The Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals have been playing against each other since 1892, and this familiarity has bred one of the best rivalries in baseball, but in 2016 the rivalry will be even better.
Last October, following a four-game defeat to the New York Mets, the Chicago Cubs, and their General Manager Theo Epstein sat down to discuss the offseason wish list. A few weeks later, Epstein took the free agent market by storm landing Ben Zobrist, John Lackey and Jason Heyward, the latter two of which he signed away from the Cardinals.
Epstein also re-signed Trevor Cahill, showing everyone in baseball that he is serious about winning.
Although meaning a lot to fans in the St. Louis and Chicago areas, the Cubs-Cards rivalry has usually been lost behind the richer rivalries in baseball such as the Yankees-Red Sox and Giants-Dodgers. Not only that, but the Cubs and Cardinals have almost never been strong at the same time, also dampening the rivalry. Last season everything changed.
The Cubs had a new manager by the name of Joe Maddon, and a new wave of young talent that followed. Last season the Cubs and Cardinals played an intense September series, and columnists, fans and players of both teams knew the rivalry was back. This was before the Cubs signed two standout Cardinals, panicking St. Louis fans and forcing the Cardinals on a new quest in 2016: beat the Cubs.
Last October, the Cubs and Cardinals met in the postseason for the first time, and it was the Cubs shining bright. The Wild Card winners pounded nine homers in two nights at Wrigley Field, and cruised to a 3-1 series win against the Birds.
To follow that, Epstein snagged Lackey and Heyward from the Cards in free agency, both of whom were the WAR leaders on baseball’s best team in 2015.
Between those two, NL Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta, NL Rookie of the Year Kris Bryant, and 26-year old Anthony Rizzo, it is very easy to see why the Cubs are favorites to take the crown this year, but before we go any further, we cannot underestimate the competitiveness that St. Louis brings to the table. Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday know what it takes to win, and have plenty of experience.
The Cubs have easily been the biggest spenders this offseason while the Cards have been more conservative after losing out on now Red Sox ace David Price. The Cards did pick up right-handed pitcher Mike Leake in a five-year $80 million deal.
Although the Cubs may seem the frontrunners as of now, the Cardinals have experience and history. It’s safe to say that both Maddon and Cardinals skipper Mike Matheny will have will have their teams ready to go come opening day. It’s a good thing the baseball world wont have to wait long to see the two teams share the field, as April 18-20 the Cubs head to Busch Stadium.
One thing is for sure, whenever these teams meet, you better believe the ballpark will be packed and everyone will be watching.