers are better on paper, and he still thinks it'll probably go the Redbirds' way. Just because. Too much mojo, you might say. The head bet would be Texas, but a mascot should really be about heart, right?
So I present to you, dear readers, my nomination for the Cards' World Series mascot: Larry the Sabermetric Beaver. He knows this team shouldn't be here, but also understands sometimes you just can't explain the magic of October. I've presented my findings to the council, and they'll rule on it soon. In the meantime, though, I'm starting my own grassroots campaign for Larry. I don't have any towels or T-shirts made up yet, but I do have the support of a very realistic animal who just might be willing to use his magical dam-building skills to help shore up a rotation and bring home a win. So who's with me?
Oh, and I have 10,000 Larry the Beaver shirts on order already, along with a sweet spot selling them on a really busy section of street up on Dr. Martin Luther King Drive by Sarah Street. I think this is going to be the best World Series week ever.