Before the 2012 Cardinals regular season started, I hauled out the Magic 8-ball and tried to figure out a future where the hometown team could win nine games and fight for a playoff spot – which recent history shows is all you need to do to win a Super Bowl.
And while I had the Big Red jumping out to a fairly decent 3-2 start, the schedule turned very tough, very fast and by Week 11 the postseason chances were withering on the vine. Of course, in those first five weeks of the season, I had Arizona losing to New England and Sunday to Philadelphia.
Do I need to shake the 8-ball again? Time for a mulligan?
The Patriots loss — a lead-pipe cinch to all who don’t think with their hearts — didn’t happen. Oh, not that the Cardinals didn’t try their best to make it happen in the final five minutes in New England. Fumbles, poor special teams choices, poor clock management, and a short field goal for one of the game’s most accurate kickers almost … almost … ruined the best defensive road effort since the playoff win at Carolina on the way to the Super Bowl.
So let’s forget that the Cardinals are a goal-line stand and a missed field goal away from being 0-2. Let’s forget that the quarterback that led them to the two victories (Kevin Kolb) might have been benched today if John Skelton was healthy. (For the record, I remain in the Kolb camp … but man, there’s lots of space on this bandwagon.) Let’s forget that Ken Whisenhunt continues to use timeouts in new and incredibly wasteful ways. When Whiz called his last timeout right after a New England timeout on the final Arizona possession … just, wow.
But here sit the Big Red, perched at 2-0. And given Philadelphia’s injury situation, the Eagles uneven efforts themselves in going 2-0 and the fact that the Cardinals defense is proving even better than advertised, Arizona has a puncher’s chance at slowing down Michael Vick and going 3-0 to start a season for the first time in – wait, carry the one – 38 years!
And if Arizona somehow wins the battle of the birds … aw, hell, let’s go for broke.
Their next two games – at home against Miami and at St. Louis – are games yours truly had the Cardinals winning before the season started. Nothing has happened in the first two weeks to change my thinking on the Dolphins and Rams. Stop Reggie Bush and get after Sam Bradford. Check.
Next up is a home game against Buffalo and a road game at Minnesota, two offensively challenged teams that aren’t exactly lighting up the league.
So when we wake up on Monday, Oct. 8, could the Arizona Cardinals, without another New England-like upset of tectonic plate proportions – be 7-0, with a Monday Night Football showdown in Glendale against the 49ers looming?
That would, by the way, make the Big Red 14-2 in its last 16 regular season games. My head is spinning. The Magic 8-Ball is shaking on its own across the room.
Future? Ask again Monday.
The right decision … reached the wrong way
I know the hardened heart of baseball fans is beginning to soften when it comes to the whole idea of performance-enhancing drugs, but it shouldn’t have been Melky Cabrera’s decision to be ruled ineligible for the National League batting title in 2012.
Cabrera tested positive in July but was able to play another month before his appeal process was exhausted. He then had his agents work with someone to create a phony website to trick the league into thinking he’d mistakenly taken a banned substance by mistake.
So first, Cabrera cheated. Then he lied. Then he delayed his sentence long enough to come within one at-bat of qualifying for the batting title. And Bud Selig, with his head in the sand again, was going to stand by and allow it to happen.
Don’t be fooled into thinking Melky’s decision to ask out is any grand gesture of nobility. Since his name is mud in baseball and in the Giants’ clubhouse, and because teammate and MVP candidate Buster Posey now has a shot to win the batting crown, this is another PR move designed to shine up his local image and potential for future earnings.
And he didn’t even have to create a fake website to release the news.
Jerry Brown is a contributing columnist who appears every Sunday in the Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.