It’s true of pretty much every rivalry that one team’s fans think the fans and media on the other side have an incredibly warped view of reality. In no case is that more true that with the Cubs and Cardinals, though if we’re being fair, plenty of other non-Cubs fans believe the Best Fans in Baseball to be somewhat pompous and sanctimonious. Whether that characterization is held by all or simply promulgated by a small faction of yahoos, the assessment remains.
And as I noted earlier, it’s not just the fans. St. Louis media has lustily pandered to the whole BFIB thing and really helped to make it what it is today. Not that you can blame them, it’s just a matter of playing to their audience. Besides, if I’m being completely honest, I’m pretty much doing the same thing here, so I get it.
Still, it was rather delicious to see what a less discerning consumer would take to be outright resentment for Anthony Rizzo’s plate-crowding ways in two separate columns in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Monday. Derrick Goold referred to Rizzo as “the notorious HBP” and Benjamin Hochmann dubbed the first baseman “the Leaning Tower of Wrigleyville,” either of which might have been funny were they not indicative of the false notion that Rizzo leaned into a Tyler Lyons breaking ball.
Okay, so Hochmann actually dispensed with anything approaching subtlety and flat-out accused Rizzo of exactly that.
But good golly, this guy leans into pitches like it’s backyard Wiffleball. It could be a dance move. And sure enough, the towering lefty leaned in just enough, allowing a Tyler Lyons pitch to glance off the sleeve of his jersey. It hit him in the arm but didn’t even hit him in the arm. And Rizzo, the great tactician, got on base — and ended up scoring the go-ahead run.
But hey, at least he prefaced that by saying Rizzo seems like an awesome guy, so it’s totally fine to drag him for crowding the plate — which he’s always done — and for standing there and allowing a pitch to clip his jersey (and Rizzo actually turned away from it). We should definitely give Hochmann and others the benefit of the doubt, though, since they’ve never seen anyone do what Rizzo did.
Wait, people are accusing Rizz of leaning into one? pic.twitter.com/Bx2wceIxXC
— Travis Miller (@AtTravisMiller) September 18, 2017
Both writers did acknowledge the Cards’ shortcomings, even if it was in kind of an off-hand way. Bernie Miklasz, on the other hand, didn’t mess around with any of that when he wrote that “Joe Maddon and the Cubs have successfully intimidated Mike Matheny and the Cardinals.” Interestingly enough, the turning point came on a…wait for it…Rizzo HBP.
Well, that retaliation actually came after Dan Haren plunked Matt Holliday, but you get the point. It was in the post-game debriefing from what ended up being an 8-3 Cubs win that Maddon famously called out the Cardinals and the idea that they play the game the right way.
“I never read that particular book that the Cardinals wrote way back in the day, ” Maddon said, only half-joking. “I was a big Branch Rickey fan, but I never read this book that the Cardinals had written on how to play baseball.
“I have no history with the Cardinals except I used to love them growing up. That really showed me a lot today in a negative way. I don’t know who put out the hit. I don’t know if Tony Soprano is in the dugout. I didn’t see him in there. But we’re not going to put up with it, from them or anybody else.
“I just want them to know this. We’re not going to take that. Very simple.”
It was that series, Miklasz writes, that turned the tide of the rivalry and allowed the Cubs to take over the division and effectively annex a big(ger) chunk of rent-free space in the Cardinals’ collective mind. You could argue that the NLDS that same year really put the Cubs over the top, but I like where Miklasz’s head’s at on this one.
As I wrote in this spot last week, the Cubs own the Cardinals [emphasis mine]. And that’s even truer now. It’s gone just as Joe Maddon planned when he set out to rearrange the psychology of this rivalry.
Candy getting it done
As much as many of us wanted him to, Jeimer Candelario didn’t have a future in Chicago. Perhaps the greatest recent example of the Cubs’ embarrassment of talent, Candelario was in the perfectly imperfect position of being blocked by young, MVP-level players at both corner infield spots. And both corner outfield spots. And both middle infield spots. And catcher. And center field.
The young man obviously can’t play most of those positions, but the point is that he was never going to serve as more than a bench bat with the Cubs, which is why he’s now playing for the Tigers. We could get into all kinds of debates on whether the trade was a good one, though I have a feeling that hindsight may grant Detroit much more credit.
Whether Justin Wilson ever comes back around or not, the fact of the matter is that Candelario’s value to the Cubs was diminishing with each passing day and giving him a chance to play elsewhere was also in his best interest. He’d looked more or less like a quad-A player in his call-ups, though that was probably more a function of sporadic time.
In 68 plate appearances with the Tigers, for whom he’s played solely third base, Candy is slashing .351/.456/.544 with a 170 wRC+ generated by five doubles and two homers. Lament the deal all you want, I’m just happy to see the kid raking.
More news and notes
• Orioles minor league pitcher Miguel Elias Gonzalez died in a car accident in the Dominican Republic this past weekend. He was only 21.
• The Pirates have shut Francisco Cervelli down for the rest of the year with a quad injury; the Bucs are only 1.5 games ahead of the Reds for last place in the division.
• CSN Chicago’s Tony Andracki writes that the Cubs can’t afford to abandon hope on Justin Wilson