The St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs rivalry is heating up, and the Cardinals’ players are ready to prove their ability to hold the upstart Cubs at bay.
In comments from the St. Louis Cardinals‘ players at Winter Warm-Up, it is easy to see that these players are ready to get to work at defending their Central Division title. The Cardinals will enter the season as the underdog and to say the players are embracing that role is an understatement.
They know that everyone is picking the Cubs to win the division and are jumping on their bandwagon. They heard the comments from Jason Heyward talking about how the core was “aging” and that the Cubs just have this exciting young core ready to burst in and take MLB by surprise.
The Cardinals are taking that in and making a mental note. Matt Carpenter said that “We don’t need a newspaper clipping to motivate us to play the Cubs,” insinuating that there is already plenty of desire to beat the former “lovable losers”.
This offseason has been too long, and this narrative that the Cardinals have to prove something against the Cubs is getting old. I have come out and said that the Cubs did not improve that much for 2016. The majority of their rotation is likely about to experience a good amount of decline in 2016, as opposed to the Cardinals’ rotation actually getting better.
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While the team wants to avenge their postseason loss to Chicago, Wainwright is focused on not only proving the doubters wrong, and is focused on not only beating the Cubs, but beating the Pirates as well, according to Ben Fredrickson.
Kolten Wong refused to talk to former teammate Jason Heyward after he left for the Cubs. Matt Holliday in an interview with Fox Sports Midwest’s Pat Paris said “Let me get my cane…” in response to Heyward’s aging core comments.
The Cubs even had Heyward and Ryan Dempster read comments from angry Cardinals’ fans on twitter at their “Cubs Convention” last weekend. These things all are throwing more logs onto the fire that is the reinvigorated Cardinals and Cubs rivalry.
For years, this rivalry has been dormant, and primarily only been between fans of the two teams. Now, with the Cubs experiencing the beginning of what could be a long successful run, and the Cardinals still being the Cardinals, this rivalry has taken on new life.
We saw tempers flare during last season when bean balls were given out, and Joe Maddon had a temper tantrum about the Cardinals in his press conference.
Call to the Pen
One can only imagine what the great Tony Larussa would have done with this rivalry, as he said at Winter Warm-Up “There’s no better rivalry in the game than the Cards and Cubs rivalry,” I can imagine a Maddon/Larussa rivalry would have been just as juicy as the Dusty Baker rivalry.
Adam Wainwright‘s comments to Ben Fredrickson on how everyone has been overlooking them for years is spot on, first it was “Oh the Brewers are the new dominant team in the NL Central” then 2011 happened and then you had “The Reds are establishing a change of guard in the NL Central”.
Then you had the Pirates, who have been predicted by some to outlast the Cardinals and become the new darlings of the NL. The Cardinals have outlasted the Pirates for three straight seasons now. The end result of all this chatter is the Cardinals are still here and still on top, while yet another team is trying their hand at dethroning them.
Don’t forget how the Dodgers have consistently been touted as the best team in the NL for awhile, we all know what happens to them in the playoffs every year.
I am not saying that the Cubs aren’t a good team, or that the Cardinals shouldn’t worry about them. I am simply saying, we have heard this narrative, “the Cardinals are fading” for a while. However, this doesn’t phase Bill Dewiit Jr. and John Mozeliak, as they continue to build a true superpower in the NL.
I think it is important to look at how the Cardinals have built through the draft, despite picking at the bottom of the draft for the past five seasons, it is something that many teams fail to do. The Cardinals don’t have the luxury of grabbing guys like Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber, yet they still improve the team by drafting guys like Stephen Piscotty, Kolten Wong, and Michael Wacha.
If you have read any of my “Top Prospects” series, then you know that not only is this team good now, but wait until the likes of Alex Reyes, Junior Fernandez, Jack Flaherty, Harrison Bader, and Magneuris Sierra all come up.
This team will continue to get better through the draft and through the international market, and won’t pay attention to the notion that they are “fading”, or that they have to go out and spend gobs of money on an overpriced and overrated free agent hitter.