Yesterday, Deadspin columnist Drew Magary wrote an article about the St. Louis Cardinals. It was called “I Can’t Get Enough Of The Shitass Cardinals Feuding With One Of Their Own Players“. I have not read it.
This isn’t a matter of grand principle. I’m not consciously avoiding the article–I was just busy all day and haven’t gotten a chance to read it. However, I’m going to write my observations here as I go. Based on the title alone, it’s probably got a few four-letter words in here that I will quote unedited throughout this post, though it probably won’t include, like, hate speech. If it does, I’ll edit that.
Now, for those unfamiliar with Deadspin, it was founded by *extremely Michael Wilbon voice* close personal friend Will Leitch (I’ve never met Will, but I’ve done two podcasts with him–this one and this one–so I’m pretty sure he’d give me a kidney if I required one). Will Leitch is a Cardinals fan, born and raised in Mattoon, IL before moving to New York (and later Athens, GA), where he founded Deadspin. The vast majority of his Deadspin coworkers were not Cardinals fans.
Drew Magary, whose online persona is so steeped in the time-honored tradition of hating things that he annually writes an essay about why each NFL team sucks (the roasting is generally, whether you enjoy it or not, meant in good fun–I always looked forward to the St. Louis Rams ones and now I really look forward to the Los Angeles Rams ones), took aim on the St. Louis Cardinals first in 2013 with the post-NLDS screed “Why Your Cardinals Suck“. Long story short–I’m pretty sure like 95% of the point of the article was to troll Will Leitch, but a bunch of Cardinals fans took the mockery of their team very seriously and so Deadspin kept doing it. I get it. Maybe it’s “clickbait”, but it’s also just good business.
I’ve said this before, but every time I say it I feel like I’m making a grand confession: I enjoyed “Why Your Cardinals Suck”. Was it nuanced? Certainly not. Were there individual lines I didn’t enjoy? Sure, but that was probably half the point. But a roasting of the Cardinals is fun and good (and often deserved) and I am in favor of it being done. Unfortunately, the successors haven’t quite lived up to the original. You can find them (as well as the SEVENTY-SIX part series in 2016 documenting every single Cardinals loss on the season) if you search for it. It’s really not worth your time.
Anyway, I’m desperately hoping this post is good. I want to enjoy it. I want this post to echo the original “Why Your Cardinals Suck”, which I believed to be a basically good-natured, if harsh, roast, in contrast to the idiotic @BestFansStLouis Twitter account. If the end result of this post is people mocking the Cardinals, that’s fine; if it’s people feeling high and mighty for not being Cardinals fans, they’re missing the point. Also, Drew Magary has written some genuinely smart political stuff over the last couple years and I’m hoping maybe he’s figured out that Best Fans St. Louis-style poor shaming isn’t useful for anybody. Let’s see, though. Line by line-ish. Again, I already linked to it, but here it is again.
“The St. Louis Cardinals are currently a pedestrian 46-43 and 7.5 games behind Milwaukee in the NL Central.”
“But this is Deadspin, and you didn’t come here to read about how the Cardinals are doing on the field on some random-ass July day. You came here to read about why the Cardinals are a bunch of fake, sucky Midwestern trash, so here’s yet one more glorious example.”
I mean, he knows his audience.
“This particular tale of St. Louis misery involves outfielder Dexter Fowler, who came to the team in 2016 after winning a World Series ring with the hated Cubs (NOTE: The Cardinals and the Cubs are supposedly rivals but no one outside of St. Louis gives half a shit). Once he arrived in St. Louis, Fowler immediately became a favored target of the Bestest Fans In Baseball.”
The notion that nobody outside St. Louis cares about the Cardinals/Cubs rivalry is pretty easily disputed by the fact that in the very next sentence, Magary links to the aforementioned @BestFansStLouis Twitter account. If Cubs fans were apathetic to the Cardinals, said account wouldn’t exist (and wouldn’t endlessly tweet pictures of Cubs World Series rings at random Cardinals fans, in case you were thinking the account was run by a fan of a different team).
Still, though, the second sentence is the more objectionable one here–as proof that Dexter Fowler “immediately became a favored target” of Cardinals fans, the evidence is, um, a tweet from a year and a half into Fowler’s Cardinals tenure. This tweet came from an account with *squints at monitor* three total tweets, beginning on June 16 of this year and ending on June 21, a person who *squinting harder* has one Twitter follower and follows zero people, as of the time I checked, and *squints so hard the blood vessels in my eyes pop and all I can see is @BestFansStLouis’s race-baiting campaign against Yadier Molina making the All-Star Game for the rest of my life* doesn’t have so much as an avatar. Forget “this guy doesn’t speak for all Cardinals fans”–I would bet my bank account this guy isn’t an actual person.
“Things have only deteriorated from there, because Fowler has been undeniably putrid on the diamond. He’s currently batting .167. His on-base percentage is a feeble .270. His defense is in the toilet.”
I’m glad we’re at least acknowledging this. There is an extremely dumb argument I’ve seen numerous times originating from Cubs fans who note how much they loved Dexter Fowler and would never think to revolt against him but, like, Dexter Fowler was really good with the Cubs and he’s been really bad in 2018 with the Cardinals. If you want to argue that Cubs fans would be nicer to him–I doubt it, but I guess it’s possible–but the idea that on-field performance isn’t the major driver of anti-Fowler animosity is ludicrous. Look no further than the now-deleted Twitter account of Jason Heyward, who fled social media following years of scorn from Cubs fans.
“The hometown fans have booed him (but… but I was told they’re so CLASSY!).”
Tino Martinez is a pretty strong parallel for Dexter Fowler, in that (post-prime) he went from a team with whom he won a World Series to the Cardinals. And he got booed a lot. And honestly, I thought it was kind of dumb then and I think booing Fowler is kind of dumb now but man, it’s just not that big of a deal. There are limitations–obviously, if Cardinals fans go full Veterans Stadium and throw batteries at the guy, that’s a problem. But booing? Meh.
“Why is Fowler, a former all-star who is generally a consistent and well-liked player, struggling? Is it just a random slump?”
Possibly. I think there might be more to it, but it’s a valid theory.
“Is it because of a hidden injury?”
“Is it because people in St. Louis think crackers are pizza?”
I think a lot of things about St. Louis are overrated, or even outright bad–Nelly, Anheuser-Busch, the Gateway Arch–but the anti-St. Louis pizza snobbery is a weird one to me. Maybe it’s because I grew up eating Little Caesars and not, like, artisanal pizzas designed to win critical acclaim rather than just be consumed relatively cheaply, but who is saying no to pizza? Of any kind? This happens in reverse, too–St. Louisans who rip on Chicago-style pizza (or get into pedantic tangents about how WELLACTUALLY it’s a casserole) are also missing the point. All pizza is good and if you disagree, well, hit me up and I’ll take your pizza off your hands.
“No one is quite sure, but regardless, the Cardinals are only in the second year of Fowler’s guaranteed five-year, $82.5 million contract, and they are not pleased with the return on their investment.”
Again, a fairly inarguable point that pretty much any neutral baseball analyst would observe.
“They’re so displeased with Fowler that general manager John Mozeliak, seen here greeting you at the grand opening of his new hamburger chain, went on the radio last week and publicly called out Fowler’s efforts.”
I think that’s a pretty good line.
“Keep in mind that Fowler was away from the team on paternity leave when Mozeliak started dishing out these takes:
“I’ve also had a lot of people come up to me and question his effort and his energy level. And those are things that I can’t defend. What I can defend is trying to create opportunities for him, but not if it’s at the expense of someone who’s hustling and playing hard.”
Many, many people are saying this to Mozeliak. You hear it.”
I think the sheer cowardice of attacking a man precisely when he couldn’t defend himself is an underrated part of what happened last week with John Mozeliak and Dexter Fowler and even if this is all some big misunderstanding, barring one amazing explanation, I think a roasting is perfectly fair.
“Anyway, this is just the kind of bold leadership I want from my general manager. I want him actively listening to a bunch of racist troglodyte fans and publicly agreeing with them. That’s straight from the John Mara leadership playbook.”
Magary once again linked to @BestFansStLouis, specifically a link in which 12 people commented negatively on a Cardinals Facebook post about it being Pride Month. You wanna know how many people liked that post? As of this moment, over one hundred times as many as the Twitter account showed negative reactions from. 488 people “loved” the post. Yes, more than twelve people criticized it, but it was easily the minority.
Best Fans St. Louis, in their tweet, appeared to crop out the number of likes, because they are definitely not journalists. They also aren’t progressives, a fact which is somehow lost on countless of their nearly 35,000 followers. Last year, when I wrote a post on Viva El Birdos advocating for a Pride Night at Busch Stadium, they posted a screenshot of a bunch of negative replies. I can say from personal experience that response on Twitter was overwhelmingly positive and that the comments on the post itself (to which they didn’t even bother to provide a link) were even moreso, but Best Fans doesn’t want to paint a picture of progress. They don’t want LGBT people to feel like they aren’t marginalized at Busch Stadium because in a better world, a thing that an actual progressive source would want, they’d have less ammo and thus fewer people telling them they’re worthwhile. Drew is using this playbook.
“Anyway, Mozeliak chided Fowler over the course of not one, but two interviews, and then he sorry-not-sorry’ed his attempt to smooth out the damage in an email to the Post-Dispatch, explaining that questioning Fowler’s effort was a way of questioning the entire team’s effort:
“I would not make too much of this and really what I was trying to say is: I hear what our fan base is saying,” Mozeliak wrote in an email to the newspaper. “And I just hope our players understand it as well, but there is a time to get this right and to win.”
It gets even better from there, because The Athletic writer Mark Saxonnotes that Fowler’s relationship with team manager Mike Matheny has also turned frigid, that the two “barely talk and haven’t for months.”
“Mike Matheny sends out, I think nightly, text messages with the next day’s lineup on them and usually like a motivational-type message in there. And I think Dex kind of blocked those and started ignoring those,” he said. “So it’s not great I don’t think; communication between those two.”
So this is all a perfectly cromulent retelling of events that we as Cardinals fans already know, but there’s a lot of exposition here. I understand that the average Deadspin reader isn’t as avidly following this story as the average St. Louis Bullpen reader, because the average Deadspin reader isn’t a Cardinals fan, but at some point, if it takes this long to explain, the actual significance of the story does seem a bit dulled.
“That’s fantastic. Imagine your boss emailing you a fucking fortune cookie slogan every night before you go to bed. “Dave, I want those TPS reports on my desk by 10 a.m. sharp. Also, character is not forged in the mountaintop but in the valley.” What a complete fucking pud. I would purposely strike out in every at-bat just to own him.”
Yes, it’s unfair, as the current target isn’t me but rather a guy whose continue employment is the thing upon which I blame all of my gray hairs, but man am I here for this part. Oh, and I’ve covered the whole “I don’t think players actually like the players’ manager” thing before.
“For his part, Fowler has denied slacking on the field but admitted his time in St. Louis has been “up and down.” He was benched for outfield Harrison Bader last month and now the Cardinals,”
Again, the Bader thing is fair regardless of Fowler’s effort level. Harrison Bader has been a better baseball player than Dexter Fowler and the better baseball player should be playing more often than the less good one.
“whose uniforms are the same color as a MAGA hat,”
Waaaaaaaaait, hold up here–is Drew insinuating that the color red is now monopolized? I mean, I guess that would explain why his most widely known sports allegiance is to the Minnesota Vikings, whose primary color of purple is synonymous with political centrism. Anyway, the color red is more widely tied around the world with left-wing political movements, which, um, aren’t the thing he’s talking about here. Admittedly, I’ve seen Cardinals hats from afar and thought they were MAGA hats (and vice versa), but I chalk this all up to me being an idiot. I wouldn’t admit this publicly by correlating the two.
“are in tight spot where they really need Fowler to stop sucking. He’s probably too expensive to trade, but it’s hard to let him play his way out of a slump when he’s not playing well enough to merit a spot in the lineup to begin with. What on earth do they do with this guy?”
I expected a roast but this has kind of been a straight analysis article in most ways. Granted, one which is a couple months behind what actual baseball bloggers have been discussing, but still.
“I don’t know. I don’t give a shit.”
“That’s not my problem. Personally, I’m glad the Cardinals are languishing in the sewer and are clumsily trying to Cardinals Way their way out of this mess, because they’re a shitty team”
I mean, sure.
“run by shitty people”
Further than I’d go, but maybe I’m a soft touch.
“and cheered on by shitty fans.”
For what it’s worth, there are a bunch of (much less popular) Cubs equivalents to Best Fans St. Louis, which anthologize gross and/or homer tweets (which, in Best Fans’ eyes, seem to be equally bad) from Cubs fans. There’s a bunch because it’s really easy to do. I don’t follow any of these accounts because I don’t really feel the need to see more racism or homophobia in my life, but I do respect that they exist, because it does show how simple it is. Any relatively popular sports team is going to have some absolute scum lingering and waving their flag on social media and there’s nothing the teams can do to stop them.
“Fuck them. I hope Dexter Fowler doesn’t even bother to wear shoes to the dugout anymore.”
I mean, that’d be pretty funny.
So Magary did drop the classism (the closest thing was the pizza dig, which, Imo’s is expensive y’all), which I appreciated, and he continued to endorse Best Fans St. Louis, whose primary move in 2018 is to yell at Cardinals fans for not sufficiently lining the pockets of billionaires, which is bad. Overall, I guess I’m a little confused what the point is at this point in time. The Cardinals may not be “bad”, but they certainly aren’t the titans of the sport they were when Magary started his anti-Cardinals writing. Yes, a lot of Cubs fans are going to gobble this up (because, despite what Magary said, there is very much a rivalry between the two fan bases), but why would Dodgers fans care? Or Braves fans? Or fans of any team in the American League? It’s confusing to me, but maybe I’m not the target audience.
To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, it doesn’t offend me as a Cardinals fan. It offends me as a person who likes funny things.