Today our various member blogs take an issue of interest to the average Cardinal fan and provide a definitive answer. The roll call of issues and debaters can be found here.
For your reading enjoyment, the opposing viewpoint to this argument can be found at Redbirds Fun. Before digesting it, please ponder the position of Jim Trotter III, esq. Mr. District Attorney:
Feel free to peruse Dan's position, and then hurry back.
(Ok, they're back now)
I'm sure he had a cogent argument as to why the Chicago Cubs are the Cardinals biggest rival. However, it's completely wrong.
1. You must play often enough to sow the seeds of dislike.
2. There must be on field events that resonate with the fans.
3. You must play with something on the line besides bragging rights.
The Houston Astros have played the foil in these three areas far, far more often than the Cubs have. It may have been, deep in the forest primeval, that the Cubs were our on-field rival, but no more.
On, Contraire, you say? Consider the following:
1. You must play often enough to sow the seeds of dislike. Houston joined the NL in 1962, and played the Cardinals often enough until 1969, when expansion forced the splitting of the leagues into divisions. Houston (who had been the site of a Cardinal AA farm team, by the way) went to the NL West, the Cardinals to the NL East. As a result, the teams played 12 times a year, often enough to breed some dislike, but not often enough to forge a rivalry. And, because they played for/in separate divisions, there was never really anything on the line.
That changed in 1994 with the 3 division concept and unbalanced scheduling. Now, like the Cubs, they play the Cardinals anywhere from 16-18 times a year. That's plenty of times to sow some seeds of dislike.
2. There must be on field events that resonate with fans. This moves past the 'Rich Harden threw at Pujols on Sunday', 'Dusty Baker is an ass for arguing with LaRussa during a game', 'Wandy Rodriguez shot off his mouth at Pujols during BP'. No. There has to be something that happened that left a deep impression on both fan bases.
What do you come up with for the Cubs? The Cardinals comeback on 20 July 2004? Three Nights in August? You're grasping at straws.
Try these four events on for the establishment of a rivalry:
September 2, 1996: Houston is in first place, starting a critical series against the second place Cardinals. Houston jumps out to 3-0 and 7-3 leads in this one, on a day when Donovan Osborne doesn't have it. The Cardinal bullpen throws 6 2/3 scoreless, while the offense ties the game at 7 in the bottom of the eighth and wins 8-7 in the tenth when Willie McGee singles in Ozzie Smith with the winning run. Houston gets swept and never recovers as the Cardinals win the NL Central.
October 5, 2001: Cardinals lead the NL Central by 1 with 3 to play, starting a series, at home, against Houston. Cardinals lead 1-0 after 7 behind Woody Williams. Houston scratches out a run in the eighth (remember Jeff Tabaka?) and in the ninth, and win 2-1. Each team wins one of the remaining two games, so they end the season tied; but Houston is awarded the division based on head-to-head record.
If that weren't bad enough, the following year the Houston Press Guide is titled, "2001 NL Central Champions". The Cardinals title theirs, "2001 NL Central Co-Champions", fanning the ill-will between the clubs.
Game 7, 2004 NLCS: Do I need describe Jim Edmonds' catch?
Game 5, 2005 NLCS: Pujols vs Lidge. Enough Said.
Game 6, 2005 NLCS: Roy Oswalt would have blown away the 27 Yankees that night to win the National League.
So you see, we have a lot more recent history with the Astros than with the Cubs, especially of the 'I'll never forget that game' variety.
3. You must play with something on the line besides bragging rights. Here's where it gets ridiculous.
I took a look at the entire history of the Cub/Cardinal, and Astro/Cardinal, rivalries based on records and when they played in the same league or division. Basically I was looking for how many times one team finished ahead of the other, and how many times the teams were involved in a pennant race. For Cubs/Cardinals, developing the data set was easy. They've played in the same league, and same division, since 1892. For Astros/Cardinals, it was a little bit more difficult. They played in the same league since 1962, but only from 1962 to 1968 was it one league. They played in separate divisions from 1969-1993, before they were both assigned to the NL Central starting in 1994.
Here's a breakdown, by decade, of how many times the Cardinals finished ahead of the Cubs (read: Cards finished higher - Cubs finished higher - ties. Yes, they did sometimes finish with the same record).
Here it is for the Astros.
For Cubs/Cardinals, since 1940, it's LOPSIDED in favor of the Cardinals. For Astros/Cardinals, it's even since 1994.
Drilling down even further, I did a look at pennant races over the lifetime of the rivalry. A pennant race was defined as (a) one team must have finished either first or second in their division or league, and (b) they must have finished within 5 games of each other.
Based on these definitions, in the HISTORY of their rivalry the Cubs and Cardinals have been in a pennant race together a total of 6 times. Four of those events occurred between 1928 and 1945. In fact, the Cubs and Cardinals have only finished one-two three times; in 1930, 1935, and 1945. It's safe to say the glory days of this rivalry on the field are well in the rear view mirror.
The Cardinals and Astros have been in a pennant race three times since 2000, most recently 2006.
Yep; Cubs/Cardinals are such huge rivals they've fought each other for a pennant 6 times in 116 years; the Astros/Cardinals have done it three times in 15.
Quod Erat Demonstrandum.
It's time we all admitted the only reason Cubs/Cardinals can even be considered a rivalry is because one can drive to Chicago in 5 hours, and for historical reasons St Louis always compares itself, favorably or unfavorably, to Chicago.
The actual rivalry, based on on-the-field play, is Cardinals/Astros.