Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
Today’s the big day. No, not Easter, silly.
The 2015 Major League Baseball season kicks off tonight, and not just with any game — a Cardinals-Cubs game. That’s exciting, considering the teams are long-standing rivals, but it’s also a reminder to the baseball-viewing world its favorite hobby of late is back in season: Cardinal-hating.
And I get it. There are plenty of reasons to hate the St. Louis Cardinals. They win in the playoffs a lot, crushing the dreams of Pittsburgh and Washington and the like in the process. Their fans are unabashedly self-aware at best and dishearteningly racist at worst. (Check the @BestFansStLouis Twitter account if you need proof of the latter.) Plus, Yadier Molina rocks neck tattoos, which can’t help.
But those reasons have all earned their fair share of Deadspin rants and October think pieces. As a lifelong Cardinals fan who realizes just how annoying we can be but still loves his team, I think it’s time for some damage control.
Here are some reasons not to hate the Cardinals:
• The Cardinals have won a lot, but they haven’t won that much.
Did everyone watch the last World Series? Did you not notice the Giants won their third championship in five years? The Cardinals have only been the last team standing once in the last eight years, fewer times than both San Francisco and Boston. What’s more, the Giants took down the Kansas City Royals, the undisputed feel-good story of the postseason. Why couldn’t the Giants just let them have that one?
Heck, history shows even the Cardinals wouldn’t deny Kansas City a world championship.
• The Redbirds’ reign might be nearing its end.
If you haven’t begun hating the Cardinals already, it might not be worth starting now. I think there’s a real possibility this season marks the beginning of the team’s inevitable decline — at least, I assume it’s inevitable.
For one, as cold as it feels to evaluate the tragic October death of Oscar Taveras in terms of a baseball roster, it’s hard to say how having that wrench thrown in the system will affect the Cardinals. Hate them or not, the Cardinals have been run exceptionally well under John Mozeliak. It always seemes like “Mo” knows exactly which buttons to push and when to push them. I liked the Jason Heyward trade, but for an organization that has had success building from within, it remains to be seen how that big move with affect the Cards’ gameplan.
What’s more, while I think this team has upside, there are a lot of opportunities for the wheels to fall off. The starting rotation isn’t quite as airtight as it has been, and veterans Molina, Matt Holliday and Jhonny Peralta could potentially see drops in production in the coming years. If you’ve enjoyed your share of Cardinals hate the past few years, then this could make for some nice schadenfraude, but if you’re late to the bandwagon, the leap might not be worth it.
• Those uniforms.
The Cardinals have some dang good uniforms. No amount of hate can hide that.
• All that young talent.
Sure, this is the very reason so many people are frustrated with the Cardinals, who, according to Grantland, have had more draft picks reach the field than any other team since 2010.
But if you can get past the fact this potentially sets up St. Louis pretty well for the future, it’s not too hard to enjoy watching these players. It’s fun to watch young guys and imagine they might be the next best thing. Carlos Martinez, Trevor Rosenthal, Randal Grichuk, Michael Wacha, the list goes on and on. Sure, the Cubs might have more exciting prospects right now, but the Cardinals have a nice track record in their favor.
• Yes, we’re annoying, but we’ve always been like that.
I’ve noticed a theme with the St. Louis hate that the Internet world seems to be so infatuated with lately. It typically comes when someone happens to find out about some St. Louis thing — say by stumbling across the Wikipedia page for STL food or by being over-exposed to the Cardinals because they won’t go away. And then, the Internet laughs at St. Louis.
But the thing is, St. Louis didn’t change. St. Louis has always loved baseball and toasted ravioli and Budweiser and it has equally loved bragging about loving those things, as well as inventing the ice cream cone (we think) and pioneering the field of arch-shaped architecture.
St. Louis isn’t the biggest city, nor is it the best, but it generally knows what its idenity is and enjoys that identity.
Don’t get me wrong, the city has big problems, and racism is at the top of that list, as the past year has shown. But the prevalent practice of writing racism off as a St. Louis-specific problem and pretending the rest of the country has it figured out doesn’t help anyone either.
Anyway, I know I’m fighting a losing battle here. People really hate the Cardinals. But, I had to try and grit it out. It’s the Cardinal Way.