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A Good and Proper Enemy

I liked the Phillies. They were a well constructed team full of players that I have a ton of admiration for. Chase Utley is the best second baseman of the last decade and potentially longer than that. Roy Halladay is a hall of fame caliber pitcher. The rotation of Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt is, arguably, the best 4 man rotation since the Braves in the early 90s.  The Phillies had won 102 games. This was their version of the Cardinals 2004/2005 team. It was an excellent team.

Intellectually, I enjoyed watching the five game set. The brilliant play to cut down Utley at third by Albert Pujols. The incredible pitcher's duel to end the series. (I'll take a pitcher's duel over a slugfest any day of the week.) It was exquisite baseball from every objective sense. But, as many here have had a hard time understanding, I wasn't connected to the wins. I wasn't invested in each moment in the same way that I was in 2006.

There's lots of reasons why and I've spent the last day or so trying to go back to the 2004-2006 me when I lived and died on each game. Some of it might be age. My day job is much more time consuming and emotionally draining than college life.  Some of it is undoubtedly watching the club trade away my favorite player during the season - a player I'd watched rise from A-ball all the way to the big leagues. That was, admittedly, a special kind of devastating. But a lot of it was that I liked the Phillies.

In 2004 and 2005, the Cardinals had a rivalry with the Astros that was excellent. The Astros team was full of players that I didn't like. Remember Brandon Backe? Backe never missed a chance to dog on Albert Pujols in the press. Add to that his peculiar post-season success and there weren't many Cardinals fans that liked him. Jeff Kent was not known as a swell guy. The "Killer Bees", which inevitably led to the crowd buzzing in full togetherness - annoying. The Astros were a team you could get behind disliking and they were our post season nemesis.

In 2004, it was made even more impactful by playing the Red Sox. That series alone has the Red Sox as my second most disliked team in baseball (after the Cubs). I'll never set foot in Fenway because of that. The self-anointed "idiots" were out to break the Curse of the Bambino. While not superstitious myself, I love curses. When a team's psyche is defined by a curse, I find that hilarious. But the idiots did win and the entire Boston area became just that much more unbearable.

For the older fans reading, 2006 included the Mets; Pond Scum as they've been nicknamed. A team with a history against the Cardinals. A team that has earned much fan enmity against the Cardinals. For the World Series, the "Tigers in three" became something of a mantra for our little corner of the blogosphere. It stoked the embers of our fandom. There is little in life that can more engage a fan than media derision and a good and proper enemy.

After the Cardinals had advanced on Friday, I sat back and wondered what in the world I could write about for Sunday. Everyone wanted to talk about the postseason except for me. I was detached. We beat the Phillies, yes, but I liked the Phillies. Not in the same way as the Cardinals but they were a good team.  Watching highlights on MLB Network,  I was given my answer as to what could re-energize the post-season for me: a good and proper enemy.

There is no aspect of the current Brewer's team that I like. Deserved or not, Ryan Braun's toolish demeanor is bothersome. The untucking that was signature of previous clubs was always bothersome not for the act itself but for the juvenile nature of it. Frankie Rodriguez's fist pumps on the mound will piss me off if they appear in this series.  They were the team that beat the Cardinals in the NL Central.

But there is nothing on the 2011 Brewers that is quite as terrible and detestable as Nyjer Morgan and his T-Plush routine.  The basehit back up the middle to advance the Brewers over the Diamondbacks with Nyjer Morgan crowing on second base was a reminder of that dislike. Nyjer Morgan is a player who could barely stick on the Pirates. He's had a good not great year but Milwaukee (or at least the media) has embraced him as emblematic of the soul of this year's Brewer's squad. He's an abrasive player that will start fights over perceived injustices. He's egotistical despite not being very good at what he does relative to his peers.  Nyjer Morgan is unbalanced in his reactions and purile in his demeanor. Nyjer Morgan is a good and proper enemy.

For the next 4-7 games, I will watch the Cardinals and will want them to win. Not just because they are the Cardinals but because they aren't the Brewers. The Phillies were another team the Cardinals were playing. The Brewers are the enemy. A good and proper enemy that I fully hope the Cardinals will demolish.  Demolish Ryan Braun. Demolish Frankie Rodriguez. Demolish Prince Fielder. Demolish Nyjer Morgan. I want to see the pictures at the end of the series were they weep in the clubhouse.

The post-season has finally arrived.