There's a lot of talk lately from the national media that the Cardinals are "the most hated team in baseball."
On one hand, I think this is a little bit ridiculous. But, on the other, I wonder should St. Louis fans care?
Some players on other teams have made comments about the Cardinals being whiney, self righteous or bullies. Is it a coincidence that those players are typically from wanna be teams that get tired of Tony La Russa's Cardinals eating their lunch year after year?
Throughout the last decade, when Houston was a much different team than it is now, the Astros and Cardinals may have disliked each other. But they respected each other. Lance Berkman admitted that he wanted sometimes to punch La Russa when he was with the Astros. But he didn't go to the press about it. And when Houston didn't offer him a contract this season, where did he want to play? Berkman took half of what he had on the table from Oakland -- and didn't even go to Chicago where the Cubs planned to make an offer -- because he wanted to play with La Russa and the Cardinals.
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Last season his teammate Roy Oswalt asked the Astros if they were going to trade him to send him to St. Louis. How hated could the Cardinals be?
A lot of the hub bub surrounding the Redbirds was stirred up by the plunking of Milwaukee's Ryan Braun by Jason Motte after the Brewers hit Albert Pujols. And I just don't get it. The same weekend that happened the Angels and Tigers got into a bean ball war and no one talks about how hated the Angels are...
It's over complicating things to say that the Cardinals ordered a hit on Braun because La Russa has railed in the past about pitchers throwing near his players' heads. The simple fact of the matter is that, for as long as men have stood 60 1/2 feet from a guy throwing a hard ball that is capable of fracturing their skull, the guys on the receiving end haven't cared for being hit with said ball.
You can find stories in newspapers 100 years ago about baseball games where if they hit one of ours, we hit one of theirs. Have these people ever even heard of Bob Gibson?
That being said, it wasn't the Brewers who complained about Braun being hit. It was the media. During the game in question when Motte plunked Braun in the back, a few of the Brewers tried to exit the dugout and escalate the shenanigans. Prince Fielder, standing on deck, stopped them at the time. And, after the game, he said in interviews that it wasn't a big deal Braun was hit. Basically, he said Milwaukee had it coming after Pujols was hit. That happened in the middle game of a three game set. And nothing happened afterward. So, was it really out of line?
Finally, to my second point: Should we care?
Well, one of the reasons the Cardinals are disliked by other teams and their fans is because they've dominated the National League Central division since the late 1990s. So that sort of sentiment is going to come with the territory.
But if it's wrong for the Cardinals to protect their hitters then, by all means, let Milwaukee, Cincinnati and Chicago fill up on hater-aid.
It's human nature that people are going to take as many liberties as they can before someone stands up and says "that's enough." And, when the Cardinals hit Braun, that's what they were doing.
It doesn't matter if the Brewers tried to hit Pujols on purpose. Or if they were aiming for his injured wrist. What matters is that Milwaukee was coming more and more inside on Pujols until the inevitable happened. And when you play with fire, eventually, you are going to get burned.