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A New and Refreshing Rivalry in Major League Baseball

Move over Yankees/Red Sox, Dodgers/Giants, and Nationals/Pirates……….(yes Nationals/Pirates), there is a new rivalry in town. The Cardinals and Reds don’t like each other, and it’s getting personal.  Yes, I know the Cardinals long time rival has been the Cubs, but lets be honest, what bad blood is there between the Cubs and Cardinals?  Even when the Cubs have been competitive, the rivalry between St. Louis and Chicago has been benign at best.  For the love of pete, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa fist bumped each other on numerous occasions when they were chasing Roger Maris in 1998.

Yankees/Red Sox is still considered the best rivalry in baseball, but I feel like the fans hate each other more than the players.  Of course each team wants to beat the other, but I get the feeling the players feign hatred because that is what they are told they are supposed to do.  With Dodgers/Giants and the tragic case of Bryan Stow we know some fans take the rivalry way too far.

I’m not sure Reds and Cardinals fans harbor any animosity towards each other.  Cardinals fans are way too classy for any nonsense, and would probably politely clap for a Reds player if he made an amazing play.  However, in the last year an intense hatred has developed between the Reds and Cardinals players.

Since Tony La Russa took the helm in St. Louis in 1996, the Cards have largely owned the NL Central.  The Cubs have had a couple decent seasons, and the Astros made things interesting in the mid 00′s.  St. Louis’s dominance was largely unchallenged until last season.  With a potent lineup and some exciting young arms, Cincinnati emerged as a potential alpha to St. Louis.

Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips fired the first shot in the Reds/Cardinals rivalry when he called the Cardinals 'whiners' in 2010. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Things escalated last year when Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter objected to the baseballs used in Cincinnati.  Carp claimed they weren’t properly rubbed up.  Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips publicly called the Cards whiners.  The next day Cards catcher Yadi Molina and Phillips got into it at the plate, starting a brawl.  Cincinnati pitcher Johnny Cueto famously kicked Carpenter and Cards catcher Jason LaRue while teammates were restraining him.  Cueto drew a seven game suspension, and a rivalry was born.  The Reds made the Cards take notice, winning the season series and division in 2010.

The teams reached another boiling point this past weekend.  Cardinals players were angry at Reds closer Francisco Cordero for hitting Albert Pujols on the wrist on an 0-2 pitch.  When Cordero picked up the save in a 9-7 Reds win, he was seen gesturing towards Cardinals players as they were yelling at Cordero.

Hall of Fame Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman could no longer hold back his feelings when the Reds played the Cubs on Monday.  Brennaman took shots at Chris Carpenter and Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan on the air.

Over the weekend Carpenter complained about the mound at The Great American Ballpark, the fact the game was played in steady rain, and the smoke that lingered in the ballpark after a homerun was hit and fireworks were shot off.  During Monday’s broadcast Brennaman called Carpenter a ‘whiner and excuse maker.’  He referred to Dave Duncan as ‘infantile.’  Duncan was among those on the Cardinals bench yelling at Cordero for plunking Pujols.  Brennaman went on to say the Cardinals ‘May be the most disliked team in baseball.’

Tony LaRussa is never above standing up for his guys and engaging in some good gamesmanship.  On Tuesday LaRussa told reporters “He (Brennaman) earned the right to get into the Hall of Fame,” “And now he ought to keep earning that respect instead of abusing it.”

The Reds and Cardinals don’t meet again until July 4th.  Time heals some wounds, but baseball players and managers are like elephants, they never forget.  I will be quite interested to see what happens the next time these new enemies face off.

I think a new rivalry is great for baseball.  You can only go to the Yankees/Red Sox, Mets/Phillies, or Dodgers/Giants well so many times.  The best part about this rivalry is that the teams may hate each other more than the fans!

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