Brandon Phillips's comments from Sunday served as the catalyst for the brawl that erupted in last night's game between the NL Central co-leaders.
It was Phillips who said, "I hate the Cardinals. All they do is b***h and moan about everything, all of them, they're little b****es, all of 'em."
That comment, followed by an unwelcome tap of Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina's shinguards, turned into a face-to-face spat between Phillips and Molina before a bench-clearing brawl broke out between the two teams.
But after the brawl, it was the Reds who limped off the field in an 8-4 loss that cost them sole possession of the division. That may be a gloomy sign for a team that could suffer backlash from Phillips' bravado.
As if the Cardinals didn't have enough reason to defend their NL Central title, Phillips has given the St. Louis clubhouse even more ammunition to not only stay with the Reds but bury them at every opportunity.
The Reds have so far been a great story, but it was best not to make a veteran team angry.
The Cardinals, regulars of the MLB postseason, know how to close out a season, while the Reds will feel the pressure of a pennant race for the first time in 15 years.
That is not exactly a position from which a player or a team should be talking trash.
Dusty Baker has already come out and said he wished Phillips didn't instigate things with his comments. However, a more forthright manager could use the brawl as a rallying point and the Cardinals as the target the Reds want to reach.
The Cardinals have been the standard of success in the NL Central this decade, and Baker could create a message of "let's go get these guys and take it to them".
But that is often not Baker's message or manner.
Baker's managerial tenures have been disappointments since leading the San Francisco Giants to the 2002 World Series. Do the Reds believe this is the man to lead them where they haven't been in a long time?
Brandon Phillips is enjoying one of the best seasons of his career. He made his first All-Star Game and is currently hitting .283 with 14 home runs and 44 RBI.
However, now that Phillips has run his mouth, he—like the team—will have to back it up.
And backing it up could put him into a pressing mode that triggers a slump, which is something the Reds absolutely cannot afford. It's a hypothetical, but a fiery guy like Phillips might actually put more pressure on himself following his comments and the brawl.
From here on out, the Reds will be judged by the brawl and how it will affect/has affected them.
If the Reds struggle, each slip in the standings will be slapped with the notion that the Reds hurt their chances because of Phillips' comments and/or the brawl.
Such a distraction could take a heavy toll on a team unaccustomed to pennant chases.
The Reds are (or maybe were) one of the best storylines of the 2010 MLB season. They climbed to first place without much fanfare or attention—a good thing for a team without much experience in the driver's seat.
The Reds were going to pick up more attention the longer they stayed in first place, regardless of the headlines.
But throwing this brawl into their season is like a wrench into a well-oiled machine.
The Reds had nothing to prove to themselves or the Cardinals. All they had to do was go out and win. But now?
Dusty Baker already acknowledged his displeasure with Phillips' comments, but what about the rest of the team? Players will obviously come to the defense of their teammate in a brawl, but it was Phillips alone who instigated everything with his comments.
That can't sit well for a clubhouse focused on reaching the postseason, nor could the rest of the clubhouse wholly admire Phillips for dragging them into a fight.
Phillips made the comments and should have taken the repercussions alone. Instead, he made the situation worse for the whole team.
It's unfortunate (for the purposes of a pennant race) that these two teams will meet only three more times the rest of the way.
But just because there are only three remaining games doesn't mean another brawl couldn't happen. The seeds of hatred have been planted and umpires will be hard pressed to make sure their next series doesn't erupt.
And Brandon Phillips may want to be weary of the fact that he could get earholed the next time he steps to the plate.
The Cardinals may not have won the war, but they won this most recent battle.
The Cards have taken two of three from the Reds in this series, with Adam Wainwright pitching the series finale on Wednesday.
St. Louis will take winning games over winning brawls any day. The Reds must show they will not lie down and they must get to Adam Wainwright.
Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto comes out of the brawl as the worst offender for his repeated kicks (with his spikes on) to the back of Chris Carpenter and to the face of Cardinals catcher Jason LaRue.
Cueto was caught on film deliberately and repeatedly kicking, which is going to land him a suspension.
The Reds losing their starting pitcher for even one or two starts could end up being the difference in the NL Central.