It is not often that Cincinnati and Pittsburgh fans agree, but both groups owe a great deal of gratitude to USA Today writer Bob Nightengale. That newspaper’s baseball writer just gave the kiss of death to the defending National League Central champions, the St. Louis Cardinals.
“The Cardinals might as well practice popping the bubbly in spring training, just to make sure nothing goes wrong in their real celebration,” Nightengale stated in the 2/12/14 edition. “No one is going to come close to stopping this runaway train in the National League Central. They could have their playoff rotation setup by Labor Day and use September to watch their prospects play.”
Fans of the Cards’ two biggest rivals should be pleased, not outraged, by the statements. After all, they came from Bob Nightengale. The so-called baseball expert has made other bold February predictions, all of which have fallen flat well before September.
A look back at just the last two seasons has proven that Nightengale does nothing but pick the previous season’s winner as his favorite to take it all again. In 2013, he told radio hosts Bucher and Towney of 95.7 The Game that the Giants were the favorite to win the N.L. West. San Francisco, the defending World Series champs, went on to finish second to last and ten games under .500.
The year before, Nightengale predicted that the defending World Champions would repeat. He ranked St. Louis number one in his pre-season power poll, which had the Reds as far down as ten behind the likes of the Brewers and Marlins. The Cardinals finished ten games behind the Reds that season, and Milwaukee ended up near the basement twenty games out.
For a guy who makes his living covering baseball, Nightengale should make predictions based on factors other than the previous season’s result. No N.L. team has won back-to-back pennants in three decades, since the Dodgers in 1977-78. That club had four All-Star infielders, legends named Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, and Ron Cey.
For Nightengale to think that the 2014 Cardinals should accomplish what that Dodgers club did is ludicrous. Instead of four N.L. All-Star infielders, St. Louis has a total of zero among Allen Graig, Kolten Wong, Johnny Peralta, and Matt Carpenter.
That infield roster should not strike fear into the team’s rivals in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. Nor should the predictable predictions of Nightengale. On the contrary, Reds and Pirates fans should find great encouragement in his praise of St. Louis.
USA Today, 2/12/14