A hateful guide to the NL Wild Card Game

Well, if you were able to take morbid, sardonic pleasure in Yankees fans paying hundreds of dollars for tickets, only to watch their squad struggle to collect as many hits as hours they spent getting through security to get in the stadium, you'll love the NL Wild Card.

The Pirates and Cubs both just completed brilliant, gorgeous seasons. 98 and 97-win campaigns that were the type of dream-like realizations of their organizational visions that elude some franchises for decades. Ahem.

Now, one of those seasons is going to brutally end. I'm almost nervous. One of these teams is going to go on to face the Cardinals in the NLDS, the winner of that series will then become pretty much the World Series favorite, the other team is going to be eliminated on the second day of the playoffs. 

As much as I love carnage, this is a little much. Like, before watching Django Unchained, I would have never thought there were limits to how much I wanted to see slaveowners get their comeuppance, but it turns out "plotless blood orgy" is beyond the scope and....you know what, I can't imagine Pirates or Cubs fans really appreciate this comparison, so let's just get on with it.

First thing first, let's not confuse discomfort with genuine sympathy. I have seen the mournful braying of how unfair it is that one of these teams will be dismissed through a one-game playoff, and will not get "their fair shot" and that MLB can never let "this" happen again. "This" being whatever deviance from absolute perfect seeding has taken place in any given year.

Though just a few years ago, the Cubs would be left out of the playoffs entirely, and the only real remedy at this point to give them and the Pirates their deserved opportunity would be to just devalue divisional play entirely, we will still have to sit through wailing that 97+ win season "now means nothing." This pity party is a joint venture between those who 1) Did not realize at some point over six months that the regular season is meant to be enjoyed on its own merits, 2) Have not figured out that the people who set up best-of-five and best-of-seven series to follow up an 162-game season were not actually that committed to the playoffs discerning who the TRUE TALENT champion is, 3) Have literally just crumbled up a sheet of paper with Dan Bernstein talking points on it and snorted it up their nose.

The Cardinals had their top prospect die, their ace pitcher blew out his achilles, perpetual hamstring issues for Matt Holliday, there are no original human parts to Jaime Garcia anymore, their top rookie tweaked his elbow and is playing outfield without really being able to throw,  Yadi Molina was bad all year then got his hand stomped on by Anthony Rizzo, Peter Bourjos jumped off the top rope and knocked Stephen Piscotty unconscious with a flying knee, and maybe the front office is still going to federal prison in the end, but hey, maybe the Cubs or Pirates can catch 'em during a year where they're vulnerable and avoid all this drama by winning the division outright sometime.

Why it might be fun if the Pirates lose:

--Well, first of all, their loss will spark genuine, unironic complaints the Pirates season came down to the unfair mismatch of trotting out their first-overall draft pick against the Cubs' scrap heap reclamation project. Why aren't the playoffs a grand stage for all to see how good of a third-starter we've made J.A. Happ into?

I don't know, guys, I don't know.

--Starling Marte is not in the White Sox system, because during his otherwise very successful tryout with a Sox scout in the Dominican Republic, his jaded former buscone showed up on the scene with a loaded weapon to confront the man who had stolen his prospect. For whatever reason, this gave the Sox scout cold feet and the deal fell through. Long story short, Avisail Garcia manned right field this season for the Sox, and not Marte. If that isn't decent cause for bitterness...

--I believe all of the hype for Jake Arrieta's brutal Twitter owns has obfuscated a larger issues. What in the hell is this?

I think the fans who cooked this up, looked over their photoshop of a sloth whispering into the ear of a fashion model, and decided it would be a badass thing to spook Jake Arrieta with, should probably see their team lose. Justice can often be an unknowable feeling, something we have to make peace to live without in order to move and grow as people, and other times it can be a simple as watching the Cubs mob each other on the mound and thinking "I bet those parody account doofs who sent that weird tweet to Arrieta are unhappy," and that can be enough.

--These are really just Steelers fans on summer vacation anyway.

Why it might be fun if the Cubs lose:

How does one stay...measured about this? 

I don't believe the phenomenon that is spreading across Cubdom is particularly unique. For any franchise in their position, it is natural for the fan base sense of trust and confidence in their front office to bloom like a rose. Maybe even to the point of believing them momentarily (I hope?) infallible, and crediting literally everything they did right as part of a divine plan, or maybe making dedicated efforts to shame the non-believers, the momentary doubters who didn't believe Jake Arrieta to be a Cy Young candidate at the moment of his acquisition, to deride anyone who questions any part or the value of the Cubs plan as a troll, or decry reporters as agents of evil for committing acts of sabotage to the Cubs' cause as dastardly as "try to figure out the lineup for the Wild Card Game day early." 

Maybe this is relatively commonplace. I'm betting anything written about Kenny Williams in the wake of 2005 has aged like a block of cheddar left in the sun. "Trader Kenny has the Sox set to win now and in the future," isn't really distinguishable better than anything mutters in a cubs.com comment section at this point.

But the knowledge and understanding that landfills are a common feature of society and present everywhere, doesn't really make the experience of living next to one any more enjoyable. I mean this, I swear, in the best way.

--The Cubs front office has also sold their fanbase so completely on the long-term plan that a loss would immediately be met with the canned response of "We weren't even supposed to be here yet!" "Our window hasn't even opened yet!" and other variations of the kid who you just trounced in one-on-one revealing a list of injuries and ailments he was secretly playing through. I am completely divided on whether this makes me want the Cubs to win or lose. 

--It's not really longer than other great wrath of God-type streaks in baseball history, but Arrieta's second half is starting to make me wonder whether he'll ever get shelled again. Some sort of assurance that he's mortal, or some ground won in the poisonous Sale or Arrieta debate that is sure to ruin my life for the next three years would be a comfort.

--As we're all aware, "Go Cubs Go" is an acoustic pop abomination that's only really a good fit to be sung at a beach campfire hangout session by ancillary characters in a slasher/horror film before they're flayed by the mutant beast haunting their vacation island in a grisly title sequence, this is not new territory. But it's doubly offensive due to its unwelcome contrast to the refreshing minimalism of the other Cubs' rallying cries. #WeAreGood and the stark simplicity of the W-flag boil fan celebrations to their pure essence while maintaining their enthusiasm, but they ruin the vibe by piping in the audio of Jason Mraz's drunk uncle grabbing the guitar after his three-bloody mary brunch after every home win.

A quick departure to the offseason will give the Cubs ample time to remedy this crisis.

--The mere sight of Clayton Richard's toothy joker smile drenched in beer and champagne will be enough to terrify friend of the blog Mark Primiano into a nonsensical stupor, possibly a permanent one. You know what? Go Cubs for this one.