Once again the calendar has flipped to October. That only means one thing here in St. Louis; the city is abuzz with music and chatter, water fountains have been dyed red, money is being exchanged for over-priced tickets, the St. Louis Cardinals are once again in the MLB playoffs and the talk of Cardinal haters is on the rise. Just like clockwork the annual Cardinal hating begins once October hits. Why though? What is the reason for the disdain?
You will hear people mention that the Cardinals Suck because they just win too much, because of the “Cardinal Way”, because the fans are too cocky, because of the false image the organization has as a small market/large payroll. Well let’s take a look at each of these, in reverse order.
First the small market/large payroll aspect. Yes the Cardinals have a payroll that is in the Top 10 of MLB. However they are able to do this because of shrewd financial decisions, organizational strength and a fan base that truly supports them. It cannot be argued that the Cardinals are indeed located in a mid-sized market. They do not have the millions of people in the metropolis to pull from and that can just stumble upon a game going on and buy a ticket. The Cardinals fan base was built over the years and reaches many of the states in the middle of the country. The fans are the ones that makeup the Cardinals, much in the same way the Packers fan base supports them. Without 3-million fans filling Busch Stadium up every summer the Cardinals would not be able to field a team with a payroll over $100 million. They do not have the luxury of a billion dollar television deal such as the Dodgers, Yankees or Angels. So just because the Cardinals are supported by their fans and the organization makes smart (lucky) moves such as allowing Pujols to walk; is that to be hated?
Now the fan base. The Cardinal fans are often painted by national people as cocky, know-it-all’s, who think they are better than other fans. I think this is perpetuated by the national fans because it fits with the storyline. Do Cardinal fans take pride in being called the “Best Fans in Baseball”, HECK YES! Who wouldn’t? But the fans did not just pull this out of one of their red STL hats. No this imagery, this notion came from media, from coaches, and from the players themselves. As early as 1992 Pittsburgh Pirate skipper Jim Leyland stated “I think the St. Louis Cardinals have the best fans in baseball. They appreciate good play, no matter which team makes it. They’ve always seemed to appreciate good effort.” Peter Gammons has often said similar remarks. And just ask any player who comes to St. Louis and puts on the jersey; from Jim Edmonds to Mark McGwire. The players feel the difference on the field from the stands. It is appreciation. So yes the national media picked up on it and yes as I often do with many things the national media picks up on and overplays (Tim Tebow, anything New York Jets, the SEC, etc.) it becomes annoying. But again this was not created by the fans but embraced. If the media wants to run with it, take issue with them. But at the heart of it is a fan base that truly are “The Best Fans in Baseball”.
Which leads us to the “Cardinal Way”. The Cardinal Way has grown in popularity over the past three years and transitioned from Tony LaRussa to Mike Matheny. But the Cardinal Way is not some righteous notion. Again this has been taken out of context and skewed. The Cardinal Way is simply how the St. Louis Cardinals organization goes about their business every day. From scouting, to teaching, on the field, and off the field. The Cardinal Way goes back to the Gas House Gang, through the El Birdos, to the speedster teams of the 80’s and on into the current decade. The Cardinal Way has helped link the organizations success through generations and will be the foundation of future teams. The Cardinal Way is not about being almighty and better than everyone else but about making the most out of your talents and doing what it takes to be a successful team AND organization for extended periods of time. You can keep your “Moneyball”, your “Florida Firesales”and “Yankee Shopping Sprees”, I will take the Cardinal Way.
Now we come to the winning portion of the argument. And this is where I must agree. The Cardinals do win, as noted by making the playoffs 11 times over the past 14 years. They have won 11 World Series, second most only to the Yankees. The Cardinals win. And I can see where anyone can be annoyed by that because there are teams I hate that win; Patriots, Yankees, Blackhawks. But in each of these cases the hatred stems from other factors. Unlike the Patriots, the Cardinals did not cheat. (Don’t even talk about the steroid connection because first of all it is now apparent majority of MLB teams had players on PED’s and secondly when the Cardinals did have McGwire on the team that was actually the leanest years for the team). Unlike Yankees, the Cardinals did not buy their championships. Back in the 90’s the Yankees built their teams from within. While they did win my dislike for them did not grow into hatred until they started to put together fantasy teams and win championships through that avenue. Plus they have the whole East Coast bias on their side which is supremely annoying. Now the Blackhawks hatred comes simply from being my favorite hockey team’s rivals. So Cub fans I can see your hatred for the Cardinals, sorry about that maybe next century.
The whole Cardinal hatred stems simply from jealousy. Fans jealous because their teams do not win, fans that do not support their team (did you see the Reds empty seats in final home stand of the season?), fans jealous because the national media dubbed the Cardinals fans “Best in Baseball”. I get it. Jealousy is a strong thing. But just know that these mocking articles that come out every year ripping the Cardinals and their fans are nothing but amusing. So while you sit at home jealously watching the Cardinals in the playoffs just know that in the end you have become one of us, the Cardinal Nation…Red October. Because while Cardinal fans are dressed in red you sit at home with your face turning red with jealousy. So thanks for joining in the Cardinal Nation….and GO CARDS!