Looking Back and Looking Forward


So three game sweep over the hated St. Louis cardinals has sparked many a conversation. The prevalent theme I’ve seen last night and this morning is that the Cards-Reds rivalry has become the best in baseball. With the antics that were visible and heard after yesterday’s game, it’s easy to also say, there’s no baseball rivalry that has more ill will.

As always, it depends on what website or newspaper you read, doesn’t it? Here’s a couple I read last night and neither is from St. Louis or Cincinnati…

It’s kind of strange to find a post or article that ever paints the Cards in a negative light. For years we’ve had driven in our heads of what a great organization it is. I’m by no means saying it isn’t. What I am saying is that all is not as it appears to be. Then you read this and realize that all may not be as rosy as a lot of people paint them.

Look at how the top of the 9th inning transpired yesterday as it pertains to the second part of David Schoenfield’s quote from ESPN’s SweetSpot that I’ve included. Yes, the part where Reds closer Francisco Cordero hit Cards Albert Pujols. What I take is that it’s OK to hit your opponent. You’re just pitching inside. But Schoenfield educates all of us on the situation…

"“In closing out the Reds’ 9-7 victory over the Cardinals on Sunday — completing Cincinnati’s first three-game sweep over St. Louis since 2007 — Francisco Cordero hit Albert Pujols with an 0-2 fastball that rode a little far in. Now, the pitch wasn’t that far off the plate … maybe a couple inches. But like so many hitters these days, Pujols crowds the plate, his hands hanging over the black like a couple sides of beef. It was good purpose pitch; and as Cordero said after the game, he wasn’t trying to put Pujols on base, not since he represented the tying run … and Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman were on deck.“But in typical Tony La Russa fashion, the Cardinals starting barking. La Russa wasn’t at the game as he was dealing with an eye infection, but his longtime pitching coach Dave Duncan, acting manager Joe Pettini and players on the bench didn’t like their star getting hit and started yelling at Cordero. So after Cordero struck out Berkman to end it, he yelled back and pointed to the St. Louis dugout.”"

I go to another portion of Schoenfield’s post where he references last year’s brawl. He quotes Tony LaRussa after the game in which the brawl occurred.

"“I know our guys,” La Russa said after that game. “This is not the first time that we’ve been challenged. You just go up and down our roster — we’ve got a bunch of guys that are very tough characters. Like I say, there’s times that you beat us, we’re not good enough. But you’re never going to scare us and we’re never going to back down.”“That’s definitely a typical La Russa response, and a reason his teams are often in the middle of these conflicts. La Russa does seem to believe in a certain code of conduct when it comes to pitching inside — not that he necessarily follows that code too religiously himself. The Cardinals are second in the NL in hit batters, and while they ranked 13th last season, they’re usually in the top half of the league: 13th, 8th, 8th, 3rd, 2nd, 9th, 6th, 7th, 5th and 2nd, going back to 2001.”"

A bit telling especially the part about believing in a code, but that code may not apply to his guys. And at least someone in the MSM realizes there is an issue that does NOT emanate from the Reds side of this rivalry. It could apply to any opponent the Cards face. We know that TLR has gotten under Dusty’s skin a time or two. We’d be fools not to acknowledge such.

And what prompted Codero’s behavior? None other than…backup catcher Gerald Laird. Yes, Gerald Laird. For this, I point you to Larry Brown’s Sports for the issue of the barking Cards…

"“It’s understandable that Cordero reacted after the game was over, but what doesn’t make sense is why Laird ran his yapper. Why would anyone want to put Pujols on with Holliday and Berkman coming up next, not to mention while having an 0-2 count? Oh wait, I forgot — Laird is a goon with an IQ lower than the Geico caveman. It does make sense.”"

In both of these included posts, they mention that the count was 0-2 on Pujols.

And they should. It just mystifies me that anyone who knows about the inner workings of the game of baseball would think or even suggest that Cordero was intentionally trying to hit Pujols considering the game situation. Albert’s the tying run at that point. Do you really want to purposely put him on base and bring the NL’s hottest hitter and recent Reds killer Matt Holliday to the plate? One swing from Holliday’s bat could severely turn the events in the Cards favor as in give them the lead.

And we know that this whole rivalry bit has spilled over into both fanbases. The comments are rarely congenial either. There are a few that will not relent to such behavior. Those that choose to engage in such can get downright nasty. And, yes, it does come from both sides.

While it’s great that the Reds seemingly got the monkey off their collective backs in sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals, Reds fans must keep something in mind. It is only May. And the Cubs are in town for a pair of games and could be looking to capitalize off the potential emotional letdown by the Reds in light of the sweep.

Got to keep the heads on straight.

And this two-game set has a couple of potential good pitching matchups.

Game 1 will see the Cubs send Carlos Zambrano to the hill with the Reds countering with Homer Bailey. Game 2 will feature Matt Garza of the Cubs and Edinson Volquez of the Reds. Later today, I’ll look at tonight’s game.