So much for the underdogs. So much for the local teams. So much for an unoriginal flavor of World Series this year.
This year’s Fall Classic will feature two storied franchises that have undeniably earned their places in baseball history, and while many baseball enthusiasts will groan about how vanilla this series will be, at the same time it’s hard to complain about a throwback of a World Series. After all, this will be the fourth time in baseball history that the teams will meet in the World Series.
It is no longer a theory, a matter of perspective, or biased to say that the St. Louis Cardinals is the best team in the National League and that the Boston Red Sox is the best team in the American League. These statements are now facts, and it is pointless to argue their validity. Both teams proved this by finishing tied for the league-best record at 97-65, and by knocking off two admirable postseason opponents apiece.
To be fair, there were plenty of close seconds; the Oakland Athletics posted a 96-66 record this year, tying the Atlanta Braves for the second-best records in the league. Even the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Tampa Bay Rays finished strong with 94 and 92 wins, respectively.
Could any of these teams have made it to the World Series? Sure, but they didn’t.
Regular season records are hardly ever indicative of who will play in the World Series, but it does make sense that the two best teams from the regular season would compete in the World Series. While there were other teams that many would have liked to see on baseball’s biggest stage, the Cardinals and the Red Sox ultimately got the job done when they had to, taking out big dogs like the Dodgers and Tigers or underdogs like the Pirates and Rays.
Baseball ultimately comes down to one phrase: “What have you done for me lately?” Both the Cardinals and the Red Sox would have fairly extensive answers, but the Sox would of course begin with two words: grand slams (Plural.).
Despite a 4-2 series victory over the Tigers, the Boston Red Sox narrowly made it passed them, and might not have, if not for two huge grand slams in the American League Championship Series. Down a game after suffering a 0-1 defeat, the Red Sox looked like they were headed down the drain after almost dropping game two.
By way of miracle, David “Big Papi” Ortiz came up big in the eighth inning with a game-tying grand slam to keep Boston in the game. The Sox went on to seal their first win of the series with a walk-off hit from Jarod Saltalamacchia in the ninth.
However, one grand slam in a best-of-seven series just wasn’t enough.
Leading the series 3-2 with a chance to clinch the league title but down in the game 1-2 in the seventh inning, Shane Victorino came to the plate. With only two hits in the series prior to his historic at-bat and no home runs since Sept. 25 during the regular season, Victorino was the last candidate the Tigers would have expected to inflict the maximum amount of damage a player can deal in one swing of the bat. After blasting the ball over the “Green Monster” (the 37-foot-tall left field wall in Boston), not even the veteran inside Victorino could hold back the rookie-like emotion as he jumped and pranced his way around the bases.
Who knows, maybe without either or both of the grand salami’s, Boston wouldn’t have advanced and the favorited Tigers move on to face the Cards (or the Dodgers). Well, that’s all speculation and there is no room for what-if’s in the postseason. In the words of Master Yoda, “Do, or do not. There is no try.”
On the other hand, the Cardinals had a fairly less dramatic time working their way into this year’s World Series. It did take them exactly as many games as Boston, but for the most part, their victory came down to pitching and playing good baseball.
Save game five where the Dodgers racked up six runs, Cardinals pitching refused to allow more than three runs per game, requiring their offense to put up four to win. When they didn’t score four runs, their pitching was even more solid, holding the Dodgers in a 3-2 victory in game one and then blanking the them 1-0 in game two.
It’s no surprise then that the most valuable player from the series was Michael Wacha, the rookie starting pitcher who defeated Clayton Kershaw, arguably the best starting pitcher from the regular season, not once, but twice.
With a starting rotation that includes Wacha, Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly, head coach Mike Matheny will have many weapons to utilize in each game—and that’s before you mention the bullpen.
But it’s not like the Cardinals are stacked on pitching and vulnerable at the plate; they have dangerous hitters like Carlos Beltran, Matt Carpenter, Yadier Molina and Allen Craig, all of whom were on this year’s all-star team, to name a few. In fact, the Cardinals saw six of their players make the all-star game this year, only two of them pitchers: Wainwright and Edward Mujica. In comparison, the Red Sox only had three.
In the end, the Red Sox and the Cardinals both finished with the same regular season record, both took six games to reach the world series, and both teams have plenty of reasons to be the next world champions of baseball.
The Red Sox may have swept the Cardinals the last time the two teams met in the World Series in 2004, but they will have to rely on more than a couple of grand slams to win this series.
On the other hand, St. Louis has beaten the Boston in two previous World Series matchups in 1946 and 1967. Also, their pitching and offense look to be unstoppable after the 9-0 series-ending blowout of the Dodgers, but can they stay hot?
One team will be crowned as world champions by Halloween, so baseball fans are surely in for a few tricks and a treat of a series.
***If you want my prediction, it’s St. Louis in 5. Boston simply won’t get as lucky as they did in the NLCS to save them from defeat in two games. St. Louis on the other hand, has been red hot while showing no signs of cooling down after their 9-0 victory over the Dodgers.