Is Cardinals-Reds the biggest rivalry in Baseball?

A hot topic the past couple of days has been the emerging rivalry between the Cardinals and Reds.  Particularly after Francisco Cordero accidentally hit Albert Pujols with a pitch that got a bit away from him.  After some loud words from the Cardinals bench and some showboating from Cordero after the game was over, David Schoenfield at ESPN’s sweetspot blog proposed the idea that the emerging Reds-Cardinals rivalry is the best in baseball.  His evidence for such a thought is basically that both teams got into a fight last year, both have been in the middle of a tight race for the NL Central for the last couple of years, and that both teams “hate” each other (there we go with that sports writer psychoanalysis again), while neither Yankees-Red Sox nor Dodgers-Giants count as an equal rivalry.  He claims that Yankees-Red Sox is more of a fan thing, and the Dodgers and Giants haven’t even been in a pennant race since 2004.

Now there are some valid claims here, but I just can’t buy this rivalry as greater or even equal to the two aforementioned ones.  We’ll start with the easier one.  Yankees-Red Sox is not only the biggest rivalry in Baseball, but possibly in all of sports.  It’s talked about in the same breath as Lakers-Celtics, or Cal-Stanford.  1 and 1/4 years of animosity and a close pennant race does not equal or surpass 100+ years of bitterness and intense, zealous hatred.  ESPN and Fox don’t go out of their ways to broadcast Cards-Reds over the weekend.  Cards-Reds doesn’t draw the ridiculously high ratings that Yankees-Red Sox does.  Baseball is a sports that has an unhealthy love of it’s traditions (Umpires calling balls and strikes, outdated statistics, etc.), and chief among them is Yankees-Red Sox.  The Cards and Reds have only recently been good.  The Yankees have been good since the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to them, winning 27 World Series.  That’s about 1/4th of all of them.  The Red Sox have a relatively meager 7, but won 5 World Series before 1918 and have become a recent powerhouse.

In fact, that’s the biggest thing with both teams, is that’ they’re powerhouses.  The Yankees and Red Sox have been routinely spending over 200 million dollars to field the most successful baseball teams they can.  The Red Sox came into this year with colossal expectations, thanks to the huge signing of Carl Crawford, and trade for Adrian Gonzalez.  Meanwhile, the fact that the Yankees didn’t sign Cliff Lee was the biggest upset in Baseball since the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays.  While the Cardinals have been in the upper-echelon of spending, they will never be in Yankees-Red Sox territory.  The Reds are basically average in this department.  While players hating each other is nice, you don’t see fans really get into it (especially considering the Reds have trouble filling up their own stadium most of the time), especially not like Yankees-Red Sox.

On the other hand, his comparison of Reds-Cardinals with Dodgers-Giants does hold some weight.  There’s no question that Yankees-Red Sox is bigger than both (I and many others routinely call Dodgers-Giants a rivalry that’s similar to Yankees Red-Sox, but less intense), but these two are a bit comparable.  Besides my Dodgers bias, I think the biggest difference for me is the tradition and history behind this rivalry, and that’s what separates it from Reds-Cardinals.  The Dodgers and Giants hated each other when both played in New York (SportsCenter did a Top 10 of Walk-Off Home Runs last year and called this the greatest walk off home run ever) and both teams moved to the West Coast in the same year.  The West Coast hasn’t seen too many rivalries in terms of sports outside of anything the Lakers have done, but the Dodgers and Giants will always hate each other.

And really, this hatred will never be more apparent and easy to see than in the beating of Bryan Stow.  As somber of a topic as it is, it actually serves as great evidence for a rivalry like the Dodgers and Giants.  Before I really talk about it, let me just say that I would never condone such a thing, it made me ashamed to be a Dodger fan, and that I continue to pray for him and his family.  The beating of Bryan Stow will always be a case of a Baseball rivalry taken too far.  For those who aren’t aware, Bryan Stow was a Giants fan who attended this year’s opening day game between the Dodgers and Giants in Dodger stadium.  Dodger Stadium has recently been known for it’s angry, often intoxicated fans who endlessly heckle fans of the other team, throw food at them when they’re leaving, to the point where fans of the opposing teams often enjoy themselves far more when they don’t where their uniforms (Which is a huge shame on it’s own.  Fans should always be more than willing to wear their team’s colors with pride).  After the game, which was a close Dodger win, Bryan Stow and two other Giants fans were walking to their cars, and were jumped and attacked from behind by two Dodger fans.  While two of the Giants fans only sustained minor injury, Bryan Stow sustained horrible injuries, and was in critical condition for multiple weeks.

Again, I hate to use such a brutal act of violence as evidence for something like a Baseball rivalry, but Reds-Cardinals has never seen such an act, and probably never will.  A bench-clearing brawl (which is really the most intense showing of animosity between these two teams we’ve seen during this “rivalry”) simply cannot be compared to the tradition of the other two, as well as the brutal beating.  I suppose I’m agreeing with Schoenfield when I say that the other two rivalries get their following more from fans than players, but I just can’t get behind the idea that Cardinals-Reds is greater than Yankees-Red Sox or Dodgers-Giants.

What’s your opinion?  Think I’m not giving Reds-Cardinals enough credit?  Tell me why in the comments section.

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