The St. Louis Cardinals are in town for a brief two-game series against the Cubs. While the Cubs have experienced some severe ups and downs in recent years, the Cardinals are a model of consistency, most of it good.
The Cubs have lurched from last-place finishes to division titles and back to oblivion, but the Cardinals have avoided the severe peaks and valleys.
Their last losing season was in 2007, when they finished 78-84. You have to go back to 1999 for another, when the Cards were 75-86.
Field managers and general managers have changed in those years, but the St. Louis baseball situation is not the all-or-nothing one the Cubs' situation has been.
"There's been downs here as well," protested Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, who took over last season after Tony La Russa's long run. "I think recently we've got on a nice run, and we're trying to continue that by doing the best we can with the talent that's been given.
"I think it all starts with our scouting and then goes on to the development system and right on down the line.
"We have the responsibility of trying to pass down the tradition of excellence, and I know that's something we work hard at and take very seriously. Every organization's had their time when they had to fight to get back there. We just want to try and continue what's already in place."
Matheny was diplomatic when asked if the Cubs could become a force in the National League Central once team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer hit full stride.
"I know right now they're a force," Matheny said. "Any night we come in here, it's tough. This team plays us tough. Every time we walk into Wrigley, we know there's a lot of tradition and history, too.
"You can't help but understand the success Theo and the front office has had and know that they're some smart guys doing some things to push this organization forward."
Third baseman Luis Valbuena drew his team-leading 14th walk of the season in the second inning. Manager Dale Sveum is calling him an everyday player.
"There's obviously a platoon going on, but I would never have any problem really playing him every day because his at-bats against left-handers are pure," Sveum said.
"He sees pitches. He doesn't swing out of the zone off left-handed pitching. So far, he's obviously an everyday player, one of the most productive third basemen in the game right now."Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.