Preview of 2013 World Series
BY CHAYIM TAUBER
“The Birds v. The Beards” as this World Series has been dubbed, is as evenly matched a contest as we’ve had in years. The starting rotations are both similar (and largely home-grown), the bullpens are two of the best in the league, both teams are paced by their locker room leaders (Dustin Pedroia and Yadier Molina respectively) and their big-bat postseason hero veteran (Carlos Beltran and David Ortiz). How do you pick a winner?
There are compelling cases to be made for each team. It would be hard for the postseason dominance of Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha to serve as intimidation to the Red Sox or Red Sox nation considering that they’ve just overcome last year’s Cy Young Award winner and this year’s (soon to be named) Cy Young Award winner, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer of Detroit, to reach the fall classic.
The Cardinals lineup? The Red Sox just beat the combination of triple crown winner/best hitter on the planet Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Victor Martinez to get here. The Red Sox have the most dominant closer in the game with the most unhittable pitch in baseball today in the form of Koji Uehara and his splitter- dubbed the “invisiball” by catcher David Ross. They have October magic seemingly on-call in the bat of “Big Papi” David Ortiz and constant grit in the form of Dustin Pedroia. And most importantly for the Red Sox, they seem to finally have camaraderie again under new coach John Farrell.
And yet, I’m picking the Cardinals in 6. Here’s why:
The above paragraph was admittedly misleading. The Boston Red Sox did not beat Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer to reach the World Series. They made it thanks to an abominable Tigers bullpen that handed them a series that was by all rights, the Tigers’ to win. We remember the Boston police officer forever immortalized virally for his celebratory reaction but it was the Tigers bullpen that gave Boston a chance.
The Cardinals bullpen is one of the best in the league (a 1.80 era, .177 baa and .833 WHIP this postseason) and the late-inning opportunities don’t figure to be there for the Red Sox this time around. Furthermore, the starting triumvirate of Wainwright, Macha, and Joe Kelly all have power arms that seems to be the type of pitching that gives the Red Sox the most trouble. Not to say the Red Sox can’t hit them, just that style favors the Cardinals in terms of their starting pitching.
There are two other big reasons why I like the Cardinals over the Red Sox. When the ‘Sox won in 2004, it was after a miracle ALCS comeback against the hated Yankees en route to ending an 85 year, franchise defining curse. There is no more curse to break. There is no more “destiny’s on our side” for the Red Sox. If anything, postseason hero Carlos Beltran’s first World Series appearance seems to tip the “destiny scale” in the Cardinals direction. The loss of Cardinals, baseball, and all-time great man Stan Musial cements the case that whatever baseball divinity exists should be wearing a Cardinals hat. But all ethereal reasons aside, there’s one more very good reason why the Cardinals will win this World Series: Yadier Molina.
The Red Sox offense, contrary to years past, relies heavily on the run-game. They have the best stolen base percentage in baseball history and leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury and postseason veteran Shane Victorino pace the offense with their ability to get on base and steal bases. Of course, the single biggest deterrent to theft in major league baseball crouches behind the plate for the Cardinals. Molina calls a better game than any catcher in baseball (has for years), and throws out nearly 50% of attempting base-stealers.
The Cardinals allowed the fewest steals in baseball this year (39) and Molina’s mere presence could be enough to scare John Farrell out of some of the tactics he would otherwise employ. Molina is a giant monkey-wrench in the game-plan of the Boston Red Sox and I’ll say it now because he undoubtedly will be overlooked comes coronation-time: Yadier Molina will be the World Series MVP for the World Champion Cardinals. I don’t expect he’ll get the award, Molina will just have to settle for a World Series ring and the taste of champagne.