“What it means to be a Cardinal”

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If you’ve already had enough of “The Cardinal Way” and the whole idea that they do things better and classier and everything than everyone else, by all means DO NOT go read Bernie Miklasz’s column in the Post-Dispatch today, because it’s gonna make you crazy:

“Cardinal Way” isn’t the name of a city street near Busch Stadium, but it does represent a path that the 2013 team followed from the beginning of spring training … The Cardinal Way is an organizational model for success. Scouting players, drafting players, developing players and shaping their personalities to fit into a winning environment. But the Cardinal Way is also an attitude. And more than anything, it is about people, and the bond that forges professional and personal relationships …

… The Cardinals’ old-school persona and dedication to professionalism was mocked as being haughty and arrogant. By believing a team should compete in a way that respects the game, the Cardinals were said to be out of step with modern sports culture. And that’s exactly what’s wrong with sports and our culture at large: The team that tries to do things the right way is somehow seen as abnormal. The team that plays hard but doesn’t try to embarrass opponents is portrayed as the bad guy.

I love Bernie, but he’s missing the point here. No one — at least that I’ve come across — hates the Cardinals for any of these things. Indeed, most folks don’t hate the Cardinals at all unless the Cardinals have recently beaten the tar out of their own rooting interest.

Indeed, I bet if you asked most people to evaluate the way the Cardinals play and the way they’ve built their team, they’d give the Cardinals ace ratings. Who wouldn’t want their team’s farm system to be producing such talent? Who wouldn’t want to have the kind of depth this team has? Who wouldn’t want to root for a team with players who — as far as we can tell from the outside looking in — seem to be pretty good guys.  Sure, we’ll mock a bit when some unwritten rules violation comes up, but I really don’t see anyone truly bent-out-shape at the Cardinals themselves for this stuff.

What people DO hate, however, and what DOES drive people absolutely crazy is when it is insisted that The Cardinal Way is the only way. Or — and this is the one that really gets people nuts — when Cardinals fans or partisans (and that can include a columnist from time to time) takes smug, vicarious satisfaction from the manner in which the team with whom they are aligned operates.  When “the Cardinals do things well” transforms to “the Cardinals do things better, always.” When “we love our team” becomes “we love our team better than you love your team.” When “our team is lovable” becomes “our team is so much more worthy of love.”

That doesn’t come from the Cardinals themselves. That comes from Cardinals fans on message boards and the commentariat. It’s akin to finding another parent’s bragging about their kid’s accomplishments and character distasteful, not hating the kid themselves.  If anything we feel a bit sorry for the kid for having such insufferable parents.

That’s what people are reacting to with St. Louis. It’s not about the Cardinals going about their Cardinal Way. It’s about everyone else getting off on them doing it so darn much.

Yadier Molina responds to Willson Contreras on Instagram

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On Monday, Cubs catcher Willson Contreras showed he was very confident heading into the 2018 season, saying, “I know that I’m going to be better than [Yadier Molina and Buster Posey].” Contreras explained that his goal is to become “the best catcher in the game for a long time — like it was with Yadier Molina, like it is with Buster Posey.”

Apparently, Contreras ruffled Molina’s feathers as the Cardinals’ veteran backstop took to Instagram to respond. Posting a picture of himself with Buster Posey and Salvador Perez, Molina wrote, “Respeten los rangos NOVATOS!! aqui con los q si han probao que son los duros!!” That loosely translates to “respect the ranks,” referring to Contreras as a novice.

Molina is no stranger to using Instagram to air his grievances. He apparently used the social media app to take a swipe or two at manager Mike Matheny last year.

Of course, Molina seems to be misreading the intent of Contreras. Contreras seems to think highly of Molina, having referred to him as being one of the best catchers in the game — even if it was in the past tense. Molina should know, being someone who also competes at the highest level, that having confidence is an important part of the recipe for success. Perhaps this will make for some interesting games during the season, breathing new life into the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry.