I chatted with Will Leitch, senior writer for Sports on Earth, while working on the Brandon Phillips cover story. (YOU’RE DAMN RIGHT I JUST LINKED TO IT AGAIN!) Leitch, who also serves as a contributing editor for New York magazine and was the founding editor of Deadspin, is a die-hard, lifelong fan of the St. Louis Cardinals. After talking with Phillips about his semi-evolved thoughts on the Cards since the 2010 brawl, I was curious to get Leitch’s take, first on how St. Louis fans feel about Phillips, but also their feelings about the Reds in general.
“It was funny, because that brawl kind of signaled the Reds emergence in a lot of ways,” Leitch told me. “How [the Reds] were taking over the Brewers in terms of the Cardinals rival, as well as becoming a really good team.”
According to Leitch, however, St. Louis fans’ disdain for Phillips probably isn’t as great as Reds fans might assume, even with the incessant booing BP receives at Busch Stadium.
“He is likeably hateable,” said Leitch. “And he seems to get a kick out of it. He’s having fun. And he clearly, actively enjoys killing the Cardinals.”
Leitch also noted that the hate for Phillips seems to have waned a bit since Cardinals manager Tony La Russa retired, a guy who clearly wasn’t Phillips’s biggest fan.
“If there was anything specifically calculated to upset Tony La Russa, it was someone on the opposing team looking like he was having fun,” said Leitch. “That was unacceptable in the world of Tony La Russa.”
In fact, Leitch claims that Phillips isn’t even the most hated player on the Reds roster.
“That’s [Johnny] Cueto. Cueto is without question the most hated Reds player in my memory,” said Leitch. “We would have enjoyed [the brawl] more if it hadn’t been for Cueto kicking [Cardinals catcher Jason LaRue] in the head until he never played again.”
“Phillips is hated in a different sort of way—a That guy is really good but I can’t stand him sort of way,” Leitch continued. “An affable sort of way.”
Nevertheless, the Cardinals are still clearly playing the role of big brother when it comes to the Reds rivalry. And with the Pittsburgh Pirates establishing themselves as a legitimate contender this season, the Reds have some ground to cover before they can stake any claim to the NL Central throne.
The Cardinals come to town tonight for the first of a three-game weekend series. As Sam Jackson’s chain-smoking character from Jurassic Park would say: “Hold on to your butts.”