We interrupt this previously scheduled baseball season to bring you awesomeness.
God bless Brandon Phillips.
With a few biting words and a couple of subtle taps to the shin guard, Phillips succeeded in turning the 2010 baseball season on its head Tuesday night. He turned what was just another division race into a pennant chase death match.
This baseball season has been rather epic. There’s been the pitching dominance, the individual milestones and a smorgasbord of tight division competition.
Entering Wednesday, only the Texas Rangers held more than a 2.5 game lead in their respective division.
But what this season has been missing is a true, emotional grudge match that takes on more of a meaning than simply where two teams are in the standings. A budding rivalry between two teams that genuinely do not like one another. A 1990s Braves-Mets, a pre-2007 Yankees-Red Sox, a 2008 Rays-Red Sox.
Enter the Cincinnati Reds and the St. Louis Cardinals.
While in the large scope of history, these two teams aren’t terribly different, the modern era has brought completely different fortunes to them both. The Cardinals have achieved consistently moderate success since 2000. Meanwhile, the Reds have not made the postseason since 1995.
The Reds have become accustomed to looking up at the Cardinals and Chicago Cubs at the top of the NL Central, a feeling that this particular group seems bound not to tolerate.
What say you, Brandon Phillips?
“I’d play against these guys with one leg. We have to beat these guys. I hate the Cardinals. All they do is bitch and moan about everything, all of them, they’re little bitches, all of ‘em. I really hate the Cardinals. Compared to the Cardinals, I love the Chicago Cubs. Let me make this clear – I hate the Cardinals.”
I don’t know about you, but this fires me up, and I don’t even dislike the Cardinals. Hell, they were one of my favorite teams as a child and I still respect the organization and fans like crazy. But Phillips and his teammates have hit a soft spot with me, and that soft spot is of course the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays.
This Reds team has glaring similarities. The young roster mixed with a couple of guidance-happy vets. The frustration that two division rivals have completely owned them for a number of years. The inclusion of Jonny Gomes, who can go from playful jokester to “Momma Said Knock You Out” in the blink of an eye.
Need further similarities? Look at this quote from James Shields after the game where he threw at Coco Crisp sparking the infamous Rays-Sox Royal Rumble of 2008.
“We’ve been getting stomped around the last 10 years, and it’s not going to happen anymore. I had to let him know early and know right away.”
[Shakes off goosebumps, continues.]
The Rays- Red Sox 2008 feud ended in a steel cage match of a 7-game ALCS. It’s not out of the question to think that Reds-Cards could reach a similar fate.
The Reds are far from beating the Cardinals in this series as Phillips said that they had to. As I write this, the Reds are losing a matinee affair 6-0 and on the brink of getting swept. They currently trail the season series 9-5.
But as cliche and “round up the troops” as it sounds, I would almost argue that the Reds can take plenty of positives out of this series. After months of bickering, they finally stood up to the daddy of the NL Central. The Rays got swept in their aforementioned series against the Red Sox, but they dominated Boston the remainder of the year.
The Reds and the Cardinals don’t care for one another. Not the players, not the fans and maybe most prevalent of all, not the managers. How great was it seeing Tony La Russa and Dusty Baker dig into each other last night?
In a league where most rivalries have become watered down, this NL Central race could be refreshing.
Raise hell, Cincinnati. Baseball could use it.