By Stefan Guilliams, Editor
For the first time in almost fifteen years, the teams with the best records will face each other in the World Series. The Cardinals will travel to Boston to play the untrimmed Red Sox. Both the Cardinals and the Red Sox overcame giant odds this season. The Cards played in the best division in baseball without the help from veterans Jason Motte, Raphael Furcal, and Ace, Chris Carpenter. The Red Sox became the second team in Major League history to make it to the World Series with a new manager. Manager John Farrell took over the Sox after Bobby Valentine was let go after one season. That one season was one of the worst seasons in Red Sox history with a 69-93 record. The Sox took on the “worst to first” mentality and ran with it. Both teams ended the season with a 97-65 record for the best in baseball.
Boston whuped the Cards in 2004 to win their first world series in 86 years. Both teams hadn’t reached the fall classic since the late 80s. St. Louis led the all time series 2-0. Boston had recently comeback to beat the Yankees after being down in the ALCS three to nothing (something unheard of or even considered impossible). There was no stopping the Sox, and that resulted in a four game sweep of the Birds.
However, this year and especially this postseason have been almost identical for the two clubs. Winning out against division rivals in the Divisional Series, The Birds took care of the Pirates and the Sox stopped the red hot Rays in their tracks. In the Championship Series both teams relied on timely hits, clutch homeruns, and great pitching. Both the Birds and the Red Sox won out in the NLCS/ALCS in six games, to hot and highly favored teams. The Dodgers were the best team in baseball in the second half of the season hands down, but that’s no match for the best team in the NL all season. With experienced veterans like Juan Uribe, Adrian Gonzalez, and Hanley Ramerez, as well as killer pitching by Clayton Kershaw, Zach Grienke, and Brian Wilson; the Dodgers were the team to beat. The Cardinals took the challenge and beat the ESPN favorite, LA squad. Even though the Red Sox tore up the regular season, and were viewed as the best team going in, the ALCS meeting between Boston and Detroit was going to be one for the ages. They delivered. The Tigers team this year consisted of the reigning AL MVP and the 2011 MVP in Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander. As well as the All Star game starter and potential Cy Young award winning Max Scherzer. The Tigers were stacked, but so were the Red Sox. With key hits from Mike Napoli and David “Big Papi” Ortiz the Red Sox scraped by the Tigers in an intense 6 game series.
The St. Louis Cardinals are the young team that stole the playoffs. The Cards farm system has become the gold standard in baseball. With 17 of the 25 man roster being drafted makes them a home grown team in a money league. That’s called the Cardinal way. Michael Wacha, Matt Carpenter, Trevor Rosenthal, and Joe Kelly are only a few of the new, young stars coming out of the shadows this year. Carpenter is probably the biggest surprise out of all. This clutch playoff utility man made the switch from primary position third base to new found niche at second. This doubles machine led the National League in hits (199) and in doubles (55). His double total passed two of Cardinal royalty in the all time record books, Rogers Hornsby and The Man himself Stan Musial. This two year player out of TCU is not only in the hunt for his second ring, but for MVP. A player of this skill and who is this special will be a crowd favorite in the next year or so, if he isn’t already. Another stand out is the machine formerly known as Michael Wacha. With two one hit wins, and a demanding game 6 against the Dodgers this rookie out of Texas A&M has the fastball and changeup to rule the mound. The young squad is nothing without their skipper, former Cardinals catcher, Mike Matheny. Matheny took over for his coach of many years Tony Larussa in 2012. He has an astonishing 185-139 (75%) win/loss record in two years as manager. Matheny has brought his team to the NLCS two years in a row, and as of tonight the World Series. This team is special and will be putting it on display in the next.
However, when faced with tragedy teams come together and win for their city. After the bombing of the Boston Marathon this past April, the Red Sox as well as Boston as a whole adopted the simple slogan, “Boston Strong.” This and the rebuilding of the teams reputation from last year’s debacle of a season, the Sox are unshaved and ready to go.
Boston players have always been known for their over the top characters, but this year’s team has created a personality of its own. Unlike their sworn enemies the Yankees who remain clean-shaven and professional in appearance, the Red Sox are not. In fact it has become an identity of the team. They are the rough and rowdy Red Sox and they’re playing to win. In fact in Boston they are nicknaming the series, “The Birds versus The Beards.” This high-octane crew has brought the Red Sox of the mid-2000s back from the dead.
This series will be a good one, neither team truly depends on the “big bat” per say, but in the small ball and clutch hitting style currently lost in the game. The Birds were unfathomably good with runners in scoring positions this year, with an unheard of .330 batting average with runners in scoring position. Lead by the RBI machine Allen Craig. Due to late season injury Craig was just short of 100 RBIs but as designated hitter and a much-needed threat off the bench in the World Series; Craig is looking like the key to unlocking this team’s playoff potential.
Look for strong performances from Wacha, Wainwright, and the bullpen in the series, as well as the offense to come alive in Fenway. I predict the Cards will win in 6, avenging the ’04 loss and bringing home that twelfth trophy.