Why some baseball fans hate the St. Louis Cardinals

ST LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 29: Yadier Molina #4 and Jose Martinez #38 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrate winning the National League Central Division after beating the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium on September 29, 2019 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 29: Yadier Molina #4 and Jose Martinez #38 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrate winning the National League Central Division after beating the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium on September 29, 2019 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /

There’s a lot of resentment out there, and it’s not just envy of the St. Louis Cardinals’ success. Why do some fans just seem to hate the hometown team?

The St. Louis Cardinals are one of baseball’s five most-despised teams, according to the betting site casinoinsider.com, which tracks tweets that discuss hating a specific major league ballclub and published their findings back in July (well before the Astros’ cheating scandal went viral and pushed them up the ladder of most-reviled franchises). If your first reaction to people hating the Birds is, “That’s because they’re jealous of all our success,” you are:

A. Correct
B. Part of the problem

Not that being hated is really a “problem.” Winning tends to foster resentment in the fans of rival teams, which is why no one hates the Padres — lots of losing makes a franchise seem cute and harmless.

Still, it’s notable that the other four teams on the casinoinsider.com’s despised five are the Yankees, Cubs, Dodgers, and Mets, all mega-market, big-spending teams (even the mediocre Mets are in the top eight of MLB payrolls). So why are so many so down on the team from shrinking St. Louis, the 64th-largest burg in the U.S.A.?

While envy is part of the problem, here are five other theories to explain the ongoing resentment of the Redbirds:

Whiteyball/“The Cardinal Way”

Living in northern California in the mid-late-80s, I heard multiple Giants fans expel the phrase “Whiteyball” like it was the foulest word in the baseball lexicon. When a team’s style of play earns its own sobriquet, enemy fans will snarl — imagine if the media had referred to the 2015-19 Cubs as practitioners of “Maddonball.”

It’s the same with “The Cardinal Way.” “The Cardinals and their fans seem to think the franchise has some innate knowledge about how to play baseball that no other organization possesses: “The Cardinal Way,” snarled a blogger for The Guardian in 2015. Outsiders tend to chafe at franchises that extoll their “way,” as if they invented, or re-invented the game.

Two decades after the 1954 publication of “The Dodger Way to Play Baseball,” certain broadcasters were still praising “The Dodger Way,” like it was the one true faith in a land of infidels. That reeked of hubris to some and made the Dodgers even more of a lightning rod franchise, beloved by their faithful and reviled by other NL fan bases.

The “best fans” blowback

The Cardinals do have a phenomenal fanbase. How else would a small-market team outdraw the Yankees, Cubs and Red Sox in 2019? — only the Dodgers drew more. It’s not just the masses; it’s the message.

While passionate about their team, Busch Stadium regulars tend to applaud standout plays by the opposition, something you don’t witness in many — any? — other ballparks. But opposing fans must be sick to death of hearing how those steadfast St. Louis fans are the best and brightest in all of baseball.

La Russa backlash

Think what you will of Tony La Russa, the Cards skipper from 1996 to 2011 rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. He feuded with opposing managers Dusty Baker and Jim Riggleman, general managers Ken Harrelson and Walt Jocketty, and plenty of his own players, including Ozzie Smith, Ron Gant, Scott Rolen and Colby Rasmus.

In 2012, the Associated Press’ R.B. Fallstrom described a more relaxed Cardinals’ clubhouse following La Russa’s retirement: “Postgame blowups? Gone. In-game feuding? Gone. The drama that went with La Russa most of his 33 seasons? That’s gone, too.” There are also those, like HBO’s Bryant Gumbel, who say La Russa shouldn’t get a free pass for the many years he managed admitted steroid users Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire. Clearly, TLR had his detractors, which may have contributed to a greater national disdain for the Cardinals.

Ex-Cards broadcasters

The Redbirds churn out ex-players-turned-broadcasters more than any other franchise, which must pique those convinced that announcers never relinquish their old-team ties. Some ex-Cardinals work/worked for other teams, including Bill White (Yankees), Bob Uecker (Brewers), and Keith Hernandez (Mets), but Joe Garagiola and Tim McCarver did national broadcasts and Ozzie Smith hosted “This Week in Baseball” from 1997 to ’99.

If that weren’t enough, viewers have been inundated with play-by-play men with St. Louis ties, most notably Jack Buck, Bob Costas, and Joe Buck. Do any of these folks push a pro-Cardinals bias? Maybe not, but McCarver constantly gabbled about his days catching Bob Gibson, which may have contributed to suspicions of bias and prompted a “we’re-sick-of-the-Cardinals” reaction in some quarters.

Big-market media bias

“Baseball is better and more interesting when the Yankees are one of the teams to beat,” ESPN’s David Schoenfield wrote in 2018, adding that, “When the Yankees are in the postseason, more people pay attention.” The same has been said of the Dodgers, who reside in the No. 2 national media market.

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So if baseball is “better” when the monster-market teams flourish, it must be worse, in the eyes of certain snobs, when smaller-town teams are winning. Some sports fans believe that scribes and gasbags at ESPN and other media monoliths are not-so-subtly biased in favor of the Mets, Dodgers and Cubs and Phillies, NL teams residing in the nation’s top-four media markets.

There might be a smidge of truth to that, along with a possibility that the rah-rah-Cubs coverage (for instance) we witnessed during the Joe Maddon years converts a fan or two to the Chicago North Siders and in so doing fosters a few more Redbird haters.

Cardinals fans should hardly fret that opposing fans hiss at their ballclub. I hear Redbird-bashing every time I attend a Cardinals-Rockies game at Coors field (my closest MLB ballpark), and I love it. Most Rockies fans are fantastic, and the ones who say “Cardinals suck!” are just laughable.

Next. USA Today likes the Cards in the NL Central. dark

I know it’s high-handed, but I can’t help thinking, “Um, what has your ballclub ever accomplished?” Still, I get it. If I were a Rockies, Reds, Brewers, etc., fan, I’m sure I’d mutter and curse the Cardinals, too. But I’m not a fan of those teams, and I’m thankful for that. I’m sure that you are, too.