Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cardinals Win World Series

It's funny. I talked earlier this month about how the Tampa Bay Rays seemed like a team of destiny following their improbable run into the American League playoffs. Apparently I should've been paying attention to the other league. The St. Louis Cardinals were 10 1/2 games out of the Wild Card Race in late August and yet were able to clinch a playoff berth on the last day of the season and then knock off the team with the best record in baseball (the Phillies), the team that it finished behind in the NL Central (the Brewers) and now after twice coming within one strike of defeat in Game 6 have beaten the Texas Rangers and are World Series Champions. Oh, and by the way, they went the entire year with arguably their best pitcher on the disabled list. It was very reminiscent of what the Packers just did to win last year's Super Bowl. Dealing with injuries, sneaking into the playoffs, and then being the hottest team in the league when it mattered most.

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I honestly wanted the Rangers to win this one. I like Josh Hamilton and Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz, etc. Plus, the Rangers franchise has never won the World Series. I should be clear though, I'm not UPSET that St. Louis won though. Albert Pujols, arguably the best player in the game right now, may never play another game in a Cardinals uniform so what better way for him to finish his tenure in St. Louis (if that's the case). Plus, you had the hometown hero David Freese winning both the NLCS and World Series MVP awards. The St. Louis native hit .397 in his first postseason emerging from a pack of much bigger names (Berkman, Pujols, Holliday) to shine on the biggest of stages. How cool is that? His game 6 heroics are going to be talked about in baseball circles for years. And speaking of Berkman, I'm really happy for him. The Big Puma has always been one of my favorite players and since he was never able to win a title in Houston, it's nice to see him get one in St. Louis.
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The Rangers, who have now lost back-to-back World Series, are undoubtedly discouraged, but there's no reason to think their window is closing. Texas is budding with young talent or players in their primes. Neftali Feliz is 23, Derek Holland is 25, Matt Harrison is 26, Elvis Andrus 23, Ian Kinsler 29, Mitch Moreland 26, Nelson Cruz 31, Josh Hamilton 30, C.J. Wilson 30, Alexi Ogando 28, Mike Napoli 29... Really, of their core group, only Michael Young is getting up in years. And Young just wrapped up a season in which if you include the playoffs he had 229 hits. So while for the next two days, this loss is really going to sting, especially considering just how close they were, this isn't going to be a franchise-crushing defeat that sends Texas back into mediocrity. We certainly haven't seen the last of these guys.
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So, final thoughts on the 2011 World Series. Despite the lack of a marquee matchup, this was a highly entertaining series that had seven highly entertaining games. We saw the stars deliver (Pujols, Berkman, Carpenter), but we also saw a bunch of lesser names really rise to the occasion. For Texas, Mike Napoli and Derek Holland, for the Cardinals Freese and Allen Craig... Just great stuff. So Congratulations St. Louis. And for the rest of us, time to get excited about 2012. Hey, the Astros are technically tied for first again. I know I'm pumped.

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