So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss.
–Sun Tzu, predicting a Rangers sweep in the 2011 World Series
Texas Rangers fans, you know yourselves. Now it’s important that you take a moment to come to know the enemy. I’m here to help.
I was born in Springfield, Illinois. There comes a time in the life of every child of central Illinois when he faces a decision that will shape the man that he will become, one which may very well be the single-most important decision in determining his life’s course. He must decide to pledge his heart to one of two Major League Baseball teams. I made the right choice. I chose the Chicago Cubs, and so I’m uniquely qualified to explain just why you should hate their arch-rivals: those smug, self-satisfied Misery-ians known as the St. Louis Cardinals.
Perhaps the very fact that the Redbirds are facing off against your beloved Rangers in the 2011 World Series, starting Wednesday, is enough of a reason. Nevertheless, I want you to understand that there’s so much more to loathe.
1) World Series championships won: 10. That’s second only to the New York Yankees. Who do they think they are, grubbing for another title when your Rangers haven’t even got one to their name? Worse yet, much of the time they seem to stumble backwards into the playoffs, not dominate through 162 games. This year they didn’t even clinch a playoff berth until the final day of the season, and then were only able to make it because the Atlanta Braves suffered a historic collapse in the final month. This is the third time in the past eight seasons that they’ve won the National League pennant. In 2006, the last time, they won it all despite having finished with a win-loss record of 83-79. That’s only two games above a .500 finish. And so I ask you: We’re not supposed to believe they’ve made a deal with the devil?
2) Tony La Russa. He’s their manager. He’s been a big-league skipper for more than 30 years, with the Chicago White Sox and the Oakland Athletics before joining St. Louis in 1996. He’s a vegetarian and he loves animals. He had to fight the shingles earlier this year. And he has a reputation as a brilliant tactician. But not as brilliant as he thinks he is. He likes to shake things up every once in awhile, even when his moves have no discernible impact on the game – like having his pitcher bat eighth. (Bandwagon baseball fans: Pitchers bat in the National League. And they usually bat ninth.) The guy clearly believes he’s smarter than the game, and for that reason, he deserves a comeuppance.
3) “The best fans in baseball.” You’re going to hear Joe Buck and Tim McCarver talk about it on Fox when the games are broadcast from Busch Stadium on Wednesday and Thursday, so you might as well be prepared. They love to claim that St. Louis is the best baseball city in the country, with the best, most knowledgable fans. Hogwash.* Besides, Buck and McCarver’s opinions are hardly unbiased. McCarver spent most of his major league career playing for the Cardinals, helping them to win two World Series in the 1960s. And Buck….well, we’re about to deal with him.
4) Joe Buck. Do you know why Joe Buck has a broadcasting career at all? His father, Jack Buck, was the longtime voice of the Cardinals. That job was then bequeathed to him. Which eventually led Fox to hire him as its lead man on NFL and MLB broadcasts. So not only do you have the Cardinals to thank for having to listen to Buck call the World Series on TV, you can also be assured that his commentary will be biased against your Rangers.
5) Anheuser-Busch. The St. Louis-based brewer owned the Cardinals for many years, and they still have their name on the stadium. Sure, you drink Bud Light. But aren’t you always a little unhappy that you have to? You know where you need to channel that resentment.**
*My apologies to the many members of my extended family, and especially my dearly departed grandfather, who cheer passionately for the Cardinals. I love you all, despite your deep character flaw.
** Yes, maybe I should have saved this slot to make up something bad about Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols instead of an international beer-making corporation that doesn’t even run the team anymore. But I’m holding out hope that Pujols, who is a free agent at the end of the season, might be convinced to sign with Chicago. He is an excellent baseballer, and I don’t want to jinx the Cubs’ chances.