We’ve reached a low point in the contrived St. Louis-Los Angeles culture war

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Are there differences between the Dodgers and the Cardinals? Sure. We’ve noted the little on-the-field dustups and have talked a lot about the whole “Best Fans in Baseball” thing.  It’s been an amusing aside.

But even if you’re critical of the Cardinals, you must admit that the notion that St. Louis represents some higher plane of dignified and respectful baseball (and that any reasonable people in St. Louis actually think this) is a silly caricature. Yes, there are examples of people who think that way, but they’re outliers I assume. It’s mostly a straw man used to beat up on Cardinals Nation. It’s not a different brand or class of baseball in St. Louis. It’s not a different brand or class of fan. They’re like everyone else.

But I’ll be damned if some people aren’t still trying to push that narrative. To the point of couching it as something akin to a culture war. As an example I give you today’s column from Bob Nightengale of USA Today. In which he talks to Stan Musial’s grandson and both of them seem to agree that St. Louis Cardinals baseball is all that separates dignified society from invading hordes:

This isn’t just about flying another pennant in their stadium – their fourth in 10 years – or having the opportunity to win their 12th World Series championship. It’s about the responsibility of upholding tradition. It’s for old-time baseball.

What follows is a bunch of quotes from Musial’s grandson about how the game ought to be played and was played back when men were men and all of that.  Stan Musial’s grandson is 32 years-old, by the way. What an expert on tradition and old-time baseball.

But what’s even sillier are the examples Nightengale trots out to cast Cardinals baseball in a more dignified light:

They’d like to know if everything, even the crowd noise, have to be fake in Southern California. Do fans really have to be instructed when to scream as if they’re a game-show audience? Can’t anything on the scoreboard be shown besides fans acting crazy, dance contests, and kiss cams?

Yeah, none of that in St. Louis:

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I’ll grant that, I’m told anyway, that the Cardinals don’t do much of the “LET’S MAKE SOME NOISE!” stuff. Which is a good thing.  But they clearly are not different or above most other parks when it comes to fun stuff. It isn’t just stark videos of Bob Gibson threatening people to behave lest he put a pitch in their ear.

Again, none of this is to criticize Cardinals fans. They’re like anyone else. And like anyone else, they have some people in their ranks that make you want to roll your eyes.  But for the most part they’re just baseball fans.

But the media narrative of a Dodgers-Cardinals culture war is beyond played out by now, to the point where it is becoming both ridiculous and, with this column, totally counterfactual. Enough already.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.

In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.

The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.

Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”

It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.

It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.