The St. Louis Cardinals’ 29 greatest (and slightest) rivals

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 04: Yasiel Puig #66 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts after he was struck out in the third inning against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game Two of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 4, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 04: Yasiel Puig #66 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts after he was struck out in the third inning against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game Two of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 4, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

After the Cubs, which other teams do St. Louis Cardinals fans fear and loathe, and which do they like?

Passionate fans love it when rival teams lose. The only thing as satisfying as a St. Louis Cardinals win is a Cubs loss, although a Reds or Dodgers defeat can feel good, too. In fact, you can measure the strength of a baseball rivalry by your reaction to another team’s misfortunes.

Most Cardinals fans don’t care if the Padres fail but might get a nice, warm feeling in their tummies if the Cubs or Dodgers have a losing streak.

This is a subjective ranking of the Cardinals baseball rivals, from one to 29. It’s based on the history of the rivalry as well as where it stands today. After the first 12 or so, the rivalry isn’t so strong, but there are always reasons —granted, some very feeble — for disliking or liking a Cardinals opponent.

The Nationals, for instance, had the effrontery to sweep the Redbirds out of last year’s playoffs with the help of St. Louis-raised Max Scherzer. Curses! The A’s and the Padres, on the other hand, have made several trades to bolster the Cardinals lineup. Keep it up, fellas!

Here’s the list:

No. 1: Chicago Cubs. This is as much about the cities as the franchises. Chicago is one of the two or three great American cities. St. Louis is a once-proud metropolis that has fallen on hard times. But when it comes to baseball, the Cardinals (excluding 2016 and a few other quirky seasons) have had the upper hand, with 11 World Series Championships over the past century compared to one for the Cubs. This might surprise you: Chicago actually has the all-time edge in head-to-head competition, 1243-1181.

No. 2: Los Angeles Dodgers. The Cardinals and Dodgers have been battling it out for World Series berths since the 1940s, a decade in which the Cardinals won four NL pennants and the Dodgers three. In the 2013 NLCS, a couple of Cardinals accused Adrian Gonzalez and Yadier Puig of “Mickey Mouse” antics and a USA Today columnist took L.A. to task for “home-run pimping” and “umpire staredowns.” “Just different cultures,” infielder Mark Ellis said in 2014. Very different cultures.

No. 3: Cincinnati Reds. The rivalry has cooled in recent years due to a downturn in Reds’ fortunes, but if Cincy is back, as some believe, this could get real lively real fast. These teams despised each other a decade ago, with a wild player brawl and many bitter words from the opposing managers.

No. 4: Atlanta Braves. Cards-Braves playoff games tend to be testy. In 2012, the Birds won a Wild Card game with the help of an infield-fly call that cost the Braves an additional run or more in the eighth inning of the one-game playoff. Last year, the Cards accused the Atlanta lads of showboating while coming back from a 2-1 deficit to win the NLDS in five.

No. 5: New York Mets. This rivalry peaked in the mid-late-1980s when the teams took turns winning the NL East. Midwesterners don’t always cotton to New Yorkers. Some Mets fans are still cheesed that Willie McGee won the 1985 MVP over Dwight Gooden.

No. 6: San Francisco Giants. Among NL teams, only the Giants, with three, and the Cardinals, with two, have won multiple World Series this century. In 1986, a couple of inside pitches to Vince Coleman resulted in a brawl between the two teams. The 1987 NLCS was a hostile seven-game affair, with St. Louis fans fuming over Jeffrey Leonard’s “one-flap down” home run trots.

No. 7: Kansas Royals. This rivalry is felt most strongly by Missourians with strong feelings for one team or the other, although the 1985 I-70 World Series, won by the Royals, still rankles a lot of older Redbird rooters.

No. 8: Houston Astros. The biggest thing here is the 2014 scandal in which a Cards’ executive hacked into the Astros’ internal database, but the two clubs did play in back-to-back NLCS in 2004 and ’05 with the Birds winning the first in seven games and losing the second in six.

No. 9: Milwaukee Brewers. It’s hard to hate a small-market franchise that has won exactly one pennant in 50 years (and then lost that Series to the Cards), but the Brewers have been a pest in recent seasons, finishing second, first and second in the NL Central from 2017-19.

No. 10: Pittsburgh Pirates. You have to rank the Pirates fairly high because they’ve been in the Cardinals division for 51 years, but there hasn’t been much heat between these teams. The only tight division race occurred in 1974 when the Pirates finished 1.5 games up on the Cards. The teams did play a thrilling NLDS in 2013, with the Cards winning the last two games in Pittsburgh to triumph three games to two.

No. 11: Boston Red Sox. In 2004, General Manager Theo Epstein’s Sox swept the Cards in the World Series. The Redbirds would lose again to the Sox in the 2013 Series and endure Epstein’s Cubs from 2011 on. In the ’40s and ’50s, these fan bases liked to argue over who was baseball’s best left fielder, Boston’s Ted Williams, or the Cardinals’ Stan Musial.

No. 12: New York Yankees. The Cards and the Yanks are baseball’s most successful franchises, although the New Yorkers have a huge lead in World Series titles, 27 to 11. St. Louis has a 3-2 lead in head-to-head World Series meetings, beating New York’s AL squad in 1926, 1942 and 1964. Raise your hand if you get annoyed with the media’s unending fascination with the Yankees.

No. 13: Philadelphia Phillies. The infamous Phillies collapse of 1964 resulted in a Cardinals pennant and St. Louis pulled off a five-game NLDS upset of Philadelphia in 2011, but it still burns that Steve Carlton went from good to great after his 1972 trade from the Cards to the Phillies. The ill-fated 1969 trade that sent Curt Flood (who refused to report) to Philadelphia with co-captain Tim McCarver was another stinker for the Redbirds, who wallowed in mediocrity for much of the next decade.

No. 14: Washington Nationals. The Nats have only been around since 2005 and the Cards have a 61-45 record — counting playoffs — against them, but Washington’s sweep of last year’s NLCS is a sore spot. So is the sight of St. Louis native Max Scherzer, three-time Cy Young Award winner, in a Nationals uniform. On the bright side, Scherzer is just 2-6 with a 3.31 ERA against his hometown team.

No. 15: Minnesota Twins. Some losses are hard to get over. The 1987 Cardinals won 95 games, 10 more than the Twins, the team they met in the World Series. But Minnesota got the home-field advantage, and that decided the Series, with the Twins going 4-0 at the Hubert Humphrey Metrodome (and 0-3 at Busch). Overall, the Cardinals are 3-11 when playing in Minnesota.

No. 16: Detroit Tigers. The Cardinals beat the Tigers in the 1934 and 2006 World Series but are just 12-23 (.343) vs. Detroit in regular-season games this century. The Redbirds’ most crushing postseason defeat? Losing the 1968 WS to the Tigers after taking a three-games-to-one lead.

No. 17: Chicago White Sox. Some St. Louis fans despise any team from Chicago, be it the Cubs, White Sox, Bears or Blackhawks. Legendary broadcaster Harry Caray spent 25 years with the Cardinals before joining the Oakland A’s in 1970, then the White Sox from 1971-81 and the Cubs from 1982-97. For the oldest of oldtimers, it’s galling to think that folks today identify Carey with the White Sox and Cubs rather than the team that employed him first.

No. 18: Arizona Diamondbacks. In just their fourth year of existence, the 2001 Diamondbacks edged the Cardinals in a five-game NLDS and went on to win the NLCS and the World Series. Arizona took the deciding Game 5 vs. St. Louis on a ninth-inning RBI single by Tony Womack that broke a 1-1 tie. You gotta wonder if a win by the Cardinals would have launched them, not the D-backs, on a World Series run.

No. 19: Colorado Rockies. The Cardinals have had some bad times at Coors Field, including one of their most painful regular-season losses. On July 6, 2010, St. Louis blew a six-run ninth-inning lead by coughing up nine ninth-inning runs, the last three coming on a walk-off three-run homer by Seth Smith off reliever Ryan Franklin, who was responsible for six of the ninth-inning runs.

No. 20: Baltimore Orioles. You have to go back 67 years to find any rancor between the O’s and the Cardinals, but here it is: From 1902-53, the O’s were the St. Louis Browns. In the early years of the 20th century, the Browns were the more successful St. Louis franchise and the Cardinals had to pay the Browns rent in order to play in Sportsman’s Park from 1920-53.

More from St Louis Cardinals All-Time Lists

No. 21: Cleveland Indians. The Cards are just 10-16 (.385) in interleague games vs. the Tribe and made one of their worst trades in 2002, dealing Coco Crisp and another minor-leaguer for 39-year-old Cleveland pitcher Chuck Finley. Finley lasted less than half a season in St. Louis while Crisp went on to a productive 15-year career.

No. 22: Los Angeles Angels. This franchise pried Albert Pujols from St. Louis with a mind-blowing 10 year, $240 million contract in December of 2011. That hurt. But the Angels’ Pujols has been nothing like the Cardinals’ Pujols, plus the Redbirds received a compensatory pick they used to select Michael Wacha in the 2012 June Amateur Draft. Oh, and back in 2000, the Angels sent Jim Edmonds to the St. Louis in an absurdly one-sided deal. Hard to feel much animus for the Angels.

No. 23: Tampa Bay Rays. The July 2018 trade of Tommy Pham to Tampa looks bad after the outfielder hit .287 with a .385 OBP and .870 OPS over two seasons with the Rays. Lefty Genesis Cabrera, acquired in that trade, is just 23 and could make the swap work out for the Cardinals.

No. 24: Seattle Mariners. The 2017 deal that sent Marco Gonzales to Seattle for outfielder Tyler O’Neill doesn’t look good. Gonzales is 30-23 with a 4.12 ERA and 6.1 WAR with the Mariners while O’Neill has just a .307 OBP and a 1.1 WAR with the Cardinals.

No. 25: Toronto Blue Jays. There’s no reason to resent Toronto — unless you’re an ornithophile (bird lover) who prefers a “songbird with a noticeable crest and a stout bill that is often red in color” (cardinal) over a “common blue North American bird with feathers that come to a point at the top of its head” (bluejay).

No. 26: Miami Marlins. The Cardinals’ first trade with the Marlins in 1998 brought shortstop Edgar Renteria to St. Louis in exchange for three youngsters. Only one of the ex-Cards, pitcher Braden Looper, did much after that. St. Louis has dominated head-to-head games in this series, 118-81.

No. 27: Texas Rangers. Not counting the 2011 World Series, the Cardinals are a woeful 3-9 vs. the Rangers. But fond memories of the last Cardinals World Series triumph make the Rangers feel like a lovable foil.

No. 28: Oakland A’s. In 1996, the Cardinals re-stocked their clubhouse with a glut of ex-Athletics, including pitchers Dennis Eckersley, Rick Honeycutt and Todd Stottlemyre, infielder Mike Gallego, manager Tony La Russa, and coaches Dave Duncan, Dave McKay, and Ron Hassey. They immediately improved from 19 games below .500 (62-81) to 14 over (88-74) and a playoff berth. Two years later, they acquired Mark McGwire from Oakland for next to nothing. This relationship has been very good for the Redbirds.

No. 29: San Diego Padres. Do the Cardinals win the 1982 and 2011 World Series without the magnanimity of the Padres? Maybe not. The ’82 champs greatly benefited from ex-Padres Ozzie Smith and outfielder George Hendrick, who led the team with 104 RBI. The 2011 team wouldn’t have defeated the Rangers without ex-Padre minor leaguer David Freese. St. Louis surrendered very little to acquire these three essential players.

Next. Latest proposals move towards baseball in 2020. dark

You may recall bad games and bad blood between the Cardinals and some of the lower-ranked teams on this list. And maybe, for reasons of your own, you loathe the Marlins and the Blue Jays and like the Braves. This list won’t work for everybody, but here’s hoping it makes you question which Cardinals foes you fear and which have been mostly a boon to the Birds.