Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Angry Birds

Angry Birds
By Aaron M. Smith

Tony LaRussa unhappy about something.
Last year before a pivotal divisional series between the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati second baseman Brandon Phillips set off a firestorm with a flurry of salty adjectives aimed at the Cardinals players and coaching staff. The Reds were promptly swept and I have always believed that Phillips never should have said what he said on the radio.

The Cardinals, though seem happy to prove Phillips right on seemingly a nightly basis.

I love the unwritten rules of baseball and how players police themselves. But when a guy like LaRussa seems ignorant of these unwritten rules, yet still attempts to police the game via his players, it sours the whole experience. Last night in Milwaukee was a perfect example.

In a titanic struggle between the National League Central's top two teams, Milwaukee and St. Louis had a great game going. The Brewers were clinging to a one-run advantage in the seventh inning as the Cardinals threatened with runners on first and third with no outs. The Cardinals' Albert Pujols, one of the National League leaders in hitting into double plays, was at the plate and was promptly hit on the wrist on a high and tight pitch to load the bases. The Cardinals screamed foul even though putting Pujols on base would have been ridiculous given who the Cardinals have up next in their lineup. Milwaukee's Jonathan Lucroy had this to say about the situation:
"There's no way that we were trying to hit Pujols on purpose. You kidding me in that situation? If we wanted to put him on base, we would have walked him. That's ridiculous. We were trying to pitch inside and get a ground ball to third base."
When the Brewers came to the plate, LaRussa had his hardest throwing pitcher fire inside at Brewers' slugger Ryan Braun. Not once, but twice -- the second pitch was a 97 mile-per-hour fastball that hit Braun's back. LaRussa then claimed that it was not intentional but that he wanted to "send a message" to the Brewers for the way they were pitching to Pujols. Not intentional, but just sending a message? So what LaRussa called it was an unintentional intentional warning to the Brewers. Classic LaRussa. Then he whined about it for a long time to reporters following the game. LaRussa even referred to Brewers fans as "idiots ... not idiots, I mean fans" for booing when Braun was hit.
"We threw two balls in there real good just to send a message," La Russa said, raising his voice. "If he ducks them, it's all over and we don't hit him. The ball that they tried to throw on Pujols was aimed right where they aimed it. Did they try to hit him? No. But there's a small window there."
This is just the latest in a string of whiny behavior from the Cardinals.

Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter and LaRussa have complained on more than one instance that the baseballs in Cincinnati have not been rubbed down properly. No other team has had the same issue. Cardinals' pitching coach Dave Duncan also has complained about this issue, even going as far as saying the Reds' pitchers have pine tar on their caps to help grip the balls.
"I'm sure (Arroyo) had pine tar on his cap. He didn't have any problem getting a grip. Balls like that can generate a lot more movement than a slick ball that hasn't been rubbed up."
Of course, the umpires, who have the final say of whether the baseballs have been rubbed properly, found no evidence of any pine tar on Arroyo's cap.

Carpenter pouting about something.
Carpenter has complained about mound conditions at Great American Ball Park more than once. No other pitcher seems to have the same problem. After surrendering a home run to the Reds on May 15th of this year, Carpenter stood on the mound and pouted like an 8-year-old not getting his way because the smoke from the fireworks bothered him. By the way, the Cardinals shoot off fireworks after home runs, too. Carpenter whined to someone who then whined to the Cincinnati Reds. Unfortunately, when the Cardinals coughed up another home run to the Reds later in the game, the ballpark staff decided not to shoot off fireworks. Pathetic. I would have fired off the entire arsenal.

Later in that same game, Duncan cried foul the same way LaRussa did last night against the Brewers. The Reds' bullpen let most of a 9-2 lead get away in a five-run ninth inning. Aroldis Chapman walked four of the five batters he faced and then Nick Masset gave up a two-run double to Ryan Theriot that cut it to 9-5. Francisco Cordero came on with one out and gave up a two-run double to Nick Punto, then came high and tight with a two-strike pitch to Pujols that hit the first baseman on his left wrist. Key part of that last sentence: a two-strike pitch. Why would you intentionally hit a guy who you have on the ropes? Even Pujols realized that Cordero didn't want to put the tying run on base, but some of his teammates and coaches started yelling at Cordero. Duncan went ballistic after Cordero finally shut the door on the Cardinals, yelling and screaming like a toddler at nap time. You have to understand the situation and Duncan and LaRussa clearly do not. They simply fire off inaccurate accusations. There is no place in the game of baseball for that kind of ignorance.

No other team in baseball is like the Cardinals. And that's not a compliment to St. Louis. A reputation does not come from a single incident or event. It is earned through a series of events that come to define who or what a person or, in this case, a team is. Saying the Cardinals have a reputation for whining and complaining would be an accurate statement. Just look at the facts. Simply type "Cardinals, whiny" in Google and settle on in for some hardy reading.

The Cardinals whined and complained about the Reds last year when Cincinnati challenged the Cardinals and eventually won the division. This year, Milwaukee is leading the division with the Cardinals in second place. And to no one's surprise, the Cardinals' whines are aimed squarely at the division leaders once again.

Phillips may have been wrong to publicly call out the Cardinals a year ago. But that doesn't make what the second baseman said any less accurate.


  1. Not a fan of the Reds, Cardinals, or Brewers, but what you wrote is absolutely spot on. It isn't just NL Central teams that hate LaRussa and the Cardinals. Tired of seeing this garbage from them all the time. Good post. I'm sure you'll hear from some ignorant Cardinals fans lol ..

  2. "Duncan went ballistic after Cordero finally shut the door on the Cardinals, yelling and screaming like a toddler at nap time."

    Love it :)