A Rivalry Awakens: Cardinals grappling with Cubs challenge to the old order

Ex-Cub Ryan Theriot once landed a somewhat delayed  parting shot when he signed with the Cardinals in the offseason after being unceremoniously dumped on the Dodgers, saying that now he was on "the right side of the rivalry".

It irked Cubs fans, perhaps because deep down inside, as much as we hated to admit it, we knew he was right.  At that time, the Cubs were a fledgling, directionless franchise.  The Cubs took their shot at it all with good, but fatally flawed teams in 2007 and 2008.  Theriot was a big part of that short-lived run.  By 2011, he was considered more of a utility player and struggled to find regular playing time, but he landed a job with the Cardinals, who had made the playoffs in 7 of the previous 11 years, including a World Series title.

To add insult to injury, the Cardinals proved Theriot right, winning a World Series ring with Theriot along for the ride as their primary shortstop.  Cubs fans could only watch helplessly and seethe in anger.

Things would change in 4 years.  The young Cubs were no longer intimidated by the Cardinals, but they still had much to learn.  Early on they would battle only to fall short.  For a while the so-called Cardinals mystique, voodoo, dark side of the force --- whatever you want to call it, still seemed to have a hold over them.  The Cardinals won 8 of the first 10 games, a few of them dramatically as they snatched victories away at the last moment from the hungry young Cubs.

Yet there was a sense it was slipping away and that the tide was beginning to turn a little bit.  The Cardinals had to work hard to beat the Cubs.  They needed every bloop hit, every timely double play, every untimely Cubs error just to narrowly escape with a win.  The Cubs, meanwhile, were a talented team beginning to learn that talent alone was not enough.  In a long season with two teams that were suddenly more evenly matched on the field than they had been in years, the Cubs were just learning how to grind out wins when they weren't at their best -- or put teams away when they grabbed the early lead.

The Cubs would go on to win 6 of their next 9 regular season encounters.  By the time the playoffs came around, the Cubs were ready.  And this time, it was the Cardinals making the key mistakes, most notably a John Lackey fastball left over the plate that got Javy'd deep into the RF bleachers in the fourth and final game of the NLDS.  The Cardinals would grind their way back into the game, but the Cubs were there, waiting to step on their hands just as they reached the top of the cliff.

And just like that, a rivalry has awakened.

The Cubs did not let up after the season ended.  They signed away the Cardinals Game 1 starter and owner of their lone playoff win, John Lackey.  They signed Ben Zobrist, another player in whom the Cardinals had shown interest.

And then...the coup d'grace of the offseason...

Jason Heyward, arguably the Cardinals best player in 2015, spurned his old team and signed with the Cubs.  And he did it for less money than the Cardinals reportedly offered.  The thoughtful Heyward gave a big reason why he chose the Cubs.

As everyone may have seen from the numbers that came out, I didn't take the highest offer," Heyward said in his introductory press conference in Chicago Tuesday afternoon. "But for me, a winning attitude and culture and the fact that this was such a young group that I could grow myself with and be 26 years old."

"You have Yadier (Molina) who is going to be done in two years maybe, You have Matt Holliday who is probably going to be done soon.

"There were already moves made with Jon Jay gone and then Tony Cruz and (Adam) Wainwright is probably going to be done in three or four years. ... Guys like that are what really introduced me to the St. Louis Cardinals' organization. I felt like if I was to look up and in three years see a completely different team, that would be difficult."

"You saw those guys having fun over there just like I was doing on the other side of the field.  We all brought out the best competition in each other. With the young group that [the Cubs] have here, they didn't shy away from it. And that's special to see.

"It says a lot about the leadership, coming down from ownership to the front office to Joe [Maddon] and the things he's instilling with them on a daily basis to let them know that they're good and they belong."

I don't want to put words in Jason Heyward's mouth, but it sounds like a more eloquent way of saying that he is glad to be on the right side of the rivalry, doesn't it?

So take that, Theriot.

The Cardinals are every bit as miffed as Cubs fans were back then.  First Mike Matheny took umbrage...

"I don't think it's going to ring too well with our club," Matheny said. "I told Jason this before. I’ve got a lot of respect for Jason as a person. He’s got to go make the decisions he’s going to have to live with. If that (core group comparison) is a big deal to him, he’s just being honest with people.

“But I don’t think we have anything to apologize for in having a group like a Holliday, a Molina, a Wainwright. Those are the kinds of guys everybody wants on a club.

“I see where he’s coming from. I mean, look at what Chicago’s done. It’s very unique in this game — to have that many impact players at that young age. And he’s a young player. But I can’t say I’m in any kind of agreement with that (Chicago) core being better than any kind of core that we have.

“That veteran group (that the Cardinals have) also helps drive what the younger group turns into.

“I don’t blame him. But I don’t like it. I thought we created a really good atmosphere and he had to weigh what was most important to him.

“Say if we hadn’t won. ... That would have made a difference. Say if we hadn’t created an atmosphere where he was a major part of what we’re doing. ... Neither of those is true.

“Say we hadn’t made an offer. We made a terrific offer. With all that being said, it comes down to what does a guy want? (Staying in St. Louis) just wasn’t what he was looking for.”

Now today, it was Adam Wainwright's turn in which he implies Heyward left the Cardinals because he was afraid to lead and that he didn't want to stick around to see a team built around him.

"He knows that we’re going to be in a position to win every year. and what it comes down to is this: he didn’t want to play there after myself, and Yadier (Molina) and Matt (Holliday) were gone, on such a long contract. it really comes down to a personality trait to me. The person that we want to give that kind of money to, that big money to, he needs to be a person that wants to be the guy that carries the torch. He needs to be a guy that wants to be the person, that after we leave, he carries on the tradition. And that’s just a personality thing, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But we’re looking for that guy who wants to be the man.”

Wainwright then insists the decision did not irritate him, yet he goes on to take thinly veiled shots at Heyward's leadership qualities.

“We’re not mad about that at all. We love Jason. And it really comes down to a personality trait. If he’s the guy wants to carry the torch, if he’s the guy that wants to be ‘The One’ — the cornerstone guy that you build a team around, then he takes that contract. But he wants to be a part of a system that he knows is going to be there for years and years"

Whether Heyward is or wants to be a leader isn't as important to the Cubs.  This is a young team that is growing up together.  Leaders will emerge organically.  They don't need to be annointed.  If the 26 year old Heyward does emerge as a leader, that is only a bonus for the Cubs.  They signed Heyward because they believe he is an outstanding baseball player who fits their lineup, philosophy, culture...and timeline.

But the fascinating aspect to me is how the Cardinals have struggled to come to grips with a new reality --the Cubs are now among the preferred destinations in baseball.

What the Cards loyal base love so much to jeer about -- the fact that the Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908, has ironically become a selling point.  Players want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They're less interested in looking back at history as they are at helping make it.  Most importantly, they see an ownership and front office that is fully committed to that goal.  Jon Lester (another FA the Cardinals had interest in), Ben Zobrist, and Jason Heyward all took less money to be with the Cubs and in at least one of those cases, they took less money  than the Cardinals themselves offered.

For a long time, it was the Cardinals that felt entitled to such status.  Players like Theriot would openly say they signed with St. Louis for the opportunity to win.  They came to expect that as the norm.

Unlike Theriot, I am not going to say there is a "right side" to this, but I will say there is a serious challenge to the old order in the NL Central.  A dormant rivalry has awakened.  It has gone from a nostalgic rivalry that was more about small scale bragging rights to a legitimate rivalry that will likely have implications throughout the baseball universe.

They can joke all they want about how long it has been since the Cubs have won, we've heard it all before -- but we know the laughter has changed in tone to one that is now nervous and forced as the focus has shifted to 2016 and beyond.

It may not be have been much of a rivalry to look back on.  Cubs fans will concede that.

But it's on now.

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  • fb_avatar

    "There has been an awakening in the force. Have you felt it? The Dark side, and the light." Heyward chose the light. Smart man!

  • In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    May the force be with us this time.

  • In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    my friend's step-aunt makes $70 an hour on the computer . She has been without a job for 5 months but last month her pay was $18819 just working on the computer for a few hours. look at here
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  • Theriot was Jar Jar Binks...

  • In reply to YouCannotBeSerious:

    Haha, I always thought of him as the little guy who was always toadying up to Jabba the Hut.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    That may be giving him too much credit. More like the guy Pizza the Hutt sends out to collect...

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    The creature's name is Salacious Crumb.

  • In reply to TD40:

    That's it! Thanks.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Your welcome. Let's keep going:

    Rizzo is Han.
    Arrieta is Chewy.
    Bryant is Luke.
    Heyward is Lando.
    Russell is Artoo.
    Theo is Yoda.
    Maddon is Obi Wan.

  • In reply to YouCannotBeSerious:

    Frown the planet TOOTBLAN.

  • Soler 2 homeruns vs Cards
    Cubs hit 6 homeruns
    Extra Bonus

    Cubs prospects can beat Cardinals prospects
    McKinney, Almora, Jimenez
    Candelario, Torres, Happ, Vogelbach

  • Seems like a lot of sour grapes on the Cardinals side. Kinda of like a chip on their shoulders. They had a great year last year. Really overachieved IMO. But times are changing.

    The Cubs are better, the giants are better, the diamondbacks are better, the mets still have good pitching, I am not even sure the Cardinals make the playoffs next year.

  • Sadly - at the time Theriot was correct,....

    And one thing you can say about Theriot that you cannot say about pretty close to everybody else that was on the Cubs' roster during that 'almost' good enough run in the late 2000's.

    He's got two WS Championship rings,....

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to drkazmd65:

    A vital cog,ha ha,he just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

    I have to wonder if our say "Hey Kid" gets some chin music when facing the Cards ?

  • fb_avatar

    When the Cubs hired Theo I bet a Cards fan $1000 that the Cubs would win the WS in 10 years. This Cards fan sweetened the deal that I would win the bet if the Cubs make it to the WS. I knew I wouldn't have a chance the first couple years but now I feel really good about my chances!!!

  • In reply to Ron U:

    Oh man, you almost cashed in 6 years early -- just 4 games away.

  • In reply to Ron U:

    I would have walked out of Vegas with 12K in 03 with a World Series. I betting on baseball futures in the 02/03 off season. I was starting to feel pretty good about that until game six.

  • Heyward didn't need to explain himself, I'm kind of surprised him did as it was going to open him up to abuse.

    But it could have been worse, he could have said "I just didn't want to live in St. Louis."

  • In reply to Oneear:

    Not wanting to live in St. Louis probably would have offended them too. Not sure there was much he could say. If he said it was strictly objective based on the contract, then he gets called greedy and disloyal. He's just a thoughtful, honest guy who is going to tell it like it was. I don't think he tried to put them down, I think he wanted a team he could continue to grow with.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm sure not wanting to live in StL would have offended them worse, that was my (somewhat snarky) point

  • In reply to Oneear:

    Ahh, I wasn't sure on that one!

  • In reply to Oneear:

    Still not getting your point. Please do explain.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    not important, mild snark aimed at StL

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Maybe Jason likes having running water?

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to hoffpauir6:

    Damn primadonnas.

  • Matheny sure sounds like a sore loser in that quote.
    I could get used to that sound. ..

  • "That got Javy'd deep into the RF bleachers". Classic.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Javy is offically a verb in the Cubs Den lexicon.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    Right up there with "'norfed."

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    They both have to take a back seat to "Schwarbered" I can't remember who coined it last postseason , but they even gave multiple definitions and usages, and we made several comments invoking the new term. And I still feel bad for my dog.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I know we used Schwarbered, but don't know for certain if we were the first, but I just like Javy'd better -- and I know we were using that long before Schwarbered came out. But Javy is unique and does things with such flair. I get a better visual from it...

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to BarleyPop:

    I still prefer "Bam-Bam" for Schwarber. If we need it to be a verb we can say "Bam-Bamed"!

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I agree. I yelled "Bam-Bam" many times during the postseason. It always scared the dogs.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I personally use Schwarbernegger.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Burns0128:

    Half man half machine.......the Schwarbenator

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I like your "bam-bam" because it hearkens back to "The Bambino." I like that comp!

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I think "Schwarbered" was the word the Donald was looking for when he said Hillary got "schlonged".

  • Great Article John. I continue to think back to just after Theo and Jed and Jason came aboard. How all we could do was dream and now are biggest concern is making the Cardinals mad. We have come a long way baby and the best is yet to come. Now each game with the Cardinals will be like a playoff game. I can't wait for April. Onward!

  • In reply to cubbybear7753:

    Thanks cubby! I can't wait either.

  • fb_avatar

    If I was Heyward I would take the quotes by Wainwright as a slap in the face. Hopefully he can answer the back stabs on the field

  • I cant wait until he makes a diving catch on a Molina line drive. It will really piss Molina off.

  • fb_avatar

    "You Better Get Used To It" As a fan watched Jorge Soler hit a 2nd MONSTROUS HR in a game against the Cardinals in 2014.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Remember that well. I think we even titled an article like that. Made me laugh at the time. Made Kasper laugh too.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    IMO, "Get used to it" was the moment the tide started to turn.

    As for Heyward... he doesn't have to be the man, be doesn't have to hit homers, he doesn't have to be a leader. The Cubs already have these things.

    Jason just needs to be himself and use his unique tools to compliment the Cubs strengths. Just be one of the guys.

    He doesn't have to be a savior or carry any torch because this core isn't a bunch of old farts. You're old, we're young and that's life.

  • In reply to hoffpauir6:

    Some people want to be the team's all-star. Other people want to play on a team of all-stars. Maybe Heyward wants to be a part of that group of guys his age he saw across the diamond playing loose, winning, and having so much fun together. Wainwright makes that sound like it's a bad thing.

  • So 5 years and 80 million for Leake or 3 years and 75 million for Heyward if he opts out in 3 years. I know which one I'd prefer.
    And regards to the wainwright comment I guess he was using the royal we in his quote, because the GM and owner sure wanted Heyward's traits on the team.

  • Glad you wrote about this John. I was wondering what your take was after seeing the Matheny quotes.

    Some observations/thoughts:
    1. After the Cubs signed Heyward, I was reading a lot of posts on the elbirdos blog (or whatever it's called, which, to its credit was far more sane than the stuff on "bestfansinbaseball" or whatever the f**k they are calling themselves). Many were initially thinking the Cubs simply outpaid the field and then when they realized that wasn't the case, many pointed towards the difference between Matheny and Maddon as being a huge factor. Judging from the tone, it seemed that many Cards' fans are not exactly enamored of Matheny and seemed to imply he was overbearing. Not sure if this had anything to do with it, but it's telling that the idea of playing for Maddon is a big draw (whether it applied to Heyward or not, who really knows?).
    2. Regarding Wainwright's comments, it's a little funny/convenient that Heyward is a "leader" and character guy if he had stayed in St. Louis, but wanting to go to a club with a lot of talent supposedly reveals something about his character (like...uh... wanting to win, Adam?).
    3. Sounds to me that the Cards are very worried about the Cubs and trying to find reasons that they are still "superior" in some way shape or form. I suppose that's fine... every team believes in themselves (or wants to), but that team sounds pretty emotionally fragile to me. You punch them a couple of times (figuratively) and I think they will fold much like they did in the NLDS.
    4. (or 1B) I'm so glad we have Maddon and not Matheny as coach for all the reasons above.

  • In reply to Pura Vida:

    Viva el Birdos is a great blog.

    I do think there is some fear involved, maybe some frustration too. I think the last thing they wanted is for the Cubs to finally get competent leadership. They were a sleeping giant.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I really enjoyed the Theriot reference and it's so nice to see the tables turning. He was right but what a stupid thing to say by Theriot- guys like him can make a nice buck later in life as a Cubs ambassador of sorts. He will forever be a persona non grata for Cubs fans instead of a regular at Cubs conventions etc
    Happy Christmas to all on the board here

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Pura Vida:

    Very good point on #2. To paraphrase John Adams, "In St. Louis all geese are swans." If he stays there he is taking a "leadership" role. But if he goes to the cubs then it was purely a case of he wasn't comfortable being a leader. "But there's nothing wrong with that." It is possible that the Cubs gave opt-out clauses that the Cards and Nats weren't willing to accept. It is possible that this contract leads to more money than if he had accepted the other one. But it is also possible he LOVES the thought of cost controlled stars for 6 more seasons. While I doubt that the Cardinals ever go into full on "rebuild" mode where they tank a couple of seasons but Heyward could read the writing on the wall. There were going to be MAJOR personnel changes and that breeds uncertainty in him.

  • In reply to Pura Vida:

    Like John said, when Heyward said he wanted to play for a winner, I think that was the "unkindest cut of all" as far as Cardinals fans are concerned, since that's their endless refrain when they talk to Cubs fans. It must have been a huge shock to hear Heyward say that winning was one of the reasons he chose to come to Chicago. Theyre going to have to get used to it.

  • I have to admit Theriot was right. Here is to Heyward being right for the length of his contract.

  • Several Cardinals fans on MLB radio called in today to say that Leake would be vastly improved now that he's in St. Louis because he'll be caught by Molina calling the best catcher by far in the major leagues. No doubt Molina's very good, but he neglected to acknowledge that he just had his 2nd surgery on his thumb, might not be ready for opening day, turns 34 (very old for a catcher) in July and ranked 6th amongst defensive catchers per Fangraphs this past season.

    Another fan went so far as to say Leake would win 17 games because of the team he signed with and listed off all the pitchers that excelled under Dave Duncan as a reason why. Of course, Duncan hasn't been the pitching coach for 4 years.

    Then, at his introductory press conference, Mike Leake said he felt the Cardinals rotation was filled with #1s and #2s, himself included.

    Looks like being delusional is spreading like the flu in St. Louis. They sound scared and desperate to believe they're better than they are because they know the Cubs are gaining and gaining fast.

    As Harry would sing from time to time, "The Cubbies are coming, tra-la, tra-la". This should be a fun year.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Oh, and the icing on the cake was the Cardinals fan who called in to remind everyone that 4 years ago a Sports Illustrated poll named Cardinals fans the best in baseball. I actually felt sorry for the guy. It made me think of the inspirational poster of the cat hanging onto something for dear life.

    Hey, Cardinals fans, "Hang in there, baby."

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Sportstalk shows in STL have callers named 'Bob,' also. Or is it Jim Bob?

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Its not spreading, its always been here...they have just never had to face the reality that they weren't the shiat anymore. I live in St. Louis...it is unreal how the coolaid runs...they (the fans here) were all about getting price...now they are glad they didn't because he is old and will break down....they were all about heyward being the next big thing...now he sucks and they are glad he is gone...NO ONE here wanted leake...now they have him and his is the next coming of cy young...it is un.....real.....

    i hate this place...

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Cards fans talk about Molina the way some Cubs fans talk about Bosio. They think he has magical powers.

  • Don't know if you heard Bryan Hudson was involved in a traffic accident but reports say he is not hurt he over turned his new truck

  • In reply to jimmy89:

    Relieved to know he is not hurt. Thanks for the update.

  • I will start with that I have grown up in the middle of, and still live in, what is known as "Cardinal Nation". I do not like them. At all. I think their fans are the most arrogant, obnoxious, and for the most part, ignorant fan base I've ever been around. That being said, I respect their franchise, and the way it has continued its success and have a lot of respect for a number of their players. Mostly Holliday and Wainwright (Molina is good, but is grossly overrated by their fan base on his career numbers). But what I don't understand is why Wainwright would feel the need to attack Heyward's character and leadership capabilities because he addressed what is a fact in that St. Louis' "core" is aging and will not be around for the entirety of his contract. Lost a lot of respect for Wainwright in listening to that interview and the tone in his voice, as he sounded nothing short of condescending. That being said, go Cubs! I have never wished I'll upon any team but I really hope St. Louis falls into a tailspin so that we can see the St. Louis fans of the '90's that would rarely show up for games. I feel the force of hatred coming out in me and it's not even Christmas yet; that's exciting!

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to CubYourEnthusiasm:

    May the force be with you,hatred and all. LOL

  • In reply to TheRiot2:

    Thank you! It's extremely hard having an intelligent baseball conversation around St. Louis fans. No matter the comment, their response, in a roundabout way will always come back to 107 years as it that has some merit as what the future has to hold. For the most part, ther are outliers, they're a bunch of bozo's.

  • In reply to CubYourEnthusiasm:

    Excatly...there is no such thing as an intelligent baseball convo here because they all thing there is nothing better than the cards. I remember when the stadium was empty in the 90s...no one wanted anything to do with them. Suddenly, they start winning again and the arrogance comes back. We get it...107...got it...how is the lifetime series between the two teams going? How did the playoffs go for you this past season? Like Da Coach once said, "Those who live in the past are cowards and losers"....perfect quote for these knuckleheads here...

    my favorite story with a cards fan...I stated one year (the year the hawks won their first cup in the 5 year run recently) that the Cubs are a better baseball team than the cards. This dude lost his mind, cause the Cards had recently won the series. My counter was the Cubs beat the cards in the head to head matchup in the regular season (not to mention own the lifetime record too). He said it didn't matter because the cards won the championship......
    Two days later, this same donkeyhat says the Blues are better than the Hawks...I asked him how he figures, and he said because the Blues beat the Hawks in the regular season matchups....

    Yea...cardinal nation...where facts never get in the way of good rhetoric....

  • In reply to CubYourEnthusiasm:

    I was surprised that Matheny felt he needed to respond at all, but he did, but like Heyward, I don't think he crossed any lines. Wainwright definitely crossed the line by impugning Heyward's character.

  • fb_avatar

    Whens spring training start ? It can't come soon enough. If I pray for anything it's good health to all our Cubs. 2016 will be just great,especially with the Cards squirming and of course losing their cool.

  • I'm still trying to figure out who Lackey was mad at with the fastball to Hammel. Did Matheny call it from the dugout, or did Yadi, as Lackey looked back in fury to the dugout? I don't think players want to play for Matheny- just be a Cardinal in those days.

  • In reply to edubbs:

    Cruz was catching.

  • fb_avatar

    When girardi was deciding between the Cubs and yanks a couple of years back, the attitude at pinstripes ball as I think it's called was the same - who would ever choose the flubs when they could have the NEW YORK YANKEES? I put in a post explaining that a lot of players love Chicago, Wrigley, the loyal fans, day baseball, and the chance to break the curse. To their credit I got a lot of recs, but most of them just didn't get it.

  • fb_avatar

    It was either when Lackey or Heyward signed that I think Cardinal "fans" were so disgusting in their comments that you couldn't repeat them. It doesn't come up to vile comments, I would be ashamed to be a fan. Thank you John for keeping this blog decent and even when we disagree we do it respectively.
    Can I offer a phrase--the Cubs are a green team because we use "Soler power". Thanks.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    "Thank you John for keeping this blog decent and even when we disagree we do it respectively."
    Amen to that. I stopped reading a different Cub Blog, that will remain nameless, because of the less than civil comments and out and out foul language.

  • There is SO much irony in Wainright's comments. He is basically ripping Hayward for not wanting to be the MAN, but isn't that what the Cardinals have always prided themselves on? No ONE player is bigger than the team. Haven't the Cardinals players always lauded that they are, "part of a system that will be there for years and years."

    Wainright's comments encapsulate decades worth of Cardinal arrogance by dismissing a culture they have so outwardly prided themselves on, while simultaneously championing a notion of self-righteousness (being the MAN) that they have scoffed at and demeaned since they began spewing their "awe-shucks, we just play the game the right way" routine.

    Unbelievable! But also awesome, because it wreaks of insecurity.

  • In reply to 2lf6reedyt:

    The irony is he was "The Man" on that team last year. He led by his play on the field.

    Hilarious stuff.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Ha that's true, another layer of ridiculousness. All while wainwright was out all season, holiday missed significant time and molina was clearly beginning his decline. He acquitted himself quite well as The Man. But I guess he still doesn't have that "personality trait."

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to 2lf6reedyt:

    To me the whole thing is irrelevant. Heyward doesn't have to be "THE MAN" in Chicago. Probably the guys that have that title are Arrieta, Rizzo and Bryant. While Heyward may put up a higher WAR than them (and he may not) he can be a cog rather than the whole machine; THE MAN. Cubs fans won't complain if he is hitting .275/.350/.450 and playing solid defense. They don't need him to be an MVP candidate. They have that already. Maybe he doesn't want to be THE MAN. There is NOTHING wrong with that.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Totally agree. I've never liked be The Man on a team. Personally it is more fun to play on more talented teams were I'm just an average player, as a team that I have to carry will more likely lose.

    It will be interesting to see what type of year he will have. I'm not expecting a great increase in numbers, but if pressure of being THE MAN effects him I can see him doing better when he just can relax and have a good AB knowing the guys behind him can drive him in if he doesn't hit it out.

  • Cards = just another possible "W" on the schedule..

  • Damn it feels good to be Cub fan! This article has me so pumped.

    Wainwright questioning the leadership of Heyward is pretty funny. Through leading his team in WAR last year and being one of the few constant cogs on a 100 win team showed that Heyward, if potentially not a vocal leader in the clubhouse, is not afraid of putting a team on his back.The decision to take on a 107 year championship drought more valiant than possibly being the next face of Cardinals. I'm loving the fact that both Matheny and Wainwright are salty about the new powerhouse on the north side.

    I've been baffled lately about how a portion of Cardinals fans so upset, and vile, about the likes of Heyward and Lackey leaving St. Louis for greener pastures when they didn't come to the Cardinals by choice in the first place. Both were traded and weren't even trained with the "Cardinal Way" from an young age. I understand they are good players and it's never fun to lose these kinds of guys to a rival, but they were only rentals. I won't be sad when Lackey leave after 2017 or Heyward maybe after 2018. I'll be glad that they helped the Cubs achieve their goals.

  • In reply to jpniederer:

    Wainwright might want to research Dizzy Dean, Rushing back from foot injurues is not conduc tive to long-term arm health, Methinks Wainwrong needs to start worrying about himself. Maybe hes just afraid that he also has to face Heyworth now, after watching what Soler did to him in the playoffs.

  • Take it easy Denizens, let's beat them another time or three before we talk too much.

  • One addition to this Cubs-Cards narrative should be that we have the better management team now. The Cardinals of course have a good operation, but they've botched a few lately.

    Mozeliak traded away Shelby Miller - who just produced a boatload of top notch talent - for one year of Heyward, thinking they could get him to sign & stay on. Yeah, their window to stay on top in the division played into it, but in the end not a very good trade.

    And Lackey was playing one year at something like the major league minimum for them. If he was so underpaid, and they really wanted him back, couldn't they have worked out an extension that paid him more that last year?

    And in turn, our management team has been able to both strengthen our team and hurt our rival.

  • In reply to TokyoCraig:

    Far be it for me to defend the Cardinals but Miller needed a change of scenery. Sometimes young players hit a wall in their organization, they have baggage and they may not be hearing the coaching at loudly as they should. If they won a WS with Heyward last year no one would question the move and let's not forget they won 100 games.

    I guess my thing with this rivalry is they I really don't hate the team per se but, despite two of my closest friends being Cardinals fans, the general fandom is unbearable which in turn makes me dislike the team. I guess that's true of just about every rivalry I suppose but it's really true in this case. I don't want us as fans to emulate that behavior, even in that I have wanted our organization to emulate theirs for a long time, minus the hacking of course. I think we've finally arrived at that place, signed away two of their best players of 2015 and beat them in an NLDS handily. It's a beautiful thing, I just don't want to stoop to their level. Now let's beat those @#$%&*( by 10 games.

  • Never underestimate them Cardinals, but I hope they lose 120 games next year!

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    I work three days a week in St. Louis, two days from my home in Springfield. I've decided that Cardinal fans are the most myopic fans in baseball when it comes to the subjectively evaluating other teams in baseball ... especially the Cubs. I won $600 last year betting three Cardinal fans that the Cubs would finish ... wait for it ... over .500. And every single one of these guys still dismissed the Cubs' future as they were paying me my winnings (though interestingly, none of them wanted anything to do with a 2016 bet). I like these guys. But man, I've never seen a more condescending group of fans like Cardinal Nation. I swear they must hear a heavenly choir sing every time the Cardinals take the field.

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    In reply to Brian Wilson:

    I hear yeah Brian. I'm from springfield too and i truly believe that some of the cardinal fans in this town hate the cubs more than they like the cardinals. Oh damn was it sweet to knock them out of the playoffs!!! I use to play poker every thurs night and i'd be the only cub fan at the table. In 2014 i kept telling them that the cubs would get really good really fast...and of course they just laughed at me. I had a similar bet with a yankee fan before the 2015 season started that the cubs would be in the playoffs before the yankees. Damn yankees snuck in only to get eliminated in the WC game. Oh did i want to get some money from a yankee fan. Now that yankee fan has become a huge cub fan.

  • In reply to Greg Simmons:

    I'm from Decatur and I can tell you that Central Illinois Cardinals fans are the worst!!! To be fair, it's not all the Cardinals fans, but definitely an obnoxious sub group that get way too much enjoyment out of Cubs failures. Many of them are still in denial, just like Metheny and Wainright, that things are changing and there's going to be a new sheriff in town! I will say that All Cardinals fans have the sense of entitlement that I've heard mentioned many times on this site. They feel it is there birth right as a Cardinals fan that they should be in the playoffs every year and dominate the Cubs. I would like to encourage all of us true Cubs fans to raise above and not emulate the behavior of the Cardinal fans we despise.

  • Re Wainwright and Mathena's comments, it sort of reminds me of a person (usually a kid, but sometimes adults) who chooses a team to root for because it is already very good. So Heyward was "supposed to" stay with the team with a history of winning championships and turn away from the team with the opposite record. LOL!

  • Very well written article. It put a very big smile on my face to think about those smug Cardinals steaming with anger!

  • Many Cardinals fans I work with are clamoring to the notion that they now have the best rotation in baseball... They added Mike Leake, which in my opinion is a more experienced Kyle Hendricks. No clue how that makes them the best rotation in baseball? Where would you rank their rotation in baseball, John? I've still got them at 3rd, at best, in the NL.

    Great time to be a Cubs fan!

  • In reply to CubYourEnthusiasm:

    Obviously not John (nor as qualified to answer as many others on this board), but the Cards seem to have a lot of question marks in the starting rotation... mostly about health. I'd be surprised if, given all those question marks, they don't have some issues with depth. However, even if they don't have health issues, it's hard to see that staff as being the best in baseball when you have the Mets out there. I'd rather have the Indians staff too. Or the Cubs if Arrieta can come close to repeating last year. I think they'll be good, but we're talking maybe top 10 or 12 good, not top 5.

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    In reply to Pura Vida:

    Yes, there are some significant injury concerns for the Cardinals. That isn't uncommon with young pitchers. Leake is a solid piece, roughly equivalent to Lackey. Martinez, Wacha, Garcia, Lynn have all missed time in the last year or so with arm trouble.

    Let them believe what they want. They still won't win as many games next year.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    dirty birds stgruggled on offense most of last year, and one of there most consistent bats(Heyward) is no longer there. Leake might be the only starter in there rotation w/o some kind of injury conmcern(I know Wainwright was a foot injury, well a foot injury derailed the careers of Dizzy Dean and Mickey Lolich). Right now, the dirty birds are on paper the 3rd best team in the C entral,, and don't have a lot of depth.

  • In reply to CubYourEnthusiasm:

    They have a solid rotation and Leake is a dependable workhorse. The Cubs, Giants, Diamondbacks and Nationals also have solid rotations. The Mets obviously have, if healthy, a rotation full of TOR pitchers. All that and $2.50 gets you a coffee at Starbucks. Good to great teams are more than starting rotation. The Cubs look to me to be the most complete team in the NL but the games are played on the field. Is it April yet?

  • In reply to CubYourEnthusiasm:

    Couldn't agree more with you guys. If StL's rotation is healthy it will be good, but I completely agree with depth issues. Garcia will be hurt after 5-10 starts, if he makes it that far. Every team has holes to fill, but I see StL as a team that has a lot of injury issues and a lot of holes to fill. Amazing what they did last year with what they had.

    Also, I agree that our rotation is probably better due to the fact that we have more proven SP depth with Warren, Cahill, Wood, and even Richard in an emergency. When debating with a StL fan, never say anything of ours is better; you can feel the temperature in the room rise from their blood pressure.

    Happy Holidays, everyone!

  • In reply to CubYourEnthusiasm:

    Our playoff record against them is better.
    Cardinal Fan's head might explode, but it's an irrefutable fact.

  • In reply to hoffpauir6:

    LOL. It's true! It's true!

  • Oh, yes! It's on! Because it's our turn!

    We have embarked on the Chicago Cubs Championship Era!

    Merry Christmas!
    Happy Holidays!
    Happy New Year!
    Happy, joyous, wonderful Era!

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    Wainwright's comments are genuinely funny.

    "The person we want to give the money to"... He's implying Heyward wasn't the guy they wanted to give the "big money" to.
    But they DID want to give it to him. That's why they OFFERED him the big money.

    As for not wanting to carry the torch. That is silly nonsense.
    Why would ANYONE want to carry the torch? I don't care if you are the Captain freakin' America of the MLB. If you have more leadership and mentoring qualities of anyone in the history of the game... If you're entering your prime years and playing the best baseball of your career, then you want those prime years to be used towards winning a championship. Period.
    It's an eight year contract FFS. If he wants to pass the torch, he can do that with the cubs in 7 or 8 years. But who wants to waste their prime athletic years with a team in transition when you can just sign with a team that is only going to get better? The statement doesn't make sense on any level.

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    In reply to Giffmo:

    (not to mention that by talking about "passing the torch" he is acknowledging that, yeah, the current team is going to shit.)

  • I think there was another undercurrent in the Heyward/Matheny/Wainwright exchange that has not been discussed. Maddon has created a unique culture that is very attractive to the players the team has targeted. Matheny is much more "old school," reportedly requiring coat and tie even for the flight back to St. Louis after their season was officially over. Molina threw him under the bus with post-season comments. Every free agent is going to be set for life, and Heyward could retire in his 20's, so he might as well enjoy the culture and camaraderie rather than ever feeling like it is a job, even for one short, quiet, plane ride.

  • In reply to charactercounts:

    What did Molina say?

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    In reply to Oneear:

    Yadi didn't really throw Matheny under the bus...he tweeted congratulations to the Cubs and said "they managed, pitch and hit better than us." Some blogs made more of it than it was (such as this one)...


  • Happy Festivus for the rest of us. 57 days 'til pitchers and catchers report.

  • In reply to picklles:

    Happy Festivus!

  • No Matheny, Idont want a 34yo Yadi, a 35YO Holliday or a 35yo Wainwright in 2-3 years. I wanted them 3-4 years ago when I knew they had a FUTURE. That's EXACTLY what Jason Heyward was saying, he preferred a team with a FUTURE not a team on the decline.Better get used to it Matheny, while the Cubs are beating up on your dirty birds for the next 2-3 years, youll likely end up fired,

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    In reply to mutant beast:

    Def all those things and the nice 3 year opt out option prob was a little appealing as well which helped tip the scales in the Cubs favor.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    I'm not sure that's what Heyward meant, though it's been interpreted that way by some. Heyward came up with the Braves, but the guys he looked up to, line Jones, McCann, etc. were all gone by the time he left. Same thing would have happened with the Cardinals. He wants to be and grow with a core of guys who will be around as long as he is.

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    Speaking of Heyward, Ken Rosenthal posted an interesting bit on him. Said that although he won't be as good defensively in CF vs. RF, he'll be much better offensively when compared to centerfielders vs. right fielders. I also read that Zobrist is projected to be a lesser defensive second baseman than Castro, but have a higher WAR because of his superior offense. This team is doubling down on its commitment to build an offensive juggernaut. Makes me think defense is overrated.

  • In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    Zobrist will make routine plays more consistently.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I think that's the key. Maddon has said he wants boring on defense. Zobrist will make all the plays and now that he is fully healthy again, he'll regain a bit of that range.

    I don't think we can say that defense is overrated considering good defensive teams seem to find themselves playing late into the postseason quite a bit.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Maybe not overrated. But on the list of things the team has emphasized (pitching, controlling the strike zone, power, pitch framing, now cutting down strike outs, etc.) defense seems to have come in last. At least it looks that way to me.

  • In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    I think it has more to do with timing. Defense seems to become more important once a team is playoff caliber. In a short series, every play becomes magnified, whereas during a long season, you can mask over it with good offense and good pitching. The Cubs needed to take care of the things that would make them a playoff contender first, now they want to sculpt a more well rounded team for the postseason.

    The Cubs really do want to improve their defense. And if they could trade a slugger for a young, defensive CF of equal value (or a SP) they'd still do it.

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    In reply to 44slug:

    Go a step further with this, the whole may be more than the sum of its parts. Russell has shown incredible range to his right. The diving stop against the Cardinals was the most spectacular but he's been a vacuum cleaner on ground balls up the middle. With Russell at short, you might well be willing to sacrifice some range from your second baseman if he can consistently handle balls that are his responsibility. I've said this before and it goes well here: defense is a team statistic and can only really be understood at the team level.

  • Matheny doesn't like it because everything Heyward said was true.

  • to Matheny and Wainwright. no one cares, deal with it.

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    Yeah the Theriot thing was annoying because at the time it was true. It will be fun now that both teams are good. It's still fun to say that the Cubs beat the Cards in the playoffs. That won't get old anytime soon. Of course never sleep on the evil empire. Even now these Rockies trade rumors are bubbling up. Kind of like Darth Vader escaping the death star.

  • Each time I read what Heyward said, my mind highlights one thing: his quote is only true if he doesn't opt out after three years. Makes you wonder. I'm perhaps a bit jaded, but I don't see him not opting out. But again, what difference does it make for what core is where for how long if you plan on opting out and going elsewhere in 3 or 4 years???

  • I certainly would not say that Theriot was "right". He went to the better team at the time, but he was still definitely on the wrong side of the rivalry.

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    In reply to Ricardo:

    Exactly. I don't know how anyone could confuse themselves into believing that being a Jorts wearing, toothless cardinal fan is the rt side of the rivalry !

    Next year the NL central is going to be feisty. Cards vs us is a given. Bucs and Cards have been building a nice little rivalry, and we all know the bucs are thinking about us all winter long. First Kang has his season ended and then Arrieta goes into PNC and shuts up the whole city...........I can't wait......

  • Nice article John.

    I think it was the game on July 8th that was the turning point in this rivalry. Cubs were down 0-4 and came back to lead 5-4 after 8 innings... only to lose it 6-5. We had always seemed to be resigned to the fact that the Cardinals were never out of a game. In fact, pre disposed to expect this type of outcome against them. Out young players grew up after that emotional let down. They learned how to win after that game against the Cardinals. We owned them afterwards winning 7 of our last 10 vs STL and then the post-season.

    Here's to hoping for more of that new outcome in 2016 and beyond!

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Ouch. "Thanks" for reminding me. I was at that game. Sat in the bleachers in the rain the whole night. That was the low point of the season for me. Didn't expect what came later at all.

  • We've discussed the past. We look toward the future. But today is Christmas Eve - Merry Christmas!!!

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