'Enough is enough': Cards caught off guard by Brewers' All-Star ad

News-DemocratJune 18, 2014 

Maybe it was the breath-stifling heat. Or it could have been the headache-inducing sunshine. Or perhaps it's that there are exactly 101 days left in the regular season.

Whatever: A serious case of the silly broke out Wednesday in two National League Central clubhouses, when Lucroygate threatened to destroy the very fabric of our National Pastime.

OK, perhaps that overstates the case just a bit.

But there's no doubt there were more than just hot collars in the dugout when the St. Louis Cardinals saw how the Milwaukee Brewers decided to boost the All-Star candidacy of catcher Jonathan Lucroy.

By ripping Redbirds' Yadier Molina, no less.

The Brewers said "enough is enough" when it comes to Cardinal players -- particularly Molina -- making the Midsummer Classic.

"Jonathan Lucroy is not only the best catcher in the National League, but, most importantly, he's not a St. Louis Cardinal," the announcer says. "So this year, make your voice heard. Cast a ballot for change."

Molina wouldn't comment, and his teammates also steered clear of reporter notebooks.

But Cardinals manager Mike Matheny -- a former player with the Cardinals, Giants and Brewers, though we won't hold it against him -- was happy to speak out in defense of his current catcher, his team and his organization.

"I saw it, and it caught me a little by surprise," Matheny said. "I get it that a lot of it was tongue-in-cheek a little bit, but it also caught me off guard."

Cardinal players, while loathe to speak on the record about the video, did admit they saw it. And it's safe to say it's not something you normally see in the genteel world of the batted ball.

In the ad, while replays are shown of Lucroy and Molina at the plate and in the field, an announcer notes that Molina plays for the Cardinals, and says Lucroy is the better catcher. When Lucroy is shown, you hear cheering; when Molina is on the screen, you hear a baby crying.

"Cardinals fans need to know that enough is enough," the announcer says. "Status quo no longer flies. The best catcher in baseball plays in Milwaukee. Vote Jonathan Lucroy."

At the end of the ad, Lucroy is shown in uniform in the clubhouse, saying, "I'm Jonathan Lucroy, and I approved this message."

Of such are trifles -- and what passes for controversy in baseball clubhouses -- made.

Matheny, for one, was taken aback.

"I think it you've got to take it in the way it was meant, and I think it was obviously geared toward their fan base," Matheny said. "It's just amazing that there was that much directed toward our organization. I think that part probably caught me off guard the most."

As play began Wednesday, Lucroy was hitting .340 with eight home runs and 37 RBIs, and has received slightly more than 1.1 million votes in fan balloting for this year's game July 15 in Minnesota.

Molina, with five selections to the All-Star Team, is hitting .284 with six home runs and 26 RBIs. He leads the NL balloting for catcher with roughly 2 million votes.

Given the Cardinals' recent run of success -- they've played more postseason games than any team in baseball in the last three years, 47, and they've had 23 players named to the All-Star Game the last five years -- maybe there's some Redbird fatigue setting in among opposing organizations

Not that Matheny grants the premise.

"I'm not saying this is surprising, because we've been through this the last couple of years, especially last year with this Cardinal Way stuff getting blown way out of proportion," Matheny said. "It think it put a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths. (But) in defense of some of the recognition our guys have had, especially the All-Star Team, that stuff isn't just handed out. These guys have worked hard for it, they've deserved it, and they've earned it."

Matheny said he had no plans to answer the Brewer ad, in any fashion.

"That's not something I'm interested in, he said. "That's an easy no. I could see how that would be fun for baseball fans if we started going down that trail, but that's not something I'm interested in."

Then again, the Brewers may not need a response, not with the publicity they've already garnered.

"I understand the marketing behind it, the push, and it may pay off," Matheny said. "I don't know: All of us are sitting here talking about it; more people are going to hear about it, and more people are going to search for it.

"Maybe it already accomplished what it intended."

Joe Ostermeier, chairman of the St. Louis Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America, has written about the Cardinals for the News-Democrat since the 1985 season. He can be reached at (618) 239-2512 or at jostermeier@bnd.com.

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