The St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers hit their way through the playoffs and will collide in a best of seven series starting tonight at 8:05 p.m.
If you read my predictions from the MLB Playoff Preview a few weeks back, you’ll notice that I predicted both teams to falter in the first round. (In my defense, the Rays had all that momentum from their seven-run comeback, and the Phillies were everybody’s favorite). But predictions aside, this has been an outstanding postseason so far. Many of the games have come down to the wire, and fewer errors have consistently led to more victories. (How many errors did the Brewers make? It seemed like one an inning.)
And now we are down to the two contenders, the championship bout, the main event, the reason people come to the show—the 107thWorld Series. (I hope those clichés got you pumped.)
And with that, I wonder, are you pondering what I am pondering?
Here are seven things to ponder about the World Series…
1. Will the Rangers and Cardinals continue playing softball?
The Rangers scored seven or more in three of their wins. And in the clinching game, the Rangers knocked in 15 runs. But that’s not all. Texas scored 39 runs for the entire series, and Nelson Cruz hit six home runs in one series, which is just incredible.
The Cardinals scored 43 runs in the NLCS. They scored 12 runs in both Game 2 and the clinching Game 6 and scored seven in Game 5.
For a league which has become so much in favor of the pitcher the last few seasons, this year’s playoffs have seemed more like slow-pitch softball games.
2. Will anyone on any team pitch like an ace?
None of the Cardinals pitching staff were able to complete six innings during the NLCS. The starters pitched just 24 1/3 innings and recorded a 7.03 ERA. Chris Carpenter did, however, pitch an outstanding complete-game shutout against the Phillies in Game 5 of the NLDS, and the Cardinals have to hope he can regain that form.
The only Rangers pitcher to go at least six innings was C.J. Wilson in Game 5. And he gave up six earned runs, three homers and got the loss. The Rangers got zero wins from the starting pitching staff.
3. Will the bullpens hold up?
The Cardinals relievers threw 28 2/3 innings in the NLCS. The Rangers bullpen threw 28 1/3 innings in the ALCS. Since neither teams’ starters were particularly great, the bullpens had to be, which begs the question: will they be tired?
4. Will home field advantage matter? The Wild Card winning St. Louis Cardinals can thank rival Brewer Prince Fielder for home-field advantage in this series. Prince was the MVP of the 2011 All-Star Game helping the National League gain home field advantage in the World Series. The pitchers will have to hit in four games (if necessary) in this series. It will be interesting to see if the Rangers staff is able to lay down bunts to move runners over or have decent at-bats at the plate.
5. Will we miss the TBS broadcast crew? TBS did a great job with their postseason coverage. They have Hall-of-Famers and All-Stars throughout their broadcast team. David Wells, Dennis Eckersley and Cal Ripken were the analysts in the studio. In the booth, Milwaukee Brewers announcer Brian Anderson handled play-by-play with the insightful John Smoltz and Ron Darling. And who doesn’t love or at least find sideline reporter Craig Sager and his crazy suits entertaining?
But the World Series will be on FOX. Chris Rose and opinionated White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski on the pre-game show is great. But baseball fans have complained about FOX color analyst Tim McCarver so much that he is on the Mount Rushmore of AwfulAnnouncing.com. And I feel Joe Buck can often lack enthusiasm when calling the play-by-play.
So much of making three-hour baseball games enthralling can come down to the broadcasters’ storytelling and joke-telling abilities (bad jokes in John Smoltz’s case), especially during mundane innings.
Hearing former Red Sox manager Terry Francona with Joe Buck during the ALCS was outstanding during Games 1 and 2. It would be nice if they could have made it a three-man booth for the World Series…
6. Mystery vs. History
This isn’t just the title of Monday’s “How I Met Your Mother” episode; it applies to this season’s World Series. The St. Louis Cardinals franchise is the second winningest franchise in all of baseball with 10 championships. Until last year, the Rangers had never even been to the World Series. Will this season be the one for Texas?
This summer, the Dallas Mavericks won the NBA title in six games verses the Miami Heat. The Rangers are technically in Arlington, but can the Dallas area become the next Titletown, USA?
Something to mention that has been really cool about the Rangers playoff run has been the implementation of the Ginger Ale Celebration. Texas slugger Josh Hamilton’s struggles with alcohol have been well documented (read his story from the May-June 2008 issue of Sports Spectrum here), and starting pitcher C.J. Wilson is a well-known straight-edger, so the Rangers whole team had dropped champagne in favor of ginger ale for their series winning clinchers. And that would be a pretty cool thing to see in a World Series winner.
Prediction: I really shouldn’t make these considering that I whiffed in the Division Series, and I’m second to last in Sports Spectrum’s NFL picks, but I will anyway. I think the St. Louis Cardinals will get Chris Carpenter back to form, and he will be the difference in the series, pitching Games 1, 4 and the clinching Game 7 in St. Louis (I actually haven’t heard Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa’s plans; I’m just guessing). People in Green Bay, Wis., and Gainesville, Fla., and wherever else they call themselves “Titletown” can rest easy because their nickname won’t be challenged this year. Cards in 7.