Root against ex-St. Louis Cardinals? It can be tempting
By Bill Dawson
We applaud when former St. Louis Cardinals come to Busch but do we really want them to be better than ever? Should we root for ex-Cardinals?
Classy St. Louis Cardinals fans insist with every trade that they “wish the best” for the departed player(s), but be honest. How many of you want the first baseman (Luke Voit) that the team traded to the Yankees for a couple of iffy pitchers (Giovanny Gallegos, Chasen Shreve) to become the next Lou Gehrig?
In his first 100 games as a Yankee, Voit has hit .286 with 29 homers and 72 RBI — which projects to 47 homers and 119 RBI over a full 162-game season. This should be a feel-good story for St. Louis fans. Voit attended David Freese’s old school, Lafayette High in Wildwood, Mo., just 30-some miles from Busch Stadium. He hit .240 in 125 bats for the Redbirds before last year’s trade to the Yankees. Now, at age 28, he’s excelling for baseball’s most illustrious franchise.
Still, a St. Louis Cardinals fan might feel a little ambivalent about Voit’s superior slugging for the boys in pinstripes. It’s like seeing a former partner looking and doing better since the two of you parted. You want to be happy for your ex but you can’t get past a selfish sense of what you lost. Sure, you want your old flame to do well, but not too well…
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Sparky Lyle learned how fickle fans can be when he was dealt from Boston to the New York Yankees in 1972. “After the trade, sometimes people came up to me at banquets and said, ‘I can’t root for you anymore because you’re with the damn Yankees now,’” he said, quoted by Harvey and Frederic J. Frommer in 2005’s Red Sox Vs. Yankees: The Great Rivalry.
Of course, Lyle was going to his original team’s most hated rival. The St. Louis fans’ compulsion to cheer for ex-players can alter when it’s a Cardinal going to the Cubs, particularly a player like Jason Heyward or John Lackey, both of whom chose Chicago as a free-agent destination. Heyward and Lackey were booed (with a light mix of cheers) when they first returned to Busch to play St. Louis on April 18, 2016.
Would Redbird Nation boo Luke Voit returning to Busch in Yankees pinstripes? Of course not. They would certainly cheer Voit and Tommy Pham, hitting .311 since last year’s trade to the Tampa Bay Rays. And Luke Weaver, 4-3 with a 3.03 ERA with the Diamondbacks this year. And Lance Lynn, 7-4 with a 4.39 ERA with the Rangers. And Marco Gonzales of the Mariners. And Stephen Piscotty of the A’s.s
But it may feel different four or five years from now if those ex-St. Louis Cardinals are killing it with their teams — and killing the Redbirds. It’s easy to say you’ll always have a place for them in your heart, but there’s fatigue and despair in watching players you used to like or love beating up on your ballclub year after year, something Redbird fans have been mostly spared since Cardinal-turned-Phillie Steve Carlton went 38-14 with a 2.98 ERA against his old ballclub.
How many Redbird fans were still cheering for the lefty in 1980? Here’s a guess: not many. That year, Carlton went 24-9 with a 2.34 ERA as the Phillies finished 17 games up on the Cardinals and won their first World Series. Against St. Louis, he was 6-0 with a 1.38 ERA.
As fans, we should never wish ill on any ex-Cardinal, but do we have to cheer them on after they’ve moved on? Look at it this way: Matt Carpenter and Jake Arrieta were fast friends and teammates at Texas Christian University. Arrieta was a groomsman at Carpenter’s wedding. But did Carp keep rooting for good buddy Jake when Arrieta was winning the 2015 Cy Young award with the Cubs? No!
“It was hard, at first, facing him because I was like, ‘Man, I want this guy to do well,’” Carpenter told Carrie Muskat and Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com in 2015. “That was also when (the Cubs) had no chance of making the postseason. But now that things have changed, I can’t root for him anymore.”
Luke Voit doesn’t play for the Cubs and, hopefully, he never will. As long as Voit, Pham, Piscotty, and Gonzales stay in the American League, we might as well wish them well.