Noun: Pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune.
The Cardinals are shaping up to have by all accounts a competitive season as they attempt to defend their World Championship. Adam Wainwright has returned, and Carlos Beltran figures to provide some excitement with the bat. Normally, the happenings with the current club dominate fans’ and media’s attention. But this spring, with Albert Pujols and with former persona non grata Colby Rasmus playing for other teams, it seems that some observers have one eye on the team in Jupiter and the other on two of the team’s most notorious recent ex-players.
To wit: The headline in today’s online Post-Dispatch noting “Pujols goes 2 for 3 in Angels debut.” It even came with a prepackaged schadenfreude warning: “If you’re in the ‘good riddance to Albert’ crowd, you won’t appreciate this update.” The Post’s sportswriters made Pujols’s transition to the AL the topic of their Feb. 20 roundtable discussion. And there was even a bit of schadenfreude at the expense of the Angels, as the Post ran an article about Pujols objecting to his new team’s use of “El Hombre” in its marketing campaign.
The coverage is just as intense for Rasmus. Just two days ago, Rick Hummel penned a full-length feature on the erstwhile centerfielder of the future. That’s a lot of ink to spill on a guy who no longer plays in St. Louis. A couple of weeks ago, the frothing Jeff Gordon posted a spiteful article on Rasmus entitled “Not everyone is cut out to be a Cardinal.”
One struggles to think of two players with whom Cardinal observers were more obsessed after leaving the team. Fans followed Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds, but not with the same brand of guilty pleasure in their failings. It’s not like the Cardinals have not had players spurn them for bigger contracts elsewhere or traded unpopular players. Matt Morris, Edgar Renteria and Mike Matheny all opted against the Cardinals but somehow retained enough goodwill to remain in St. Louisans’ good graces, even becoming manager, in Matheny’s case. The most apt analog might be JD Drew, but even that infatuation pales in comparison.
In Pujols’s case, it’s fairly clear that the way in which he left, combined with his statistical legacy as a Cardinal, makes for some passive-aggressive following. Cardinal fans may not be outright rooting for him to blow an achilles heel. But based on the widespread “good riddance” sentiment, we doubt they’re buying a lot of LA Angels #5 jerseys.
It’s possible that, given the slow newsmaking of spring training, these followup stories on former players is par for the course, as John Maracek proposed on Twitter. After the season starts, and particularly if things don’t go well for the Cardinals, this meme might continue or return. Another way to define schadenfreude is that it’s not enough for you to succeed, but that others must fail. Is that the kind of season Cardinal fans are destined for?