The St. Louis Cardinals/Chicago Cubs matchup in the National League Division Series proved to be the most cantankerous of the postseason so far. The 128-year-old rivalry – referred to by some as the Route 66 Rivalry – has been played out over 2,365 games, but no team has earned a winning streak greater than two. While the Cubs lead the rivalry 1,198-1,147-19, the Cardinals lead in World Series titles (11-2) and National League pennant wins (19-16). As the franchises have overlapping markets, it’s not uncommon for the same fans to visit both Wrigley Field and Busch Stadium in the same season or for neighbors to cheer for opposing teams.
Among Cardinals and Cubs fans, passions run hot. Consider the 1928 Wrigley Field riot, where 5,000 fans swarmed the field during a home game against the Cardinals; 1984’s “Sandberg Game”; and the 1998 single-season home run record chase between the Cardinals’ Mark McGwire and the Cubs’ Sammy Sosa. These incidents have inflamed passionate debate and conversation throughout the Central Midwest baseball markets.
However, not all the conversation have been negative.
Despite the fact that the Cubs won their NLDS matchup against the Cardinals 3-1 – which includes a Game 3 postseason record-breaking six home runs – there has not been a great deal of negative cross-talk between the two host cities on social media.
A cursory look at the hashtag #CardsCubs produced tweets such as these:
@britttdmruddd Oct 9
@PohlmanUSA Oct 9
#CardsCubs tonight right outside our windows in #StLouis. What #rivalry – our teams in #StLouis & #Chicago are ready for it @Cardinals @Cubs
One of the best MLB rivalries is about to get a whole lot more AWESOME tonight!!! #CardsCubs #CardinalNation
Conversely, hashtag #CubsCards produced tweets such as these:
@jakewalk11 Oct 13
This is gunna be an extremely fun rivalry to watch for so many years to come #CubsCards
@KurtEdwardL Oct 13
Apparently, all the individual #Cubs want a “moment”. What an unbelievable team. Truly. #CubsCards #CubsTwitter
While negative talk is inevitable on Twitter – such as the Cubs’ official account tweeting “Wait were we supposed to give @kschwarb12 a curtain call? @cardinals?” following the team’s six home runs in Game 3 – the positive will between these two perennial opponents’ fanbase is noteworthy. A sentiment analysis of words used in social media posts originating in Illinois and Missouri found that the two had comparable numbers when it comes to how the Cubs and Cardinals are seen by the opposing homebase. Cardinals mentions in Illinois had a .36 positive sentiment score, while Cubs mentions in Missouri had a .30 sentiment score.
This finding defies previous analysis that found the Cubs have the highest positive sentiment scores of any team in the league. The positive feelings for the Cubs’ freshman team may be – in fact – tempered in Missouri by the teams’ long-standing history and rivalry.
Among the highest-ranking positive sentiments terms on social media were “missouri,” “mlb,” and “cubs crowne plaza hotel” – a reference to the Crowne Plaza Chicago Metro Downtown, which overlooks Wrigley Field and has run promotions in the past offering Cubs tickets to room residents. Other high-ranking terms are “rizzo bryant” – a reference to the “bromance” between the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant – and Cardinals outfielder Tommy Pham.
The lack of Chicago terms on the positive sentiment list may reflect the fact that the Cubs have had a tortured past with its fans. However, this season has shown Cubs lovers a different side of the team, which may well carry over to future seasons and lead to more positive talk about the franchise online.
We pulled every tweet from the 2015 MLB Season with #cardinals in the state of Illinois and #cubs in the state of Missouri, and using the Alchemy API, we looked at the targeted sentiment score of the most commonly used terms throughout. The targeted sentiment looks at the words around a particular term and determines on a scale of -1 to 1 how negative or positive these words are, with 0 being neutral.