“I’d play against these guys with one leg. We have to beat these guys. I hate the Cardinals. All they do is bitch and moan about everything, all of them, they’re little bitches, all of ‘em.

“I really hate the Cardinals. Compared to the Cardinals, I love the Chicago Cubs. Let me make this clear: I hate the Cardinals.”—Reds 2B Brandon Phillips prior to three-game set against the Cardinals this week.

First off, let me say that the comments uttered by Phillips are spot-on. The Cardinals complain about stupid little things like balls being rubbed differently and Bronson Arroyo’s hat. Manager Tony La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan are whiners. The real problem is that they are whiners who are also winners.

Nobody likes the team that beats everyone in a game of basketball yet still complains that the opponents were fouling like crazy. Herein lies the problem Phillips has with the organization—they are complaining about things that don’t even affect the win and loss totals for the Cards. They are the divisional powerhouse and are still not satisfied.

So in that regard, Phillips is indeed correct. Many other players around baseball nodded their heads in agreement when they read his comments.

The part of all this I disagree with is the timing of it all. The veteran Cardinals have been on cruise control for most of the 2010 campaign. Why light a 20-foot fire the day you go in the forest? Why give them the motivation needed to beat the crap out of you? Baseball is all about being steady, not getting too up or too down.

That was not the case on Tuesday.

The brawl between the two clubs was a joy to watch—by far the best one of the season, as even the two managers were jawing at each other!

Former Cardinal turned Reds third baseman Scott Rolen was playing peacemaker until the uncalled-for comments of pitcher Chris Carpenter—directed towards Reds manager Dusty Baker—enraged Rolen. Next thing you knew, starting pitcher Johnny Cueto was pinned to the backstop kicking Cardinal players away just to avoid being trampled.

Cardinals catcher Jason LaRue was the only player to get hurt, but plenty of punches and pushes were thrown. I’d say the fight was a draw. And yes, Cardinal fans, you would start kicking people away too if you were pinned against a wall with 50 professional athletes getting shoved in your direction.

The problem is that now it looks as if Rolen and Cueto will be suspended. Carpenter might be the only one on the Cardinals’ side to be punished (and I’m sure they will complain about it). All of this stemmed from Phillips’ comments.

Now let’s talk about actual play on the field.

In a nutshell, the Cards have crushed the Reds over the past three days. A two-game lead for the Reds has turned into a one-game lead for St. Louis. The Cardinals have been playing extremely angrily, and the Redlegs weren’t ready for the boost in intensity.

There is no way to judge how much of an impact Phillips’ comments had on the Cardinals’ performance. ESPN analyst Al Leiter places all the blame on Phillips for the brawl. So is this whole disaster of a series his fault?

No, not at all. Is it his fault that the Reds’ pitching has been horrendous? Is it his fault the outfield has looked like there were three Adam Dunns out there? Sure, he only collected two hits in the series, but there were plenty of other problems that could be blamed for this debacle.

But this is not a “ship has sailed” moment either. It’s only three of 162 games. There are 50-plus games to go. The two teams play each other one more time in St. Louis in early September. The Reds have the easiest remaining schedule in all of baseball. The NL Central dregs are all still on the slate.

Don’t take this series as anything more than what it was. The Reds have shown they aren’t ready to take down the older brother just yet—but let’s see if they can a month down the road.

Chalk this up as a learning experience for the young Reds. Pennant fever is getting hotter and hotter.

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