Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The 2013 World Series, A Clash Of Cultures


Two of the most storied franchises in Major League Baseball.  The St. Louis Cardinals came into existence in 1882.  The Boston Red Sox were born in 1912.  The Boston Red Sox have won two World Series within the last ten years.  So have the St. Louis Cardinals.

But what I wonder about this World Series is whether the cultural beef the National League Championship Series evolved into will carry over.  The Cardinals all of a sudden are this year’s version of the New York Yankees, the team everybody loves to hate, because Manager Mike Matheny and his crew insist on playing baseball “the right way,” the “Cardinal Way,” and that contrasted to the fun-loving, last-man-standing-still-after-the National Anthem approach of the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Sure, the Cards dispatched the Dodgers in six games.  But they did it in a cheerless, self-serious manner, according to fans worried that some “professionalism” would only drive away people who could become new fans.

You want someone to hate, hate the Yankees, alright?  They are the most successful franchise in American sport, they are the ones with the money to keep their diamond draftees and tempt the top free agents into shaving their beards and donning the pinstripes, they are the ones who, by exploiting every advantage MLB allows them, tip the playing field in their favor.  One season out of the playoffs does not mean parity.  They’ll be back, they will win more than their fair share of titles, and they will chase away people who like baseball but don’t want to see the bully take all the kids’ lunch money.

What’s to say that the Red Sox won’t be an American League Version of the Dodgers?  To be as different from their hated rivals, they don’t have a facial hair policy, therefore everybody’s growing playoff beards – and they’re disgusting.  (The worst most hirsute, in my humble opinion, is Jase Robertson … er, Mike Napoli.)  But that devil-may-care attitude echoes the “Idiots” of David Ortiz and Johnny Damon when the Red Sox broke the Curse of the Bambino and won the World Series in 2004 … against these same Cardinals.  Why can’t these BoSox “Cowboy Up” and carry the Commissioner’s Trophy while driving their ATVs through the Busch Stadium turf?

Both teams have very good pitching and potent lineups (both teams led their respective leagues in run production), but the key to this series probably lies with the only other player besides Ortiz to be around for that ‘04 Series, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina.  The Red Sox are a patient bunch at the plate, grinding through enough pitches to often get at least a productive out.  It’ll be up to Molina to have his hurlers, especially Adam Wainwright and rookie sensation Michael Wacha, relentless throw strikes but keep the Red Sox hitters off-balance.  If they can do that, I trust that the Cardinals will manage to find their runs, especially against a Boston bullpen that is very good but not as deep as St. Louis’.

Saying that, I think the Red Sox win the series.  It’s the first time since 1999, when the Yankees swept the Atlanta Braves, where the team with the best record in both leagues managed to make it to the Fall Classic, so there aren’t too many weak spots on either team.  As often is the case in a championship series or game, someone’s strength has got to fail.  And it looks like it’s going to be the Cardinals’ pitching and defense.

Am I saying that just because I’m posting this right in the middle of Game 1, where the Red Sox managed to get to Wainwright and are currently routing the Cards?  You bet your sweet ass I am.  Turns out that Molina wasn’t able to get Wainwright to pound the strike zone, allowing Red Sox batters to pick their spots and spray hits all over Fenway Park.  And while there isn’t advanced statistics that prove momentum is a real thing in baseball, I can totally envision this uncharacteristically sloppy performance by the Cardinals affecting the rest of the series.  Wacha turns into the wobbly noob we all think he’s supposed to be and does even worse than Wainwright does in Thursday’s Game 2.  The advantage of having a better designated hitter situation for the middle three games of the series, specifically the Red Sox needing to choose either to bench Ortiz or Napoli, will be a moot point the first time the Cardinals make the first error in front of their home fans in Saturday’s Game 3 – and the way Game 1 is going, it’s going to happen.

Shoot, I just talked myself into thinking that the same result from the 2004 will repeat itself.  I’m not a fan of “respecting the game,” because that means having a stick-up-your-butt attitude towards everything, not just baseball.  But as longtime readers of my columnists (which number, uh, zero) know, I vacation in St. Louis often, and I truly believe that the Loo is Baseball’s Purest City.  Too bad they’re going to have to swallow another World Series loss at the hands of a bunch of players that will shed scraggly beard hairs all over the stadium.

World Series Prediction: Boston in 4.

Posted by WilliamSou at 9:52 PM

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