This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 24, 2009 - I thought Billy Mays was dead. He died, right?
Read about it, heard about it. Actually kind of felt bad about it.
Yet there he is. He’s still on television selling that product that makes your whites whiter. There he is again with the stuff that fixes scratches on your cars.
He’s even still selling health insurance policies. Talk about irony.
This is why I figure I should not count the Chicago Cubs out of the National League Central Division race.
If Mays has found a way to hang in there, so can the pitiful Cubs.
But, with all that being said, Mays is dead. And so are the Cubs.
Not only did the Cardinals hold an eight game lead over the Cubs after Sunday’s games, the Redbirds prevailed over the San Diego Padres behind a five-inning, no-run and three-hit performance by John Smoltz. He struck out nine batters including seven in a row.
Rescued from the Boston Red Sox scrap heap like infielder Julio Lugo a few weeks prior, Smoltz steps into the Cards’ starting pitching rotation just as Kyle Lohse goes on the 15-day disabled list.
Speaking of Lugo, the man he was traded for is currently not in baseball. As his dad Dave Duncan celebrates another apparent reversal of fortune for a troubled veteran pitcher, Chris Duncan is dealing with being released by the Red Sox. He was hitting a paltry .188 at Triple A Pawtucket, never reaching the Red Sox’ 25-man roster.
Duncan is also about to watch his former team reach the postseason. The NL Central is the Cardinals’; barring an injury-induced complete meltdown. The odds of that are long, especially with the Smoltz rejuvenation taking place on the same day Lohse leaves the lineup because of an injured groin. Ouch.
So everything is falling into place right as the Cubs are falling apart.
And the Cardinals have a nine-game home stand coming up that includes nary a team over .500. Should things go slightly asunder against the Houston Astros at the start of the week, here come the MLB worst Washington Nationals for a weekend series.
The Cards then open the crucial month of September with three games against the struggling Milwaukee Brewers.
But wait, there is Mays yet again. This time it’s the dual turbo saw that will cut through anything known to man.
So I guess I’ll keep the champagne chilled for a few more weeks. Even though I know “the Magic Number” for winning the division is a mere 28 (any combination of Cards wins and Cubs losses), there is still a very remote chance that things could change. The Cubs aren’t dead, even if Billy Mays has indeed left us.
Do I give them a chance? None.
But stranger things have happened. Just ask Billy. He’ll be on again shortly with a gadget to cook mini hamburgers.
Alvin A. Reid is editor of the St. Louis Argus and a weekend host on the new ESPN 101.1 FM. His weekly Major League Baseball - St. Louis Cardinals column, which is now published on The Beacon website, was honored by the Missouri Press Association as Best Sports Column in 2004 and 1999. He is co-author of the book, "Whitey's Boys: A Celebration of the 1982 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals" and was a member of the inaugural staff of USA TODAY Baseball Weekly.