Last October during the Cardinals’ run to the NL Pennant and World Series, the biggest storyline that surrounded this team was the idea of the Cardinal Way. Now as every Cardinals’ fan and baseball fan for that matter knows, there are two definitions of the Cardinal Way.

  1. Developing homegrown talent (specifically pitchers) and using these scrappy youngsters to contend year in and year out. (Unlike the evil Yankees who buy all of their wins)
  2. Playing the game according to baseball’s unwritten rules i.e. “playing the game the right way”.

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Of the two definitions, the first is something to be proud of and an ideal Cardinals’ fans can hang their hat on. This organization has contended pretty much every year of the past decade, and they have mostly done that with homegrown talent. Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, and Allen Craig are all products of the Cardinal Way.

However, the second definition is what brought this organization under fire and the scorn of fans from all other teams. The most glaring example of the hypocrisy of the second definition was brought to light during the NLCS between the Cards and Dodgers. During that series, various Cardinals criticized the Dodgers for “showing off” by beating their chests in excitement after a big hit. The hypocrisy arose when the Cardinals’ players also celebrated after a big hit, but their celebration still fell under the Cardinal Way because they were just happy for their teammates. Huh?

Overall, the hypocrisy of the Cardinal Way has faded to the background since the World Series, but the events of this past week reminded me of our team’s former philosophy.

Over the weekend series between the Pirates and Diamondbacks, reigning NL MVP Andrew McCutchen was drilled in the back by an obvious beanball. The pitch was thrown in retaliation to the Diamondbacks’ best player Paul Goldschimdt having his hand broken by an errant pitch in the game before. The pitch that hurt Goldschmidt was clearly unintentional, so there was no need for retaliation. So why did the D-backs hit McCutchen?

Kirk Gibson
Kirk Gibson

Because the Diamondbacks and Kirk Gibson are now subscribers to the Cardinal Way.

This isn’t an isolated incident either. The D-backs ordered hits on Troy Tulowitski in Spring Training and Ryan Braun at the end of last season. They have criticized the Dodgers (okay maybe they do deserve it) for celebrating a playoff berth by swimming in the pool at Chase Field. All of the D-backs’ complaints sound eerily similar to those brought up by the Cardinals last postseason.

The only difference between the two teams right now is the D-backs have resorted to violence rather than barbs in the media. For how self-righteous our team was last October, they backed it up with decent play and let it show on the field. The Diamondbacks are a terrible baseball team taking potshots at the best players in the National League.

McCutchen is now sitting on the DL with a broken rib (possibly unrelated) while the Pirates are in the midst of a pennant race and Diamondbacks 13.5 games out. Because of a perceived slight against their club, the D-backs knocked out one of the most electrifying players in baseball for a few weeks.

So what’s my point? It’s simple, I hate the Cardinal Way; the second definition at least. I love how the Cards develop homegrown talent and compete, but I can’t stand the self-righteous baloney they pulled out last October. Teams that continue to perpetuate a culture of retaliation and violence have no place in baseball and hurt the game. Baseball thrives when its’ superstars are on the field and they aren’t emotionless robots.

Does Yasiel Puig of the Dodgers break unwritten rules constantly? Yes he does, but he is immensely entertaining to watch. Same goes for Brandon Phillips and Nick Swisher and any other superstar with a personality.

So while the D-backs are continuing on the Cardinal Way in Arizona, I’m just happy that the actual Cardinals have let it go and are just playing the game again.