Thursday, May 19, 2011

Daily Rant 5/19: Cards v. Reds Rivalry Right

Yesterday we learned that San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow was able to open his eyes in the hospital. You'll recall from Chizzy's earlier Daily Rant that Stow was attacked by two L.A. Dodger fans outside the stadium on opening day. Former Cincinnati Reds executive John Allen, recently assigned to help run the daily operations of the Dodgers, said that of this weeks Giants v. Dodgers series, "You won't be able to turn around in your seat without bumping into security personnel." Is that what baseball rivalries have come to? Well, yes, in some cases.

The rivalries that trump most of the baseball world are typically as follows:

1) Yankees v. Red Sox
2) Giants v. Dodgers
3) Cardinals v. Cubs
4) White Sox v. Cubs - a more recent one due to interleague play.

Well, add one more to that list. And this one is probably the best one going in baseball: The St. Louis Cardinals v. the Cincinnati Reds. Essentially, it's Chizzy v. KD when it comes down to it.

I had the opportunity to attend last Sunday's final game of the Reds sweep over the Cardinals (and yes, once Aroldis Chapman took the mound I felt like the game would be in jeopardy despite the Reds holding a 9-2 lead). While the crowd was more sparce than usual for this rivalry due to the weather, I sat next to a group of four Cardinals fans. I think Cardinals fans in general are some of, if not the best/most knowledgeable baseball fans you can find. The four I sat next to were know different.

Yeah, none of them liked Brandon Phillips, the same way no Reds fan likes Yadier Molina, but all four admitted that there's not a better second basemen playing right now than Phillips. I conceded that Molina is the best defensive catcher in the game, and that Albert Pujols is probably my second-favorite baseball player ever (sorry, it's tough to pass The Big Hurt, Frank Thomas).

Throughout the game we chatted about baseball, the Cardinals bullpen struggles, the Reds struggles to match their offensive numbers from last year (Jonny Gomes, I'm looking at you). It was great, and they all said I'd enjoy taking in a ball game in St. Louis - how could I not? The park is great, the fans are the best, and no matter who trots onto the field, you're going to see good, sound baseball. All that said, a former co-worker of mine whose father is Chief of Security at Great American Ball Park said that no additional personnel were needed to come in to police the crowd. Imagine that? A rivlary game that doesn't need more Carl Winslow's in the stands.

And the rivalry is heating up on the field too.

Last year, the Reds won the N.L. Central, but struggled mighitily against the Cardinals. There was a brawl to open an August series in Cinicinnati after the Reds Brandon Phillips called the Cardinals team "little bit&#s". While I don't agree with Phillips saying that, I think it struck sparks that will last for a while. Yadier Molina refused some dap from Phillips (his pre-at bat ritual is one of the stranger ones in baseball) and that sparked a fight (go to about :25 to see the start of the brawl). It saw former Cardinal Scott Rolen grapple with Chris Carpenter and Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto kick Carpenter and former Reds catcher Jason LaRue (essentially ending LaRue's career).

This year, at the conclusion of Sunday's game, Reds closer Francisco Cordero got into it with several Cardinals players and pitching coach Dave Duncan for hitting Albert Pujols on the hand in the top of the 9th. While Cordero's pitch didn't look like it was on purpose (the tying run was coming to the plate in the form of Matt Holliday) it still added to this rivalry.

The incident prompted Reds Hall of Fame announcer Marty Brennaman to say that Chris Carpenter was a "whiner" for complaining about mound conditions and firework smoke that lingered for several innings. Carpenter also said that last year the Reds didn't properly rub down baseballs on a day he was pitching. Brennaman went on to call Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan "infantile", prompting Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa to say that Brennaman "needs to continue to earn the respect" that got him into the Hall of Fame.

When one team's radio broadcaster is trading salvos with another teams manager you know it's going to be good. And that's what is so right with this rivalry. Two teams in the same division that look like their on a collision course to compete all season long (sorry JM, I don't trust your Brewers...knock on wood). But I think there's a mutual respect there, at least from everyone but Brandon Phillips. But it's going to be an outstanding baseball season, and a great rivalry for the next few years. This is especially nice considering there's not going to be any news on the NFL front until June 3rd; the NBA is getting locked out as soon as the Dallas Mavericks hoist the Championship Banner (yeah, I went bold there), but baseball, at least for this summer, is just right.

The Reds and Cardinals next series is July 4th - 6th in St. Louis. I'd suggest, if you're a fan of baseball, make sure you tune in as I suspect it will probably be for the division lead. Again.

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