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Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals Rivalry is for Real

Two Best Teams in the Central Set to Slug it Out Again

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY| Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker says he'll win another World Series, which would be his first as a manager. If Baker is going to wear another World Series ring, his best and perhaps last shot is going to come at the helm of the Reds.

So far at the outset of the 2013 season, the Reds look like a team that just might be able to deliver World Series goods.They've won their first two series over the Los Angeles Angels and the Washington Nationals, and all parts of the team look improved over 2012. So if they won the NL Central last year and are even better this year, they'll coast to another division title.

Unless, of course, the St. Louis Cardinals have anything to say about it, and judging by the past three years -- as well as the decade before that -- the Cardinals will have a say.

Even though the Reds have claimed the NL Central twice in the past three years and the Cardinals have not won the division during the same time, the Reds have flopped in the postseason while the Cardinals have thrived.

It's too early in the year to build up too much hype about the upcoming series between the Reds and Cardinals since it's just the third series of the year for both teams, but after the Cardinals clobbered the San Francisco Giants on the Giant's ceremony day for World Series rings, the Cardinals may be riding the kind of momentum that will inspire them to add an exclamation point to the fact that they should not be taken lightly by any team in the NL.

Whether or not things significantly heat up between the Reds and Cardinals this early in the season remains to be seen, but one thing is becoming clearer: the Reds and Cardinals are most definitely rivals now, and it's a good rivalry at that.

Much was made of the bench-clearing brawl between the Reds and Cardinals in 2010 in the wake of derogatory comments made by Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips. Tempers haven't flared up quite like that since then, but the rivalry between the two teams will only intensify as the two teams continue to separate themselves from the rest of the division.

The rivalry between the Reds and Cardinals doesn't yet carry the same stature for Reds Country as the rivalry the Reds had with the Los Angeles Dodgers during the era of the Big Red Machine and afterwards until divisional realignment moved the Reds from the NL West to the NL Central, but it has certainly surfaced over the past few years. The Reds had not fielded too many contenders for the division since realignment in 1994, so there was never any reason for the Cardinals to consider the Reds a rival.

But there's more than enough reason now, especially with the Reds looking like the team to beat to keep this second coming of the Big Red Machine from claiming three of four division titles since 2010.

(Robb Hoff has worked as a freelance researcher for ESPN's production and news departments for the past five years. You can read his articles about the 2012 Reds season here.)

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