No Tony, no Pujols, no Prince. Will Cards-Crew be different?

Tony LaRussa called the Brewers something very close to cheaters. Tony Plush called the best player in baseball “Alberta.” Zack Greinke called Chris Carpenter a phony. Albert Pujols and Ryan Braun both took baseballs in the back.

The Cardinals and Brewers did not like each other last season, and they showed it. Here they are again. Last year’s National League Championship Series combatants will open Miller Park on Friday afternoon in the first of 15 matchups in 2012.

The big question is, given the big changes in both clubhouses, will this NL Central rivalry stay hot?

“Oh yeah,” Cardinals first baseman Lance Berkman said. “There’s no question that it’s going to continue. They don’t like us and we’re not fond of them. I’m sure that will continue.”

Brewers outfielder Corey Hart is not so sure. He notes that three of the biggest personalities involved in past tensions between the teams are gone. LaRussa retired from managing and took a job in the Commissioner’s Office. Pujols signed out west with the Angels. Equally-intense Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder went to Detroit.

Carpenter has not left, but he will not be a player this weekend. The Cardinals ace is on the disabled list with a nerve issue in his neck.

“It might be a completely different dynamic,” Hart said. “Their two biggest personalities [LaRussa and Pujols] and our biggest [Fielder] are gone. I think a lot of our conflict is because of the way Tony did things. Great manager, but he rubbed people the wrong way.

“I’m curious. A lot of the guys over there [with St. Louis], we like. So it’s interesting. It’s actually nice to open up with them to see what it’s like, what kind of feelings are out there.”

For more on what caused hard feelings between these teams last season, check out the full version of this story later today.

And for all of your Opening Day questions, refer to the news release issued by the Brewers earlier in the week. Here’s a link.

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Follow me on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy

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