Monday, October 17, 2011

And, then, there were two: World Series 2011

On Wednesday night, the 2011 World Series will commence in St. Louis, with the Cardinals, the National League Wild Card winners, returning to the Fall Classic for the first time since their last championship run in 2006. Written off as a non-contender in August, the Redbirds scrapped their way into the post-season, then knocked out the top two seeds in the NL, Philadelphia & Milwaukee, en route to the Series.

They await the Texas Rangers, AL champs for the 2nd straight year. The Rangers were bridesmaids last year, losing to San Francisco, but let's hope they've been paying attention to what has happened over in the NL over the last couple of weeks.

There is a pattern that favors the Rangers, however. In 1972, the Cincinnati Reds were the first victim of Oakland's 3 consecutive World Series titles, followed, of course, by the Mets & Dodgers. The Reds would return and win 2 straight Series of their own in 1975-6, beating Boston & the Yankees. The Bronx Bombers, in turn, would win 2 in a row over the Dodgers (1977-8), before Los Angeles served up a receipt in 1981. Baltimore fell to Pittsburgh in 1979, then came back and won it all in 1983. The Red Sox had to wait 18 years after blowing a 3-2 Series lead to the Mets in 1986 before upsetting St. Louis in 2004. The Cardinals, of course, came back in '06 and beat Detroit, and any hope of a rematch between the Tigers & Cardinals was dashed on Saturday when Texas advanced.

Before I forget, when the Giants won it all last year, it was 8 years after losing to the Angels in their last Series appearance. The idea is that the losing team has come back to win it in their next attempt. That pattern fits Texas like a glove. They may not have enough quality starting pitching, but they do have offense, led by Josh Hamilton and ALCS MVP Nelson Cruz. They also have a premier closer in Neftali Feliz, and actually entertained the ridiculous notion of making Feliz a starter in spring training this year. The fact that they didn't speaks volumes of common sense thinking in Ranger management, particularly in team President Nolan Ryan, who knows a thing or twenty about pitching, of course.

The biggest worry for St. Louis at the start of the year was whether or not Albert Pujols would re-up after his contract expires. This is one slugger that the Yankees don't have any room for on their roster, and the only reason they'd covet him would be to block other AL teams from picking him up. Petty? No, just business, but in this case unnecessary. You'd think the Busch family would gladly pick up the tab on another long-term deal, maybe even give Pujols some sort of sweetheart deal that would allow him to remain in the organization in other capacities after his playing days are over. They may just do that if Pujols can lead the Cardinals to another championship.

This postseason run has also allowed the spotlight to shine on an emerging star in David Freese, who was huge in both series wins over the Phillies and Brewers. He's a man to watch as the Series progresses, as he gives the Cards an extra power bat to go with Pujols and Matt Holliday.

This Series will go the full 7 games, as Texas will not go away quietly, the way Detroit did in '06. In fact, following the pattern I referenced earlier, I think the Rangers will win it all, and Cruz will add a Series MVP to his ALCS MVP trophy, much as the Phillies' Cole Hamels won LCS & Series MVP's 3 years ago. Oh, yeah, one last thing. Cardinal fans shouldn't lose much sleep. Pujols will stay in St. Louis after all.

Of course, I could be wrong.......

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