The Kansas City Royals are in the American League Championship Series on the strength of their speed. No team in recent memory throws caution to the wind — while boldly running like it — as does Kansas City.
The Baltmore Orioles are in the ALCS on the strength of their strength. Hall of Fame O's skipper Earl Weaver hasn't kicked dirt on an umpire for nearly 30 years, but his beloved three-run homer is back in Baltimore in a big way.
The Giants, of course, are in the National League Championship on the strength of testicular fortitude. Or champion's blood. Or a deal with Lucifer. Whatever you want to call it, it's not as easy to quantify as stolen bases or rockets launched into the bleachers, but it's real and it's universally agreed upon as being this team's identity.
The St. Louis Cardinals? They're in the NLCS for the fourth consecutive year, and they're back because they play rock-solid, fundamentally sound, no-fuss-no-muss, old-school baseball. They're just a really good team. Smart, hard-working, unassuming — the anti-Los Angeles Dodgers.
Trite as it might sound, St. Louis plays the game the way it is supposed to be played, and how can you not like a club that gets after it with the same controlled, efficient tenacity every single game?
According to most baseball lifers, the Cards also have the most knowledgeable fans in the game. The kind of crowd that heartily applauds the get-'em-over groundout to the right side that follows a leadoff double — even if it's by an opponent!
Truth is, the Cards are the kind of team that every team aspires to be. Unless you're a Chicago Cubs fan, raised from birth to detest all things St. Louis as a participant in the Route 66 rivalry, it's damn-near impossible to work up a good hate-on for the Cards.
But every series of this magnitude needs some good old-fashioned vitriol, and that represents a problem for Giants fans. Not that a shot at going to the World Series for the third time in five years isn't reason enough to want to grind the Cards to a pulp, but the emotional investment that generates such incredible satisfaction in victory gets cranked up considerably when there some legitimate loathing involved.
What's to loathe, though? Anything? Bueller? Anyone?
Come on. There's plenty to loathe. You just have to dig a little. Maybe go to the archives. That's what I did, as a public service of sorts, to spice this thing up with a Top Five Reasons to Hate the Hard-to-Hate Cards. And you know what? It really wasn't that hard. Fun, even. Enjoy.
5 Matt Holliday is a bully. Remember what he did to poor little Marco Scutaro in 2012? Nobody likes a bully.
4 Ozzie Smith was a coward. One of the greatest Cardinals of all time. One of the greatest shortstops of all time. Whatever. He also threw one of the candy-ass-est sucker punches of all time at Will Clark in an epic 1988 brawl. Mess with “The Thrill” and you're dead to all Giants fans.
3 Jose Oquendo is still around. He was a punk in that brawl, too, but more important: He hit a three-run bomb out of the blue early in Game 7 of the 1987 NLCS, effectively sending the Giants to a loss that stings to this day. Now he's a Cards coach. Feel free to let him know you haven't forgotten.
2 Those great fans? Maybe not so much. There was a Ferguson, Mo., protest at Busch Stadium during the NL Division Series, and some Cards fans reportedly countered the protesters with racist taunts. Kind of takes the shine off the whole cheer-for-opponents'-smart-plays deal, doesn't it? Bad for ball.
1 Mark McGwire made Barry Bonds cross over to the dark side. “Big Mac” made history as a Cardinal, and he was likely juiced out of his gourd while doing so. Sure, Bonds was likely juiced out of his own gourd in eclipsing McGwire's short-lived home run record, but if you believe the stories, Bonds started juicing because he was jealous of all the attention McGwire got while setting the single-season mark. So that ugly little chapter in Giants history is all McGwire's fault! And now McGwire works for the flippin' Dodgers!
Let the hatin' begin.
Mychael Urban, a longtime Bay Area-based sportswriter and broadcaster, is the host of “Inside the Bigs,” which airs every Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon on KGMZ “The Game” (95.7 FM).