NL Central Links: A Rivalry Is Born, Darwin Barney, Stan Musial, and more


The NL Central has been at the center of the baseball universe this past week. A new rivalry is being formed. It’s heated and intense and it’s only just starting. The Cardinals and Reds have the final two and a half months to fight for the division title and earn bragging rights in a fun new rivalry. There were words. There was reaction. There were fights between former teammates. And a big sweep by the Redbirds. St. Louis is in control for now. The Cards and Reds will meet one more time over Labor Day weekend to make last push for the division crown. That’s where we start with this week’s edition of NL Central Links.

Cincinnati Reds

Steve Engbloom breaks down the formula for success for the Cards and the formula for disaster for the Reds. In a series filled with drama, the Cardinals proved that they have the mental toughness to win the N.L. Central. Meanwhile, the Reds proved that they can’t handle great pitching, which is what the post-season is all about. Brandon Phillips quickly brought controversy to the rivalry as he called the Cardinals players “bitches” and then couldn’t back it up on the field. Rather than bringing energy to the Cincinnati clubhouse, he awoke the sleeping beast in the Cardinals and started a brawl at Great American Ballpark. Cincinnati fans have to be concerned if the Reds cave under the pressure of a playoff race and get blown out in three straight games at home. When it was all said and done, the Cardinals went out and got the job by staying focused and performing well under tough circumstances. Because of that, they were rewarded with a one game lead in the division.

Before the disappointing series with St. Louis, ESPN broke down the Reds playoff chances in its Dog Days of August series. Cincinnati will lean on MVP-candidate Joey Votto, but also needs more from young talented center fielder Drew Stubbs. The Reds have been consistently good all year to reach this point in all aspects of the game. A weak remaining schedule also plays in their favor — 19 of their last 22 opponents have losing records (St. Louis also has a favorable schedule against many weak teams). The prediction is that Cincy is a formidable contender for October and there is a very good chance we see the Red Machine in the NLDS somewhere.

Milwaukee Brewers

It’s certainly not often that a major league pitcher allows four consecutive homers in one inning to the opponent. However, that is exactly what happened to Brewers pitcher Dave Bush as Anthony Witrado explains the frustration that comes along with the Milwaukee pitching staff. This was the first time in franchise history that the Diamondbacks hit four home runs in a row. It has been a very long year for the Brew Crew, who rank 26th in the majors in ERA. If they can improve their horrendous pitching, I think the Brewers can be a dangerous team in the next few years. They have loads of talent on offensive, but it is too hard to compete with teams like the Cardinals and Reds if you don’t get quality starts night in and night out.

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs have shifted focus to next season as they continue to plummet in the standings. Chicago never put it together this year and after a short-lived burst after the All-Star break, they went back to their losing ways. Next year and beyond is the mantra on the North Side for the rest of the summer. Starlin Castro and Tyler Colvin have begun the youth movement and injected some life into a dead ball club. Both look like solid ballplayers who will help the Cubs climb back into contention. Castro is an exciting 20-year-old shortstop who can hit and has the potential to hit for power as he matures. Colvin is a pure hitter from Clemson who is expected to develop into a number three or five hitter in the lineup. Darwin Barney is the next piece that is MLB-ready. Barney made his debut in San Francisco, playing second base in the ninth. He got his first start Friday night against St. Louis and The Oregonian outlined each at bat. Barney was hitting .297 in Triple A Iowa. He was also the shortstop of the back-to-back national championship teams at Oregon State.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Nellie King, the Pirates announcer died Wednesday. He was 82. King was battling colon cancer and pneumonia. He had a brief pitching career in Pittsburgh, going 7-5 from 1954-1957. He then took up broadcasting and became an announcer for the Bucs. He was a popular part of Pirates baseball and its unfortunate to see him pass.

Houston Astros

The Astros have been in the news lately. Well, at least their fans have been. The ‘Foul Ball Couple’ has made the rounds in the media and a hot topic in the blogosphere. It was originally tagged ‘The Worst Date’ as the boyfriend avoided a foul ball at Monday night’s game in Houston, allowing it to hit his girlfriend. Most fans hope for the chance to catch a foul ball and everyone goes after it, except this guy.

Bonus Content

ESPN’s Page 2 had some fun with the logos of every team in baseball, adjusting them to fit the theme of the year for each club. The Cardinal is featured standing on a mound instead of a bat in reference to the team’s outstanding pitching. The rest of the division and all in general are worth a look in this fun feature.

From the Archives

The Baseball Hall of Fame shared this photo and caption on Twitter yesterday.

#InTheArchives – Aug. 12, 1946 @MLBSTLCardinals Musial goes 4-for-4 vs @CubsInsider to get 12 H’s in 3 GP

You can follow the Hall of Fame on Twitter (@BaseballHall) for some great stories and news straight from Cooperstown.