Part 2 of my Cardinals preview sets up a conversation between myself and a great friend of mine (Jason) who just so happens to be a Cubs fan (yes it can be done St. Louis). While our loyalties may be polar opposite, our level of fandom may go unmatched. The two of us share a profession as well as a love for the game of baseball. It may be hard for some Cubs/Cardinals fans to relate with each other we both have an understanding of what life is like 304 miles apart.
With the Cubs just days away from opening up the 2017 season in St. Louis, I thought this was a perfect time to see where the pulse of the rivalry was of two baseball fans coming off of much different offseasons than they’re traditionally used to.
Tell us a little bit about your history of being a Cubs fan/what everything has meant to you since October: My grandfather tried out for the Cubs, got offered a spot in their minor leagues, then WW2 broke out and he went off to fight in the Marines. I still have that letter with the Cubs letterhead on it. He was my idol as a former ballplayer, and Marine. Everything was Cubs with him. Literally right now Go Cubs Go started to get played at the establishment we were interviewing at. Any Chicago landmark I knew as a kid was Cubs related to me. I’d call my dad at work when I was 6 saying “Dad – Why are the Cubs so bad? Why can’t they ever win?” – they’ve always been close to my heart. You see these people wearing the Cubs Champs shirts but then you wonder, did you call your dad when you were 6, balling your eyes out become the Cubs had lost. Not to sound sappy or corny but being in Chicago over the off season it feels like the monkey is off our back. To be in the city and know they’re champions was a great feeling.
When you think of the Cubs/Cards rivalry – what comes to mind? A really long time of back and forth arguing about who’s better individually at positions while growing up. But for me personally I went to school (Lindenwood in St. Charles) in the St. Louis area so that changed everything. It was a time where the Cardinals were good but the Cub’s weren’t (1995-1997). The Cubs had 1984, 1989, but hadn’t really done much in recent memory at the time. It was cool because I got to go Cardinal games all the time. Being on the baseball team my coach would always have tickets if we wanted to go to the games. It was always fun to go watch Major League Baseball, and even Ozzie Smith spoke at my college graduation. You dislike the team (The Cardinals) because they beat on your team. I’ve always respected them though. I thought it was fantastic when Theo came to the Cubs and said he wanted to turn them into something similar to the Cardinals. The Cardinals are winners, always in the hunt. A down year for the Cardinals was they were in the wild card.
What makes the Cubs/Cardinals rivalry different? I do think the Midwest thing has something to do with it. The Midwest isn’t viewed as exciting as the coasts, almost second class, but I think the fact the Cards had been winning championships for years and years while the Cubs hadn’t – it was a rivalry but it wasn’t. I always used to tell Jason how I’d get mad when Cubs fans would “talk smack to me” He went on to say if he was me he’d laugh at them, because they never had anything to chirp about as they hadn’t done anything in 100 some years. Now it’s taking on a whole new level. You go back to Tony/Dusty and some of that gamesmanship it was fun to see that these two teams could give each other competition. We’re not gonna start something but we’ll finish it was a big line said by Joe Maddon that really stuck with fans on both sides of the rivalry. It’s hard to speak to those other rivalries but of course I think the Cubs/Cards rivalry is the best!
Favorite Cub/Cardinal memory? (I told him Suter giving up moon shots to Sandberg couldn’t count). It has to be the 2015 playoff victory over the Cardinals. I really realized it was real when Baez hit an opposite field homerun into the bleachers late in the game. As a Cub fan I’m used to my team teasing a little bit, but not delivering the knockout punch. I felt like then they had arrived. No longer were the Cubs second class. We’re on the same level now. Not that we’re better than the Cardinals – not even close – but now I feel like it’s a level playing field. We’re not trying to spoil their playoff chances, the Cubs are trying to beat them to get into the playoffs.
How relieved were you to see Montgomery and not Chapman closing out the W.S.? I didn’t like Chapman, but I really wanted my team to win the W.S. Chapman wasn’t exactly “lock down” in the playoffs (some of that was how he was used). However with how he pitched in the playoffs, I wasn’t necessarily sad to see him leave. At the time I wasn’t thinking about who was going to get the last out, but looking back it’s cool to see that he was the one to close it out.
What was the offseason like not having to wait for the proverbial “next year”? I reveled in it every day. He went on to say he had watched the last out “a lot of times”. Whenever it would show up he’d take the time to watch it. I watched Game 7 in it’s entirety two weeks after the W.S. was over. To be able to watch it while listening to the commentary and not being on pins and needles (2011 Game 7 Anyone?!?!) was nice. Comcast played back all 11 victories so I’ve been getting through those one at a time as the offseason has went on. I’ve just enjoyed it. It’s been such a long time coming. You told me that “don’t think once they win it you won’t care anymore” and you’re right. If anything I even care more now (if that’s even possible). Now it’s like I know they can do it so I want them to do it some more. Overall I just want them to be like the Cardinals and sustain competitive teams. I don’t pretend to think they’ll be world beaters forever, I just want to see them stay competitive for an extended period of time.
What is your biggest worry about the Cubs this season? (I know a dumb question – but there has to be a weak link in that Cubby armor right?!?!) Obviously health. I do worry about the starting rotation. Arrieta has been red hot or mediocre at best. Even within a game – he’ll go 3 strong innings and then he’ll walk 4 guys. That concerns me. Lackey concerns me because he was “over the hill” last year. He’s gonna give you good starts, but he’s not a guy I trust in the playoffs. Hendricks was fantastic last year – but was that real? Is he really that good, is he really Greg Maddux esque? Lester is a year older, and he’s been fantastic. If anyone has earned a 155 million dollar contract he has. He was amazing in the playoffs. But it really comes down to pitching in general.
What’s your worst/funniest Cardinal fan interaction? What really irks me now is the 11 is greater than 3 thing. Of course that’s very true. You don’t have to be a mathematician to know that. It doesn’t make me mad it just makes me shake my head. It’s just 1 at a time I guess. — Let us have our second. We get it, we know. Let the Cubs fans have their time.
I had a casual coworker fan once tell me how much better Tommy Herr was than Ryne Sandberg. He said “All you Cub fans just talk about Ryne Sandberg – I think Tommy Herr was a better overall player.” That’s when you have to have the mentality to tip your cap and say “nice talking to you.” Any Cardinal fan who really thinks Herr was better than Sandberg is delusional. That’s like saying Derek Lee was better than Albert Pujols.
My man Jason showed me (once again) that not all Cub fans are bad. I know how a lot of the Cardinal fans feels about the Cubs (and vice versa in Chicago) – but it’s important to remember that even though we love our “Birds on the Bat”, there are people just like us who just so happened to have their heart strings attached 304 miles to the North. I’ve negatively affected friendships with friends/family over Cubs/Cardinals baseball, but in the end it’s truly important to remember that we all love this great game of baseball. As my mom always said “it wouldn’t be as much fun if everyone only liked the Cardinals”. As I get older these words ring truer than ever. Watching the Cubs slip by the Indians in the World Series was something that I (and probably a lot of Cardinal fans) thought/hoped would never happen. However now that the “curse” is broken with Chicago, I love my Cardinals no differently, but can no longer harbor such a negativity towards the Cubs. Don’t get me wrong, I hope the Cardinals give it to them every time they play- let’s just all remember that the game of baseball and competition is what is going to make these next years so much fun. A big shout out to Jason for showing me that as a Cardinals fan, I can have a Cub Companion.