“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.

Astros’ bullpen throws combined one-hitter for MLB-best 30th win

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The Astros’ bullpen did yeoman’s work in place of the injured Dallas Keuchel on Monday against the Tigers. Keuchel is temporarily sidelined with a pinched nerve in his neck.

Brad Peacock made the spot start, limiting the Tigers to one hit and two walks with eight strikeouts over 4 1/3 innings. Chris Devenski took over with one out in the fifth, finishing out that inning as well as the sixth and seventh, facing the minimum. Will Harris pitched a perfect eighth and Ken Giles closed out the 1-0 victory in the ninth. Devenski, Harris, and Giles each had two strikeouts.

The Astros scored their only run in the bottom of the first inning as George Springer drew a leadoff walk, then scored on Jose Altuve‘s one-out double. Tigers starter Brad Fulmer pitched well enough to win on most days, giving up the lone run in seven frames.

After Monday’s win, the Astros became the first team to reach 30 wins, sitting on a 30-15 record. With a +55 run differential, even their expected record matches up with their actual record.

Brandon Phillips hit his 200th career home run

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Braves second baseman Brandon Phillips became the 337th player in baseball history to hit 200 career home runs, driving a solo home run to left-center field during Monday night’s home game against the Pirates. Phillips is the 14th second baseman (who played a min. of 75 percent of his career games at the position) to rack up at least 200 career home runs.

Phillips, 35, entered Monday’s action batting .290/.345/.405 with two home runs and 12 RBI in 142 plate appearances. If he’s anything, he’s consistent, as he finished with an adjusted OPS between 90-99 (100 is average) every year between 2012-16 and it was sitting at 97 coming into Monday.