Birdinals Bytes: The Evolution of Rivalries


While there is one less NL Central foe this year for the Cardinals, the most winning team in National League history still has more enemies than other clubs. The nastiest division rivalry is debatable for the Birds, but the most established, out of division and interleague conflicts all remain true in 2013. As St. Louis baseball evolves, so do its rivalries. Traditions, geography, previous post-seasons, lingering bad blood, and pure hatred all create what fans, players and coaches despise about particular teams. However, the greatest attribute to rivalries is that they can change just as quickly as rosters or walk out songs.
Despite the Cubs inability to win games in recent years, Cards fans should recognize that they are rebuilding on the north side of the Windy City. The Baby Bears will be back, Theo Epstein and tons of cash should ensure some success in the future. In the meantime, eat a bratzel and enjoy.
Carbondale, Illinois’ own Ammon Torrence put it perfectly, “There are two things Cardinals fans want every year, a World Series Championship, and the Cubs not to win the World Series.”
Even if they are awful like last year, when the Cubbies come town, or when the Birdinals fly up to Wrigley, it is one of the finest rivalries in professional sports. Last years games were especially extraordinary in Chicago in September. If and when the curse is lifted and the Cubs become victorious, it will only make the rivalry healthier, like a certain rivalry in the northeast.
Baseball fans everywhere will always remember the vicious rivalry between the Cards and the Astros during the 90’s and early 21st century. This season marks the end of what were always heated regular season games and fiery playoff battles. A reminder of those days, Carlos Beltran, wears number sixteen with the birds on the bat. He had a solid first year in The Lou and will be playing for Puerto Rico in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.
Cincinnati showed their inability to win in the postseason again last year, after their once violent rivalry with St. Louis become more civil during the regular season. The Brewers didn’t even win one game at Busch in 2012, making the previous year’s competitiveness fizzle. Pittsburgh’s poor second half again derailed what could have been a clash with another great sports city. Nevertheless, those dormant rivalries can be ignited with one vital game, an on the field incident, a tweet, or a divisional/wildcard race.
What could be the most interesting feud for the Redbirds this upcoming season are heated series with organizations outside of the Central Division. The San Francisco Giants second Championship in three years brought back some intensity reminiscent of the mid-late 80’s, when trash talking and skirmishes fueled two of the most competitive teams in the league. Matt Holiday’s slide, Marco Scutaro’s cockiness, and the theatrical 2012 NLCS created animosity that will be present in April at AT&T Park. St. Louisans will again watch the Giants get their rings, just like in 2011. Two teams in the NL East are going to be charged up to face St. Louis because of last year’s post-season suspense. The Braves fell victim to a hot Cards team with an outfield fly rule call, and the Nationals are still sour after blowing the decisive Game 5 in the NLDS with Steven Strasburg starting at bench.
Anyone who has worn Cardinal red in Houston knows how much Astros fans despise St. Louis baseball, and the series in late June will keep what is left of that rivalry alive. Another throwback to the past (1985 Fall Classic) occurs when Kansas City plays at Busch III in May. Maybe “The I-70 Showdown” is not what the “Boarder War”(Mizzou vs Kansas) was, but many middle aged and older Cards buffs still remember the terrible call at first.
A significant number of teams in MLB have a few rivals, but the Cardinals have many. Since St. Louis has been on top of the National League, other NL teams try to knock them down, just like the Yankees in the AL. With veteran future Hall of Famers, strong young players, a rich farm system, plus a wise front office, expect these rivalries to continue like Cardinals legends donning red sports coats and Clydesdales on opening day.