Rome is a city built on seven hills.
St. Louis is a city with a neighborhood called The Hill, which features some nice Italian restaurants.
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The St. Louis Cardinals have been a standard of excellence in the National League for not quite as long as the Roman Empire reigned. It only seems that way.
Like Rome, the Cardinals weren't built in a day, but they do provide the model for what the Cubs hope someday to become.
Friday at Wrigley Field, the Cubs had the upper hand for one day, beating the Cardinals 6-5.
In getting the measure of the Cardinals, the Cubs sent the defending NL champions to a record of 15-15, which isn't acceptable for them. The Cubs improved to 10-17, and like it or not, all they have to do is look over at the opposing dugout this weekend to see the kind of organization they want to become.
"This wasn't built in a year or five years or 10," noted Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer. "It's been built over 20 or 50. It's a culture of winning. They've got great leaders on their team. We're facing one of them today (pitcher Adam Wainwright).
"It seems they have the ability to hand it down from generation to generation. (Chris) Carpenter hands it to Wainwright, who's probably going to hand it to (Michael) Wacha someday. You feel like they've got real nice continuity.
"They've done that really, really well. They've had a lot of front-office stability. They've had a lot of managerial stability. They've had ownership stability. That, coupled with a lot of really good decisions over the course of 20-plus years, has created this. It's totally not built overnight, but it's something to aspire to. It's something that makes us better because we know we have to beat them in the long run."
Two of the Cubs' so-called core players had a hand in winning the battle Friday over Wainwright and the Cards. Lefty Travis Wood improved to 2-3 with an ERA of 3.35 with 7 innings of 6-hit, 3-run (2 earned) ball. His counterpart, Wainwright, fell to 5-2 with a 2.16 ERA.
First baseman Anthony Rizzo hit his fifth home run of the season in the fifth. He had a 2-run single in the first and a walk in the third.
Each player was asked about looking over and seeing the Cardinals as the gauge for where the Cubs want to be.
"They're a great team," Wood said. "No matter who they have out there, it seems like they get players throughout their system, and they're going to give you everything they got. It's a battle every time."
Rizzo upped his batting line to .295/.419/.495. He leads the Cubs in homers, RBI (15) and walks (19). Instead of giving a pat answer when I asked him about the Cardinals, he showed some fire.
"Yeah, but to be honest, I'm kind of sick of doing that," he said of looking over at the Cardinals to compare. "With all due respect to that team, they're a great ballclub. But we're a pretty good team, too. It's just about scoring runs when we have the opportunity to."