I'm not generally a believer in momentum in baseball; the season's too long for it to carry forward in a way that significantly affects the standings, and too many things are going on in the sausage factory tasked with scoring and preventing runs for us to be able to pull this one small ingredient from the batch.
But if I don't buy the causation, I'm perfectly happy about the correlation. Brandon Phillips called the Cardinals "little bitches" and the Cardinals responded by thumping the Reds in a crucial August series. Nice! Phillips, who kind-of apologized after all his teammates and his mom pushed him back onto the playground, has an exciting career in motivational speaking if being a solid second baseman doesn't work out for him long-term.
With that in mind, I've made a list of people Brandon Phillips should also call little bitches. It's a list that only a little bitch could love.
5. Rivers Cuomo
The lead singer and songwriter of alt-rock fashion plates and half-Japanese-girl oglers Weezer once famously called the band's fans "little bitches" after they failed to appreciate songs like 2002's "Possibilities" ("Oh, oh—possibilities / take you home with me in your arms*") as much as they had the band's epic, Puccini-influenced Pinkerton. Since then Cuomo has mellowed and the songs have gotten better, but the band's output remains hit-or-miss.
Before last week's Reds series the Cardinals were a mellow team with an extremely hit-or-miss output. Tony La Russa's lineup-juggling had gone stale; Yadier Molina had stopped hitting; it had been a few months since Chris Carpenter had proved he was legitimately frightening to be around. Until Brandon Phillips told us what he thought of the Cardinals.
Now, much to Brendan Ryan's chagrin, Chris Carpenter is perfectly willing to be angry on national television, and Tony La Russa has begun doing the last thing we hadn't seen him try: Play the same lineup over and over.
* Extra credit: Try to draw what is happening in this lyric.
4. Dustin Pedroia
I don't want to like Dustin Pedroia. He plays for the Red Sox, a team whose 2004 World Series victory, like the independent state of Somaliland, I still fail to recognize as legitimate. Coming up through the system he seemed like another generic play-hard-rah-rah white guy.
But anybody who can keep his face straight while asking people if they brought their glasses for the laser show he's about to put on, or answering rote rehab questions with "jump on the wagon now" is perfectly positioned to feud with his fellow second baseman in the grand professional wrestling tradition. If Brandon Phillips is the prototypical heel—no respect, ready to diss the town he's wrestling in, always dogging the faces—Pedroia, so stagily full of himself, is cut from classic anti-hero cloth. He's baseball's Chris Jericho.
To perfectly triangulate this pro wrestling feud we're just missing the truth, justice, and the American way babyface. Paging...
3. Aaron Miles, specifically
To be entirely honest, I just want to see what would happen here. If Brandon Phillips really can ignite the spark that turns good baseball players into great, motivated baseball players, what could he do with Aaron Miles, who, at the very peak of his baseball abilities, is hitting .321 with an OPS just barely over .700? If your BABIP is .342, you don't strike out very often, and you're still not a very good baseball player, there's literally no room for improvement left in your statistics; you are unsolvably bad.
So what if Brandon Phillips walks out to the ring with the nWo, calls the St. Louis crowd a bunch of hicks, and then challenges Aaron Miles to a hardcore ladder match—with the added stipulation that the loser is a little bitch who must leave Major League Baseball forever? Do we witness the first replacement-level season to ever feature a BABIP over .500? (More pressingly, does David Eckstein distract the referee while Aaron Miles retrieves his hidden pair of brass knuckles?)
2. The St. Louis Rams
Look, Brandon, I need this. Hear me out.
The St. Louis Rams probably won't be very good this year. I'm resigned to that. But in order to remain in St. Louis long-term, therefore giving this regional sports website three teams to cover, they need to at least avoid being so anonymous while they suck. Sam Bradford's a good start; Rampage is maybe not so good a start. But to give the on-field action more flavor they'll need to develop some rivalries, and short of being good there's only one way to do that: insults.
The Rams don't play the Bengals this year, but they do play the Browns next week. I'm going to just write my voicemail number on this piece of paper, and maybe you can free-associate for a few minutes about the differences in temperament between Ohio's football players and Missouri's football players. Maybe you can drop some expletives. Strictly off the record.
1. Rogers Hornsby
Okay, that's it: I'm going to see how many consecutive top fives in a row into which I can accidentally fit Rogers Hornsby. To carry on from last week, Rogers Hornsby was the guy you think Ty Cobb was, unless you're thinking of Tim Cobb, the American double-bassist, or corn-cob pipes, which aren't even a person. Despite being one of the greatest hitters of all time he was traded straight up from a city that adored him for Frankie Frisch, a nice guy who was clearly worse and played the very same position.
He was mean to small children and animals, probably. I'm told the famous quote about what he does when baseball season is over originally went "People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring; furthermore, women and Negroes should not get the vote." Rogers Hornsby told me that Snape killed Dumbledore, and then he told me, "Just kidding!", and I didn't know what to believe.
He is also dead. But leaving aside this technicality, Phillips calling Hornsby a little bitch brings up an interesting logical question: Rogers Hornsby clearly hated everyone he was playing with or against at all times. He hated with the kind of clarity and single-mindedness that Brandon Phillips can only hope to achieve with years of meditation on the Platonic ideal of bitchiness.
But he also hit .358/.434/.557. So was his constant, seething hatred not enough to motivate opposing pitchers, or would he have hit .400/.480/.600 if only he didn't give them so much of the proverbial bulletin board material?