Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Expected Surprise: World Series Preview

In a baseball season that has provided an endless amount of surprises and numerous heartwarming moments, the culmination of it all has left us with a result that does not fall far from what we have become accustomed to once October strikes. Both teams fall in the top 10 payrolls in the MLB, both teams, in recent history, have been incredibly successful, and both teams have combined for 5 appearances in the last ten World Series. So when the two come together in the Fall Classic, nobody should be too shocked.

However, if anyone were to pick a year for these two teams to reach the promise land, very few would have picked this to be the year. The St. Louis Cardinals did not appear to have the tools this year to make a significant run throughout the season. However, instead of taking a year to rebuild like the typical franchise might, one of the best, if not the best, franchises in the MLB brought up players within their system to play a substantial role such. A few prime examples of this are second year pitcher Joe Kelly with a 2.69 ERA, rookie Michael Wacha with a 2.78 ERA, and Matt Carpenter, who although is not in his first year, he played his first full season as a starter and hit for an incredible 318 average. Led by veterans Adam Wainright, Matt Holiday, Carlos Beltran, Yadier Molina and David Freese, it is no mystery as to how the Cardinals made it here. Lacking their former cornerstone of the franchise Albert Pujols has not seemed to slow them down a bit, but will they be able to take that final monumental step? So far this postseason, the young players and veterans have all played like they have been there before. They have a certain unphasable confidence that makes them a hard team to pick against. However, when the final series of the year arrives, the pressure becomes something entirely new, and will the boys from St. Louis be able to handle it?

At the beginning of the year, an incredibly minimal amount of people picked the Red Sox to make it to the World Series. In fact they were picked to finished no higher than fourth in the AL East alone. Who can blame them? Coming off one of the worst seasons in recent Sox history, it seemed a long shot that bringing in a lot of new guys and a new manager would click right away. However, the Red Sox brilliantly brought in all of the right guys to compliment the Boston veterans. They did not hesitate to find an identity as they brought in blue collar guys like Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes, Shane Victorino, Koji Uehara, and Jake Peavy. They brought in veteran guys to go along with veterans Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester, and Jacoby Ellsbury. For the most part, these guys are not necessarily big stars, but they are proven winners. When you bring together a group of guys who know what it takes to win, the sky is the limit. First year manager John Farrell did about as amazing as a job as you can do with a brand new group of guys, and all of these factors have resulted in the Red Sox returning to the World Series for the first time since 2007.

Now both of these franchises have been here before. Chances are, both will be here again before long. However, for both teams, this would undoubtedly be an unforgettable. The Cardinals have a plethora of veterans combined with some incredible young talent, and Red Sox consist almost wholly of proven winners with a few exceptions. In the postseason, starting pitching gets you to the ultimate goal. In the regular season, the Cardinals had the fifth best ERA and the Red Sox possessed the fourteenth best. However, both teams are in the top three in team batting average. As far as postseason stats go, Boston has the best team average, while St. Louis has the best team ERA.

The truth of the matter is that I have an incredibly unbiased perspective considering my utter hatred for both of these teams. However, I have an incredible amount of respect for the expedition both teams have embarked on this season. The expedition is coming to a close for both teams, and one team has to lose. This year, as much as it pains me to say it, is the year for the Boston Red Sox. Even though the Cardinals do possess a tremendous array of pitchers, they have not yet had to face a lineup quite like Boston. Not only are they fantastic hitters, they are timely hitters. Even though the Cardinals led the league in hitting with runners in scoring position this year, it is a disservice to simply say the Red Sox have had the right hits at the right time this postseason. Whether its Big Papi or Shane Victorino, they get the job done when it needs to be done. It will certainly be a formidable task. This series will reach the oh so dramatic seventh game in Boston. Whether they close it out with a walk-off or a Koji Uehara save, the Red Sox will bring the trophy back to Boston. All I can say is if they win, they better shave those horrendous beards.
-Ben Greer

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