Old school vs. swagger creates bad blood

Old school vs. swagger creates bad blood

Old school vs. swagger creates bad blood
MILWAUKEE -- The baseball gods who have been oh-so-gracious lately -- the ones who gave us a regular-season finale for the ages and three Division Series that went the limit -- have now graced us with a little venom, tension, bad blood and hurt feelings, all encompassed in a National League Championship Series pitting the Brewers and Cardinals.

That, at least, is the perception of these two.

"And that's correct," Cards outfielder Lance Berkman was quick to clarify Saturday, even though we didn't really need any validation.

Milwaukee's Game 1 starter provided plenty of that himself.

On the workout day at Miller Park, a little more than 24 hours before these two would square off for the first time since Nyjer Morgan and Chris Carpenter caused benches to empty in this very ballpark on Sept. 7, Zack Greinke was asked if there's legitimate bad blood between these two teams.

"Maybe now," the usually shy but always honest Greinke said. "I think no one really likes Carpenter. But besides that, I think they respect mostly everyone on their team."

Asked later to elaborate on that disdain for Carpenter, who won't pitch until Game 3, Greinke responded this way: "They think his presence, his attitude out there sometimes is like a phony attitude. And then he yells at people. He just stares people down and stuff, and most people just don't do that. When guys do, I guess, some hitters get mad. Some hitters do it to pitchers. But when you do that, some people get mad. There's other pitchers on our team that don't like Carpenter."

OK, then.

Carpenter, coming off a shutout for the ages against the Phillies, chose to take the high road for most of his media availability and had no comment when asked later to respond to what Greinke said.

But his sage manager had his say.

"Very disappointed that Greinke would say that," St. Louis skipper Tony La Russa said in his media session. "[I] just praised him a little bit ago. I don't know him a lot, but I always thought he was a high-character, classy guy. That's a bad comment to make unless you know Chris Carpenter. ... If they had Chris Caprenter, they would be cheering for him and believing in him, and they would not allow somebody that was a teammate to make a crack like that. But Greinke is not his teammate, so I'm disappointed. If you knew him, none of that stuff is true. He doesn't give [crap]. He doesn't take it. That's the way it's supposed to be."

To think, we haven't even seen a single pitch from these teams in this series yet.

As La Russa pointed out -- before getting peeved when hearing about Carpenter's comments -- division rivals usually have tension while seeing each other at least 18 times in a season. And as Berkman, a Redbirds enemy as a member of the Astros for 12 years, admitted, he used to consider the Cardinals "the Darth Vader" of the NL Central.

But the tension these two had the last two months extends beyond that of your typical division rivals and is much more relevant than the fact they met in a World Series 29 years ago.

There was La Russa accusing the Brewers of manipulating the lighting at Miller Park in early August, a series of inside pitches to Albert Pujols and Ryan Braun the following night, an unusual warning Joe West made to a chirping Morgan one week later, and that Sept. 7 altercation between Carpenter and Morgan, which led to the Milwaukee center fielder spewing venom via Twitter.

Something just has to boil over on the field at some point in this seven-game series ... right?

"No, no, no," Morgan insisted. "It's going to be a hard-fought battle. Yeah, of course, somebody might brush me up and in or something like that, or I might wear one. Who knows, man? But I don't really see it going that far. I think it's going to be a hard-fought battle -- two solid teams, just getting after it, ready to compete. There's stakes out there, you know what I mean? So I don't really think anybody wants to do anything stupid."

It's easy to say that now, but who knows what will happen when they clash for the right to advance to the Fall Classic? Especially when you consider just how different the ideologies are.

"It's two different philosophies," Brewers right fielder Corey Hart said. "They're more old school. We're a new-school team. We're exciting, we're high energy. A lot of times, those two things don't get along."

Want a snapshot of just how different these two teams are? Consider the two most outspoken players on each side.

On the Brewers, it's Morgan -- aka Tony Plush, Tony Gumble, Tony Tombstone, Tony Hush and, now, Tony Clutch -- who likes to refer to baseball players as "entertainers."

On the Cardinals, it's Berkman, who spent a solid 15 minutes talking to a scrum of reporters about his respect for the game and how he doesn't even understand why guys have walkup songs.

The Cards are all about code.

The Brew Crew is all about the swagger.

"Swagger? That's a hip-hop term," said Berkman, sounding every bit as much the 35-year-old Texan that he is. "This is baseball. They can do whatever they want; it's about your pitching, your hitting and your defense. So, if a guy swaggers up to the plate and he strikes out, it makes no difference to anybody. At least for me. I can only speak to me. I'm here to play baseball, not exude any sort of aura."

There is a mutual respect between these two, of course. Berkman praised the talent on the Brewers and mentioned several players he really likes (LaTroy Hawkins, Prince Fielder, Braun, etc). Greinke said the Cardinals have the best lineup in the NL. And several guys from both sides were complimentary of one another.

But the hatred is there; it's evident even through the filter created by camera lights and recorder microphones.

"Of all the teams to have to play here, this is the best team to play because the rivalry is so intense," Hart said. "I can't think of anybody more exciting to beat then these guys if it comes down to it."

"Likewise," the Cards would collectively say.

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.