Game 3 of the National League Championship Series is today, and Giants fans are feeling confident again. But are Cardinals fans just as cocky? To find out, we hit up one of the most passionate, vocal, and erudite St. Louisians (St. Louisites? St. Louisers?) out there: sportswriter Will Leitch, contributing editor at New York magazine, founding editor of Deadspin, and author of Are We Winning?: Fathers and Sons in the New Golden Age of Baseball. He spoke with San Francisco editor Jon Steinberg about the mental state of his comrades.
SF: Forgive me for saying this, Will, but I don’t think your Cardinals deserve to have come this far. They seem more really lucky than really good.
WL: It is worth noting that the last two Cardinal teams, on the whole, have driven their fans crazy. Not because they're unlikable or untalented: The exact opposite, in fact. Everyone keeps saying that the Cardinals aren't that good, that they shouldn't have made it as far as they have these last two years, but that's wrong—this has been one of the most talented teams in baseball for these last two years. They just have been inconsistent and frustrating. They keep having all these comebacks, but we keep being like, “Guys, you shouldn't be behind! You’re better than they are.” And the Cardinals are better. I think the source of the anti-Cardinals stuff is that people think they're somehow not good enough to be here. Which is absolutely not true. They just have the habit of playing the way they should be playing all along in the ninth innings of elimination games.
SF: The big story of Game 2, obviously, was the nasty slide by the Cards' Matt Holliday to take out Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro. Putting aside whether it was dirty and/or illegal, that play must have given you a sick feeling. There's nothing like a dangerous kneecapping to awaken a sleeping, uh, Giant. Did you foresee the ensuing rally by the Giants? They seemed pissed!
WL: Well, I didn't think it would inspire a rally, and I'm pretty sure it didn't: I think Chris Carpenter having serious problems with his location inspired the rally. I don't think it was a dirty play, but that doesn't mean I think it was right. I think Holliday decided too late that he was going to take out Scutaro and screwed it up. I do not think he was trying to hurt him. Taking out the fielder on that play is a completely common thing in baseball. The problem is that Holliday is awkward and uncoordinated sometimes. That would be a pretty good example of it. If somebody plunked him tonight, I don't think Cardinals fans would get too upset, as long as you didn't go after his head. That'd be about 100 times more “dirty” than what he did.
SF: Obviously, you've got a St. Louis bias, but evaluating the two teams' performances thus far, who's got the advantage? It's essentially a best of five series now.
WL: I think the Giants have the advantage because of the starting pitching. Facing Cain and Lincecum two games in a row is double-plus unappealing. I don't mind that you're all leaving yourself short-handed for reasons no better than spite, though. You're not using Melky Cabrera, pretty much your second best hitter, because ... he created a fake Website? “HE USED STEROIDS. THIS IS A DISGRACE!” (Please.) But you are using Guillermo Mota, and no one seems to mind. Actually: Please keep using Guillermo Mota. Point is: The Cardinals have a lot better chance to win this series because you guys are so mad at Melky Cabrera. So thanks for that.
SF: If the Cards could acquire one Giants player not named Buster, who would you take?
WL: Actually, we don't want Buster Posey. He's good, obviously, but we think Yadier Molina is better, even if he's not hitting that way so far this series. (He will, though, watch.) Baseball writers as esteemed as Joe Sheehan have made strong arguments that Molina deserves the MVP over Posey, and I agree with them. (Though I would, wouldn't I?) I would want Matt Cain. In a half-second.
SF: On a scale of 1-10, what is your anxiety level about the rest of this series? One = mellow as Tim Lincecum after an afternoon bong hit. Ten = Anxious as Matt Holliday after he muffed that awesome Scutaro 3-run single Monday night.
WL: Ten. But this is always my anxiety level in the postseason, at all times. If the Cardinals were up 17-1 in the ninth inning of Game five, with a 3-1 series lead, it would still be a ten. That's what postseason baseball is all about, right?