This may come as a shock to some of you, but the Cubs aren’t exactly considered lovable outside the friendly confines of their own fanbase. I mean, geez, they’re even making it hard for many of their loyal followers to embrace them these days. That isn’t so much the case at Cubs Convention, where most of the 8,000 attendees are there to gleefully consume everything they can related to the team.
That of course includes the players, many of whom are involved in public panels in addition to various autograph sessions and meet-and-greet opportunities. As you might imagine, the responses to fans’ questions during those panels will naturally skew toward the positive and are laden with more than a little bias. Some might even go so far as to say the players and coaches are pandering.
Throw in an intentionally comedic event like Friday Night with Ryan Dempster, which rocks a late-night talk show vibe, and you amp up all these things up that much more. So in keeping with the whole theme, you can see how it might behoove a player to leverage a rival like the Cardinals for extra yuks. That was the case for Kris Bryant, who twisted up lots of undies with an innocent quip.
“[Nelly] was trying to work the magic on Bryce [Harper],” Bryant joked. “Who would want to play in St. Louis? It’s so boring. I always get asked, ‘Where do you like to play, where do you not like to play?’ And St. Louis is a place I don’t like to play.”
Now, if you found it hard to believe fans of other teams might not be too keen on the Cubs, you’ll be utterly gobsmacked to find that some opponents feel the same. And you may need to sit down before I tell you the Cardinals are home to some of those players. The most red-assed Redbird of them all is Yadier Molina, who waded in and made this situation even stickier than his infamous chest protector.
Actually, let’s first turn to John Brebbia, who got the whole thing started when he jokingly responded to Bryant with, “Cry me a river, loser.” Not content to let his teammates do all the work while he merely pout as runs scored behind him, Molina took to Instagram to escalate the situation.
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All stars, elite players and leaders of their teams do not speak bad about any city. There should be respect and you should play and compete with respect… only stupid players and losers make comments like the ones made by bryant and dempster .. #ceroRespectforthisstupidplayers #QuevivaStlouis #LOVESTL
“All stars, elite players and leaders of their teams do not speak bad about any city,” read the caption of Molina’s IG post. “There should be respect, and you should play and compete with respect. Only stupid players and losers make comments like the ones made by Bryant and Dempster.”
Well that is, um, certainly a take from the fiery veteran. Several of his teammates ended up replying to the post with similar sentiments or just to kind of egg him on. Marcell Ozuna waxed poetic with a feline motif.
“From outside they speak and talk like tiger,” wrote Ozuna, “but at the end they gonna be like little cat.”
Perhaps Molina is extra salty with Bryant because of the foul tip he took to the giblets last summer. Though it certainly wasn’t intentional, you can imagine how there might be a negative association with a guy who redirected a 102 mph fastball off your jewels, which eventually resulted in surgery. And Molina isn’t known as the most low-key dude to begin with.
Listen, it’s a little weird to get wound up over something that was clearly a joke at a fan event, but the Cardinals were also holding their own annual shindig. Cardinals Caravan makes stops at several towns in Missouri and southern Illinois, with Peoria playing host when a fan brought Bryant’s comments to Brebbia’s attention and lit the fuse that eventually got Molina to blow.
The funny thing to me is that I actually like St. Louis, at least when I consume it in small pieces. I had a great time with my kids there a couple years ago and spent a brief getaway weekend there with my wife before we were married. No joke, I’ve got a tiny Gateway Arch built into one of my tattoos. But by all objective measures, the city is boring when compared to Chicago. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, sometimes boring can be good.
But if we toss out context and semantics and get right to the heart of the matter, that the Cubs and Cardinals are already engaged in heated exchanges, I’m all for it. The fans tweeting wildly inappropriate stuff at players on either side can go pound sand, but it’s a good thing the rivalry is fired up here in the winter void. With little else of note to occupy our attention, this at least offers something to grab hold of and yell about.
And for a Cubs organization that’s been taking more than its fair share of friendly fire since the season ended, having the fusillade redirected probably offers a welcome reprieve. In all likelihood, this will all be forgotten by the time spring training opens up. But you can bet the questions will resurface at some point and we’ll get some more soundbites and gamesmanship as the season rolls along. Hey, I’m all for it.
Maybe then the Cubs can give Molina something to really be pissed off about, like a loss or ten.