Albert Pujols, Francisco Cordero, Retaliation

Cards Sensitive, Cordero Indignant, Next Chapter all but Written

Francisco Cordero has some things to say.

That the Yankees hate the Red Sox (and vice versa) is not quite true.

That Yankees fans hate Red Sox fans (and vice versa) is much more to the point. What happens between the teams on the field is primarily about competition, not vitriol. It’s a process involves little actual animosity.

The same does not hold true for the Cardinals and the Reds.

These teams share a laundry list of recent dustups, starting last year with Brandon Phillips calling the Cardinals “little bitches”; continuing on to Phillips starting a fight with Yadier Molina, and Johnny Cueto kicking Jason LaRue onto the disabled list; and more recently to Tony La Russa slyly using the weather report to outmaneuver Dusty Baker just last month.

The latest episode came Sunday, at the end of Cincinnati’s 9-7 victory over the Cardinals—the final moments of what would be the Reds’ first three-game sweep of St. Louis since 2007. They scored eight consecutive runs to beat Chris Carpenter for the first time in five years.

With one out in the ninth inning—after St. Louis had tightened what had been a 9-2 deficit over the previous seven hitters—closer Reds closer Francisco Cordero drilled Albert Pujols with an 0-2 pitch. (Watch it here.)

To watch the response from the Cardinals bench, it seems that Kyle Lohse isn’t the only one doing impressions of La Russa. Acting manager Joe Pettini—in charge while La Russa dealt with health issues—pitching coach Dave Duncan and backup catcher Gerald Laird picked up the indignant we-will-not-be-abused mantle so visibly embraced by their skipper, lighting into Cordero from the dugout as the Reds congratulated one another on the field. Cordero responded in kind, shouting and gesturing toward the St. Louis bench. (Watch it here.)

“The soap opera continues between these guys,” Pettini said in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It’s always something when you come in here.”

The reality, of course, is that closers, by dint of being used almost exclusively in close games, almost never send message pitches—at least not ones that hurt. That was certainly the case here; Pujols was the tying run, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman were to follow, and the pitch in question was no more than a few inches inside, hitting Pujols on the left wrist.

Pujols himself said that Cordero wasn’t trying to hit him, that it was “probably something that slipped.”

The teams next meet on July 4 in St. Louis. (Brace for the inevitable “Fireworks at Busch” headlines.) If there’s a clear target on the Cardinals, it’ll likely be Laird, Cordero’s former teammate on the Rangers, who accounted for much of the shouting and who, unlike Pettini and Duncan, occasionally takes the field.

“I just told (Laird), ‘Say it again’ . . .” said Cordero. “I thought it was funny that a guy who wasn’t playing was yelling at me.”

It was little more than posturing on the Cardinals’ part, and even they know it. Perhaps it’ll somehow distract Cincinnati in the future, but even that’s unlikely. Mostly, it served only to unnecessarily perpetuate what’s becoming a significant history of bad blood.

(Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman didn’t help matters any when he said on the air that Carpenter was a “whiner and excuse-maker,” that Duncan was “infantile” and that the Cardinals “might be the most disliked team in baseball.”)

“The teams don’t like each other,” said Berkman after the game in the Cincinnati Enquirer. “That’s just part of the deal.”

– Jason