The Cardinals are playing the Reds this weekend and each series is always fraught with emotion, especially on the part of fans. Lots of internet trash talking on both sides. Fans sweat every inning, every AB, hoping, praying that at the end they will be able to deluge Twitter with cries of “Reds suck!” or “Cardinals are whiners!” Well, last night Reds fans got that honor and in a manner most galling to Cardinals fans. The Reds defeated the Cardinals in walkoff fashion, via a 2 run homer by that most hated of Reds, Brandon Phillips. Phillips didn’t waste any time rubbing it in with Cardinals fans either; as reported by Joe Strauss of the Post Dispatch, Phillips said after the game that “I wanted to do something different, do a Pedro Serrano and carry the bat all the way around the bases.”
Cardinals fans most assuredly are none too pleased by the outcome. There are two more games in the series and thus there are two more opportunities for the Cardinals to wipe the smirk off Phillips’ face and the cockiness out of the hearts of Reds fans. But really, do we as Cardinals fans need to be so sensitive about the Reds? I suggest we do not. Yes, Reds fans are obnoxious and their hatred of the Cardinals seemingly knows no bounds but their behavior I think goes beyond just winning games. Yes. the Reds want to win, and win badly, but more than that I think the Reds desperately want relevance.
Think about it. Look at the history of the Reds. The Reds have one of the oldest franchises in MLB history. That in itself is no small accomplishment. But despite 5 WS titles and 9 NL pennants in their long history, the Reds have not had a history of dominating, winning teams like the Cardinals have. The Reds did in fact have a brush with glory in the 1970s with the famous “Big Red Machine” that won 2 of its 5 WS titles and 4 of its 9 NL pennants. Since then one WS title in 1990 is all the Reds have. By contrast the Cardinals have 10 WS titles, 15 pennants and a long, long tradition of winning baseball. Throughout most of the 20th century and now the 21st century, the Cardinals have consistently put greatness out on the field, the only dry spells occurring during the 1970s and the 1990s. Moreover, St. Louis has the reputation of being one of the best baseball cities in the U.S. and to the utter disgust of the Reds, having the Best Fans in Baseball. St Louis can boast of the highest attendance of any small to mid market team in baseball for the last decade and more. Overall, St. Louis attendance is exceeded only by the large markets of New York, Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago. Cincinnati on the other hand has consistently been in the bottom third of attendance for most of the last decade. All of this recognition for the Cardinals makes them what the Reds have never been for most of their history. Relevant.
So, back to the “rivalry”. These last two seasons the Reds have received more national attention from this rivalry than they have from winning the Division last year. And they have milked it for all its worth. Broadcasters making the news by making ugly remarks about Cardinal players and coaches. Brandon Phillips making himself a Twitter sensation. “Smoked Cardinal” served at the ballpark and “Whiny Bird” t-shirts being sold on the streets. Yes, this rivalry has been berry berry good to the Reds. More power to them I say. I would rather win baseball games and go to the playoffs any day of the week. But the Reds want relevance any way they can get it.
The one thing I would say to Cardinals fans is this. It is understandable that losing last night to the Reds in the fashion that it happened can bring out strong emotions. But the more we make our own dislike of the Reds a public topic, the more attention is brought upon the rivalry and the more relevance it brings to the Reds. This blog post brings them attention, albeit a tiny amount. I am not suggesting that Cardinals fans not express their feelings about the Reds. That would be an impossible task. And it would take the fun out of it. No, I am just suggesting that before Cardinals fans get too worked up about a Reds win or a Brandon Phillips sighting that they remember why this rivalry is important to the Reds. They want relevance. Relevance is something the Cardinals already have by their baseball excellence. That is much better than sandwiches and t-shirts any day. So I say, temper your emotions with pity Cardinals fans and have fun.