Orioles vs. Royals is a win-win for baseball fans. Both teams feature long-suffering fan bases, cool uniforms, great stadiums and likable rosters. So far game 1 lives up to that belief, producing a 10-inning classic.
The NLCS on the other hand, I’m guessing it’s producing groans from anyone not from the Bay area or eastern Missouri. The Cardinals and Giants have represented the National League five consecutive years in the World Series. This is the Cardinals fourth NLCS in a row and if not for Marco Scutaro in 2012, the Redbirds would be vying for a fourth-consecutive World Series birth.
The Giants are working on their winning the World Series every even-numbered year streak; 2014 would make it three even-numbered years in a row. The Giants and Cardinals are remarkably similar. Despite roster turnover since 2010, both franchises have continued great success. For the Cardinals, gone are Albert Pujols, Chris Carpenter, David Freese, Allen Craig, Rafael Furcal and Carlos Beltran and replaced with Matt Adams, Lance Lynn, Matt Carpenter (kind of), Randal Grichuk, Jhonny Peralta and Oscar Taveras.
I know it’s partially because of injury but the Giants are playing without Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum in the starting rotation — I would argue the foundation of their sustained success — and they still have a great pitching staff anchored by underrated Madison Bumgarner. While Buster Posey continues to impress with his sustained brilliance both behind the plate and swinging over it and Kung Fu Panda is still his streaky, free-swinging self, the Giants lineup has been remade as well. Brandons Belt and Crawford have more prominent roles now. Scutaro is out and Joe Panik is in.
The backstops for both teams are sources of consistency off which to build. Yadier Molina is Posey’s counterpart and equally strong on defense and offense. Both teams generally play strong defense. Both teams have been frustrating on offense this season. The Cardinals struggles kept the Birds with a negative run differential most of the year. Both teams seem to get breaks to go their way all the time, like it’s predestined.
All that said, if I polled 100 baseball fans, all 100 would be rooting against the Cardinals. It’s gotten to that point.
When I first figured out the Cardinals were becoming universally loathed, I was in straight denial. It took me long enough anyway not coming to the realization until the beginning of the 2013. I thought it might be a fad, something that would go away. The backlash has only intensified since then with “the Cardinal Way” being shoveled down fans throats and the Cardinals faithful being unwavering in their pitch as the greatest fans in all sport.
Realizing what was happening I tried to downplay my association. I became wary of announcing I was a Cardinals fan and avoided talking about the team in front of my friends, or at least that was after my former college roommate (and Rangers fan) pointed out that he hated the Cardinals. I was part of something I hated in other franchises — who thought they were better because they rooted for a perpetual winner. The Cardinals have made the NLCS 9 out of the past 14 seasons. I don’t know what it’s like to root for a losing baseball team.
Now though, I’m embracing the hate. Bring it on. I think it makes an I-70 series (even though I’m sure the MLB front office is rooting for an all black and orange World Series) rematch more interesting. The Cardinals will play Darth Vader, Freddy Krueger and baseball fans better hope this is act 3 of that movie.