MILWAUKEE — Tony La Russa called the Brewers something very close to cheaters. Nyjer Morgan called the best player in baseball “Alberta.” Zack Greinke called Chris Carpenter a phony. Albert Pujols and Ryan Braun both took baseballs in the back.
The Cardinals and Brewers did not like each other last season, and they showed it. Here they are again. Last year’s National League Championship Series combatants will open Miller Park on Friday afternoon in the first of 15 matchups in 2012.
“Oh yeah,” Cardinals first baseman Lance Berkman said. “There’s no question that it’s going to continue. They don’t like us and we’re not fond of them. I’m sure that will continue.”
Brewers outfielder Corey Hart is not so sure. He notes that three of the biggest personalities involved in past tensions between the teams are gone. La Russa retired from managing and took a job in the Commissioner’s Office. Pujols signed out west with the Angels. Equally intense Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder went to Detroit.
Carpenter has not left, but he will not be a player this weekend. The Cardinals ace is on the disabled list with a nerve issue in his neck.
Later, Brewers outfielder Morgan and Carpenter took the spotlight. On Aug. 12 in St. Louis, veteran umpire Gerry Davis took the unusual step of warning Morgan to stop screaming at Carpenter from the dugout. A month later, back in St. Louis, Morgan and Carpenter and Pujols cleared the benches after Morgan struck out, Carpenter yelled an expletive toward the plate and Morgan threw a wad of chewing tobacco toward the mound. After that game, Morgan took to Twitter, chiding “Alberta” Pujols from stepping in and saying, “I hope those crying birds [enjoy] watching tha Crew in tha Playoffs!!!”
Wouldn’t you know it? They saw each other up close after the Cardinals beat the Phillies and the Brewers beat the D-backs in the National League Division Series. That set up an all-Central NLCS, which began with Greinke characterizing Carpenter’s attitude on the mound as phony and La Russa responding with his “disappointment.”
Get the picture? These clubs do not exchange holiday cards.