View From The Bleachers

May 30, 2012

The Blind Vengeance of a Jilted Fanbase

Filed under: Featured,General — Jeremiah Johnson @ 4:00 pm

Cardinals fans annoyingly, and for reasons that defy logic, have a reputation as the “Best Fans in Baseball.”  Where did that ludicrous and baseless proclamation come from?  I have no idea.  Perhaps it’s that longtime Cardinals employee Joe Buck so often has a national mic in front of him, or that informal polls of baseball players often rank St. Louis as one of the most proud and loyal road destinations?*  Whatever the reason, it’s a reputation that Cardinals fans love to flaunt.

*What’s funny is that so often the praise for Cardinals fans includes the fact that St. Louis doesn’t seem to care about their other teams.  Somehow their indifference toward the Rams and the Blues is spun as a good thing.  So am I a better Cubs fan because I couldn’t care less about the Bulls?

Which makes this article from Jim Caple (written days after the Rangers gave away lost the World Series this past November) all the more entertaining.  In it, Caple looks at some of the potential evidence in favor of St. Louis’ claim.  But he also punches some significant holes in their manufactured notoriety.

I’d like to add one more piece of evidence to Caple’s deconstruction of St. Louis’ vaunted reputation: the blind, seething vengeance they’ve shown for Albert Pujols.

No group was more invested in Pujols’ season-opening homerun drought than Cardinals fans.  No one is quicker to do the math on how much his meager homerun and RBI totals have cost the Angels.  And nobody has been following his career-low stat line with more unsuppressed glee.  Frankly, Cardinals fans are showing a level of contempt for Pujols that I could barely muster for him when he was still one of their beloved Redbirds.

And I’m not talking about something that’s hidden away in obscure chat forums or at the Cardinal-centric counterparts to VFTB, where only hardcore baseball fans frequent.  I’m talking about regular conversations I’ve had with Cardinals fans I encounter on a daily and weekly basis.  Across the board, they’re at least as invested in Pujols’ struggles as they are in their own team’s success–and frequently far more interested in the former.

Honestly, I consider myself to be a die-hard Cubs fan in every sense of the word.  But that’s a kind of mania that I simply cannot understand.

I’ve asked these Cardinals fans to explain their jilted-lover syndrome.  It often comes down to supposed dishonesty or disloyalty on Pujols’ part.  “He said he wanted to stay and he didn’t.”  “He could have stayed if he really wanted to.”  “How much more money did he need to make?”  “He said it wasn’t about the money,** but then he chased the highest price tag.”  When I mention to them that he helped them win another World Series on his way out the door, I’ve been rebuffed with “Yeah, but he didn’t really do much.”  It’s as if his move to Anaheim was an irrevocable turn to the dark side–one that burned up eleven years of history, three MVPs, and two World Series rings.

**I’ve got news for you angry, jilted Cardinals fan–no matter what either party says, a contract negotiation is ONLY about the money.  Don’t be mad at someone else for your naiveté.

I don’t know one Cardinals fan who still likes Pujols.  They’ve taken all his pictures down, thrown away his jerseys, and scrubbed him from their memories.  He’s like their disowned child.  Actually it’s far worse than that–you’d never openly and boisterously cheer against your disowned child; you’d simply ignore his existence.

But St. Louis fans can’t seem to do that, and I can’t understand why.  Losing star players over money is not really something we Cubs fans have had a lot of experience with.  I know at least some people still harbor a grudge against Greg Maddux for his departure to Atlanta.  But when you consider the small difference in the Braves’ and Cubs’ offers, your gripe has to be at least as much with the Cubs’ then-front office honchos.

But even if I go beyond the paycheck-chasing, I can’t really think of any former Cubs I eagerly and gleefully cheer against.  Milton Bradley came to mind as a potential object of wrath, but the dude is such a trainwreck of a person that cheering for him to fail and/or corrupt his subsequent teams is a lot like cheering for cancer to kill people.  I really can’t think of a former Cub*** whom I would angrily pursue the way the wrath of St. Louis fans has dogged Pujols all season.

***Here’s a few other potential candidates who fall just short in the Pujols Loathe-o-Meter.  Frank DiPino might have been one of my first baseball enemies–the brawl between Mark Grace and him in St. Louis in 1989 was one of the highlights of my early love for the Cubs–but that was mostly due to the fact that he went from the Cubs to the Cardinals, and that he tried to hit Grace.  I never liked Rafael Palmeiro, but that had more to do with his off-the-field behavior than anything he did after he left the Cubs.  And I only really cheered against Ryan Theriot after he shot his mouth off about preferring the Cardinals to the Cubs.  And even that anger subsided when he left St. Louis–that he’s now scuffling for the Giants does nothing for me.   And while I never hated Carlos Zambrano, I know many Cubs fans who did, and I doubt any of them hate him more now as an opposing player than they did while he was still a Cub.

Sure, there are plenty of opposing players I don’t like.  I’ve always found it easy (and often satisfying) to root against Roger Clemens, Will Clark, Mike Piazza, Jeff Kent, Roberto Alomar, Josh Beckett, A.J. Pierzynski, Jose Valverde, and Ryan Braun.  But for whatever reason–whether it’s a proper upbringing, a sense of perspective, or simple, common decency–I just can’t stir up the motivation to hate a particular player or players.

I guess that’s why I’m not one of the “Best Fans in Baseball.”

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  • Chuck

    I loathe Greg Maddux in a way that Cards fans feel towards Pujols.  I understand the deep-seated, soul-rotting and, ultimately, unhealthy disdain they feel.  Well…  I understand them as much as I could understand the arrogant d-bags that Cards fans are.  I took a grim satisfaction when the Braves reached the playoffs year after year only to lose year after year.  I loved it.

  • Seymour Butts

    I’m gonna play this as a “who do you despise” question.
    First… Maddux…seriously?? He was treated like trash by Larry Himes and made a rational decision. He also came back to his roots and accepted a trade to help the Cubs late in his career. He deserves his flying 31.
    Ok, Joe Morgan, and Pete Rose could make my day by walking in front of speeding buses, but Roses pathetic life as it is is nicely satisfying.
    As for current players, nobody jumps out at me..Hunter Pence has my pity. Man, what an ugly dude.

  • Buddy

    I know a few objective St. Louis fans, but most of them still think Vince Coleman is a Hall of Famer and the Phillies screwed the Cards in the Scott Rolen for Bud Smith and Placido Polanco trade.  They also like to cheer wildly when a non-pitcher sacrifice bunts.

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    I’m fully on board with your Joe Morgan despising.  But since I’ve only known him as an obnoxious, know-it-all announcer and a HOF ne’er do well, I left him off my list.

  • wisconsinjpc

    The Cubs haven’t really had a history of super-star players, so there’s no telling how we might react should we truly lose one after a long run of success.  Aside from Sammy Sosa, I guess. If corking your bat and using PEDs counts as super-stardom.

  • BLPCB

    When I visited St. Louis in Janaury, even then everything about that city was about the Cardinals. Other than Milwaukee, I have never seen a city that loved their baseball that much. And Milwaukee (like all of Wisconsin) is all about the Packers. Brewers fans don’t care at all that I’m a Cubs fan. In St. Louis, the Cardinals are that city’s identity. I don’t think any other city has such an attachment to a baseball team like St. Louis

  • BLPCB

    Speaking of fanbases, this is what I have to say about Hawk Harrelson after he went ballistic:

    Hawk Harrelson knows nothing about baseball, and is a disgrace to the game. He is the biggest egotistical manic known to mankind, and he is the worst announcer in the history of civilization. He represents everything the White Sox and their so-called “fans” stand for. All they know how to do is attack coaches and umpires, complain when things don’t go their way, and they show time and time again that “Cubs suck” is their entire baseball vocabulary. They can’t even sell tickets in their ballpark when they’re winning. Kenny Williams talks about how he needs asses in the seats in order to add payroll. Instead of showing up at Cubs games in Sox jerseys to root against the Cubs, why don’t you stupid White Sox fans give your money to the Sox instead of the Cubs and go to your South Side dump. Love your team before you hate ours.

    F— the White Sox, and f— Hawk Harrelson. I don’t know why the city didn’t tell Reinsdorf to piss off when he said he was going to move the team to Tampa. They should have let him move them.

  • Timothy Scarbrough

    I personally know way too many Cardinals fans, since I live not too far South of St. Louis. Most of them have told me that they’ve thrown away their jerseys and other such nonsense. I know exactly one Cardinal fan who doesn’t show the hatred for Pujols   (my dad), who made the point that since Pujols left St. Louis he has to make all the money he wants for the rest of his life now.

  • Doc Raker

    I think St Louis ‘best fans in baseball’ was a self proclamation that the media perpetuated  without any real serious debate. Kinda like Donald Trump proclaiming he built the ‘Worlds greatest golf course” and the ‘worlds greatest office building’ and the ‘worlds greatest casino’ and the ‘worlds greatest condo complex’, it is all self proclaimed marketing and if enough people repeat it it becomes a perceived truth. Much like democrats love to say Hillary Clinton is the smartest women in the world and Barack Obama is the smartest man in the room and George W Bush is the dumbest man in the room, the media always agrees and perpetuates since they are part of the democratic party and people who don’t know any better start to believe it after hearing it multiple times. 

  • flyslinger2

    Media hype. They have to sensationalize something or they don’t get their meal ticket punched. Quite honestly, most of the baseball player turned color commentator sports castors are as boring as heck. I turn off the sound to most baseball games and crank up my classic rock playlists on iTunes.

  • Chuck

    You seem to gloss over when Greg left the Cubs for less money with the Braves and called the organization a bunch of losers on the way out.  That was classy.  It was not as though he was traded.  He willfully left for less money because he did not want to be a Cub any more.
    (spit) May the fleas of a thousand camels infest his jock.  (spit)
    He asked whom I loathe as a player like how the Cards fans hate Pujols and I answered.  Don’t like my answer?  Bite me.

  • Mike Oliver

    How hard is to be a Cardinals fan? They win all the time, so what’s the big deal about being one of their fans. Try being a Cubs fan for 50 years, like me!

  • Doc Raker

    Tough to argue that Mike O, winning makes the fan base fat and happy. Loyalty win or lose is the true measure.

  • BLPCB

    Learned today at Disney that even though White Sox fans love the Cardinals, the feeling isn’t mutual. Met several guests from St. Louis, I told them I’m from Chicago, and they were all like I’m sorry you’re a Cubs fan. I was like I never said I was, how do you know I’m not a White Sox fan? Their response: The White Sox aren’t a Chicago team.

    I knew there was a good reason why I would root for the Cardinals in a White Sox-Cardinals WS

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