The Cardinals are the new Yankees

Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Kind of. Without the $120 million contracts. But work with me, here.

This is a real passage from a real article.

When I told him I’m a die-hard St. Louis Cardinals fan, the mood shifted. "I loathe the Cardinals," he said. "That’s impossible," I replied. Nobody hates the Cardinals. We’re a well-run organization with strong values. Our fans are the best in baseball. Hating the Cardinals is like punching your mother.

It's an amazing passage. So oblivious. So precious. I've watched my team foist a weaponized Barry Bonds on the world, and later win two World Series in three years, with different bearded, gyrating closers closing out each one. Oh, I know that people hate the Giants. It's part of the equation. It's not even a question.

I'm not going to suggest that all Cardinals fans are so oblivious. Not even a majority, or anything close to a majority. But there's a larger truth behind it. The Cardinals aren't the Yankees. They aren't the evil empire, the team that even casual fans know to hate. They're second in World Series titles in baseball history. They have an unimpeachable record of recent success. They're going to be good for the next decade, give or take. But they aren't a Rorschach blot of rage for the casual fan just yet.

This is the series, then. If they win, this is when people learn to hate the Cardinals as a reflex.

It's easy to explain why the Cards didn't evoke that kind of rage. From 1926 through 1946, they won six championships. From Rogers Hornsby to Enos Slaughter to Stan Musial, the Cardinals had a fantastic run of success. But there were 16 teams back then. The feeling of "IT'S ALWAYS THEM, DAMMIT" didn't exist, at least on this level.

Then there were a couple of World Series in the '60s. Bob Gibson is a demigod in the baseball pantheon, and those seasons are but a couple of reasons why. Now we're up to eight titles.

The '70s were kind of boring, but there was a championship in '82. That was probably exciting. Then they were robbed  of another championship by Don Denkinger. You almost felt bad for them.

From '67 to '06, the Cardinals won exactly one championship. They weren't a perennial menace. They weren't the not-this-again team in baseball. They were just another team, and it's not like everyone was hung up on those Enos Slaughter memories from earlier.

And when they finally won again in '06, it was a ridiculous team that did it. They won 83 games, the lowest win total for a championship team since Babe Ruth and the Red Sox defeated Hippo Vaughn and the Cubs in war-shortened 1918. Jeff Weaver was the postseason ace for the Cardinals in '08. He posted a 5.18 ERA that year, and a 5.43 ERA for the rest of his career. Ha ha ha, that's kind of neat, non-Tigers fans said! It was almost inspiring how the Cardinals won the World Series that year, if only because it made you think that if those guys could do it ...

But the Cardinals won the Series in 2011 in a completely absurd way, too. They were down to their last strike, in a completely hopeless situation, twice. Still they persevered, snatching the title away from a team that had barely won a playoff series, much less a World Series. So now you combine the '06 version of "Oops! That wasn't supposed to happen!" with the '11 version of "Whoa, we thought we were done for!," and you have the foundation of a detestable team.

Just a foundation, though.

Another championship, so soon after ripping the soul away from a historically bereft team? With all of the other championship history behind it? With the knowledge that this current manifestation of Cardinals team can seemingly conjure Matt Adamses and Michael Wachas from the ether, and that they'll be good for the next decade?

When there's at least one person in the world with an attitude of "Nobody hates the Cardinals. We’re a well-run organization with strong values"?

Yeah, this could be the tipping point. One more championship for ye olde Cardinals, and they might become surrogate Yankees while the real deal figures out how to make it back to the playoffs.

And if this happens, Cardinals fans, you should laugh. Tilt your head back and laugh. Because you shouldn't give a damn what the rest of us think. If the Cardinals win another one this year, they've reached supervillain status. They're petting a purebred cat in a swivel chair and explaining to the rest of us how Oscar Taveras is going to break our hearts again. Embrace it. Don't be all, "Gee who could hate us." Be like, "Damn straight you hate us." and make some sort of inappropriate gesture or say "u jelly?"

No one has any sympathy for Red Sox fans, you know. But there's no reason we shouldn't be watching a Pirates/Indians World Series right now. Pirates/Tigers. Tigers/Reds. Man, those are so much more interesting than a Cardinals/Red Sox World Series, especially if the Cardinals win it all. The Cardinals have been good for a long time, and they're going to be good for years, too.

When it happens, Cardinals, you'll be one of those teams. Embrace it. Note that it didn't start with 2013, but that's when the rest of the world really turned on you. This is the series that confers vice-Yankees status on you all, even if you have a much more reasonable payroll, and even if you're much more polite.

The Cardinals aren't the Yankees yet. But it's close. Even if we don't know it yet.

For more on these loveable Cardinals, please visit Viva El Birdos.


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