The 2013 Fall Classic Is Here!
I’m excited about the upcoming World Series for a variety of reasons. It features the St. Louis Cardinals of the National League versus the American League’s Boston Red Sox, and I like both teams. There are great pitchers, outstanding relievers, long-ball hitters, well-schooled managers and rabid fan bases, so all the game’s elements will be on display for all to see. Perhaps the most compelling reason for my enthusiasm is that we’re now getting our final taste of big league baseball until next March 30th. So who do I think will win? The short answer is the St. Louis Cardinals, and here’s why:
The Cardinals pour their resources into scouting, drafting, developing and promoting their own talent. It is only upon rare occasion that they will sign a free agent. They usually don’t have to. At each level of a player’s upward progression, he plays the same brand of selfless, team-oriented baseball. When a Cardinals player is promoted to the big club, he is major league ready. This system enables them to stay in contention year after year. Over the past ten seasons, they’ve won their division five times. During the other five seasons, the Redbirds averaged 85 wins. That is an enviable record of success.
The starting pitching is outstanding. Adam Wainwright will start Game 1. He went 19-9 with a 2.94 ERA and a 1.068 WHIP this season, and is 2-1 with a 1.57 this postseason. Twenty-two year old rookie Michael Wacha will start Game 2. He debuted on May 30th, was sent back down and recalled later in the season, going 4-1 with a 2.78 ERA and a 1.098 WHIP. His record this postseason is 3-0 with a 0.43 ERA. Wow! Although the other World Series starters have yet to be announced, the Cardinals will surely send Shelby Miller, another 22 year old rookie, to the mound at some point. He fashioned a 15-9 record with a 3.06 ERA and a 1.206 WHIP.
Now a few words about the Boston Red Sox. Although they had a core of very talented players, including David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia, they suffered through an abysmal 2012 season. They remade themselves over the off season, signing secondary talents including Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes and Shane Victorino. What these reinforcements had in common was a strong desire to play for the Bosox, and collectively they brought well-honed skills, blue-collar attitudes, determination and grit. First-year Manager John Farrell, who had a turn as the team’s pitching coach from 2007 to 2010, was familiar with many of his hurlers and applied plenty of polish to arms that had lost their shine. The whole lot came together over the long grind, and won 97 games this season.
Their offense is relentless. Red Sox hitters utilize every means at their disposal to prolong their at bats, causing their opponent’s pitcher to throw an inordinate number of pitches to each batter. The goal is to get the starting pitching out of the game and feast on the relievers who follow. This worked well in the American League Championship Series when the opponent was the Detroit Tigers, notorious for their poor bullpen. Taking this same approach with these 2013 St. Louis Cardinals may be self defeating, because the Redbirds boast an impressive number of arms in their pen. I can’t recall seeing a group of relievers who bring it like these guys do. Relievers Trevor Rosenthal, John Axford, Carlos Martinez and Kevin Siegrist are flame throwers. What’s more, these guys hit the jackpot in the catching department, with the game’s best, Yadier Molina, as their guy. He calls a great game and has developed the uncanny habit of throwing out would-be base stealers.
Yet if it’s one thing these Red Sox players know how to do, it’s win. How else, other than a few well-placed grand slams, can you explain their dispatching the Tigers in a six-game series in which they compiled a .202 series batting average and struck out a total of 73 times. The bottom line is this: the Boston Red Sox are a very tough team to beat. They are relentless. No one thought they would be where they are now. I thought this was going to be a rebuilding year for them, and here they are in the World Series. They just keep coming at you.
On the flip side, the Cardinals bring an outstanding crop of home-grown, young players, excellent starting pitching and superb relief pitching. It’s very hard to bet against them, and I’m not going to. The Cardinals in six. Enjoy the World Series, everybody!